EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
Today at HOLLYWOOD SPY we are joined by Shaun Smith, make-up and effects expert who worked on many visually stunning movies such as 300, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, I AM LEGEND, THE MONKEY KING and CHRONICLES OF NARNIA! Shaun Smith has over 20 years of experience working on make-up, special make-up effects, puppets and props for feature films, television and commercials and he was kind enough to sit down and have a chitchat with your Hollywood Spy.
SHAUN, CAN YOU TELL US WHAT DOES THE WORK OF A MAKEUP SUPERVISOR CONSIST OF? WE KNOW IT INVOLVES MUCH LEARNING, INSPIRATION AND CREATIVITY. YOU ORGANIZE AND SUPERVISE INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOPS....Yeah, I love it, love the intensity of it. It’s like a big puzzle and its fun to figure it out. There is something about the collaboration process that keeps me excited. I basically work out the details and the look with the director and other people on the team. I then do a budget and schedule for the job, hire the team, coordinate the shop build, apply and oversee make-up applications and most importantly make sure we stay under budget and on time.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH THE BIGGEST VISUAL GENIUS IN MODERN FILM - ZACK SNYDER - ON THE GROUNDBREAKING EPIC "300"? ANY CHANCE OF WORKING WITH HIM AGAIN?
I feel fortunate I worked with Zack on his first two films “Dawn of the Dead” and “300”. Both successful movies with a ton of make-up. Zack’s a lot of fun. And like I said, we did two successful films together so you never know. I really like Zack so working with him again would be cool.
YOU ALSO WORKED ON ANOTHER EPIC FILM "CONAN THE BARBARIAN" CREATING SOME TRULY MEMORABLE LOOKS. THAT GENRE IS PROBABLY A HEAVEN FOR MAKE UP ARTISTS.I’m a huge fan of the Conan comics and the 1982 Milius film! So yeah, working on a Conan movie was unbelievable. I was totally engrossed in the process. We had a pretty small crew for a job that size. When I look back at all the makeup and hair work in that film…I am really proud of what we produced.
CREATURE EFFECTS IN WILL SMITH'S POST APOCALYPTIC FILM "I AM LEGEND" WERE ALSO YOUR JOB?We worked out the original make-up test with director Francis Lawrence. We imagined the Hemocytes covered in white ash because in the original script the city was going to be on fire and ash was everywhere like snow, hence the white caked make-up. The theory was that they smeared an ash concoction over their skin to protect it and give some relief to the raw and translucent skin underneath. Ultimately they decided to go digital for the infected humans (Hemocytes). I believe I ended up being credited as the Creature Effects Supervisor on the film.
AND ALSO IN "CHRONICLES OF NARNIA" AND "FOUR BROTHERS"?
I supervised both “Chronicles” and “Four Brothers” for another company since I enjoy running shows for other people and I treat it with the same passion as if it were my own. For “Four Brothers” we built a mechanical Rottweiler that attacks Mark Walberg and Tyrese Gibson. For “Chronicles” we did eight Mechanical Deer, four white and four brown puppets. The build time was really short so I came up with the idea of building just four mechanical bodies where we could switch out the head and skin depending on which colour deer we needed for the shot.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK ON UPCOMING ASIAN ADVENTURE "THE MONKEY KING". NEW TRAILER SHOWS SOME REALLY OUTSTANDING MASKS AND MAKE-UP!Thanks! Yeah, lots of fun makeup on that film. It is rumored to have cost $100 million dollar and I believe it’s one of the biggest make-up effects shows ever done in China. It is probably the most mentally challenging film I’ve ever done. It was about a year and a half stretch of crazy travel and nonstop work. We had to build a shop from the ground up and probably had close to 100 people working on hair suits and makeup effects! We made 80 full haired monkey suits or as I like to call them, Mankey suits, all hand tied, one hair at a time on to Spandex suits... Each suit had two heads and multiple faces. Plus we built a ton of other characters. Desire Soto was my Right Hand on that project! The key to surviving these huge jobs is to surround yourself with good people and have awesome interpreters who understand both cultures.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?Currently I am in pre-production on a Breck Eisner film starring Vin Diesel ”The Last Witch Hunter”! Some really cool stuff on that and I’m super excited. Earlier this year, I worked on the new season of “Eagleheart”. I also completed work on Director Jesse Johnson’s latest fan film short “Lobo” with two time World Kickboxing Champion Jerry “Golden Boy” Trimble.
ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MAKE-UP ARTISTS?
The field is saturated with aspiring artists so make sure it’s what you really want to do before you drop $10,000 or more on make-up school! Be prepared to work your way up. Learn to live frugally because starting pay can be low. And please, always be respectful of the people who came before you and learn the history. At least know who Dick Smith is. Then… practice, practice, practice!