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Is Hair An Actor’s Trademark?

Actors sometimes have to undergo strange things for their art

What price a bald head?

There are some male actors who have made a virtue out of a necessity and developed their inherent baldness as their trademark. Probably the most famous of these, and almost certainly the first, was Yul Brynner in his famous role as the king in the stage version, then the movie of The King and I in the 1950’s. Becoming the role model of the part of the King of Siam has meant that subsequent actors playing the part have felt that they also need to shave their hair, even though the real king was not bald.

Other famous bald actors have included Tele Savalas in the Kojak detective series, Ben Kingsley, of Gandhi, Sexy Beast and Schindler’s List fame and Bruce Willis – the Die Hard star, whose hair has receded as the sequels have been produced. It may not be widely known that Sean Connery wore a toupee for all of the James Bond films to disguise his bald patch, although in the third Indiana Jones film, the Last Crusade, he was content to appear with a more natural aged look and scantier hair.

Whilst some people can present their baldness as an integral part of their personality, others loathe the thought that they might lose (or have lost) their hair at an early age, as this interview with Robert Murray from BBC 3’s Mischief at shows only too clearly. Whilst some polls indicate that women find bald men extremely attractive, as they appear stronger and more masculine, other surveys describe the difficulty of coming to terms with nicknames such as “baldie”, even when used in a friendly manner. Fashions have changed in the last couple of decades, with many younger men now shaving their heads totally, but for those who despair, like Robert Murray, at their incipient hair loss, help may be at hand in the huge scientific advances that have been made in the field of hair transplants, by companies such as who now have a worldwide reputation for professionalism and expertise.

What happens in filming movies when the hair doesn’t look right?

Continuity specialists have a real problem when the filming of a movie takes several months, or even longer – such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when all three movies were shot concurrently, mostly over a period of a year, but with some pick up shots filmed over another four years. Not only do careful records have to be kept of costumes, make-up, special effects and so on, but keen attention has to be paid to hair styles and length, which can be tricky as hair grows at an average rate of 6 inches per year. In some cases, wigs or toupees are the answer in which situation there is less difficulty for the continuity artists in ensuring the correct appearance is maintained.

Actors often have advance notice of several months that they are going to be playing a particular role in a movie or television series, in which case they stand some chance of being able to grow hair, beards or moustaches as required. Another solution, described in an interview by one of the actors in the new BBC series, The Musketeers, was to have hair extensions fitted for the first few weeks of filming, until his own hair grew to the requisite length. When a part involves a lot of action, with fighting, riding galloping horses and so on, hair extensions could be a safer option than a wig or toupee which might be prone to moving – not an ideal situation!

I always pay close attention to the hairstyles of both male and female actors to try to identify what, if any, additions have been made to their natural head of hair. This is simply a harmless pastime, to satisfy my idle curiosity, but it does ensure that I follow movies carefully.