Movies & Make Up: The Classic Christmas Combo

And the award for the most common question you get asked at Christmas time (and the odds become exponentially smaller if you work in the make-up biz) goes to…


What’s your favourite Christmas film?

Yes, we know it’s a cliché but we’ve all got one haven’t we! Are you a fan of the classics – Love Actually, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins or Home Alone, or do you like to go a bit left-field with the likes of Die Hard, the bloody Santa Claws or this year’s Better Watch Out, with the chilling premise of ‘a night of Christmas babysitting goes gruesomely awry’?


Whatever you choose, they all have one thing in common, they were all triumphs of make-up and SFX! Read on for the best make-up SFX Christmas movies of all time…

The obvious place to start of course is Love Actually. Combining Christmas and politics at the best of times is a tricky ask but as usual Richard ‘Rom-Com King’ Curtis pulls it out the bag but the reason we’re mentioning it is that our very own Kate worked on the film!


While the make up on Love Actually was undoubtedly outstanding, the guys who did the prosthetics for How The Grinch Stole Christmas deserved an award, and they cleaned up. Rick Baker and Gail Rowell-Ryan won the Oscar for Best Makeup and the BAFTA for Best Makeup & Hair as well as plenty of other gongs for the stunning transformation of star Jim Carrey, but while he looked unbelievably good, it wasn’t all sweetness and roses in the make-up department…


·         The prosthetics he wore every day made him feel so physically uncomfortable he needed counselling from a Navy SEAL on torture-resistance techniques

·         As uncomfortable were the yellow contact lenses he wore. So much so that some days he simply couldn’t put them in and his eyes were coloured in post-production

·         To get him through the long hours in the chair, he listened almost exclusively to The Bee Gees! ‘I’ve no idea why, but they just made me happy. There’d be no Grinch without them.’

·         The film’s make-up and prosthetics took over 1,000 man hours

·         Depending on where you read, he spent between three and eight hours every day in the make-up chair


He said of the make-up process: ‘It was like being buried alive each day. On the first day I went back to my trailer, put my leg through the wall and told [director] Ron Howard I couldn’t do the movie.’


But it’s such a cute film…!


How about the age-old Die Hard argument? Is it a Christmas film or is it an action film? American critic Lance Griffin said, ‘there are two types of people in this world, those who consider Die Hard to be a Christmas movie and those who are wrong.’


And let’s face it, the evidence is rather overwhelming. It’s set on Christmas Eve at an office Christmas party. The movie opens with Run DMCs ‘Christmas in Hollis’ and closes with ‘Let it Snow’. Even Bruce Willis’s on-screen wife is called Holly….


Even though the film was the perfect Hollywood clichéd explosion-fest, the make-up department of Wes Dawn, Scott H Eddo and Jim Kail did a fine job of keeping bloody Bruce the right side of realistic but there was one little boo-boo that the bedroom keyboard warriors jumped up and down on…


The prosthetics department made him some special rubber ‘shoes’ to wear over his own feet during the scenes when he was barefoot running through the glass shards in the computer rooms. However they were a bit big and cumbersome and in one scene you can clearly see they’re little boots! Still, don’t let that detract from the fact it’s definitely, absolutely, 100%, positively a Christmas movie.


Isn’t it?


We can’t talk about Christmas movie make-up without visiting the horror genre for some of the most stomach-churning scenes and, from a make-up and prosthetics standpoint, some of the industry’s most brilliant work.


The trouble with these films (the real gore shows) is that they are rarely, if ever, on general theatrical release so to do your research if you’re looking to get into the world of horror make-up you’ll have to dig a little deeper.


Critically lauded as one of the best horror flicks of the last 10 years, Inside, written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo contains one of the most gruesome scenes ever committed to celluloid.


On Christmas Eve, a psychotic woman breaks into the house of a grieving, pregnant woman to steal her unborn baby. And steal it she does. Makeup Effects Supervisor Jacques Olivier-Molon creates a stomach-opening scene so utterly repulsive that not a single image exists online.


As we come full circle, we once again bow down to the greatness that is Rick Baker and arguably his seminal work, An American Werewolf in London from way back in 1981. The undisputed king of Special Effects Make Up, this was the film that put the horror and special effects make up genre firmly on the map.


Courtesy of IMDB, here is a list of the best Rick Baker trivia from the film that paved the way…


·         Because of this film, make-up and industry technological contributions became recognized by the Academy Awards in 1981. Baker was the first to receive an Oscar in the new category


·         The final look of the werewolf was based on Baker’s white German Shepherd called Bosco


·         Michael Jackson was so bowled over by this movie, especially by the make-up and visual effects, he insisted on hiring Baker to do the special effects for the Thriller video


·         Baker and director John Landis had several disagreements over what the design of the werewolf should be. Baker wanted it to be a two-legged werewolf saying he thought of werewolves as being bipedal. Landis wanted a ‘four-legged hound from hell’


·         Baker performed the action of the werewolf biting off Inspector Villier's head. In the movie, you can briefly and barely make out Baker’s bearded face as he operates the wolf to bite off his head. He also played the Nazi werewolf in the nightmare sequence (specifically the one who slashes David's throat)


·         This was one of two werewolf films to win the Academy Award for Best Make-up and Rick Baker won them both, the second being for The Wolfman in 2010


Rick Baker and everyone in the special effects and prosthetics genre, in fact everyone in the entire make-up world, we salute you! You all do an amazing job and we’re so happy to be a small part of such an exciting industry!

Posted: 13th Dec 17

Movies & Make Up: The Classic Christmas Combo