In the specialized factory jobs that we call production, every department carries its own aesthetic challenges. One that is especially demanding of an artist’s skills is makeup. The job requires a rare mix of colorist, painter, psychologist and sculptor. When you talk about legends of makeup, some names stand out like icons: Revlon, Max Factor, Westmore, Striepeke… Striepeke? For those who know the craft of powder and prosthesis, the name comes as no surprise.Dan Striepeke’s (pronounced Stree-peck) list of credits could fill a book and reads like a slice of film history. He worked his way up in the business, beginning in live television (Playhouse 90, Pinkey Lee and The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show). With the growth of the industry in the mid ’50s, he found work as a number-three card on the DeMille spectacles The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah. Applying his skill “one hair at a time” the twenty-something makeup man wrangled the beards and painted the faces in the epic crowd scenes.By the ’60s, his proficiency had earned him opportunities on such films as John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven. Upon being named department head in 1968 by legendary makeup man Ben Nye, Striepeke was given Planet of the Apes as his first major picture. The resulting artistry, helped by creative makeup designer John Chambers, garnered Oscar notice.By 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in theaters. Soon after, young men everywhere were sporting the film’s sexy cowboy, badass look. This made Striepeke smile, for it was he who had come up with the style of Redford’s signature mustache on the George Roy Hill blockbuster.During the next 10 years Striepeke was busier than ever. For Franklin J. Schaffner’s Patton he had to create a regal nose for George C. Scott. His ingenious rig incorporated fine mesh netting affixed beneath a special base makeup, which allowed Scott’s smeller to invisibly be drawn straight. Whether he was achieving that Singer Sergeant coloration for the makeup design on Hello Dolly or ironing out the glitches of head squibs for the chilling Russian roulette scenes in Deer Hunter, Striepeke was a master craftsman.Soon, Striepeke would begin a 20-film collaboration with one particular actor, Tom Hanks. It started with Dragnet in 1987, and by the time they did Forrest Gump (1994), Hanks barely took a gig without Striepeke on board. This joint venture brought work on one major film after another: Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Cast Away and The Da Vinci Code—their final project together. Hanging up his Q-tips after that film wrapped, Striepeke now enjoys the pursuit of his other passions. An avid writer, painter and sculptor, he also loves golf.Among the expanse of his career, there is one moment of which he is particularly proud. It happened on the set of The Polar Express, where he had transformed Tom Hanks into a gorgeous version of Finnish Santa Claus. “I was leading Tom across the stage,” Striepeke recalled with tearful eyes, “when the entire crew came forward and began a standing ovation around us. It was wonderful,” he said in a humble voice, “to feel all that love and appreciation for the work.“For me it was about loving the craft,” he said. Striepeke found a correlation between the sweat equity of a career and making money, and offered this formula: perspiration = inspiration.
Written by Jim Udel