Earlier this week, we learned Henry Cavill will be sporting his Mission: Impossible 6 mustache when he returns to the Justice League set for reshoots. Because of a contractual obligation with Paramount, Cavill is prohibited from shaving the super-stache — forcing Warner Bros. to digitally erase the mustache of steel in post production.
"It's very common to be asked, particularly on beauty projects," Anne Trotman, Lead 2D Artist at award winning visual effects company The Mill, shared with Business Insider. "Sometimes celebrities might be shooting a commercial, but need to keep their facial hair for a film, so can't shave on set. Also, for different global markets these days, some clients need [alternative] versions."
As for the actual erasure process, says Dave Fleet, Head of 3D at The Mill, there's a lot of work that goes into digitally shaving an actor.
"Smoothing out tiny vellus hairs on the skin requires a totally different approach to removing a large volume of hair, like a beard or mustache," Fleet explained.
"If we were to remove a beard we would have to digitally re-build the actor's face behind the hair mass. We would need to build a 3D model of the face and then shade the surface of the skin to look realistic. We would then need to track the 3D model to the movement of his head and potentially re-animate his mouth. The amount of lip animation would depend on how much of the original beard occluded his lips. We would need to paint out the parts of the beard that extend beyond his shaven face."
Because of the heavy level of VFX required for a blockbuster like Justice League, Warner Bros. already has existing 3D model's of Henry Cavill's Superman, which will save time and money on the highly anticipated superhero epic, which arrives in a little over three months.
It would take "one week just to make the 3D elements; then another three weeks to track, animate and render the shaven face; and another two weeks to composite it all together," Fleet says of the process' expected timeframe.
According to the digital artist, it would take about six weeks to edit a mustache out of a one minute clip, and around 25 weeks to edit a mustache out of a five minute clip. Justice League is currently undergoing reshoots with The Avengers director Joss Whedon and is set to open on November 17th.
Mission: Impossible 6 director Christopher McQuarrie explained why Paramount won't simply allow Cavill to shave the mustache: "In exactly one year you'll understand," the filmmaker shared to Twitter. "The only way to keep a fake 'stache on Henry Cavill would be a liberal dose of staples." In an action-heavy franchise like Mission: Impossible, it's expected that Cavill would be involved in stunts, and fake facial hair could prove problematic — especially if Cavill has to do some of the same crazy antics exhibited by co-star Tom Cruise in past series installments.
"There has been no discussion over whether to shave or not to shave for the [Justice League] reshoots, simply a relentless campaign to put an end to the seemingly inexorable conquest of this despotic 'stache," Cavill joked in an Instagram post. "It is not a question of IF I should shave - it is a question of how can we possibly be victorious against such a beast without bringing our own doom raining down upon us." Superman's mustache has already become something of a meme online, prompting the internet to respond to the news with gags invoking everything from Gillette to the iconic "got milk?" campaign.
Justice League is directed by Zack Snyder, from a screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on a story by Snyder and Terrio. Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J. K. Simmons.
Justice League opens in theaters November 17th.