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Contender – Makeup Artist Rick Baker, The Wolfman

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Rick Baker applying makeup for The Wolfman.

Throughout his lengthy career, Rick Baker has created some of cinema’s most memorable monsters.  The six-time Oscar winner for Best Makeup notably realized one of the greatest horror monsters in movie history with An American Werewolf in London.  Now, 30 years later, he brought another lycanthrope to the screen with Universal Pictures’ remake of their 1941 classic, The Wolf Man.  The 2010 film, called The Wolfman, was originally set to be directed by Mark Romanek but ended up being helmed by Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, The Rocketeer, October Sky).  For the new film, Baker was tasked with creating the main makeup on star Benicio Del Toro, who like his predecessor, Lon Chaney, Jr., is cursed with turning into a hairy beast when the moon turns full.

After numerous Photoshop tests, none of which met with Romanek’s approval, Baker sculpted a version in clay that Romanek liked.  Then, Baker created a full makeup with teeth on himself and showed the director the results, but he again failed to respond to the test.  After Romanek finally left the project, Baker did his own designs and started producing prosthetic pieces as filming neared.

When Johnston finally came aboard, Baker had already started fabricating hair suits and appliances with the help of Dave Elsey who set up a full facility in England where filming was going to take place.  Ironically, the final design used in the film closely mirrored the makeup that Baker had created earlier in pre-production.  “It was pretty much what my first design was in the makeup test on myself seven months before,” Baker said.  “We did the sculpture in a hurry and did a mold and were pulling appliances out of the mold the day we would use them.”

The final multi-appliance makeup took over three hours to apply, and was a dual approach with Baker and Elsey each adhering appliances to Del Toro’s face.  Baker explained the detailed makeup breakdown: “There’s a cowl piece that covers his ears. [There was] a back-of-the-neck piece that we glued to that. We’d slip it over the head; it had neck muscles on it. There’s a chin piece that went up to his lip so that the hair wasn’t on his face. There’s a forehead, nose, and muzzle that covers his cheeks. I left the crows feet and eye bag area without appliances.”  Layers of yak hair in different segments finished the makeup.

Of the final appearance of the titular character in the film, Baker was clearly proud. “I like the way the Wolfman looks and I’m pleased with it, especially considering the circumstances,” he noted.  “I would have liked to have finessed it all. I’m just excited that somebody’s making a movie called The Wolfman and makeup was an option on an actor. I’m just glad to see somebody making a gothic horror movie.”

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