Exclusive: Legendary FX Artist Rick Baker on His Team-Up with MAC Cosmetics and MORE!
Kicking off with a kick-ass party on a Saturday night, monster makeup master Rick Baker celebrated his new collaboration with MAC Cosmetics by inviting just a few hundred of his closest friends.
Glad I made the cut... so to speak! There were lots of bogus blood wounds and knife nicks on display, as well as humorous Halloween costumes – my faves were the wags who went dressed as “Rick Baker.”
Baker himself was in a cyberpunk knight costume, complete with so many prosthetics even his own mum wouldn’t recognize him. This most supernaturally chic celebration of the season took place at Baker’s Cinovation Studios in L.A., and attendees included Slash and Perla Hudson, Kelly Osbourne, and Jason Priestley. Models wearing iconic makeup looks created for MAC, The Monster's Bride - Micheline Pitt, the Spider Queen - Ashley Sutton, and the Zombie - Jason Boyce, greeted guests on the gore-red carpet, and the MAC Monster Mash commenced.
A few days later, Baker was kind enough to sit down with me at the MAC PRO store in Beverly Hills to discuss, in-depth, this exciting and truly unprecedented collaboration between a man who loves the beastly with a makeup empire which celebrates beauty.
Dread Central: I’m used to seeing celebrities with fragrances and pretty trifles tied into stores like MAC, but not makeup made for the monstrous! So can you tell me a little bit more about this line, and how was it presented to you?
Rick Baker: Well, the funny thing is it actually wasn’t presented to me. I almost presented it to them. I go back a few years with MAC, because they have an artist relation bridge where they deal with people in the industry. They give them samples of make-up and will supply them things for films, and stuff like that. And so the artist relations person contacted me to get on the list for some free products. But [what’s more] she said, ‘We do this thing called the master class, where we have make-up artists from different industries - the film industry, fashion and stuff - do a demonstration to show what they do. It’s just to educate all of our people, and we would like you to do one.’ I said I would like to do it but the kind of stuff I do takes too long. I said, ‘You know, the prep time, taking life casts, sculpting, making the mold and just the make-up time itself is like three and half hours, usually.’ And she said, ‘Oh, our class is usually an hour long.’ So I said, ‘I just can’t see this working.’ But she didn’t give up; she kept after me. And I said, ‘ I like doing paint make-up, I can do paint make-up and doing something like that if you’re interested.’ But then I spent three hours doing paint make-up (laughter). Because I do like a painting. But I said, ‘I’ll make it work.’
I was doing it in London, New York, Florida, and Los Angeles, and they were going to have different models in every place and so I wanted to have the same face cause I wanted to design the make-up for the face. So I said, ‘I want to make myself up.’ So kind of against their judgment I said, 'We have a fifty percent mirror and camera behind it and it will be my point of view and you will see what I am seeing as I make myself up.' And I said I think it would be really cool, and it turned out to be their favorite master class. It was an hour scored with horror music, horror movie soundtrack music. And I knew when the horror soundtrack Dracula music came on, I was supposed to be at a certain part in the makeup. I practiced a lot to get it down to an hour and still do really cool makeup. It was like a performance art, people were like mesmerized for an hour. So anyway, that was my introduction to MAC and their products which I used a lot of, all their stuff.
So I became friends with this lady. I was doing Men in Black 3 in New York, and she knew I was in New York, so we went to dinner the few nights we actually had off and it was around Halloween and I was telling her how I was making my kids up for Halloween and how I had to get back to California and how Halloween is my favorite holiday and how I always wanted to do a makeup kit, you know for Halloween. And how everything you need to do a certain makeup in a box with instructions on how to do it. And she was like, ‘Hmmmm’… but I said the problem is there is a lot of stuff out there now that the products are all crap. The makeup given [in party stores and the like] you can’t do the makeup that is on the packaging. I said if I did it and put my name on it, it would be good products. And that’s how this all came about. Let me remind you this is not exactly what I had in mind, which was specific packaging smaller or palettes just to do it for a couple of nights… you know.
DC: Yeah, not everyone can be the Bride of Frankenstein every day!
RB: Yeah, and so I wanted to make it more available to the common person, but it’s a start you know. I couldn't turn it down and I got to do a few new Halloween makeups.
DC: Win/win! So, do you think you will want to move into beauty makeups for MAC also?
RB: Not so much. I mean, I still like to work with [monster] things. And that was the big problem MAC had with me too. I was doing things that were probably a little too extreme in their view for their taste, you know, and the MAC people were mostly woman who would buy the product so actually the Bride was not an original that I was doing; it was actually a last minute addition to the collection. And it really was because I had to come up with a model for her very quickly. I had just done an art show, a classic monster art show, with thirteen paintings I did of classic monsters, and I thought, ‘Well, I need a new version of the Bride. It was like an updated version of the Bride but true to the basic silhouette.’ So at the art show, a beautiful model named Micheline Pitt bought one of my paintings and took a picture with me, then posted it on the internet and she was like, ‘Look! I brought this Rick Baker painting!’ I realized she would be perfect for the Bride and I tracked her down… so it was meant to be. She said she was a fan of the genre so she has just been so perfect for this. A friend of mine made the costume, and I made the wig almost like a Nefertiti shape, you know. [I’m very happy with it, especially since it was kind of last minute.]
DC: So is this makeup available now for purchase?
RB: It’s available now in MAC PRO stores. It's only in MAC PRO stores or at MAC online.
DC: And is it a year-round kind of thing?
RB: No, just till the end of the month.
DC: Wow, that’s not on the market for long. Will it be resurrected for next year?
RB: I don't know. They tell me it’s been selling well. We should have been doing this in the beginning of the month, not when it’s almost over.
