While they may seem like a small detailed compared to extravagant period-piece gowns or ornate whole-head alien makeup, teeth can make a huge impact in a Hollywood costume. To prove it, here are some famous silver screen chompers and the stories behind them.
Bad “British” Teeth in Austin Powers
One of the most memorable qualities of Mike Myer’s groovy super spy are his unsightly teeth. Myers and his makeup artist worked with dental lab technician Gary Archer to create the look, which consisted of a temporary denture-like device made of acrylic. Austin Powers’s big yellow crooked smile seems to play into the stereotype that British people have terrible teeth, but they’re actually more of a commentary on how dental care has evolved since the 1960s, and not just in Britain: as Powers’ companion Mrs. Kensington says, “Since you’ve been frozen, there have been fabulous advances in the field of dentistry.”
Gold Teeth in Pirates of the Caribbean
Besides beaded braids, eyeliner and a grimy tricorn hat, Captain Jack Sparrow’s most iconic quality may be his multicolored smile. A grin from the pirate franchise’s hero, played by Johnny Depp, is full of gold teeth. This costume detail is actually a fairly accurate portrayal of what a pirate may have looked like in the 1700s. Gold has been used to repair teeth for centuries because it is stable and won’t corrode in the warm, moist environment of the mouth. It’s also true that pirates probably didn’t have great teeth, and not just because dentists didn’t exist yet. Scurvy, a disease caused malnutrition, particularly a deficiency of Vitamin C, can cause tooth decay and tooth loss.
As for achieving the look for his costume, Johnny Depp went to a real dentist and had actual gold teeth created. What’s more, the actor surprised the public by keeping the gold teeth after the first few movies were already in theaters. It turns out he knew that more sequels were in the works and would rather keep the gold teeth than go back to the dentist to have them removed.
Vampire Fangs on True Blood
The modern wave of cinematic television and movies has turned vampires from black-cloaked specters with unfortunate hairdos into genuine heartthrobs, and the vampires on the HBO series True Blood were no exception. For the most part, besides their fangs, very little set the vampires of the series apart from their mortal companions.
But special effects artist Dan Repert and series creator Alan Ball decided to do things a little differently. Instead of being visible all the time, True Blood‘s fangs appeared whenever the vampire’s mood warranted it, folding down from the roof of the mouth with a telltale sound. This design was based on snake fangs, which only fold down when a snake attacks or feeds. This effect was created by having each vampire actor do “fang” scene twice, once without false fangs on, and again with the false fangs on. The two takes were then blended together digitally at the moment the fangs appeared. Watch carefully and you’ll also notice that the fangs appear on the second incisors, rather than on the canines as in most traditional portrayals of vampires.
While Hollywood effects artists jobs may be to make mouths weird and ugly, we’re very grateful that a dentist’s job is to make smiles beautiful and healthy!