Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 07/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 01:00AM

>The Nutty Professor

LIVING LARGE

LAST YEAR, PRODUCER BRIAN GRAZER showed a screen test of a 400-pound leading man to a roomful of Hollywood hotshots, including Michael Douglas and Warren Beatty. He asked them to name the actor. "No one could," he says. That's when Grazer knew Eddie Murphy's fat suit and makeup for The Nutty Professor were going to work.

Murphy could have done a De Niro to portray the hefty title character in Professor (opening Friday, June 28) and eaten his way to the appropriate weight. Instead, the actor, who also appears at his normal weight of 160 pounds in the movie, dressed the part. Specifically, he spent four hours a day putting on a polyurethane foam fat suit and facial prosthetics, all designed by makeup artist Rick Baker, a triple Oscar winner, most recently for Ed Wood.

To blubber up his star, Baker first made a fiberglass cast of Murphy's body to determine how much hollow space to leave inside the suit. Next, he held a casting call for 400-plus-pound men. Of the 50 who showed, Baker chose Steve Jones, 19, a Los Angeles student, and constructed the outer suit based on Jones's body cast. The finished guise weighed about 25 pounds and came in two sections, which zipped and clipped onto Murphy.

To plump up the star's cheeks and neck, Baker glued a single foam latex prosthetic over Murphy's face and neck (with an internal liquid-filled bladder at the throat) and a smaller piece on his chin. Finally, for hands, Murphy slipped on puffy-fingered latex gloves. (Even with Baker's magic, Nutty's fat-to-thin and vice-versa scenes required computer enhancing.)

"As I worked on him, I saw Eddie looking intently in the mirror, deciding who the character was," Baker recalls. When the first makeup session was complete, Murphy stood up. He jiggled this way and that. Then he looked at Baker and said one word: "Cool!"

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