Jason Collins owns Autonomous F/X, which has produced special makeup and character effects for projects including Westworld, The Affair, and Mindhunter. He also created the aforementioned penises for Euphoria, Minx, and Pam & Tommy. The shop, nestled in the San Fernando Valley, appears to be a basic office building from the outside. Inside is another story: Behind a security gate and a door lies what can only be compared to Victor Frankenstein’s lab, where artists bring characters to life.
As I make my way back to Collins’s office to chat, I clock two artists working on corpses. There’s a man in another room that is filled with shelves of realistic-looking newborn babies. (Upon closer inspection, they appear more like demons; their fake eyeballs have not yet been applied.) Two others are sculpting facial prosthetics — one to look like television host Phil Donahue. Across the shop, there are many shelving units, one of which holds the pregnant belly and breast appliance Lily James used in Pam & Tommy. Nearby, a woman at a table punches pubic hair onto a prosthetic scrotum.
Collins clearly has range, but, he estimates, over the past two years phalluses have accounted for up to 15 percent of his business. “We started getting calls from people [after] we did Euphoria,” he says. “[Productions] know that I can do that and I know the methodology to get it done.”
Prosthetic penises are made in a similar way as facial prosthetics, with the exception of how much plasticizer — an oil added for flexibility — is in the silicon-based formula. If it’s erect and doesn’t require much movement, less plasticizer is used; if it’s supposed to be soft, the plasticizer-to-silicone ratio is substantially higher. From start to finish, the process takes about three weeks, beginning with the creation of a life cast or a three-dimensional copy of the actor’s groin and leg area.
To be clear: Actors do not get their actual genitalia cast. You’re probably not seeing an accurate representation of their real-life anatomy onscreen. But casting the groin area allows artists to adhere and blend the prosthetic, making it appear to be a real appendage.