In real life, they say tattoos and scars build character in a person. In the movies, tattoos are often characters all to themselves. Take a look at Danny Trejo‘s film reel if you doubt this. In a lot of films, an actor’s own tattoos get to make an appearance, but what happens if a character calls for no tattoos? Are tattooed actors considered for these parts? Sure, there’s makeup and even CGI, but wouldn’t it be easier just to cast someone without tattoos? The answer is yes, it is. You might think that makeup can cover everything because it pretty much can, but, for many filmmakers, this is an unnecessary complication. But we haven’t even got into the problem with tattoo artwork and ownership.
Back when they were making The Hangover II, Warner Bros. ran into problems when Mike Tyson‘s tattoo artist sued them for recreating the boxer’s iconic face tattoo on actor Ed Helms‘ face. This opened up a whole new can of worms for the film industry. Now, they have a tattoo waiver form for certain pieces, but not every tattoo artist is going to sign that. In fact, some actors have lost out on jobs because of their tattoo artists (buyer beware).
Yet, most of the time, it never comes to this. The filmmakers will just cover up an actor’s tattoos with clothing or makeup. Because of all this, though, we thought it might be interesting to look at what actors are constantly having to cover up their tattoos. The tattoos that tend to get covered most often are usually ones that are too specific to the actor, too unbelievable for the character they’re playing or just downright ugly. Here are 15 tattoos that celebs are forced to hide while filming movies.
15. Tom Hardy
If you’ve ever seen Tom Hardy walking around shirtless, and let’s be honest, you probably have, you’ll know that the dude is heavily tatted. In most of his films, he gets to wear a shirt, but when you’re built like Hardy is, you’re often asked to show some skin. When he took on Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, for instance, the makeup team were busy covering up every ounce of ink on his arms and torso to ensure that nothing shined through. But even in the film Warrior, where Hardy played a tattooed MMA fighter, he still had to cover up some of his tattoos, like the leprechaun on his right bicep. Apparently, the filmmakers didn’t like that one. Actually, this one gets covered up in a lot of Hardy’s films. If you were wondering, that was Hardy’s very first tattoo. He got it when he was 15 to honor his mother’s (and his own) Irish heritage.
14. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson might seem as clean as they come, but she’s got a bit of ink on her body. Most of her tattoos can be covered with normal clothing, except for one on her arm. Since not all of her characters need a colorful sunrise on their forearm, she is forced to cover it up more often than not. Whenever she puts on the Black Widow character for Marvel films, for example, she needs to cover it. The Black Widow doesn’t quite seem like the colorful sunrise type, does she? Sometimes they cover it with makeup like in the picture above, but she also carries plenty of files and folders with her left arm. Plus, the long black leather outfit that the Black Widow usually wears hides it just fine. Then there was her character in Under the Skin. Since, aliens don’t typically have sunrise tattoos, they felt they should cover Scarlett’s up. Good choice.
13. Angelina Jolie
As one of Hollywood’s sexiest and most tattooed women, you’d expect that Angelina Jolie would have to cover up her tattoos more than she actually does. Since many of hers are tasteful and many of her characters are mysterious and dangerous, they work well together. Still, while some films like Wanted actually add tattoos to her body, others, like Maleficent, cover them up with clothing. Recently, there was also The Tourist, which had wardrobe cover the tats for most of the shots, but, when she wore a black dress off the shoulder, they used makeup to cover up the extensive ink on Jolie’s back.
12. Hayden Panettiere
For someone as beautiful as Hayden Panettiere, you would think that Hollywood would ask her to show more skin more often, but it isn’t very common. Maybe they do ask and she just says no. When she does show skin, however, she has to cover up the tattoo she has on her rib cage. Fortunately, Panettiere doesn’t mind covering it up because the saying is misspelled anyways. Ironically, it’s an Italian phrase that reads “Vivere senza rimpianti,” which was supposed to mean “live without regrets,” but the typo ruined it. It should actually be spelled “rimipianti.” Poor girl. Poor, rich beautiful girl.
11. Mark Wahlberg
Today, only traces remain of Mark Wahlberg‘s tattoos after he had them laser removed, but, for the longest time, he was forced to cover them up in films. First of all, a Bob Marley tattoo on one shoulder and your own initials on your other shoulder can’t always be given to a movie character unless their name is MW and they love Bob Marley as well. When Wahlberg was shooting The Fighter, he was going through the laser procedure, so there are pictures of him on set with the tattoos still lingering, lightly faded. The rest they just covered up with makeup, so his character in the film was a clean slate. When asked why he chose to erase them, Wahlberg said that the tattoos “have meaning… but it’s both personal and professional. I don’t want my kids getting tattoos… And I wanted them to be [removed] by the time I did The Fighter because putting make-up on and covering them up has always been a pain in the butt.”
10. Drew Barrymore
The wonderful Drew Barrymore has several tattoos on her body, some on her ankles, her back, stomach, toes and wrists. Most of them are really easy to cover since Drew isn’t disrobing too often these days, but the work on her wrists/forearms are an issue. Her most recent tattoo is her kids name on her right wrist, but she also has the word “breathe” written on her left forearm. This one, as you can see in the picture from the recent film, Blended, gets covered up. It’s not an ugly tattoo by any means, but Barrymore tends to play more uptight characters, and uptight characters don’t have tattoos of the word “breathe” written on their arms. If they did, they wouldn’t be so uptight, now would they?
