New York-based artist Mike Marino has been doing prosthetically-achieved makeup effects of all types of films and television shows for over 15 years. His notable recent projects include The Wolf of Wall Street, Black Swan and TV’s Boardwalk Empire. For the new horror project, Deliver Us From Evil, based on actual events, Marino served as prosthetic makeup effects designer.
As with many of his projects, Deliver Us From Evil, with production being based in New York City, was a natural fit for Marino. “The production team scouted me out and [director] Scott Derrickson had insisted that I was the one he wanted to go with,” Marino said. “He wanted to do all the makeup effects practically and use CG very minimally, and we worked really well as a team on that.”
New York or otherwise, prosthetics-heavy shows involved a great deal of challenges in terms of preparatory time in a studio and application time on set, and Deliver Us From Evil was no exception. “Every consecutive show prepares you for a crazy makeup effects show like this,” said Marino. “There’s nothing that can really prepare you, except staying focused and keeping your work ethic the same regardless of how much time you have.”
On typical makeup-oriented projects, Marino reads the script, then highlights what he believes requires a makeup effect. Then, he reviews all highlighted elements with the director. “I’ll see what he’s thinking as far as whether it would be a CG effect, practical effect, makeup, or if we’re not going to see it,” Marino explained. “We break it down, and then I start designing from that point going forward with what the character makeups are, or what the injury is. I try to design it 2D and then go into a 3D version of it. I always seek out the director’s approval and there may be a lot hoops you have to go through for that. Scott, on Deliver Us From Evil, was really open with me about what he wanted, and what I thought would be cool. We had the same mentality with making this really special.”
Given Derrickson’s open attitude with Marino and his ability to deliver quality gags and makeups, Marino had a sense of freedom going into his prep period, though the director was specific with regards to on-camera effects. In one scene, a camouflage effect would be occurring on a character called Santino which quickly changed once Sean Harris was cast in the role. “We came up with an idea, and I did a design in Photoshop of this guy with all these scratches and symbols all over his body,” Marino described. “Although most of the writing and symbols on him were seen on walls in other parts of the movie, I was able to take some liberties with adding some Doors’ music references since that was recurring in the movie as well. I didn’t even wait to get it approved; I just started making things because we only had a week before they started filming. It was a last-minute change and almost impossible to do.”
With seven days before filming commenced, Marino and the crew at his Prosthetic Renaissance Studio had to manufacture over 150 prosthetic pieces, ambitious in any interpretation. “We pulled it off,” Marino conveyed. “Scott trusted me, and whatever I came up with, he was excited about. He’s one of those rare directors that trusts his department heads, something lacking in today’s film world where everything is either not thought out or ‘fixed’ in post. It was a great collaboration.”
Given the economic constraints that have befallen the entertainment industry, long periods to prepare one’s work in a makeup effects studio are largely a thing of the past. “It’s not like the good old days where you would have three to six months of prep,” Marino related. “That never happens anymore. Sometimes I’m amazed if we’re even given a month. Sometimes, on other films, studios are very involved and produce films like a business rather than a piece of art, in turn, compromising the quality of the effects.”
During the prep and production periods on Deliver Us From Evil, Marino employed 15-20 people at his shop, “doing everything from sculpting, to molding, punching hair, to running silicone and transfer pieces,” he detailed, noting that on set, he had four people present every day of shooting, with the rest of his crew creating materials in the shop. “We had just moved into a bigger studio, so we were lucky to have the space, but a lot of creepy stuff happened while we were working on DeliverUs From Evil. Machinery would turn on without anyone else around, things falling from high places, our employees would hear voices – we even had [Ralph] Sarchie [who wrote the original book upon which the film was based] come to our shop to see what was going on!”
With regards to materials, Marino and Prosthetic Renaissance have evolved as innovations have transformed the industry, while sticking to tested items otherwise. “We used non-sulfur based clays for sculpting, epoxies for mold making, and platinum silicones for running skins,” he said. “There are many clean silicones nowadays. It’s a lot different than it used to be when silicone prosthetics first came about, and there’s really no excuse anymore for a makeup not looking good other than there being no time to do it. We used to have problems with paint not sticking and a lot of technical problems, so there were a lot of limitations because the materials weren’t fully developed yet.
During shooting, despite the lack of adequate prep time, Marino and his team never had to improvise or compromise their makeups. “We always had a plan going in on the day of shooting,” he noted. “I would say the most planning went into the fake body of Griggs, [a police lieutenant played by Scott Johnsen]. His eyes explode with flies, so we had to figure out what to make the eyeballs out of, how to reset them, and what the flies were going to be made out of. Then we had to find a way to make the stomach explode, and what material was going eat the stomach away rapidly. I had an idea to glue this piece of bald cap material that you could pump acetone through, and it would melt the plastic away quickly. Bill Sturgeon had made these weird organ things that Mike Fontaine sculpted, and we figured out a cool way to make it look like a bunch of organs and flies coming out of his stomach and eyeballs. Art Sakamoto and Bill Sturgeon made the eyeballs. Art had painted them, and Bill found a cool way to make the eyes collapse. We used real dead flies and little black seeds that could push through the eyes.”
Considering the future of traditional makeups and prosthetic appliances in the digital age, Marino is reflective about the state of his art. “I think it’s just a matter of what choice the director makes,” he said. “Some directors prefer to do things practically and others digitally, so it really comes down to the look they want for the movie. There’s no more battle between makeup effects and CG — each thing can enhance each other equally. It comes down to an aesthetic choice now. I think practical effects and prosthetic makeups will still be prevalent if the director understands how to use the tools out there at his disposal. The limitations are only on imagination and creative solutions to film them.”
In hindsight, Marino specified that his newest project reaffirms the ongoing power of creating makeup effects that can be achieved during principal photography. “Deliver Us From Evil has some really cool effects in it, and I’m really proud of the work we did on it,” he said. “I trusted Scott, and they did a great job of showing off the effects throughout the movie, so I’m thankful for that.”