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Kazuhiro Tsuji made history tonight by becoming the first Asian to win for Best Makeup and Hairstyling (with David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick) for his work transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR.

Tsuji was in semi-retirement from Hollywood when Oldman convinced him to board the film. Vulture has a great profile of Tsui (which you can read here) which explains what happened:

In 2016, makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji received an email from Gary Oldman. The two men had met when Oldman was considering signing on to Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, which would have necessitated Tsuji turning him into a gigantic monkey. (Tim Roth took the part instead.) Now, Oldman had another transformation in mind: He was going to become Winston Churchill for Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, and Tsuji was the only person he wanted to do his makeup. If Tsuji declined, the actor said, he wasn’t going to take the role.

Oldman wasn’t lying. “Me doing this was partly contingent on getting Kazuhiro,” he told Vulture. “One of the reasons I wanted Kazu was he was really one of the only people on the planet who could pull it off.”

Despite trying to get out of the movie business for the past ten years, Tsuji agreed to join Oldman on THE DARKEST HOUR leading to his first Oscar. And why did Tsuji want out of the biz? One big reason: working with Jim Carrey on 2001’s HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. Vulture explains:

Production on How the Grinch Stole Christmas was not easy for Jim Carrey. He was encased head-to-toe in green fur, in a design that kept changing, and the fake snow on set kept getting into the gigantic contacts he was forced to wear. The way Tsuji tells it, he took these frustrations out on the crew. “Once we were on set, he was really mean to everybody and at the beginning of the production they couldn’t finish,” he said. “After two weeks we only could finish three days’ worth of shooting schedule, because suddenly he would just disappear and when he came back, everything was ripped apart. We couldn’t shoot anything.” (According to his publicist, Carrey was unavailable for comment, but he once told the L.A. Times that making The Grinch was “a real lesson in Zen.”) One day was particularly terrible. “In the makeup trailer he just suddenly stands up and looks in the mirror, and pointing on his chin, he goes, ‘This color is different from what you did yesterday.’ I was using the same color I used yesterday. He says, ‘Fix it.’ And okay, you know, I ‘fixed’ it. Every day was like that.” Mentally exhausted, Tsuji met with Baker and one of the producers, who were also unhappy with the slow pace. They came up with a solution: He would go away for a while, which would make Carrey see how valuable he was. After a week of hiding, Carrey called. Tsuji didn’t answer, and he didn’t call back. Then director Ron Howard called. He left a message saying Carrey had sworn to change.

Jim Carrey as The Grinch

“I went back under one condition,” Tsuji said. “I was talking with my friends, and they all told me, ‘You should ask for a raise before you go back.’ I didn’t want to do that — kind of nasty. Then I got the idea: How about I ask them to help me to get a green card?” He returned, and Carrey kept his temper in check the rest of the shoot. The filmmakers wrote Tsuji letters of recommendation for the green card, though it took him winning the BAFTA for his work on The Grinch — the most attention the ceremony has ever received in America — for his application to get approved.

Tsuji sees that movie as a turning point: He started seeing a therapist afterward, and it made him realize how unhappy he was on set. “I’m really an introvert,” he said. “I don’t like to be in many groups of people, or work under those conditions.” Makeup artists have to be some of the first ones on set in the morning and the last ones to leave at night. They work constantly in between doing touch-ups, so 16-hour days are not unusual. “And the anxiety of what could happen in the next moment — maybe the actor freaks out or changes their mind — always being ready for it.” He remembers thinking: If I had a choice, I would not be in this mental state all the time.

Tsuji applying prosthetics. (Photo: Jack English/Courtesy of Focus Features)

Backstage after receiving the Oscar, Tsuji spoke to press about being the first Asian to win this award, saying this:

Congrats to Tsuji (and yes, he thanked his cats)!

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