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Tag Archive: Michael Westmore


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.

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Tomorrow is the big day–Halloween 2016!  If you have one of those transient Halloween shops nearby or even if you don’t, here’s a quick idea for you or someone for a current sci-fi character when you haven’t done much planning.

First off, one of the more fun of all the classic Star Trek books about the television series and movies is Michael Westmore and Alan Sims’ Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, available here at Amazon.com.  It won’t help you this Halloween if you don’t already have a copy, but if you do you’ll find three amateur make-up suggestions at the back of the book.  Along with great information on Star Trek make-up designs from make-up supervisor Michael Westmore and a brief review of props from property master Alan Sims, you’ll find rudimentary instructions on making up yourself as Seven of Nine, Lt. Commander Data, a Klingon, a Ferengi, a Romulan, and a Vulcan.  Note that this isn’t detailed, production quality work, but something for kids or quick Halloween party projects.

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As almost a follow-up to Aliens & Artifacts, Paramount Studios has released a Halloween how-to make-up video to create the face of Sofia Boutella’s beautiful alien Jaylah, the guest star of this summer’s most recent Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond.  Make-up designer Joel Harlow and lead make-up artist Richie Alonzo walk you through the quick version of make-up applications using readily available make-up materials.

Check out the video here:

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Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Twenty-five years ago one of the finest episodes of television aired on your local channel carrying syndicated programming.  Arguably the best episode in the history of the Star Trek franchise, frequently found atop “best of Star Trek” lists, and among the best of all science fiction stories, it was Darmok, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode featuring guest star Paul Winfield as the noble Tamarian Captain Dathon.  Darmok first aired September 30, 1991, the first standalone episode of the excellent fifth season, which featured memorable episodes including Ensign Ro, Unification, Cause and Effect, The Perfect Mate, I, Borg, The Next Phase, and another highly rated standalone episode that bookended the season, The Inner Light.  Written by Joe Menosky and Philip LaZebnik, and directed by Winrich Kolbe, Darmok broke new ground for Star Trek first and foremost by removing the universal translator from the equation and allowing one of the 20th (and 21st) century’s key challenges–communication between cultures–to be the focus of an episode.  Like the transporter beam and the holodeck, the translator was a story device–a crutch of sorts–that allowed writers to skip beyond basic problems and move along to more complex conflicts.  Darmok took Star Trek back to the basics.

The Federation and the Tamarians–also called the “Children of Tama”–historically failed to break the language barrier, and therefore never could open up diplomatic relations, until 2368.  The Tamarians were an intelligent and strong alien race–their ship easily overpowered the Enterprise-D.  Piglike in appearance thanks to the make-up work of Michael Westmore, they wore warrior clothing (designed by Robert Blackman) that was reptilian in design, with a vest of multi-colored grommets, and a bandolier of leather, copper, and brass that supported a sheath with a dagger that was both practical and ceremonial.  The vest featured totems, crystals wrapped in shaved metal, used for personal spiritual ceremonies.  The captain kept a log book at his belt, chronicling his journey in the strange written language of the Tamarian people.

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Shaka.  When the walls fell.

The Tamarians reached out to the Federation first, resulting in Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) confronting Dathon via bridge-to-bridge visual communication in orbit of the planet El-Adrel IV.  Frustrated by the continued dissonance, Dathon beamed himself, and Picard, to the surface of the planet.  Dathon’s goal: To use the metaphor of “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”–a Tamarian story where two warriors joined together by facing a common foe–to bring himself and Picard–and thereby both cultures–together, one way or another.  What took Picard and the viewing audience the course of the episode to learn, that one could begin to understand the Tamarians once you realized they communicated in metaphors, came too late for Dathon.  The enemy of the metaphor–the planet’s beast in the reality they faced on the surface of El-Adrel IV–attacked both him and Picard, but not before Picard understood.

Sokath. His eyes uncovered! 

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STTNG Best of Both Worlds Banner

Last night at 7 p.m. across America theaters showed a one-night only event–the world premiere of the remastered release of Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds,” including specifically the cliffhanger Part 1, which arguably is the most important Star Trek episode and one of the best episodes of any TV series to hit the airwaves.  Why the best?  It featured a constellation of concepts that came together at just the right time, airing at the end of Season 3, the season where the NextGen cast and writers became comfortable in their roles and produced several incredible episodes, including “Who Watches the Watchers,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (the other contender for best NextGen episode), “Captain’s Holiday,” “Hollow Pursuits,” “The Most Toys,” and “Sarek.”

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The stakes were never greater in a Star Trek episode than in “The Best of Both Worlds,” with the beloved Captain Jean-Luc Picard assimilated by The Borg, turned into the leader Locutus who had all of Picard’s memories and strategies to use against his shipmates.  It also featured something we all wanted to see–Jonathan Frakes’s Commander Will Riker as Captain of the Enterprise-D.  Its cliffhanger ending at the end of Season 3 created a devoted fan following who waited with bated breath all summer and came back for Season 4 and thereafter stuck with Star Trek as loyal fans to this day.  The Star Trek franchise might not be as successful today were it not for this great two-part episode.

