Friday, January 30, 2009

The Art of Gluing Yak Hair to An Actor's Face

Make-up artist Rick Baker has created half-man, half-beast creatures for a number of movies, including An American Werewolf in London, Harry and the Hendersons, and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake. Baker recently applied his talents to turn actor Benecio Del Toro into a half-man, half-wolf creature for Universal's Wolfman remake. Baker assured fans at Comic-Con 2008 that, in creating this make-up, he was determined "to be true to the original and show respect for it."

The original Wolfman make-up is certainly classic. Make-up artist Jack Pierce was able to transform Lon Chaney into the Wolfman by using grease paint, a rubber snout appliance, various wig pieces, and bags of imported yak hair, which he glued in layers to Chaney's face. As a final touch, he singed the yak hair with a hot iron to make it look more bristly.

Baker said that contemporary monster make-up is normally done using silicone materials, which are translucent and have "a really flesh feel," but he found that he couldn't use silicone for a creature as dark as the Wolfman and had to rely to a large extent on older materials. He said that he still used "a lot in materials like in silicones and things," but he also used "very old-school" devices like a foam rubber nose and acrylic teeth. He even followed Pierce's example by gluing yak hair to Del Toro's face.

Baker exaggerated certain features to make his Wolfman more dynamic. It is obvious, from first glance, that Baker's Wolfman has bigger teeth and a fuller mane.

Baker was, in the end, happy with his work. He believes that the new Wolfman, which is "very believable, very realistic," will prove considerably more frightening than the original.

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