Special effects make-up is one of the pioneering and constantly developing and improving elements in Hollywood movies, which transport movie audiences to an entirely different world.
The most important things a professional special effects make-up artist can have in their arsenal is a quality set of special FX makeup products as (as is often quoted) you are only as good as the tools you are given. SFX make-up artists are incredibly dedicated and skilled and are one of the most important players in creating memorable movies.
Special Effects Makeup: The Beginning
When the industry was just beginning, in the early 1900’s, it was incredibly rare for producers and directors to spend any time, much less any money, on special effects in make-up or indeed in other parts of the production. Initially, make-up artists and costume designers in early American cinema generally used to base their approach on what their theatre colleagues used to do with the stage actors. As movie production and the quality of the camera developed, however, it soon became abundantly clear that they needed to develop a brand-new style, more specifically catering to the nuances of movie production.
As movies such as ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Mummy’ were released, in the early 1930’s, the necessity to produce and style specific ‘movie make-up’ products became absolutely paramount. Jack Pierce, a leading innovator of special effects make-up for Hollywood movies, created the Frankenstein monster look using cotton and spirit gum. Inevitably, with the introduction of color motion pictures in Hollywood, the make-up artists tasked with creating unusual, often out of this world aesthetics had to rethink their approach to their craft in a big way.
Iconic Special Effects Make-Up
However incredibly talented and gifted the movie’s leading actor is, special effects make-up has and always will play a huge part in creating the character on screen. The role of make-up artist is so vital to the success of a movie in Hollywood that since the early 1980’s, there is a specific Academy Award for best make-up on a movie.
‘Planet Of The Apes’, released in 1968, afforded a well-deserved Oscar for make-up to the special effects artist, John Chambers, who had previously worked in a military hospital creating prosthetics for injured patients. In the iconic movie, Chambers made individual molds of each of the actors’ faces then used the molds to create foam masks which were glued to each actor’s face with spirit gum. His greatest achievement was modifying the mouth element of the mask so that the actors could speak freely without them sounding like they were speaking from the inside of a cave.
More recently, with ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ in 1991, special effects make-up was vital in creating state of the art aesthetics that many movie-goers assumed to be entirely computer generated. In actual fact, although computers were used on the movie, the most impressive elements were created by the phenomenally talented Hollywood make-up artist, Stan Winston.