You’ve finally pulled off the perfect crime. Maybe you just witnessed it. Hell, maybe you’re trying to crack the case wide open. Chances are that if there’s crime involved, you’re going to need to disguise yourself at least once. That’s what the movies teach us, anyway. Fortunately, they also teach how to disguise ourselves when necessary. Whatever your reasons, you’ll find the top five lessons learned from movies about disguises below.
5. Even the smallest change counts
As seen in: any and all Superman movies
Countless movies show perps, cops, and innocent bystanders hiding out in little more than a baseball cap and a turned up collar, but no one took the “less is more” approach to heart quite like the folks behind Superman. How does Superman, do-gooder extraordinaire, hide his real identity while posing as the mild mannered reporter Clark Kent? Why, Kent wears glasses and has his hair slicked back, of course. Superman, rather differently, has no glasses, a Jheri curl, and a skin tight outfit. The change is so powerfully transformative that the only people who recognize him either way are his parents, who just happened to be the first two people to know his secret.
4. Any disguise is possible
As seen in: the Mission: Impossible movies, Tropic Thunder (2008)
Like so many important life lessons, this one I learned from Tom Cruise. If the simple route doesn’t appeal to you, Mr. Cruise advises you to go all out. In the first Mission: Impossible, we opened on two business men and a dead girl. One of the business men gets what he wants, and that’s the end of the other one. Then the first business man rips off his face . . . Hey, wait! That’s not some saggy old business man! It’s Tom Cruise, Action Hero!
So it was with Tom Cruise then, and so it is with him in this summer’s Tropic Thunder. Mr. Cruise’s all American good looks were hidden under a fat suit, a bald cap, and copious amounts of body hair. When the actor’s name appeared next to Les Grossman – the crazed, politically incorrect, hip hop dancing movie exec behind Tropic Thunder – during the end credits, the audience audibly gasped, despite the fact that his cameo was quite possibly this summer’s worst kept movie secret. Not to mention the fact that he sounded exactly like Tom Cruise. Even when you are arguably the most recognizable movie star on the planet, you can still fool just about anyone.
3. Men make very convincing women
As seen in: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Some Like It Hot (1959)
Robin Williams was able to fool his entire immediate family in drag, but it’s Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians on the run after witnessing the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre that you should really try to learn from. First, they find an entire group of women so dimwitted that they cannot tell the difference between manly women and men pretending to be women, and then they hightail it out of freezing Chicago and head for sunny Florida. Though Curtis takes on the additional disguise of an asexual millionaire in need of Marilyn Monroe’s love, Lemmon throws himself into becoming Daphne, a coquette who finds herself at the receiving end of a marriage proposal within a few days. He’s so convincing, in fact, that when he finally reveals that he is a man, his paramour simply shrugs, “Nobody’s perfect.”
2. There will be a costume party
As seen in: The Man in the Iron Mask (1998),
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Much like Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio has some disguise expertise to share. Do you need to disguise yourself, possibly so you can infiltrate a party? No worries: it’s a costume party. Everyone’s in a disguise, so no one will be able to recognize you. It allows Romeo (DiCaprio) to sneak into a ball at Capulet’s mansion and meet his lady love Juliet (Claire Danes) without detection.
It even works for matters of state: the Three Musketeers replace evil King Louis XIV (DiCaprio) with his kinder twin, Philippe (still DiCaprio), during a masque. Of course, the fact they are identical twins may have helped when the masks came off.
1. Not wearing a costume will attract the bare minimum of attention
As seen in: Brick (2005), Double Jeopardy (1999)
Did you read the above and think, “Wow, that seems like a lot of work,”? Stay calm. Sometimes disguises aren’t even required. When Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd), cross country fugitive, needs to sneak into her not-at-all dead husband’s party (see what I mean with the parties?) and confront him over the not really being dead thing, how does she disguise herself? She goes as hot Ashley Judd! She puts on a Versace gown, dolls herself up, and strides on in there. Turns out the best way to distract the police from looking for one hot lady is to disguise yourself as another.
Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) employs a similar strategy in Brick when he crashes Laura’s (Nora Zehetner) Hallowe’en in January party looking for information about his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance. What does he wear to a party where everyone is in costume? The exact same outfit he sports for the entire movie: jeans, white t-shirt, green jacket. The only person who notices him coming or going is Laura herself, which is just fine, as she’s the one with the information Brendan needs.
With these simple tricks, you should be able to hide yourself as just about anyone in any disguise. If not, try to stick to the shadows.