Meet the real stars behind the masks
Playing someone else is a challenge. At the same time, not being able to show your true self is a tricky and ironical prospect for an actor yet to establish himself as a known face.
And so despite playing some of the best known characters with a popular fan-following in record-breaking money spinners, performers go virtually unrecognised simply because of the make-up, prosthetics or masks associated with their iconic look.
Currently it's impossible to identify leading man Sam Worthington's original face while he plays Jake Sully, the courageous central protagonist of filmmaker James Cameron's insanely-anticipated and favorably-reviewed $230 million 3D treat, Avatar.
On that note, here's a look at the real deal behind actors who have essayed masked or partially concealed fictional characters on celluloid.
Image: Left: Sam Worthington. Right: As Jake Sully in Avatar
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Besides kick-starting Johnny Depp's career, A Nightmare on Elm Street established a sound fan base with its characteristic gore and cheesiness. It also introduced the world to the worst nightmare -- Freddy Krueger, a creepy stalker who kills teenagers in their dreams, which translates into a gruesome reality.
While the ensuing scare gave the man behind the fierce face -- Robert Englund his career-best role, it also stereotyped this trained actor in the world of horror for good. So much so that even when he played the title role in an adaptation of Gaston Leroux's classic novel, its poster read: Robert Englund was 'Freddy' and now he's the 'Phantom of the Opera'.
So if you thought you've seen the last of Englund's menacing streak, the ever-growing franchise comprising of eight films so far is already working on reviving the brutalities for a 2010 release.
Only this time Jackie Earle Haley, who earlier played Rorschach -- the masked vigilante trailing a mysterious assassin in Zack Snyder's adaption of Alan Moore's Watchmen, will step into Freddy Krueger's loathsome shoes.
Image: Left: Robert Englund. Right: As Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Photographs: Phil McCarten/Reuters
Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser
'We will tear your soul apart,' he roars. And true to his blood-splattering word, he does. Like Englund, British actor Doug Bradley too reprised the manic Pinhead consecutively in all the eight films under the Hellraiser series.
And like Englund, this is what the Liverpool-born is best remembered for. Based on Clive Barker's novella, the Hellraiser movies revolve around a puzzle box or lament configuration, which acts as an invitation to hell and its terrifying inhabitants, The Cenobites.
Spewing the philosophy of pain or unleashing uproar wherever he goes, Bradley devotedly transformed from the original concept of the story to increasing gimmicks of its makers.
Image: Left: Doug Bradley. Right: As Pinhead in Hellraiser
David Prowse as Darth Vader in Star Wars
Did you know the man behind Darth Vader's intimidating mask used to be a body-builder and weight lifter? Actually, do you know him at all? After doing bit roles in A Clockwork Orange and Casino Royale, David Prowse shot to fame as the Sith Lord, Darth Vader with James Earl Jones' voice to match, in George Lucas's blockbuster franchise.
Prowse regards Star Wars as a film that 'changed his entire life.' Although he's only been known to play the character with the mask on, later editions of Star Wars feature Darth Vader's back story as Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christenson, before he joined the dark forces, Prowse is eternally grateful.
On his website, the man writes, 'Little did I know that I would be travelling around the world appearing at Sci-Fi conventions and autograph signing sessions 28 years later.'
Image: Left: David Prowse. Right: As Darth Vader in Star Wars
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca in Star Wars series
After Prowse turned down the part to play Darth Vader, the rather tall (7 feet 3 inches), long, curly-haired Peter Mayhew stepped in to essay the role of the super shaggy Wookiee, Chewbacca, Han Solo's comrade at all times.
While the character itself was inspired by its creator George Lucas' four-legged companion, an Alaskan Malamute, Mayhew studied the mannerisms of animals in the zoo to get the perfect nuances.
Like Prowse, Mayhew's identity was essentially limited with the Star Wars series. Even so it did fetch him the Lifetime Achievement recognition at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards.
Image: Left: Peter Mayhew. Right: As Chewbacca in Stars Wars
Photographs: Kieran Doherty/Reuters
Ron Perlman as Hellboy in Hellboy
Comic book artist Mike Mignola's creation, Hellboy comes to life through Ron Perlman's commanding presence and booming baritone in Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro's arresting re-telling of the same. Interestingly, long before playing the do-gooder in a fierce red demon's body with horns, tail et al, Perlman underwent a physical transformation to play a man-beast in the TV series Beauty and The Beast.
Besides appearing in the reasonably successful Hellboy franchise, Perlman has also lend his voice to several video games (Halo, Fallout) and animated TV series (Batman, Aladdin, Hey Arnold! Duckman) and is in talks with del Toro to feature as Thorin, the proud leader of the dwarf-pack in the upcoming adaptation of JRR Tolkein's The Hobbit.
Image: Left: Ron Perlman. Right: As Hellboy in Hellboy
Photographs: Hector Mata/Reuters
Rebecca Romijn as Mystique in X-Men
From a hot super model to a deadly shape-shifting mutant, Rebecca Romijn had no qualms about donning layers of blue prosthetics and make-up on her bare body to play Mystique in the X-Men capers.
A stunner in real life, you wouldn't be able to tell with all that blue in what went on to become her most memorable screen avatar. Fortunately for Romijn, small screen beckoned, namely the hit television series, Ugly Betty wherein she played the transsexual Alexis Meade for three consecutive seasons.
Image: Left: Rebecca Romijn. Right: As Mystique in X-Men
Photographs: Adrees Latif/Reuters
Hugo Weaving as V in V for Vendetta
Remember Elrond, the sagely elf lord and Arwen's protective father in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Or Agent Smith, the hounding antagonist of the Matrix movies? Hugo Weaving has quite a few well-known supporting roles to his credit. And he's not an easy face to forget. Too bad you don't see any of it in his starring role as V in the hugely-hyped adaptation of Alan Moore and David Llyod's V for Vendetta.
As the self-styled revolutionary behind a curious mask, the Australian actor lets his powerful voice do all the performing. That hasn't prevented him from bagging biggies though. Weaving will next be seen as a detective in The Wolfman starring Benicio Del Toro and is speculated to reprise his Elrond in The Hobbit.
Image: Left: Hugo Weaving. Right: As V in V for Vendetta
Photographs: Patrick Riviere/Reuters
Nick Stahl as The Yellow Bastard in Sin City
As a child actor, Nick Stahl impressed us with his sensitive, layered performance opposite Mel Gibson in The Man Without A Face and grew up to star in Oscar-nominated films like The Thin Red Line and In The Bedroom.
His typically wide-eyed boyish looks, however, undergo a drastic transformation to play a pedophile Roark Junior, not-too-fondly referred to as The Yellow Bastard in the big screen version of Frank Miller's celebrated graphic novel Sin City.
Image: Left: Nick Stahl. Right: As The Yellow Bastard in Sin City
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator in Predator
The man has a history of horror. After playing 'The Alien' in Without Warning and 'Monster' in Monster in the Closet, Kevin Peter Hall standing tall at 6'5" signed up to play the title role in Predator and its sequel Predator 2 featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Incidentally, action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally slated to play the hideous-faced, extraterrestrial hunter but Hall's physical profile suited the role better. Working on the Predator movies proved to be exceptionally challenging for Hall considering his elaborate alien mask and suit made it impossible for him to see a thing as well as curb free movement.
While the franchise was rather successful, Hall, hit by a severe bout of pneumonia passed away at the young age of 35.
Image: Left: Kevin Peter Hall. Right: As the Predator in Predator