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‘Star Trek’ molded makeup

Closeup demands required innovations and shaved heads

Persuading prospective Vulcans and Romulans that they needed to shave their heads and eyebrows was makeup department head Mindy Hall’s first challenge. “It took a little bit of negotiating with casting,” she recalls. “Our characters had to look as organic, as real as possible. We were working with really tight closeups and we couldn’t hide behind the lighting so, we had to be very precise. Doing eyebrow covers wasn’t an option. Even a slight cover can alter the bone structure.”

Hall had her own on-site lab where all prosthetics were generated. “We sculpted all the appliances — the ears, all the Romulans’ foreheads,” she explains. “These seamless molds were developed by (prosthetic makeup supervisor) Joel Harlow, and ‘Star Trek’ is the first film to use this almost three-dimensional process.”

Once the fittings were completed, it was down to makeup. Hall ran a full-time assembly-line staff of 20 artists that, on some grueling days, grew to 70.

“The makeup artists were their own city,” says Hall. “Two artists and a hairdresser could turn out a Vulcan in 1 1/2 to two hours, with one artist putting on ears, another doing the face and another laying the hair. A single Romulan was a two- to 2 1/2-hour application for three makeup artists.”

Other than the obvious creatures, very few characters’ faces were altered with CGI.

One was the doctor who delivers Kirk into the world. “We wanted him to have a very humanistic character but with just a little alteration,” says vfx supervisor Roger Guyett. “We enlarged the eyes and made them slightly more oval shaped and elongated, giving the face a disconcerting, odd quality.”

At the end of each shooting day, Hall would bring in the night shift — the makeup-removal crew. All single-use prosthetics were cut up. “We insisted that everyone have scissors at their station when they did the removals,” Hall says. “We had to make sure those pieces weren’t going anywhere.”

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