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Who are those masked men taking over the silver screen?

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: March 29, 2006 | Publication: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Author: Barbara Vancheri

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Clayton Moore called his autobiography, "I Was That Masked Man."

His Lone Ranger mask, one of the most famous on the big or small screen, took a few tries to perfect. In 1996, three years before his death, Moore told an interviewer the earliest mask for the TV Western was so big he could barely see. A purple felt one didn't look right on camera, but a molded black one did, although it was hot.

In a way, you could say all actors wear masks, some visible, some not.

The ancient Greeks donned them, and drama is typically represented by a pair of masks, one comic and one tragic.

Movie masks come in all sizes and shapes, from the makeup worn by Eric Stoltz in "Mask" and gauze bandages of "Darkman" to Darth Vader's black helmet, from the monstrous restraint of Hannibal Lecter to lifelike masks of hero and hunted in "Mission: Impossible 2."

In June, actor Jack Black will don a mask for "Nacho Libre," a comedy about a Mexican priest who moonlights as a lucha libre wrestler to raise money for his orphanage. The wrestlers, called Luchadores, wear masks, some of which evoke images of animals, gods or ancient heroes.

Today's top two box-office films -- "Inside Man" and "V for Vendetta" -- feature characters who hide their faces. Here's a look at those and other recent examples of men in masks:

"Inside Man" (2006): In the No. 1 movie of the week, Clive Owen proves he can act his way through a white scarf wrapped around his face like a stagecoach robber, sunglasses and a hood pulled over his forehead. He plays the mastermind of a bank job and, fans will be happy to know, occasionally does remove the disguise.

"V for Vendetta" (2006): Actor Hugo Weaving wears a mask, hat and dark wig in honor of Guy Fawkes, the 1605 saboteur who was hanged. Much like Owen in "Inside Man," he turns everyone into look-alikes to confuse the cops.

"Phantom of the Opera" (2004): Gerard Butler, the big-screen musical Phantom, is outfitted with one of the most famous masks of all time. With it covering half of his face from his forehead to his upper lip, he appears to be a handsome man; without it, his face is frightening and disfigured.

"Spider-Man 2" (2004) and "Batman Begins" (2005): Comic-book heroes with secret identities might seem like cheating, but Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman are two actors who have pulled it off by covering up.

"The Mask of Zorro" (1998): This adventure gives us two masked men for the price of one. Anthony Hopkins plays the original Zorro, and Antonio Banderas is Alejandro Murieta, his successor. Both wear the mask, which allows their eyes to flash, along with a hat, cape and sword.

"The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998): Fresh from his "Titanic" turn, Leonardo DiCaprio played young King Louis XIV of France and his twin brother, Philippe, imprisoned with his head locked in an iron mask. A switcheroo is afoot in this retelling of the Alexandre Dumas tale.

"The Mask" (1994): Jim Carrey is a wimpy bank clerk named Stanley Ipkiss who finds an ancient mask with magical powers. When he places it over his face, he's transformed into a jolly green-faced guy with giant powers.


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