Hollywood has a secret obsession with defying age. They’ll go to extreme measures to fight against the natural process, resulting in some pretty bizarre methods. From slapping on a wig for a trip down memory lane to making actors shave like maniacs to play a youthful character, filmmakers are constantly trying to reverse time and make their stars look younger.
But let’s face it, their efforts don’t always succeed. In fact, some of their attempts at turning back the clock are downright laughable. So, I’ve gathered a collection of those moments where the filmmakers missed the mark completely. Prepare yourself for a hilarious journey through the least convincing age-reversal looks Hollywood has ever produced.
1. Saw 3D
In the Saw series, it turns out that the fashion police would have a bone to pick with serial killer John Kramer. In a scene from Saw 3D, which happens to be Tobin Bell’s only appearance in the entire film, Kramer rocks a zip-up hoodie and a backward baseball cap. It’s almost like he’s trying to channel Steve Buscemi’s undercover high school detective character from 30 Rock, complete with a “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibe.
Now, we should give the screenwriters a bit of a break here. After all, this is the seventh film in the franchise, and Bell’s character was supposedly dead after Saw III. It must be quite a challenge to bring him back in a believable way for each new installment.
However, this particular flashback scene is set only five years before the first Saw movie and Saw II. At that time, Bell’s character would have been in his early 60s. So, why on earth is he dressed like a trendy twenty-something skateboarder? It’s definitely a head-scratcher.
2. Dexter’ – Michael C. Hall
Devon Graye, the writer of the underrated horror film I See You, also had a role as young Dexter Morgan in flashbacks on the popular serial-killer show Dexter. Surprisingly, the adult star of the show, Michael C. Hall, also played young Dexter in some flashbacks. How did they manage that?
Well, the show’s solution was to put a wig on Hall to make him appear ten years younger. Unfortunately, this decision resulted in flashbacks that were rather poorly executed and became a distracting element.
Perhaps this should have been a clue for audiences that the show was not necessarily prioritizing their best interests long before the disappointing finale.
3. Orphan: First Kill’ – Isabelle Fuhrman
In the 2009 film Orphan, a young Isabelle Fuhrman portrayed Esther, a woman with a rare hormonal disorder that halted her physical growth. Despite being 10 years old at the time, Fuhrman convincingly played a 33-year-old Estonian woman. Esther’s character pretended to be a 9-year-old Russian orphan in order to be adopted by the Coleman family.
Fast forward to 2022, a staggering 13 years later, and Fuhrman returned to her role as Esther in the prequel titled Orphan: First Kill. To avoid relying on CGI to make Fuhrman look younger, the filmmakers employed clever techniques such as makeup, forced perspective, and body doubles. By utilizing these methods, they successfully made the 23-year-old actress appear as though she was 10 years old again.
However, despite the efforts to maintain continuity, some moviegoers couldn’t help but feel that something was a little off in the portrayal.
4. Dear Evan Hansen’ – Ben Platt
In the 2021 adaptation of the popular Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt took on the role of the 17-year-old protagonist, Evan Hansen. Interestingly, despite being 27 years old during filming, not much effort was put into making him convincingly look like a high school student. Predictably, this led to various critiques regarding his appearance. One person even went as far as tweeting, “That dude looks like he’s the principal.” Furthermore, some critics speculated that Platt’s casting was influenced by the fact that his father, Marc, was a producer on the film.
In response to the criticism, Platt brushed it off, labeling those who criticized his appearance as “randos being jerks.” He even suggested that they should “watch Grease” as a point of comparison. Additionally, Platt revealed that he made an effort to shave regularly during filming to avoid looking like he constantly had a five o’clock shadow. This detail, according to him, served as evidence that the movie could have been even worse.
5. Tron: Legacy’ – Jeff Bridges
Nearly 30 years after the release of the original Tron in 1982, Tron: Legacy tried to bring back a convincingly young version of Jeff Bridges’ character using digital de-aging software. However, instead of achieving a realistic result, they ended up creating something that was rather unsettling and creepy.
When reviewing the film, Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian expressed his thoughts on the digital technology employed to create the “young” Jeff Bridges. He described the outcome as weird, and not in a good way, comparing the waxy and unlined figure to one of the robots from Westworld, but less authentic-looking.
6. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’ – Paul Reubens
When Pee-wee’s Big Holiday hit theaters in 2016, it marked the first time Pee-wee Herman had graced the big screen since 1988’s Big Top Pee-wee. However, both actor Paul Reubens and director John Lee were determined that Pee-wee should retain his iconic ’80s look in the new film. Lee explained, “How do we preserve Pee-wee’s childlike innocence? When I found out the producers were willing to invest a substantial amount of money to maintain Pee-wee’s vintage appearance, I was thrilled.”
To achieve this, the filmmakers utilized a combination of professional lighting and makeup, dedicating a whopping six hours to ensure Pee-wee, who was 63 years old at the time, appeared younger on screen. Additionally, they painstakingly went through each frame of the movie, digitally altering them to maintain Pee-wee’s timeless image.
On set, Reubens was even seen sporting tape on his neck, which was used to pull back any wrinkles and help him embody the youthful essence of Pee-wee.
7. Scream (2022)’ – Skeet Ulrich
Scream (or 5cream), released in 2022, brought back the character Billy Loomis to haunt Sam Carpenter, his alleged daughter.
In theory, Loomis should have appeared exactly as he did during his 1996 killing spree in Woodsboro. However, he instead resembles the actor Skeet Ulrich in his fifties, thanks to an Instagram filter that smooths out his wrinkles.
When Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett took over directing duties from the late Wes Craven, they had a tough act to follow. While they stumbled with part five, they made significant improvements with Scream VI, with one notable exception: they should have left Loomis’s ghost untouched.
8. X-Men: The Last Stand’ – Patrick Stewart And Ian McKellen
According to visual effects supervisor John Bruno, the digital de-aging of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in a flashback scene from X-Men: The Last Stand was considered groundbreaking back in 2006. However, looking back now, it’s safe to say that the de-aging hasn’t aged well at all.
When you see Stewart and McKellen in that scene, their skin appears unnaturally smooth and plastic-like. Moreover, their jawlines don’t match their actual appearances, and it almost seems like they are struggling to fit into the clothes they are wearing.
In summary, the X-Men’s attempt at an extreme makeover through digital de-aging turned out to be a disappointing and messy experience for the mutants.
9. Terminator Genisys’ – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger underwent de-aging in two Terminator sequels, namely Salvation in 2009 and Genisys in 2015. However, the CGI used in Terminator Genisys to depict a battle between the 2015 and 1984 versions of Schwarzenegger didn’t quite live up to its potential.
The director of Terminator: Dark Fate, Tim Miller, was not a fan of the idea of digitally de-aging Schwarzenegger for his film. He expressed his dislike, saying, “I didn’t want to do a digital Arnold, that’s for sure. Instead, we wanted to embrace the reality of what it means to be a person of a certain age who is called upon to be heroic.” Miller further explained that flawed heroes are far more captivating to him than young, flawless ones.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ – Johnny Depp
If you’re considering a pirate’s life, there are two rules you should keep in mind, matey: Dead men don’t spill secrets, and old men can’t turn back time.
To bring Jack’s flashback to life in the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), the filmmakers took footage of Johnny Depp’s performance and digitally placed his younger face on a body double. This process took a whole year to complete.
According to reports, Depp was thrilled to see his teenage self on the screen again. Co-director Espen Sandberg shared that Johnny was extremely happy with the result and even remarked, “This extends my career by years.”