Each year during Oscars Week, The Academy holds several symposiums highlighting the achievements of the nominees in categories like Foreign Language, Animated Feature, and Documentary Feature/Short. Yet each year, the buzz around the Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Symposium continues to draw the fans of the art form and members of the industry. This year featured the nominees from the three films: “Barney’s Version”, “The Way Back”, and “The Wolfman.” The key thing discussed that continues to challenge traditional makeup artists is the introduction of CGI into the art of filmmaking. How do the two coexist?
According to 2011 Oscar winner and legendary makeup artist, Rick Baker, he “embraces the technology, but it’s not the only way to do things. (It’s) another trick in your bag of tricks.” He even found himself at odds with the director, Joe Johnston, about the final transformation of The Wolfman. While Rick wanted to create the makeup the old school way, the director chose to go the CGI route. Rick “found it disappointing” that they didn’t even invite him to set on the day of the final transformation. He believed it would have been an incredible way to improve upon his groundbreaking (and Oscar-winning) work from “An American Werewolf in London”, a film that still holds up surprisingly well in this age of CGI.
Other challenges that Rick was confronted with during the shoot occurred with star, Anthony Hopkins. When the actor was fit for his appliances for the film, he was 70lbs heavier. He showed up on set with a much leaner frame, so there were many last minute adjustments to be made on set in Bulgaria where not all of the materials needed to create his look were available. Anthony grew his own beard for the shoot, which presented a more delicate process of avoiding his real hair from becoming stuck to the adhesives applied to his face each morning. The final day of the shoot, the actor surprised Rick and fellow co-nominee, Dave Elsey, by showing up clean-shaven. Anthony thought it would be easier for them to work with, but now the artists had to worry about continuity issues and find a matching beard that looked natural. All in a day’s work…in the middle of Bulgaria.
Honestly, it’s really hard to compete in this category when Rick Baker is up against you. In fact, a 2011 nominee for “Barney’s Version”, Adrien Morot, a talented makeup designer in his own right, said that Rick was “the chosen one”. He knew Rick was going to win and he had the utmost respect for the 12-time nominee, 7-time Oscar winner. Rick won the first ever Makeup Oscar for “An American Werewolf in London” in 1982, he was the designer behind Michael Jackson’s revolutionary music video for “Thriller”, and he is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Makeup Branch. The one surprising thing about Rick Baker is that he does not have an agent, he lets jobs come to him, but he broke his own rule and pursued “The Wolfman” job because he knew it was the perfect fit for his career DNA. Now that he’s won his 7th Oscar, I’m going to bet he’s glad he broke the rules.
Transformation Scene from "An American Werewolf in London" 1982