The Makeup Show LA is here! Stop by my booth this weekend at Full Slap FX and say hi.
Last night, Scenic Route, a little film I worked on not long ago with Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, had its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival. I had hoped to make it down to celebrate but duty calls elsewhere. This is the second SXSW premiere I've had to pass up in the past few years, but I'll get there one day. This project called for some brutal makeup effects and challenges. Looks like they paid off. And yes, I gave Josh Duhamel a real mohawk. I'm proud of the cast and crew, especially my outstanding partner in crime, Maia Wagle, who's work speaks for itself. Can't wait to see the film! I just wanted to post some pics and some memories from our journey...
Last week, we lost special effects makeup legend Stuart Freeborn, who passed away in London at 98. He'll be remembered for his pioneering work and influence in countless iconic films like "Star Wars" and "2001", but his passing had me going through old pre-digital photos and notes from when I was studying in London years ago, and had the opportunity to meet him. I thought I'd share some of those memories in tribute. Those close to him could authenticate these stories further, but this is how they were told to me, years ago.
I moved to London in September of 1999 to begin study at the Delamar Academy. Penny Delamar, founder and head of the school, knew I was keen on special FX and prosthetics. A few weeks into the course, she mentioned she'd been in contact with Stuart Freeborn, who was an old friend, and at 86, selling off most of his lot, unlikely to use the vast amount of "rubbish" he'd collected over the years. Penny was primarily interested in his ovens, of which he had seven. This is where I came in, as a strong young American was needed to shove it into the boot of a car apparently. I was asked if I would tag along, eagerly awaiting the day. The day finally came on Dec. 1, 1999, when Paul Carey, my gifted prosthetics instructor, and I set off in one Mercedes, Penny and her husband David in another, bound for the Freeborn's in Esher. We arrived shortly after 11am and Stuart's wife Kay greeted us at the door. Stuart popped out of the kitchen with a joyous "ello there!" Penny introduced Paul, and then myself as one of her students and a fan from America. Shaking hands, he asked me where from. "Chicago," I remember saying, and Kay noted "Ahh, the Windy City!" Kay insisted we sit in the living room and asked if we wanted tea. David said only if they were having some. Kay replied, "We're always having some." She asked if I wanted coffee, as it's more customary for Americans, but I said tea would be wonderful.
Stuart was a charmingly impish man, spry and beaming like a child, and couldn't wait to begin telling stories. I remember thinking he was so young at heart, full of electric energy, and hardly seemed to be retired. I never wanted to lose that enthusiasm. I was on the edge of my seat. He began with the tale of the acquisition of the vast property behind is home of more than thirty years. It seems it had belonged to a family who had moved to Canada. The estate agent had given Stuart all sorts of excuses to prevent him from acquiring the land. While shooting one of the Superman films in Canada, Stuart contacted the family and bought the land directly from them, much to the agent's surprise and dismay. As we got onto the subject of work, he recalled "2001" first, Whilst building apes for the film, he came up with mechanisms to make the mouths move. Kubrick asked if he could see more teeth, and Stuart modified them accordingly. Kubrick wanted a baby ape sucking a mother, and Stuart modified. The more he modified, the more Kubrick wanted. He added "Dr. Strangelove" hadn't been nearly as hard. Many of the ape features were based on an actual ape they had on set that they studied. Kubrick later apologized for giving Stuart such a hard time.
Stuart recalled working on "The Omen" with Gregory Peck, when some kid walked onto the set. He was thinking "who the hell is this?" when the fellow introduced himself as George Lucas. Lucas had heard Freeborn did the apes in 2001 and wanted him to do some creatures for a script he had written. Stuart thought the guy had some nerve, but agreed to show him more work in his attic. One project he showed Lucas was a commercial he was working on between films for Bird's Eye Peas, involving a pea man with a smooth green head, some eyes, a little v nose, and a slit mouth. No ears. Lucas liked the design but Stuart insisted it was property of the food company. He agreed to modify it for Lucas, adding a snout, tweaking the mouth, and giving a velcro seam like a mohawk at the top. He drilled holes into the negative mold to get a very fine edge on the appliance. These holes filled with foam that cured as little sausage-like pieces. Rather than throw these pieces away, Stuart glued them on the mohawk. He said he forgot the great name Lucas had given the creature but that he wanted it's head blown off. I said "Greedo." and Stuart exclaimed "That's the one! Greedo!" Hard to believe a pea man evolved into a bounty hunter killed by Han Solo.
