When you were a kid, you might have thought makeup was for girls (or your grown-up self). You were full of $#!*. Makeup artists are one of the most under-sung components of movie making, though this certainly isn’t a misconception shared by genre fans, who have known for a long time how important the man or woman making the monsters are.
The makeup artists and practical special effects technicians are, in many ways, the driving force of movie magic. It wasn’t JUST color coming to Oz that captured our imagination in WIZARD OF OZ, it was how vivid that color blossomed in the Wicked Witch’s face, applied by the legendary Jack Dawn. The acting, atmosphere, and set designs for ALIEN were all top-notch, but it was H.R. Giger’s monstrous xenomorph and creature creations that drove it all home and made it stick with us in our nightmares. Lon Chaney was “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” not just because he played so many grotesque and monstrous characters in the silent film era of Hollywood, but because he applied his own makeup to construct each and every one of his fantastical and ghoulish characters. He was a pioneer, and if not for him, perhaps none of the following would exist.
What follows are my five favorite movie makeup artists. It’s impossible to include them all, but rest assured that I love those not included (example: Carlo Rambaldi’s E.T.) as well.
5. Rob Bottin
The man deserves a spot on this list for his work on John Carpenter’s THE THING alone. But he also has PIRANHA, THE FOG, THE HOWLING, ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, and FIGHT CLUB on his resume, to name a few.
He cut his teeth on 1976′s KING KONG and the first STAR WARS, and just five years later created one of the best monsters, aliens, and creatures in movie history: The Thing. The chest defibrillator scene (“Clear”), the dog’s transformation, the Thing skittering on the floor… everything is STILL so creepy, ooze-y, and wonderful.
When he was 14, he sent a letter to Rick Baker asking for his autograph on a picture he drew. Instead, Rick Baker hired him as his apprentice.
For more on Rob Bottin and The Thing, check out their placement in our Favorite Five: Movie Aliens.