9. Megan Fox
Megan Fox loves to show off her tattoos in real life, but many of her characters don’t have the same desire. While Megan herself had the Marilyn Monroe tattoo on her arm removed because she realized that Monroe didn’t stand for the things Fox thought she stood for, it’s been the choice of the filmmakers to cover up all the other tattoos on her body. Take Jennifer’s Body, for example. In it, the filmmakers chose to cover up the tattoos on her side and back. Clearly, they wanted Jennifer’s body, not Megan Fox’s. Maybe it’s because the character was supposed to start out as pure, and pure people don’t have tattoos, so we’ve heard. Again, it all depends on the character. In some films, like This is 40, Fox’s tattoos were just fine. In fact, they increase her sex appeal for many of us.
8. Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren has a very small tattoo on her left hand. It’s of two interlocking Vs and it means “love thy neighbour.” For Mirren, the tattoo was just something she got when she was young and isn’t necessarily dear and meaningful to her. As she’s gotten older and more distinguished as an actress, she’s been challenged with more distinguished roles, such as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. As you can imagine, the Queen doesn’t have that same tattoo on her hand, and people might think it weird if she did in a film, so they simply covered it up. Obviously, this is an easy one to hide, but it still has to be hidden in nearly every one of Mirren’s films, so that’s worth noting.
7. Christina Ricci
Christina Ricci has several, seemingly random, tattoos placed on her body. She has one on her breast, one on her ankle, and others on her ribs, stomach, back and wrist. The main one that gets displayed when she’s out and about is on her shoulder and it’s Aslan the Lion from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This lion is also the one that gets covered up the most in films because it’s a bit specific. In one of Ricci’s most recent works, for example, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, you’ll notice that Lizzie Borden doesn’t have that same lion on her shoulder. The omission makes sense considering the Lizzie Borden murders took place at the end of 19th century and C.S. Lewis didn’t create Aslan until around 1950. Sure, you could say it was a regular old lion, but why does Borden has a lion tattoo?
6. Jamie Foxx
If you hadn’t heard, Jamie Foxx got a friggin’ tribal tattoo on the back of his head for his 40th birthday. Luckily, he just has to grow some extra hair back there to cover it up, but what a guy. Obviously, when he’s playing Django in Django Unchained or Will Stacks in the Annie remake, he’s got to cover up that eyesore. Mid-life crises are a real thing, and we don’t want to downplay them, but go out and buy yourself a sports car Jamie or go out and flirt with some younger women, don’t forever stain your head with tribal markings. Now, for the sake of all our eyes, we have a collective hope that Jamie never shaves his head again lest we see that tattoo. He’ll almost certainly never get another role that requires a clean-shaven head again either.
5. Sienna Miller
Sienna Miller‘s tattoos might be small, but she still has to cover them up in most of her films. She has a bird on her wrist and three stars on her right shoulder, the shoulder getting the most visibility. In some modern films, like High Rise, the filmmakers didn’t even bother covering her tattoos up, they just keep their visibility in shots to a minimum by being clever with camera angles. But, for period pieces like Live by Night, tattoos of any sort would just look out of place. By taking a quick look through her resume, it appears that Miller’s right shoulder is covered up in films more often than it’s not, so even a tattoo of three little tiny stars can be a nuisance for an actor.
4. Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba has only a few small tattoos in very discreet spots on her body, like the nape of her neck and her lower back, but when you look like Alba does, you’re asked to show off those very discreet areas in films. We’ve yet to find a film where the ribbon on her lower back is visible, so it appears that she is asked to cover it up every time. Look at Sin City, Little Fockers and Good Luck Chuck, for example; the tattoo is missing from her back in each of those films. Maybe it’s because “tramp stamps” have fallen out of favor in recent years, or maybe they just want Alba to be as unblemished as possible for most of her roles. Truthfully, if we didn’t know better and we saw that tattoo on one of Alba’s characters, we would have just thought it was the character’s tattoo. After all, it doesn’t quite seem right on the actress.
3. Emma Stone
Both Emma Stone and her mother have a cute tattoo on their wrists of two little bird feet, commemorating her mom’s battle with breast cancer (“Blackbird” by The Beatles is her favorite song). For some films, like Birdman, where Stone plays an edgy young adult, the tattoo is left alone. Hell, they added a bunch of tattoos to her arms in that film. But then look at La La Land, a period piece where Stone would look totally out of place with a tattoo. They certainly aren’t about to dress Stone up in long sleeve shirts for a film like this, so it’s bye bye birdie… feet. For many actors, the tattoos and the actors are intertwined, so leaving something familiar on a character in a film runs the risk of pulling the audience out of the fantasy. It’s a small possibility, sure, but why risk it?
2. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is one of the most tattooed leading men in Hollywood. He’s long said, “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” For most of the parts that Depp plays, tattoos just blend into the character. For the ones that don’t work, the filmmakers just have him wear a long coat to cover up his arms, but Depp’s got hand tattoos as well. What about those? Well, take a look at most of his recent characters. A great many of them wear gloves or extended sleeves. The Mad Hatter, for example, wears long sleeves that extend past the back of the hand. Even in The Lone Ranger, where he has tattoos all over his body, Depp’s hand tattoo is covered up with makeup. Listen kids, there’s a lesson here: don’t get hand tattoos if you want to become an actor.
1. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck doesn’t get shirtless in films too often, but he did briefly in Gone Girl and Argo, and, in both of those films, his two large shoulder tattoos were covered up. We can assume that if he ever does go shirtless as Bruce Wayne for one of those Christian Bale-type workout scenes, he will be covered up once again. Bruce Wayne doesn’t seem like the shoulder tattoo type. It’s not that Ben’s tattoos are ugly, necessarily, it’s just that they don’t look cool enough or natural enough on Ben or his characters to include them in films.