Every once and a while, Hollywood makeup artists are called upon to craft something extraordinary – create complete makeup transformations. They’re handed a character like Batman’s Joker or a story like A Teenage Werewolf in Paris and given the task of bringing some strange, other-worldly character to life. It’s one of those dreams job that scares the hell out of you. On one hand, it’s a rare occasion where makeup work is supposed to stand out.
Your work might become iconic. Your ideas could also crash and burn, making you iconic for all the wrong reasons. Ambitious movie makeup takes guts. Special effects makeup is an art of its own and requires a lot of trial and error when you’re trying to recreate something that has only existed on paper. Some famous makeup artists have been given this challenge and excelled beyond what was expected of them. Check out these impressive makeup transformations from Hollywood’s finest artists.
JOHN CAGLIONE, JR.
Caglione started his makeup career as an artist for famous comedians. During the late 70s, he was the chief makeup artist for the Saturday Night Live crew. His work was described as cartoonish and playful, adaptable but grounded. These characteristics got him on the team for Dick Tracy in 1990. There he was able to explore his love of bold colors and challenge Hollywood conventions regarding color palettes in makeup design. The movie earned him an Oscar nomination and buoyed him to true movie makeup artist status. Later, he etched his name in film makeup lore as the artist behind Heath Ledger’s chilling Joker face paint.
Probably one of the most versatile artists in the movie makeup industry, Cannom’s first made headlines with his work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video in the mid-80s. He continued to showcase his skill with makeup transformations working with expert aging makeup on Ron Howard’s Cocoon and a chilling disfiguring prosthetics for Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Though Gannom still have quite a career ahead of him and has master makeup guru behind blockbusters like Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, many say his crowning achievement was transforming Robin Williams into Mrs. Doutfire in 1993.
Some famous makeup artists work their way to critical acclaim, but Burke burst on the scene all at once. Her striking and seductive work on 1981’s Quest for Fire earned her an Oscar nomination and nonstop contracts for big-budget films, all by the age of 20. Burke has continued on to share her talents with both blockbuster movies and smaller indie dramas, building her one of the finest resumes and best reputations of anyone in the movie makeup industry.
When your list of accomplishments includes the original makeup designs for Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man, you’re all but guaranteed iconic status. Pierce didn’t start out with his eyes set on Hollywood. A Greek immigrant in turn-of-the-century California, his dream was to be a professional baseball player. When life as an athlete didn’t work out, the young Pierce turned to acting. After another redirection, he found his way into the makeup studio. Carl Laemmle, Jr. discovered him late in the 1920s and the rest, as they say, is history.
This guy has earned 7 Oscars for his special effects makeup, including the Academy’s first Makeup and Hairstyling Award in 1982. A follower of Jack Pierce, Baker worked with Cannom on Jackson’s Thriller video in the 80s before setting out on a strictly Hollywood career in the early 1990s. This prolific movie makeup artist gave us the shocking transformation from An American Werewolf in London, the aliens of Men in Black, and Jim Carrey’s evil green makeover in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
In the 80s, the best man in special effects horror makeup was Chris Walas. This is the guy to blame for all the nightmares you suffered after Gremlins. He’s also the man responsible for whatever post-traumatic stress you endured from The Fly. Walas may have been Carpenter’s partner in crime for most of his career, but he also worked with Spielberg. He mastermind the melting Nazi face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you a Hollywood makeup artist who specializes gore, this is your guy.
Hall was just another makeup girl trying to hit it big in Hollywood until she landed the head makeup job on J. J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot in 2009. Some Spock ears and tattooed Romulan warriors later, Hall was standing on stage at the Academy Awards with a statuette in hand. Her career may be young, but the precise subtlety of Star Trek signals great things for her future projects.
Costume designers and makeup artists don’t get enough recognition for their incredible work on our favorite films. The next time you’re spooked by some terrible movie monster, remember: it took someone a lot of work to scare you.
— Timothy Vest