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Oscar nom for makeup: Pan’s Labyrinth

When it comes to the visionary menagerie of monsters in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” director Guillermo del Toro was unequivocal about two things. First, “I knew characters like Pan and the Pale Man couldn’t be done with CGI,” he says. “They had to be real.”

Second, makeup artists David Marti and Montse Ribe of DDT Barcelona were the only guys to do it. After all, the same team had handled the complex makeup work on del Toro’s “Hellboy” and “The Devil’s Backbone.”

“Montse and I do everything together,” says Marti. The duo supervised everything from Pan’s gnarled-wood appearance to the Pale Man’s drooping flesh, from such gore effects as the Captain’s razor-sliced cheek to creating the movie’s many bugs and fairies.

“On pre-production, Montse focused on the giant toad while I was more on the main characters,” explains Marti. “On the shoot, Montse and I applied all the makeup with help from a team, and we knew we’d get extraordinary performances from Doug Jones.”

A thesp for 20 years, Jones played two key roles, the Pale Man and Pan, and faced many challenges in bringing them to life. “I was in makeup for five hours, for each character, every day,” he reports. “Some people may see that as hellish, but it was part of the job for me.”

The intense work didn’t end with the application sessions, however. “They had to do all the touchups during the day,” he adds. “Then there’s all the cleanup and tear-down, and Montse would even give me a facial massage. Their whole team was fantastic.”

That team included two artists working on his face, three on his costumes, “and a mechanics wizard doing all the electronics in my head. It was a huge, collaborative effort.”

“Pan’s face was a mix of techniques,” Marti says. “We wanted him to feel free for the Spanish dialogue. From the nose up, all was servo-controlled: nose, eyelids, eyebrows, ears. We hid the little motors in the horns. Everything was very small and flat to keep the head in proportion with the body.”

Dealing with Pan’s legs was another big challenge. “At the beginning we didn’t trust that it could be possible to erase something digitally,” admits Marti, “but Guillermo said maybe we could do enough shots to make the audience believe all the time.” Using polyfoam extensions, they could show Pan’s full body, while Jones operated the legs like stilts.

“They have both the European severity (in character design) and a very efficient assembly line for creating them,” explains del Toro, “and that combination makes them one of the strongest effects houses in the world.”

Why it’ll win: The monsters are unlike anything previously seen in cinema, and makeup and prosthetics play a critical role in making these fantastic creatures believable.

Why it won’t: It’s a Spanish-language movie, and it wasn’t as widely seen as “Click” or “Apocalypto.”

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