Baker’s half-dozen may be imminent

With 'Nutty II' and 'Grinch,' makeup maven thinks he has a 'good chance'

Though films submitted each year for Oscar consideration in the makeup category run the gamut from historical re-creations to modern interpretations, it’s usually prosthetic and fantastical innovations that grab the attention of voters, says Marvin Westmore, president of the makeup artist and hairstylists’ union.

And this year, the category might have two big prosthetic contenders in creature makeup master Rick Baker’s “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“I think I have a pretty good chance this year,” says Baker, a five-time Oscar winner. He earned his fourth statuette in 1996 for the first installment of “Nutty.”

Oscar qualifications

Makeup is judged by its continuity and quality, which can mean anything from historical accuracy on period pieces, such as “Quills” and “Gladiator,” to technical correctness on prosthetics in films like “Shadow of the Vampire.”

Well-executed makeup adds to the overall quality of a pic, stresses Baker.

“In the case of (‘Grinch’ and ‘Klumps’), it’s pretty important. In ‘Nutty,’ one actor is playing six different characters, and in the other film the title character is a creature and every single person is wearing elaborate makeup,” he says.

“My guess is (‘Grinch’) is going to win anyway because of the scale,” says Brian Sipe, the prosthetic makeup supervisor for “Big Momma’s House,” in which Martin Lawrence’s undercover cop was transformed into a weighty grandma.

The staggering stats on “Grinch” speak for themselves:

  • Baker created 125 different types of makeup and had more than 90 people in prosthetic application daily for five months.

  • Jim Carrey spent 92 days in full-body makeup.

  • During the course of the production, there were 8,000 prosthetic pieces of makeup used, 300 wigs and 200 sets of dentures, all handled by 65 makeup artists and 30 hairstylists.

Dual projects

While the sheer number of prosthetics for “Grinch” was a challenge, Baker faced the greater obstacle of working on two productions simultaneously.

“I would spend the mornings making sure all the Whos in Whoville looked right and then go work with Eddie Murphy in the afternoon,” he says.

David Anderson, who assisted on the first “Nutty Professor,” was in charge of makeup for the sequel.

“It’s not all that different than what they did in ‘Wizard of Oz,'” Baker says. “The biggest problem on both of these films was that the makeup works many days but then the molds deteriorate and age after so many runs. It gets to the point where you no longer have a good edge (on the) appliance.”

On “Klumps,” Murphy spent 80 to 85 days in makeup. One bad prosthetic could ruin a day of shooting and Baker needed to have perfect prosthetics each day. To solve the problem, he came up with way to duplicate molds so more than one prosthetic could be made daily.

Prosthetic makeup can be made from traditional materials such as foam rubber and gelatins or more modern material like silicon. The material is a matter of preference for the artist.

At Pauline Fowler’s Animated Extras, the shop that did the prosthetic makeup for Willem Dafoe’s Count Orlok in “Shadow of the Vampire,” Julian Murray created prosthetics using traditional foam and David Stoneman designed collapsible molds that would speed the application process by creating seamless appliances.

For “Big Momma’s House,” Greg Cannom’s Captive Audience Prods. used silicon on Lawrence.

‘Big’ job

“We were one of the first shops to use silicon appliances on a major film, ‘Bicentennial Man,'” says “Big Momma’s” Sipe, who worked with Oscar winner Cannom on the 1999 pic “Idle Hands” and upcoming “The Silence of the Lambs” sequel “Hannibal.”

The character Big Momma used a neck and nine-piece overlapping facial construct with a fat suit, says Sipe, to give Lawrence his hefty appearance. “He was encased. … We used our brand of silicone appliance that kept it more lifelike than the foam latex appliances.”

Another element that can affect makeup is the acting style of the performer. An actor that’s afraid to exaggerate can damage a makeup job.

“That’s one thing you notice in some movies,” says Sipe. “You (need to) have someone who is well animated in the makeup, and Martin is an animated person so that brought (the makeup) to life.”

On his recent projects, Baker worked with two of Hollywood’s most expressive comedians.

Murphy gave him free rein with makeup creations, while “Jim Carrey has an amazing elastic face and can do things no one else can do. People seem to think that the makeup is all computer-enhanced because it’s moving so much,” Baker says.

Makeup artists must be aware of how a film that’s heavy in special effects will have on their work.

“If you’re shooting against a greenscreen, than you wouldn’t use any green in your color palette,” says Judy Chin, the lead makeup artists for “Requiem for a Dream.”

Burstyn’s downfall

Chin’s color scheme for the film took into consideration the dark lighting on the set, and she used shades of green to highlight Ellen Burstyn’s transformation from a healthy woman to an underweight abuser of amphetamines.

In other areas, visual effects can enhance existing makeup. In the process of creating the Grinch, after testing the makeup on himself, Rick Baker took a digital photograph and enhanced it on his computer as a way to capture the creature’s widest smile for one particular scene. He then pitched it to the filmmakers, who used the idea in the pic.

“Visual effects don’t affect us unless we’re doing something hand in hand,” says Sipe. “We have some things coming up in ‘Hannibal’ where visual effects and makeup worked together to come up with something that will shock people.”

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