Many tales later, we all followed Stuart upstairs to a room with odd bits and hair pieces on tables. There were boxes marked with various names and projects, including "Christopher Reeve" and "Superman". He mentioned he made a hand that gets "lopped off by sword by a fellow in a black cape called 'Dark something-or-other'." It was these "lost" trivial details that were so charming. Penny expressed interest in some bits for the school, and looked through some boxes. We followed Stuart up a ladder into his attic workshop and Penny exclaimed "Oh my God Stuart! You're so organized!" Sure enough, it was a vast attic filled with shelves, all meticulously stacked to the low rafters with ancient makeup containers, boxes, and bottles. The room was lit by massive skylights in the slanted walls. Several tables were set up as mini work stations. One for acrylic eyes, one for acrylic teeth, one with head blocks for knotting hair and wigs. Many containers were marked, with things like "2001 toggle" and "Peter sellers noses/teeth." In one corner next to fifty year old bottles sat an Ewok. The foam bits had aged but the brown fur looked new and the amber eyes were bright as ever. Stuart gave numerous boxes to David and Penny while Paul and I continued to observe in awe. I took pictures like a tourist, but couldn't resist. On the floor sat two leather makeup cases, both adorned with triangular stickers that read "The Star Wars", predating the release of Episode IV. I asked about on familiar snow-frosted wig on a block, and Stuart said it was Chris Reeve's wig for Superman. "The baddies always try to kill Superman," he informed me, "and even try to freeze him in a block of ice." Challenging me, he asked how I would make a chopped stubble beard. I've learned several ways over the years, but then I replied I would tack lace down with spirit gum, brush chopped hair onto it, and lift lace off in direction of beard growth. "You'll make a fine makeup artist!" he happily exclaimed.
Stuart recalled working with "Larry" Olivier, back when he was a new boy at the studio. Olivier used to show up at the studio whilst Stuart was making up Liz Taylor. "Larry" would always then give her a kiss, and smear her fresh makeup all over. Many stories involving "Larry" and his pal "Dickie" Attenborough followed, including one where "Larry" wanted to switch roles in a production. Stuart needed to give him a blonde hair parted in the center. He did this by gluing on numerous moustaches and combing them together. The effect worked and Olivier kept it a secret. Stuart even did one project with Olivier shortly before he died called "Time." It was a stage production in which a filmed image was projected onto a massive cast of Olivier's face, minus the eyes and mouth. In order to film the projection, Olivier had to remain perfectly still while he read his lines but could not do it. Stuart devised a harness for the back of Olivier's head and it worked. Before we left the attic, Stuart told the now famous story about creating Lucas's character with "500 years of high intelligence." Overnight he combined bits of the look of his own mouth with characteristics of the persona of intelligence, Albert Einstein. Yoda was born. So too was Chewbacca, after Lucas expressed inspiration from looking at his own dog and cat, and Freeborn met a young, 7 foot tall porter at Croydon Hospital named Peter Mayhew. We left the attic and descended back downstairs with boxes in tow. While David loaded the car, Stuart put on a parka and baseball cap. Stuart asked if I knew the significance of the "Blue Harvest" logo on his cap. He was delighted when I did indeed…
We set out past the garden into the immense labyrinth of sheds, housing the bulk of his work and numerous labs. The first shed was lined with endless head and body casts, and props, molds, and puppets from 50 years a movie magic. With every item he showed me, he quizzed me on it's origin and I passed the test. Stuart Handed me a box to inspect, and inside was Peter Cushing's magnified eye appliance for "Top Secret". He whipped a plastic tarp off a table to reveal the singing horse from the same film. Several lifecasts nearby were used to create Omar Sharif's "smooshed face" effect for "Top Secret" as well. David warner's decapitated head from "The Omen" sat on a table among other herds, and Stuart recalled some nasty trouble trying to clear customs and explain that it was fake. On one shelf sat the actual mold for Yoda's cane. Numerous boxes marked "Yoda feet", "Chewbacca teeth," and more, lined the shelves. Stuart recalled that Jabba the Hut took 4 tons of clay to sculpt, had two throats (one for frogs) and ate "Real African frogs." A laboratory sat at the end of a corridor, lined with the 7 foam ovens, and jars of George Bau foam and other magic potions. Numerous legs were on one table, and Stuart recalled making a prosthetic leg by painting a thin coat of latex on a leg, turning it inside out, and using it to mold the opposite missing leg. A foot with plastic glass in it had been used for "Blind Terror" with Mia Farrow.
