Earlier this summer, Jennifer Lawrence made headlines after hinting that her appearance as the blue-skinned Mystique in next year's "X-Men: Apocalypse" might be her last. The actress, who has played the shape-shifting mutant in two previous films, says the decision has less to do with the character and more with the grueling makeup process.
“I love working with Bryan, and I love these movies,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s just the paint.” Lawrence added that while she didn't care so much about the fumes and toxins during the earlier films, "now I’m almost 25 and I’m like, ‘I can’t even pronounce this and that’s going in my nose? I’m breathing that?’”
While it's unclear exactly what kind of body paint the makeup artists behind the X-Men films use for Mystique, the technique is generally regarded as nontoxic, non-allergenic, and — in the case of water-based paints — easily washed away. Nevertheless, results may vary, as Lawrence revealed in 2013 that the blue paint for her first turn as Mystique caused skin rashes, boils and blisters.
Now, some people might share Lawrence's concern. After all, people have died before from body paint, right? That's what I immediately recalled — with the two most famous examples being the original Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz" and a Bond girl from "Goldfinger."
As it turns out, both of those examples are Hollywood myths. In fact, no one has ever died from body paint since its first modern revival at the 1933 World's Fair.
Follow the yellow brick road
In the case of the original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, the aluminum dust used for his costume resulted in a debilitating allergic reaction that forced him to be hospitalized for two weeks. Because of his grave health, he was later replaced by actor Jake Haley. The "Oz" artists also changed the composition of the makeup from a powder to a paste to prevent Haley from suffering a similar fate. While many believe Ebsen died from his injuries, he lived until 2003, passing away at the age of 95.
In 2013, just to set the record straight, "Mythbusters" took on the Tin Man body paint challenge. As expected, when used as a paint, nothing adverse transpired.
Bond, James Bond
In the 1964 classic "Goldfinger," actress Shirley Eaton played a secretary who double-crosses her evil boss and is killed after being painted head-to-toe in gold. As Bond explains in the film, this technique is deadly unless a small patch of skin is left bare to "breathe." While this premise is completely false, many believed (and still believe) that Eaton really did die from asphyxiation. In fact, not only did producers leave her stomach bare (just in case), but they also had doctors on set to ensure she suffered no ill effects. And yes, Shirley Eaton is still alive and well today.
Like the Tin Man, the "Mythbusters" also put this one to the test.
So while body paint won't kill you, it's always a good idea to do your research and choose some options that are clearly marked as nontoxic, water-based and non-allergenic. It's also recommended that you apply a small amount to your skin first to see if any rashes or other reactions occur. So play it safe, know what's in the makeup you're about to use, and have fun!