Ever dreamed of getting your photo taken with Johnny Depp or Cate Blanchett? Copping a feel of Hugh Jackman’s biceps or stealing a kiss from Angelina Jolie? Sitting on Oprah’s couch or taking a phone call for Barack Obama?
What, are you kidding? They’re all very important and busy people. You’d be lucky to get in the same room with them.
What you can realistically do, though, outside of your wildest fantasies, is hang out with their waxen imitations.
Madame Tussauds is the latest attraction to pop up in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. It’s remarkably well suited to its location, beside Wild Life Sydney and Sydney Aquarium: another contrived fantasyland where the public can get up close with strange and exotic species. Famous people in this case.
Expect to encounter historical figures (Captain Cook, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith), political leaders (Julia Gillard, Obama), sports stars (Lleyton Hewitt, Layne Beachley), Hollywood A-listers (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt), movie stars (Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn) and, er, somewhat familiar faces (the bloke from Neighbours).
Each figure is the result of months of exacting work. Madame Tussauds Sydney studio manager Zoe Walton told us how it's done.
1. One-to-three-hour sitting session with subject. Hair and eye samples consulted, dental putty bitten into and approximately 200 measurements taken on everything from nostril width to crotch size. (Detailed photographs are used if subject is deceased or unavailable for a sitting, or both.)
2. Based on collected information, body of figure is sculpted out of ordinary modelling clay onto a metal armature in appropriate and approved pose (eg Marilyn Monroe bending over).
3. Head sculpted separately out of clay onto a wire frame. Instances of “you’d better quit while you’re a head” jokes increase exponentially in the studio.
4. Plaster mould fashioned from clay head. Hot beeswax poured into the plaster mould to form a complete hollow wax head. (Clay heads subsequently disposed of, presumably in festive head-smashing ceremony. Head moulds are kept and reused for future wax figures or to make jelly.)
5. Facial features refined in complete accordance with demands from relevant celebrity/celebrity’s agent. Holes made for eyes. Head looking pretty terrifying at this point (particularly head belonging to John Howard figure).
6. Teeth, eyeballs and, if required, tongue, fitted into place using sticky wax. Around 10,000 human hairs inserted into head individually, matching subject’s hair growth patterns. (Moon dust and starlight sourced for generous sprinkling in the hair and eyes of the Cate Blanchett figure.)
7. Skin tone (including make-up) built up through gradual process of colour stippling and layering. Eyelashes inserted. Nails (or, in the case of the Hugh Jackman figure, retractable sharp claws) polished. Eyes, teeth and lips cleaned and glossed. (Angelina Jolie lip-buffing process typically takes several months.)
8. Head fitted to body – typically on neck.
9. Figure is styled and dressed, and is now eligible to vote and required to pay full adult fare when using public transport.