It’s no secret that I love a man with lots of ink. It’s not much of a secret that I love women covered in tattoos too. So. Fucking. Sexy.
But movies rarely feature tattoos as sex appeal. Tattoos in movies often serve one of two purposes. Either they help us identify the bad guy or it helps “transform” a soft Hollywood heartthrob into a dude with edge (Jared Leto’s The Joker seems to be taking pages from both of these books). In fact, I’d bet Hollywood spends more time erasing the existing tattoos of its stars than inking some in. Too bad.
Ryan Gosling, I’m sorry to say, is one such softie. He’s got such a babyface that he’s more Mouseketeer than badass so it’s no surprise that in The Place Beyond The Pines he gets painted into character as a motorcycle stunt rider turned bank robber. Gosling and his friend Ben Shields designed the temporary tattoos that adorn his arms, torso, neck, back, and even his face in the movie. The tattoos represent a history of bad decision making for his character, and they also make him a literally marked man – when he walks into a packed church full of people in their Sunday finest, the contrast is unsettling.
Tom Hardy, on the other hand, doesn’t need much help to look like a beast, as he does in Warrior. Dude was fucking ripped. Like many MMA fighters, Hardy sported lots of ink in the movie, but the truth is, every last one of them was his own. And if you check out a shirtless pic of him more recently (and I suggest you do) you’ll see that his inked space has nearly doubled and he has no plans to stop the growing artistry across his chest, only to avoid getting any on his neck, because that would mean he’s “checked out.”
The tattoos on Guy Pearce in Momento are not his own. If you’ve seen the movie, then you know how integral to the plot they are: a man with no short term memory keeps helpful information tattooed on his body in his quest to find his wife’s murderer. The tattoos are complex and the makeup artists needed to get them precisely right each and every time. ”The tattoo outlines were put on transfer paper and then onto my body,” remembers Pearce. Each outline transfer would last about a week, and at the beginning of each shooting day, makeup would paint them in.
Brad Pitt in Snatch is another pretty boy that needs to be roughed up with some ink – and some terrible ink at that. Single-needle, homemade looking stuff with greenish ink, his religious-themed tattoos identify him and are the image of poverty itself. But hat’s off to the makeup artist who did them because they never run NO MATTER HOW SWEATY HE GETS.
Brad’s pal George Clooney sported some ink in a movie from 1996. In From Dusk Till Dawn, he plays a criminal, and we all know that criminals helpfully identify themselves with evil-signifying tattoos. For most of the movie, we see a bold piece of tribal tattoo snaking up from the collar of George’s shirt. Only toward the end do we get the payoff of seeing (almost) the whole glorious piece. If you think sitting still for tattoo application every day before shooting must be an ordeal, consider the removal: George’s work had to be removed with gasoline and a blow dryer at the end of each day.
The Night of the Hunter may feature the most famous movie tattoos of all time. Robert Mitchum plays a religious fanatic who marries a widow to gain access to her children, who know where their father’s misbegotten fortune is buried. Mitchum’s genius LOVE and HATE knuckle tattoos are used as props in his sermons and are a good representation of this unforgettable villain. This wonderful film is filled with rich symbolism, but it doesn’t take much to figure out what’s happening when the LOVE hand embraces and the HATE hand brandishes weapons. These tattoos belong in the hall of fame.
You can only have one favourite though, and I’ve saved the best for last. The Broken Circle Breakdown was one of, if not my favourite movie in 2012. It’s a powerful, fucked up film about a couple trying to survive the throes of grief. The woman just happens to be a tattoo artist and she wears her livelihood, and also her heart, all over her body. Veerle Baetens underwent extensive work in the makeup chair to perfect her character’s look and the director sought the help of a real-life tattoo artist to inspire and design all of the elements. The designs were tailored to fit the actor’s body and then laser printed on a special transferable paper that stayed in place for up to four days at a time. I love how the character uses her tattoos as a road map to her body, and her life. I love how she shows him all the names of ex-lovers she’s had covered up – beauty and realism all in one humble little spot.
And it fucking destroys me how hot she is.
What’s your favourite tattoo? Got any yourself? Ever seen a tattoo tribute to a movie?
Guess who just saw Southpaw this weekend!
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present for your consideration:
Oh man, apparently I need to find myself a lawyer who secretly looks like a boxer underneath his suit…