Character actress Mary Stein is quite easy to recognize on screen, even after a long session in the makeup chair. “When I did the ‘Grinch,’ Rick Baker, who did the makeup, he liked creating characters and makeup for me, with my physique and my long neck,” Stein explained when reached by phone for an interview.
As a favor to the famous makeup artist, Stein agreed to appear as the Bird Lady Alien in “Men in Black II,” the sequel to the 1997 Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones science fiction outing. “People spotted me in it, even with all that bird makeup because of my long neck,” she said.
Gossiping about the “Little Boy”
This month, Stein appears in “Little Boy,” a new faith-based drama featuring Emily Watson, Kevin James and Tom Wilkinson.
“It takes place during World War II in Northern California in a little port town. Little Boy is a runt in the family, and the dad has a really close relationship with him. [He] is a shelter for him in this small town from people that make fun of him and bully him,” she explained.
After his dad goes away to war, Little Boy has to face his tormentors by himself. “It’s really about how he grows to believe in himself. I’m a church gossip and I create as much havoc as I can,” Stein said.
The actress said the film is reminiscent of classic Norman Rockwell paintings. In her words, “Little Boy,” which was shot on the Fox lot in Mexico, is like eye candy.
“When I got cast, I had no idea about who the other actors were. I was one of the first actors cast, and part of how I was cast, aside from auditioning, was that I look exactly like the schoolteacher in a very famous Norman Rockwell painting. I didn’t realize that until later,” she said.
On the set of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Steven Spielberg also noticed her Rockwell-esque appearance: “I had never seen this picture before, and it wasn’t until I got to the [“Little Boy”] set that they showed me. I just happened to fix my hair that day to make me look like that picture. And wear clothes that made me look like that picture.”
Speaking of the “Grinch,” Stein said she has stayed in touch with the other people who populated the live-action Whoville. “Rain Pryor, who is Richard Pryor’s daughter, worked on the ‘Grinch’; we were Whos together. She’s doing a TV show now over on the East Coast,” she said.
During the production, much was written about star Jim Carrey’s struggles with the complex Grinch makeup. Stein said that even before shooting began, the producers hired an Army SEAL who was trained in ways to deal with torture. The supporting players also had some issues with the makeup.
“We had to wear our makeup and costumes one day for 18 hours. My makeup took 4 hours and 15 minutes to put on in the morning. So we had to get there at 4 a.m. to make an 8:30 a.m. call to the set. And we haven’t even started working yet on set,” she offered.
“Little Boy” currently is playing in theaters.