Rami Malek had to learn how to walk and talk like Freddie Mercury for his performance in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, but one thing he couldn’t teach himself how to do is have big teeth—you’re generally either born with those or you aren’t.
But Mercury famously had and felt self-conscious about his overbite, and so large incisors were artistically necessary for the film’s veritas. It’s not like Malek could grow new big teeth, so that’s where Chris Lyons came in, the 55-year-old expert teeth-maker who fashioned chompers for Malek, and has made prosthetics for Tilda Swinton, Björk, and others.
Lyons’s job sounds fascinating in this interview with the New York Times—the man knows how to make actors look like they have all kinds of teeth: bad teeth, old teeth, big teeth, teeth that make you go “Eughhhh...”
“We can make teeth as thin as .1 of a millimeter, or fangs that are an inch thick. And we make gold teeth,” he said. This is good because the first batch of fake big teeth that were offered to Malek were too big for his face:
“When we did the first big test and presented it to [the director] Bryan Singer, that’s when we realized if we went for the full-sized teeth, they were going to be far too big on Rami because of his size. We scaled it down so that everything matched with Rami’s face and features.”
Lest you think big fake teeth are of no importance to the craft of acting and movie-making, Malek began to feel self-conscious about his new look and labored to hide it, just as Mercury did. Lyons explained:
“Freddie was very self-conscious about his teeth and was often trying to hide them with his lip. Rami loved that, because he had to work to hide these teeth as Freddie did.”
The way Lyons talks about the care that goes into making fake teeth almost makes me want some. “Each tooth has been handmade in layers to get the colors and to fit Rami. Nothing’s stock,” he said. Malek loved the teeth so much, he asked for a pair in gold, to keep for himself. “I made him a little stand for them,” said Lyons. Sounds like a beautiful present to mark a special and professional working relationship. Congrats, Rami. Maybe one day you should take those off the stand and wear them out.