Mary J. Blige was so unrecognizable in Mudbound, one of her young co-stars had no idea the woman playing his mother was the R&B icon.
The superstar is known for her all-glamour look, but director Dee Rees wanted audiences to see past Blige the Family Affair singer and find themselves swept up in her character and the film’s period plot, which follows the story of two men who experience racism in rural Mississippi upon their return from World War II.
To help with Blige’s transformation from star to family matriarch Florence Jackson, Rees insisted on completely stripping down the artist’s usual look.
“It was all Dee Rees‘ direction, it was all her idea to just make Mary J. Blige disappear,” Mary told Good Morning America.
The musician was initially hesitant about the huge make-under, and even tried to persuade Rees to let her wear some false eyelashes as Florence.
“I had nothing but reservations in doing that (going bare-faced), because I didn’t even know I was so vain (until) it was time to play Florence!” she recalled. “I was hanging on to things, like, ‘Oh, can she have (fake) lashes?’ So I was definitely fighting a bit to keep (some cosmetics), you know, just give her a strip of lashes, at least! Just a little bit! But Dee said, ‘No Mary,’ and I said, ‘Fine, no Mary. We want Florence, 100 per cent.'”
Her movie appearance was so low-key, one of the child actors cast as Florence’s son didn’t realize his movie mother was a huge star in real life.
“When he found out it was me, he was just staring, like, ‘It just can’t be!'” she smiled.
Mudbound, which also stars Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund, is released on streaming service Netflix on Friday (17Nov17).