As we wrapped up our day, Stuart emphasized that an artist in this field is really also a chemist and engineer. It had been a five hour teatime and tour, with more stories than I can now recall. It had been a once in a lifetime visit. Except it wasn't. The oven we coveted was too large, so we all returned on December 23, 1999 for hours of more stories, supplies, and of course, tea. I realized later many of Stuart's stories were often told verbatim and appeared in magazines and interviews. When we returned I asked some specific questions about the makeups in my all time favorite film, "Dr. Strangelove." We talked about how Stuart came up without the different looks for Peter Sellers and his three roles. It seems he was meant to play the Slim Pickens part of Major Kong as well, but couldn't master the accent. This was news to me then. Hours, pictures, and hugs later, and with at least two ovens loaded into a van, we returned to London. I rang Stuart to wish him well some months later, and said hello at the London trade show a couple years after that. He was a remarkable man and tireless innovator. His wife Kay, who worked with her husband for many years, passed away last year. The Freeborns were incredibly warm and generous, and I couldn't be luckier to have met them. They will continue to inspire and I will miss them both.
We'll meet again.
As many of my family and peers know by now, I'm going to run for Makeup Craft President of Local 706 this Sunday, January 27, 2013. The Makeup Craft President is responsible for coordinating/setting up meetings for membership discussions with vendors, working within a budget, getting volunteers, and working with 706 staff throughout the year. It was overwhelming to see so many of you this past week and weekend, and get such an outpouring of support, feedback, advice and love from my colleagues and friends. The Local 706 Makeup Craft Seminars have been an important cornerstone of my union membership from day one. I'm excited by the opportunities ahead and hope to take our Craft Seminars to the next level, bringing in new vendors, products, and skill demonstrations, as well as helping to share techniques, etiquette, and standards that all members could adhere to and benefit from. So many colleagues share the passions I have for this craft, and I look forward to what the ever evolving industry throws us. When I started doing makeup, I believed Local 706 Makeup Artists were the very best in the world. I still do. I'd like to take any given opportunity to help keep it that way.
With Love and Gratitude,
The first ever custom Hurt Box Deluxe Kit has shipped! All 6 Hurt Boxes, plus some fun extras I threw in. A young makeup artist is getting a very special gift under the tree this year.... Happy Holidays!
A big thank you to staff and all the students I met while teaching at this year's Colorado Thespians Conference. 6 packed workshops! Hi-Def On The Cheap, Total Tattoo, and Forensic Crime Makeup. Were you at all of them? Looking forward to many more to come!
Catching up after a busy two weeks! My Thank you to Hilary Sloane and the wonderful team teaching FX and fantasy makeup to the Japanese students of the Sanko Academy!
December is here! The holiday season is upon us! And that's just swell. Check out Temptu Pro for Winter Wishes, favorite products from the pros, including yours truly, Brian Kinn(e)y.
Bonus Tip: When using the Temptu Pro DURA Palette, apply a layer of "Blood" color on the skin before applying fake blood or even a clear gel. This helps keep continuity, providing a "map" for blood placement, as it may wear off during shoot. Also, a "wound" surrounded by a light ayer of blended off "Prime Red" color provides the perfect painful look!
The wait is over! My site fullslap.com is relaunched and 5 NEW Hurt Boxes are now available!!! BALLISTIC, CUT UP, SCARRED UP, STITCHED UP, POSTMORTEM, AND Original HURT BOX out now. Check my Product page for details. Contact me if interested. Instant pay coming soon! Also available at Frends Beauty Supply, Nigel Beauty Emporium, and Naimie's Beauty Center. Stipple Stix multipacks and Lock And Load still available too!