You probably don’t know Chris Lyons’ name, but you definitely know his work.
Rami Malek may be the star of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it’s ultimately his fake Freddie Mercury teeth that steal the show. The teeth are so prominent they become a significant plot point, as Brian May and Roger Taylor call out Freddie for not being able to be a frontman with his unique teeth. Malek worked with esteemed tooth-maker Chris Lyons on the now-infamous set of fake front teeth, and the artist recently spoke with The New York Times about the creation process.
“[They’re made of] dental acrylics, basically,” Lyons said. “If your nan had false teeth and she takes them out and puts them in the glass beside her bed, it’s similar material to that. But each tooth has been handmade in layers to get the colors and to fit Rami. Nothing’s stock.”
Before filming got started, Lyons made several different sizes of teeth for Malek to try on and feel out. The goal of the teeth was to obviously match the real Freddie Mercury’s overbite. Freddie’s teeth pushed his upper lip forward, which is why the rock star was always seen trying to hide the overbite with his lip. Lyons wanted Malek’s fake teeth to push his lip up just enough where he could still act self-conscious and try to hide it. The tooth-maker originally made a pair that was the same size as Freddie’s, but that set proved to be too big for Malek.
“We did varying sizes going all the way up to Freddie-sized teeth,” Lyons said. “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.”
While some might think a glue was used to keep the teeth planted in Malek’s mouth, Lyons revealed the teeth were simply a clip-on set. “We don’t use fixatives. They just go on the front of his teeth behind his lip. That’s it,” he said. “Because the minute you go over the biting surface of your teeth, it will affect the way you talk and you won’t be able to close your mouth. Whereas Rami could close his mouth fully because none of my teeth were on the biting surface of his. They literally just clip in and out in seconds.”
The final results of Lyons’ work has been debated in reviews for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with some critics writing that the teeth complete Malek’s transformation into Mercury and others claiming the teeth turn Malek into a cartoonish version of the rock star. Lyons has worked with Malek before on the film “Papillion” and is also a frequent collaborator of Tilda Swinton’s, having made teeth for “Snowpiercer” and “Suspiria.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is now playing in theaters nationwide.