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Posts tagged “Dick Smith

Dick Smith R.I.P.

The-Exorcist_Dick-SmithRenowned Makeup FX Wizard Dick Smith has passed. His contribution to the genre and the world of Makeup FX, so integral to horror and cinema at large, is impossible to overstate.

Born in 1922 in Larchmont, New York, Smith began his career in 1945 as the first staff makeup man at NBC. Until his official debut in feature films in 1962, Smith applied makeup on a host of television series, including two remarkable visages in episodes of the anthology series WAY OUT (“Soft Focus,” “False Face”).

Pioneering the use of foam latex for intricate, richly detailed designs, Smith’s work was perhaps most stunning (and best known) in William Friedkin’s 1973 classic The Exorcist. Smith also considered it his most accomplished work, and in a 2007 Washington Post profile, his former assistant and now FX legend Rick Baker helps illustrate why:

” ‘The Exorcist’ was really a turning point for makeup special effects,” Baker says. “Dick showed that makeup wasn’t just about making people look scary or old, but had many applications. He figured out a way to make the welts swell up on Linda’s stomach, to make her head spin around, and he created the vomit scenes.”

Of course, Smith’s filmography and influence extends farther than just The Exorcist. In 1965, Smith penned the essential DICK SMITH’S DO-IT-YOURSELF MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK and his entire career is an index of fantastic, otherworldly work including the likes of Dark Shadows, Little Big Man, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Burnt Offerings, Altered States, The Fury, Ghost Story and Amadeus, for which he won an Oscar in 1984. Smith’s second Oscar came in 2011, when the technician of horror received an Academy Honorary Award for “for his unparalleled mastery of texture, shade, form and illusion.”


Rare footage from the set of The Exorcist

In what seems to becoming ‘Exorcist week’, here’s a fantastic behind the scenes documentary by Owen Roizman, cinematographer on The Exorcist (1973), who personally filmed behind-the-scenes footage while working on the horror production. The footage was made available in 2010 as part of the documentary Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist, which appears on The Exorcist Blu-ray release. The documentary itself is laced with interviews from cast and crew (and is a great watch!) but I always thought it would be great to see all of that amazing rare footage spliced together, without interruption.


Rick Baker

Richard A. “Rick” Baker (born December 8, 1950) is an American special make-up effects artist known for his realistic creature effects. Baker was born in Binghamton, New York, the son of Doris and Ralph B. Baker, a professional artist.

As a teen, Baker began creating artificial body parts in his own kitchen. He also appeared briefly in the “lost” classic fan production “The Night Turkey” a one hour B&W video parody of “The Night Stalker” (winner of the Best Short Film award at an early San Diego Comic-Con) directed by William Malone (who went on to direct feature films like the science fiction thriller Creature) and included in its cast Bill Mills and Robert Short (a fellow special makeup artist who also went on to win an Academy Award for his work in Beetlejuice).

Baker’s first professional job was as an assistant to the legendary Dick Smith on the film ‘The Exorcist’. He received the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup for his peerless work on ‘An American Werewolf in London’. He also created the “werecat” creature Michael Jackson transforms into in the music video ‘Thriller’. Subsequently, Baker has been nominated for the Best Makeup Oscar ten more times, winning on seven occasions, both records in his field. Baker claims that his work on ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ is one of his proudest achievements.

On 3 October 2009 he received the Jack Pierce – Lifetime Achievement Award title of the Chiller-Eyegore Awards. Known for his love of lyBaker most recently created the special makeup effects for the 2010 film ‘The Wolfman’ for which he also won an Academy Award in 2011.

Baker played the title role in the 1976 remake of ‘King Kong’. He also had cameos as the pilot and gunner (with director Peter Jackson) who shot down Kong in the 2005 remake of ‘King Kong’ and as a drug dealer with a business card in the John Landis film ‘Into the Night’. He also made a cameo appearance in the aforementioned Michael Jackson music video ‘Thriller’ as one of the zombies. He also makes a cameo in ‘The Wolfman’ as The Wolfman’s first kill. He would eventually win the Oscar for his work with the film’s makeup.

Baker also contributes commentaries to Joe Dante’s web series Trailers From Hell for trailers about horror and science fiction films. He was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Academy of Art University in 2008.


Tom Savini

Thomas Vincent “Tom” Savini (born November 3, 1946) is an American actor, stuntman, director, award-winning special effects and makeup artist. He is known for his work on the ‘Living Dead’ films directed by George A. Romero, as well as ‘Creepshow’, ‘The Burning’, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘The Prowler’, and ‘Maniac’. He also directed the 1990 remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead’. As an actor he has appeared in films such as ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (and its remake), ‘From Dusk ’till Dawn’, ‘Grindhouse’ and ‘Machete’.

Savini was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised Catholic and graduated from Central Catholic High School, before attending Carnegie-Mellon University. Savini served in Vietnam as a combat photographer. Savini continued to practice with makeup in Vietnam, often frightening indigenous peasants by appearing to suddenly transform into a “monster”.

Savini is primarily known for his groundbreaking work in the field of special makeup effects. He got his breakthrough working with Pittsburgh filmmaker George A. Romero, providing a convincing wrist slashing effect in the opening scenes of ‘Martin’ (1977). The following year, working with an expanded budget on ‘Dawn of the Dead’, Savini created his signature palette of severed limbs and bite-marks.

Savini has also worked on films by Dario Argento (Trauma, Two Evil Eyes) and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2). His signature realism livens genre films such as ‘Maniac’ (1980), however, perhaps Savini’s most noteworthy special effects occurred in the zombie epic ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985).

Savini has noted that most of the characters he has played are bikers. He played a relatively straight, innocuous character in ‘Martin’ (1977), but played a menacing biker called ‘Blades’ in ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978), a role he reprised with a brief cameo appearance in the 2005 continuation of the series, ‘Land of the Dead’; as well as a cameo as a sheriff in the 2004 remake of Dawn. He also played the whip-wielding, vampire-fighting biker ‘Sex Machine’ in the 1996 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film ‘From Dusk ’till Dawn’. (This character was a riff on the “Blades” character Savini created for Dawn of the Dead replete with the same costume.)

As a director, Savini helmed episodes of the syndicated television series ‘Tales from the Darkside’, the aforementioned 1990 color remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead’.

In 2007, Savini took on a role in Planet Terror, one of two stories in the film ‘Grindhouse’. “Planet Terror” was directed by Robert Rodriguez: the other story, Death Proof was directed by Quentin Tarantino. He plays Deputy Tolo, who tries to save his town from an infestation of zombies. In 2008, Savini played another vampire in the movie ‘Lost Boys: The Tribe’ and he has completed the film The Dead Matter, also featuring Andrew Divoff and Jim O’Rear.

He had a cameo in the 2010 film adaptation of the faux trailer ‘Machete’. The american filmmaker Jason Baker filmed the life of him, in his documentary The Story of Tom Savini.

Savini runs the Special Effects Make-Up and Digital Film Programs at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania and is the author of several books on special effects including Grande Illusions I and II (1983, 1994) which detail the production and mechanical workings of many of his famous film effects. He is also associated with other books in the horror genre including Book of the Dead and Horror 101 for which he wrote the foreword. Savini is an associate of Dick Smith, who used to, but no longer, incorporates an advanced professional make-up seminar into the last semester of the program. Among other projects, Smith is known for his groundbreaking work in ‘The Exorcist’.

In recent years he has taken a break from special effects, but has continued to direct, produce and star in several movies. Savini has been known to refer movie make-up effects projects to graduates of his school. However he has been hands on with Australian productions ‘Redd Inc’ and ‘Mary Doe’ earlier this year.