When Star Wars was first released in 1977, it was a game-changer for Hollywood. Emmy-winning Makeup Artist Brian Sipe was among those in which the franchise had a big impact. Sipe is now the head makeup artist for Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian, a Disney+ series that takes place five years following Return of the Jedi.
Season 2, which finished airing last December, saw the live-action debut of Ahsoka Tano with Rosario Dawson portraying the fan favorite Jedi from The Clone Wars animated series. In addition, Boba Fett makes his return to live-action in a role that does more justice to the bounty hunter than the two original trilogy films ever could.
While speaking with Below the Line, Sipe discussed the process that went into prepping Dawson for “Chapter 13: The Jedi.” He also discussed the process that went into getting actor Temeura Morrison screen-ready to play Boba Fett. Sipe told Below the Line that working on the series has been a dream come true, and he’s no stranger to the Disney family, having previously worked on a number of Marvel films.
The Mandalorian, however, marks his first entrance into the wider Star Wars universe. In addition to “Chapter 13: The Jedi,” Sipe was previously nominated with the rest of The Mandalorian team for “Chapter 6: The Prisoner.”
Below the Line: How did you first get interested in becoming a makeup artist?
Brian Sipe: I grew up in the Northwest. Growing up as a kid, I liked sci-fi, monsters, and stuff like that. I think it was right around the time of Star Wars where I remember seeing movies and thinking like, “Wow! It’s fun and really cool. It’s a job, and somebody’s got to do it.”
BTL: Ahsoka Tano made her live-action debut in The Mandalorian. Can you talk about the process of bringing her live-action look together?
Sipe: It’s hard working on a character that is artfully done in a graphic way from Clone Wars. You really have to take baby steps towards making her real, so that she doesn’t continue to look like a graphic image instead of something that’s organic and real. That was kind of one trick that we had to do to satisfy both Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. Things [we could] do like make her white markings look a certain way, so it didn’t just look like a sticker, drawn-on, or war paint. It had to look like her.
BTL: How long did it take to prepare Rosario Dawson each day?
Sipe: We were under two hours, I think. Samantha Ward and myself would do it daily for the shoot. We had specific tasks or things that we would work together in putting on a prosthetic and doing the beauty makeup or body makeup. We all kind of had our thing. It was right about an hour forty-five.
BTL: Is there a character that you really liked working on?
Brian Sipe: I really enjoyed working on Boba Fett. He was a fun one to design. He was a fun one [on which] to work. Temeura is a pretty light-hearted person, a great sense of humor, and a lot of fun. That helps you when you have somebody you can really get into wearing the makeup as well and become that character with it.
BTL: Boba Fett also made his first post-Return of the Jedi era appearance. What was the makeup team going for in terms of his look on screen?
Brian Sipe: What we were going for there… the mandate from the creatives were we didn’t want him to be grotesque. Because he’s the leading man, we need to make sure that we still consider him heroic. We didn’t want people to turn away. It was trying to find that place where you could do something where it’s scars from the acid of the Sarlac creature’s belly. Stomach acids were meant to work on him for 1000 years. What is that? One of the things that Favreau liked was the idea of was to affect the color, kind of a bleached look. That was one way to show the effect on the skin without it being a real scar like Freddy Krueger kind of thing.
BTL: How long did the process take to make him up each day?
Brian Sipe: For Boba Fett, he had many different stages. I think there’s eight kind of completely different stages within this last season. You kind of track him through a period of time when he gets all of his damage to where he heals. Some of it is baby steps. We do his face, and that might be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending upon what stage. If you include the full body into it, it might jump up another hour and a half. Anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours is what it would take to get him in, depending on the day.
BTL: You’ve done a lot of work on the Marvel side of things, but how does it feel to be working on a Star Wars series?
Brian Sipe: I know everybody’s been using the word, but it’s a dream come true. As a kid, it’s one of the memories that probably knocked my trajectory in doing what I do, because of the original movie. To be able now to work on that series — it’s amazing, especially in this country. Historically, they’re done overseas in England or abroad, so a fan’s dream come true.
BTL: What’s the best advice you can give to somebody who wants to become a makeup artist for movies and television?
Brian Sipe: I tell everybody practice, practice, practice, practice. The field is kind of whittling down or has whittled down over the last decade or so because of the advent of computer graphics. CGI takes some of our work—which is nice though because then it kind of brings a point to the poking stick. I’ve got to get really good if I want to be one of the few that continues to work if it’s around. You’ve really got to hone your skills.
Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian are available to watch streaming on Disney+.
All photos courtesy and copyright Lucasfilm.