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Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg Spent Two Hours Transforming Into Bigfoot With ‘Tons of Fur’ for Absurdist Sundance Movie ‘Sasquatch Sunset’

Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg Spent Two Hours Transforming Into Bigfoot With ‘Tons of Fur’ for Absurdist Sundance Movie ‘Sasquatch Sunset’

It took a lot of time — and hair — to transform Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough into Bigfoot. They spent several hours in the makeup chair to don the elaborate prosthetics needed to play two of the eponymous creatures in “Sasquatch Sunset,” a surreal comedic drama that premieres on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival.

“We would arrive — and I would have to shave everything on my face — and then it was two hours in the chair applying hair, makeup and fur, and then climbing into a costume that was specifically made for us,” said Christophe Zajac-Denek, who also stars in the film as one of the mythical beasts, at the Variety Studio presented by Audible. “Tons of fur.”

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David Zellner and Nathan Zellner directed “Sasquatch Sunset,” which is vaguely described as “a year in the life of a singular family.” The film, which contains no dialogue (unless you speak Sasquatchese) promises to capture a true depiction of the daily of the Sasquatch. All of the actors play a version of Bigfoot, so Keough jokes that “for a chunk of the movie, people won’t know the difference between the [actors].”

“It was one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done, like, physically,” Keough said. “If you took a few steps in the suit, you were out of breath.”

The actors insist they didn’t go Method to embody the Yeti, but they did attend several days of “Sasquatch School” on set and worked with a mime coach, who was hired by Eisenberg.

“We were rehearsing and looking to have some cohesive movement so it looked like we were part of the same family,” Eisenberg said. “[The mime teacher] went through movements and eating and nuances of living day to day [as a Sasquatch].”

Though Nathan says “Sasquatch Sunset” is “one of the craziest things we’ve ever done,” his brother insists the movie isn’t pure gonzo.

“If it was just a gimmick, it would get old in five minutes,” David continued. “We wanted a film where you’re really invested in the characters.”

Plus, the Zellners, whose credits include 2014’s “Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” 2018’s Western “Damsel” and Nathan Fielder’s 2023 black comedy “The Curse,” have long been fans of the mythical creature. In 2011, they came to Sundance with the short surrealist film “Sasquatch Birth Journal 2,” which depicts the birth of Bigfoot.

With the feature-length movie, which is backed by Bleecker Street, their influences ranged from Terrence Malick’s 1978 period drama “Days of Heaven,” the Dawn of Man sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes.”

“Sasquatch represents the grey area between human and animal behavior,” David said.

Despite the extensive prep, there were plenty of technical challenges that arose from all those prosthetics. “You had to relearn how to move your face,” Keough said.

Eisenberg said the intense makeup forced him to overact so the camera could detect his facial expressions. “You act 10% or 30% more than you normally would [compared to] a movie that’s picking up the nuance of your face muscles,” Eisenberg said. “You have to exaggerate.”

Since it took so long to get into character, the actors couldn’t remove the makeup and fur to eat throughout the day.

“Sometimes we’d pull down the arms [on our costume] because it was so hot. So, we’d be a Sasquatch head with human clothes,” Keough said. “It was really hard to eat. At some point, I gave up on eating lunch.”

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