From Fangs to Fab: the Art of Hollywood Smiles

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When we use the phrase “Hollywood smile,” we more often think of someone like Clark Gable (who wore dentures) than Austin Powers (played by Mike Myers in fake teeth), but all of these smiles are artificially constructed. Recently, the artist behind many of Hollywood’s most famous dental effects has shared some of the enlightening secrets of his art.

Making Dentures for Mrs. Doubtfire

Gary Archer came over to the US in 1976. His father was a dental technician, and he entered his father’s shop in ‘82 or ‘83, he recalls. They were working exclusively on making actual dental restorations until they were contacted by a makeup artist looking for special dentures.

These dentures were to be used in the Robin Williams film Mrs. Doubtfire. The primary effect they had to achieve was being able to fall out of someone’s mouth into a glass of water. The effect worked well (it’s still one of the most-played clips from the movie), and Archer became one of the go-to guys for fake teeth in Hollywood.

Fangs for the Memories

Shortly after his work on Mrs. Doubtfire, he was called on to make a very different special effect: vampire fangs. He was recruited for making the fangs for 1994’s Interview with the Vampire. He would later reprise this function for 1998’s Blade.

Archer says there’s some challenge in making vampire fangs. The fangs have to be realistic and they have to be fully functional. They can’t interfere with the actor’s speech. To make sure that’s the case, they model all the false teeth on articulators to make sure they don’t interfere.

In the case of Blade, Archer wasn’t completely successful–Snipes definitely has a bit of an impediment in the movie, but compared to the schlocky CGI, the fangs seem like superb effects work!

True British Gnashers

Perhaps Archer’s most famous work is on the Austin Powers films. Austin Powers is a character who is largely defined by his dentition. If he didn’t have those outrageously bad teeth, he wouldn’t be nearly as humorous a contradiction.

Archer admits that he actually did base the design for Austin Powers on some of his British friends, three drinking buddies from his youth.

Two Lessons in Too Perfect Teeth

Two of Archer’s more recent projects have highlighted the tension Hollywood has with perfect teeth. For The Wolf of Wall Street, Jonah Hill wanted to have blindingly white veneers to more accurately reflect the person he was portraying in the movie. These teeth were obviously fake and helped to give his character an air of self-interested deceptiveness. Of course, they were also hard to wear, and Hill had to work hard to learn to speak with them in. He even called appliance help lines to practice his speech over the phone.

On the other hand, when Matthew McConaughey was starring in Free State of Jones, he knew that his teeth were too perfect to be believable for the time period. To help him look more realistic, Archer created some less perfect dentures that better reflected oral health from the 1860s.

Cosmetic Dentistry and Hollywood

Cosmetic dentistry was born in Hollywood. The first porcelain veneers were used to help stars project a beautiful smile, even though their teeth might be failing. The 1920s and 30s were probably the low point for oral health in the US, and not even Hollywood stars were immune. Though few stars wore a full set of dentures like Clark Gable, many of them had veneers that they could wear on camera to make their smiles beautiful.

However, since then cosmetic dentistry has deviated from the Hollywood ideals. While Hollywood’s teeth tend to be outrageously perfect or comically bad, most people are looking for teeth that appear naturally attractive. And while Hollywood teeth might need to last just for the length of a shot, modern cosmetic dentistry is built to last.

If you are looking for your own Westchester County smile and not a Hollywood knockoff, please call (914) 526-2144 today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Advanced Dentistry of Mohegan Lake.

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