Oscars: How an Obscure Swedish Comedy Landed a Surprise Nomination

Prosthetics, carefully crafted wigs and 4.5 hours of makeup landed 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,' which grossed just under $1 million in the U.S., a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling alongside 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and 'The Revenant.'
Courtesy of Music Box Films
Robert Gustafsson in 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared'

This story first appeared in the Feb. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

If there was an Oscar for most obscure nominee, the frontrunner would have to be the Swedish comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, nominated for best makeup and hairstyling along with Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant. Directed and co-written by Felix Herngren from a best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, the film stars Swedish comedian Robert Gustafsson as centenarian Allan, who jumps out of a window of his nursing home into a series of adventures. Along the way, flashbacks also reveal his past involvement in everything from the Spanish Civil War to the Manhattan Project. While the film rang up just $944,143 domestically when it was released by Music Box in May, it has grossed more than $51.1 million worldwide, making it the third-highest-grossing Swedish film of all time.

Gustafsson was 47 when the film was shot, but the story calls for Allan to appear at nine different stages of life, so makeup artists Love Larson and Eva von Bahr (their credits include David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) had their work cut out for them. The most complex look, Allan's 100-year-old incarnation, was required for 35 shooting days, and each day involved 4½ hours in makeup and hair. "He had 10 different prosthetic pieces, and we did a silicon bald cap that Eva punched all the hair into," says Larson. Since it took three days to produce one of the hairpieces (which lasted for only a single day of shooting), as many as five people worked in the makeup department, "huge for a Swedish production."

The makeup designers used other tricks like lots of different wigs for the younger versions of Allan, so as he aged they could give him less hair and more pronounced makeup effects. For the actors playing historical figures, from Joseph Stalin to Harry S. Truman, the makeup was designed, says Larson, to be "as accurate as possible. We didn't want the makeup to speak for the comedy. We wanted the script to do that."