DC: Hm. Well, how would you like to see this grow? What’s the hope?
RB: Well, the hope is that I can actually design my own colors and have something that is more available to everybody in smaller amounts. I mean, not everybody can afford the larger quantities. One of the products that I really like that they have is Chrome Cake, which is a water base makeup which you can use with a brush or a sponge, but it comes in a cake… but for kids, make it more affordable.
DC: Are those master class makeup videos you mentioned available to the public?
RB: Yes. They’re really [informative]. You don't have to have prosthetics, you don't have to have expensive stuff, you can do the same makeups with something you buy at CVS or something.
DC: I am sure a video demonstration would be very helpful for a lot of people, because just looking at a still photo doesn’t always cut it.
RB: Yes. I have always been attracted to paint makeups and just been amazed at what you can do with just paint. For instance, the zombie guy is all just paint. It’s nothing but just basically black and white. And I get to make this one product for Monster Effects, I wanted to call it Monster Mud. So for the zombie thing I wanted to basically do a black and white makeup and give it a glaze of color in a regular way, so I made this Monster Effects stuff. It’s really a water base, mix and medium dirt colored pigmented, you know you could/can put it on with brushes or wadded up tissue. Some spots I just kinda squirt it on and just spread it with a little water. It’s cool, and that’s what putting these videos online is for.
It started with the Day of the Dead lady and the Bride, and the Zombie was the last one. The people were like, ‘Wow I didn't know you could do this with makeup.’ We did a master class in Paris just recently right after fashion week and a bunch of these fashion makeup artists came and some of the top people they were like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe that you did that with those simple paints!’ So I like for people just to see it, that’s how I started out with painting.
DC: Yes, it is empowering and encouraging to see that you don't have to be Rick Baker to look very cool for Halloween.
RB: It does take practice. That’s the good things about the responses… it’s like, ‘I don't know if I can do this exactly, but I am sure going to try!’ You know what someone asked me, ‘How long for the zombie?’ and my answer during the filming was it took three hours cause the film crew was in the way, but probably about two and a half… but then again, you know, it took me fifty-three years to do (laughter). I mean, I started when I was a little boy, so don't expect to be able to do this the first time you do it. I would like to show people it can be fun and what we can do.
DC: What is the best horror movie makeup that you have seen recently… this year or the year before, in a film that you admire?
RB: Trying to think of what I have seen this year and the year before. Man, I will tell you the makeup that I think is really cool, but it’s been a number of years is the makeup that Greg Cannom did in Hannibal. That was a really cool, ridiculously uncomfortable makeup. (laughter.) But you couldn't do it with anyone else but Gary Oldman and you had to have an actor who would be willing to go for it and be willing to put up with that. Which I really appreciate. You know, a lot of times they just try to put a pair of teeth in somebody and they can’t act with these in or talk with these in… you know I kind of had that with Vincent D'Onofrio in the first Men in Black, when I was thinking back to more of the Lon Chaney techniques and I was like, ‘How to deal with this?’ But Vincent was great! He wanted me to make him even more uncomfortable.
DC: Have things changed a lot, I mean relatively speaking, since the Lon Chaney days?
RB: Attitudes. What’s good is, when I started out, there were not a lot of people who did this kind of stuff, and did it well. And I was actually considered by my union, which wouldn't let me in initially, the enemy. I was told when I got my first Oscar that a real makeup artist was [being cheated out of] an Oscar cause all this stuff is not makeup. But now everyone is accepting. When I did The Grudge, I had 60 makeup artists working for me. I didn't think I could find enough. There was a lot of people that were really good. Christian Tinsly, I think is a really good makeup artist; he actually came up with some amazing techniques - that way of doing things transferred to appliances. Really good makeup artist.
DC: Do you think with the advent of shows like "Face Off," reality shows, that this effects makeup will also help the consumer be more interested in the MAC products?
RB: I have real mixed feelings about "Face Off." For one, I pitched a reality makeup show to Syfy and its name was "Face Off." They said, ‘We really like the idea but we are not interested,’ and then they did "Face Off" themselves after all. But the main difference is, I wanted to show it right. I didn't just want it to be a formula reality show, you know, which I understand why they want that. The thing is, given the little amount of time that they do and they are cheated a lot by the way they film cause they have other people help them get stuff done. Lately the stuff has been better but a lot of stuff goes on there that I think does harm to the art of the makeup, initially. But it has gotten a lot better. I do think that it is inspiring people to get involved with makeup.
DC: You have a new movie coming out with Angelina Jolie, Maleficent, her as one of the most famous Disney villains. So what was the makeup like for that? Is it all completely organic?
RB: Angie requested me. I just had finished Men in Black 3 and was kind of looking forward to taking some time off, but it was kind of hard to turn down Angie. And what I did say was I would do it but I didn't want to move to England, so I would get someone to apply and make sure that it’s done right. I will just do the design, but I really can’t say ‘my’ design because I designed it with Angie. She had very specific ideas, um… I kind of tried to bend her ideas into something that I thought would work. I succeeded in some levels. (laughter) But I think it’s going to be cool. The movie is going to be great; the script was outstanding.
DC: Anything else that you have done recently?
RB: I haven't worked since Maleficent. I mean, I have been doing a lot of my own stuff, like these monster paintings. I have to do something creative every day or I feel like I am wasting my time. I want to be spending my time doing things that I enjoy, and the movies that I really want to do. I want to be spending time doing things I want to do, but somehow it got twisted into that I retired! I am simply more selective, so the work has been less. I do hope someone will call me for a movie that I would love to do. I am not retired! (laughter)
DC: Thanks, Rick. A real pleasure talking to you.
RB: Thank you, Staci. I’m happy to talk to a horror reporter and not somebody who just wants to talk about eyeshadow!
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