Makeup artist Michael Westmore shares decades of Hollywood stories in new book

Review by C.J. Bunce

For one hundred years the Westmore name has been synonymous with makeup.  Modern fandom knows Michael Westmore as the go-to guy for the face of the stars and alien prosthetics of decades of Star Trek TV shows, but what you may not know is Westmore had an exceptional career in cinema before his days creating the look of the final frontier.  You may also not know Westmore is a great storyteller.  Happily for cinephiles everywhere, Westmore has chronicled many of his encounters with film greats past and present and documented his stories in a new book, Makeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek, The Amazing Creations of Hollywood’s Michael Westmore.

Full of anecdotes and brushes with Hollywood royalty, Makeup Man showcases Westmore, his famous family that preceded him, and the work he created that cemented his name in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  For Star Trek fans looking for insight into re-creating their own Klingons and Vulcans, Westmore previously shared his knowledge in the now out-of-print books Star Trek: Aliens and Artifacts (available at Amazon here), and the Star Trek: The Next Generation Makeup FX Journal (available here).  Makeup Man touches on Westmore’s Star Trek makeup work in the last third of the book, but it is targeted more at his Hollywood memories before the 1980s.  In fact Makeup Man is best when Westmore recounts stories that blend the unique creations and techniques of his craft with the acting and film legends of the past that he worked with, like a story about a little-known, MacGyver-esque, facelift trick he used from his family’s past for Shelley Winters.

Westmore’s prose evokes an amiable master artisan sharing campfire stories of days long ago.  Most interesting is his work with Sylvester Stallone in creating the look of Rocky (1976).  Westmore discusses dodging the cameraman during takes to be able to add the necessary makeup to reflect Rocky’s next punch to the head.  Westmore recounts a little known (but popular at the time) 1984 made-for-TV movie based on a true story, called Why Me?  For the film he had to recreate actual facial reconstructive surgery during all its phases for a woman disfigured in an auto accident.  Westmore’s greatest achievement is probably his Academy Award for Mask (1984), also based on a true story, where he earned the Westmore family’s only Oscar for his work recreating a 16-year-old boy with a rare facial disorder (played in the film by Eric Stoltz).  Each of these stories documents the challenges of Westmore’s craft and his ingenuity in delivering Hollywood magic on the big (and small) screen.

Michael Westmore makeup notes for Rocky.

Makeup Man includes praise about Westmore from Patrick Stewart, Sylvester Stallone, Rene Auberjonois, Armin Shimerman, and others.  Filled with humor, including a few recipes Westmore collected over the years like a chili recipe from Elizabeth Taylor, Makeup Man is a fun read for film buffs.  Westmore has mentioned he initially wanted this to be the first of two books, with a second devoted to Star Trek, and fans can only hope that may still happen.  Fans of film in the 1960s, especially the decade’s pop heroes like Shirley MacLaine, Bobby Darin, and Sandra Dee, and the 1970s and 1980s, with actors including Robert DeNiro and Liza Minelli, will be interested in Westmore’s personal encounters.  But Westmore also worked with stars of an earlier era later in their careers, like Milton Berle, George Burns, and Greer Garson.  And, of course, Westmore discusses highlights of his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Enterprise.

Makeup Man is primarily text but it is sprinkled with photos, both black and white and color, showcasing relics from Westmore’s past, his makeup design notes, and his creations.

Pick up Makeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek, The Amazing Creations of Hollywood’s Michael Westmore, available now here at Amazon.

One comment

  1. This is a great profile of makeup artist Michael Westmore, who added much to the magic of television and movies over the decades. Thanks for posting this.

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