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Makeup Symposium

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Movie makeup used to be all about secrets. Veteran makeup artist Ken Chase, who created the amazing old-age makeups in Back to the Future, said, “In the 1960s, when I started, there were makeup labs at the studios, and those doors were closed and locked.”All of that changed in the 1970s with makeup stalwarts John Chambers and Dick Smith. They were happy to share their techniques and demystify the process of creating makeup magic in the movies. Nearly 40 years after they began that trend, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is carrying that torch.Thus, the day before the Oscars at the Motion Picture Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in the heart of Hollywood, the public was able to see firsthand how makeup artists from all over the world realized their creations for some of the top films in 2006. Six artists revealed their secrets—two from each film nominated for the best makeup Oscar in 2006.Of note, the eclectic group of artists was both union and non-union, in the Academy and outside of it, and had worked in Hollywood before or stayed strictly independent.Representing Apocalyto, Mel Gibson’s controversial film about the end of the dominance of Mayan culture, were makeup creators Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano of Italy. The pair showed clips and explained how they filmed in Mexico in 22-hour days of applying prosthetic appliances, temporary tattoos, earlobe extensions, and body makeup, in addition to the complex hair work that all the actors wore. Supervising a makeup crew of 300, Sodano and Signoretti asked the actors to wear their makeups as long as possible—up to a week—and divide the huge task of making up dozens of principals—and even more extras—among assistant makeup artists who worked with their designs. Often, there were mini-departments of makeup and hair, each responsible for tattoos, scars, ears, Mayan jewels, ears, prosthetics, and dental pieces. All of their individual tasks and skills were crucial to providing the realism that Gibson demanded.Second in the presentation were Bill Corso, of Los Angeles, and Kazuhiro Tsuji of Japan, who currently resides and works in LA as well. They presented their old age, fat and character makeups from the Adam Sandler film, Click, in which Sandler’s character rapidly fast-forwards through his life. The verisimilitude that Corso—who previously won an Oscar for Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events—and Tsuji bring to a film naturally stems from Rick Baker, the mentor of both men whose studio designed and manufactured the makeup appliances for Click. One of the film’s biggest makeup challenges, according to Corso, was that Sandler could not sit still for long periods.Last of the three was the imaginative fantasy work in director Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, the eventual Achievement in Makeup Oscar-winner. Responsible for creating all of the fantastic characters that del Toro required were David Marti and Montse Ribe of Barcelona, Spain. The pair worked off of rough sketches from del Toro and created several versions of the creatures in the film, including the Faun, the Pale Man, a giant toad and others. The director was insistent that the makeup team not use visual references from other movies and be wholly original. Marti claimed that del Toro was “like a blender, constantly squeezing us and changing things.” However, the work—ranging from scary to grotesque—paid off for them, not only with their first Oscar nomination (and win), but in their experience on the film; they did everything from sculpting makeup pieces to making molds and painting their creations—both makeup and costume pieces.

Written by Scott Essman

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