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As a big fan of Michael Westmore, predominantly because of his alien designs for several Star Trek series and movies, I love the odd show or reference to creating professional aliens for TV and movies via make-up, latex or other prosthetic and mask work.  I’d heard of the Syfy reality show Face Off, through its beautiful promos showing the host and others transformed into bird faces and other creatures, but for whatever reason missed the first season.  Thanks to a holiday marathon last weekend I was able to get a bit caught up and now am looking forward to its second season beginning Wednesday, January 11, on Syfy.

As reality series go, I like to think I am a bit selective.  I am easily annoyed and will stop watching any show that is about people in a confined space getting along or, more likely with reality series, not getting along.   This is why my reality series watching has been limited to Iron Chef America (where the fight is not really personal as much as professional with no living situation squabbles).  I also tried The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef for several episodes, but ultimately gave up when they turned into repetitive experiments in cramming people together who don’t really want to be there.  I am sure I’ve sampled some other reality shows that I have repressed or just don’t remember.  The worst of these was probably Worst Cooks in America, a pretty horrible and valueless show.  So why try another reality show?

Face Off at one level is just another competition show where several contestants compete to outperform their peers.  The difference here is the subject.  Like cooking, there is skill and artistry required, and the ongoing battle between those with professional training and those who are self taught or are naturals.   But the subject here is something cooler.   Food is food.  Monsters and aliens are… just really neat.  In creating great alterations of people into something else, we don’t get a college course in the profession, but we can pick up some pointers.  Like watching Bobby Flay and Mario Batali facing off against challengers and showing us how to improve our food preparation, and unlike the other reality shows out there, I want to know all I can about the craft of creature make-up from these amateurs and up and coming professionals and more importantly, from the guests who hail from Hollywood and actual film work, including Academy Award winning make-up pros.  At least all I can glean from limited investment of my time–about an hour per week.

Face Off appears to leverage some notoriety first through the host, McKenzie Westmore, daughter of Michael Westmore.  Admittedly my focus in watching a show like this isn’t the host (and shouldn’t be).  She does have some film credits, to add to her family name as a bit of “street cred,” including some soap opera work and minor roles in Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek: Insurrection and Ms. Westmore claims she has a background studying theatrical make-up, beauty make-up and appliance work “in school”.  As a hook to entice viewers, the Westmore name got me to watch, and from there I found other reasons to keep watching.*

For sure there are reasons to be doing something else while the show is on, specifically the standard reality show garbage–in particular in the first season the producers felt the need to dwell on two contestants that had some inexplicable vendetta against each other.  If you can cut through those parts (the DVR has a fast-forward, remember!) the good work done by the contestants was exciting to see, and I found myself several times surprised by the skill and resulting images created by the artists in the timeframes allotted.  And in one battle, where contestants had to change actual couples who were engaged to be married from male to female and vice versa, the reality schtick was clever and entertaining, even if the art of the craft seemed to suffer a bit.  The best challenge I viewed was the skin and ink contest where the best works had nude models blend into backgrounds in a stunning way.

The bigger draw in the show are the guests and other judges.  These have included Academy Award winning makeup artist Ve Neill (Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands, Mrs. Doubtfire, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice), television makeup artist Glenn Hetrick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the X-Files, Angel, Heroes, Babylon 5), and creature designer and director Patrick Tatopoulos (I Am Legend, Resident Evil: Extinction, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans). Guests have included Michael Westmore himself, Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th) and Greg Nicotero (Predator, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Army of Darkness, Unbreakable, Minority Report, Hulk, Sin City).

The drawback so far is the over-emphasis on monster make-up, as opposed to fantasy and sci-fi.  It goes with the territory, however, that make-up artists spend a lot of time on horror flicks.  Hopefully we’ll get to see more sci-fi work and challenges in season 2, and maybe more film creators from science fiction films and less from the standard horror genre.

*Editor’s Note:  Original article updated.  My initial review reflected my findings after looking for references to Ms. Westmore’s make-up background.  I hoped to find some either on the show’s website or on Ms. Westmore’s website or on other Web sources but had no luck.   Ms. Westmore tweeted today that she indeed studied appliance work in “school”, not just worked under her father.  The show would do a great service to Ms. Westmore and the show by including some of her background relative to make-up work if so.  Viewers want this detail, and it lends greater credibility to the show knowing she has this background.  Here is what Ms. Westmore’s website states as her background and it tends to promote her role as host and actress vs. active involvement in the FX/make-up industry:

“Actress and host McKenzie Westmore is certainly no stranger to the film and television industry. A member of the legendary Westmore family, McKenzie started her career early, at the age of three, when she was cast in “Raging Bull”, as Robert De Niro’s daughter; and can be seen as the host of SyFy’s exciting new special effects and make-up competition series “Face Off.”  Most widely recognized for her 10-year run as “Sheridan Crane” on NBC’s popular daytime drama “Passions”, Westmore’s additional television and film credits include “Weird Science”, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Dexter”, “Surviving Suburbia”, and the Star Trek feature film “Insurrection.” Westmore also played a recurring role on ABC’s hit daytime drama “All My Children.” In addition, she can be seen in the HBO webseries “Apocalypse Wow!” and in the independent feature film “Vile” scheduled for release in 2011. When she is not working in front of the camera, Westmore can be found working hard behind the scenes, writing and producing on several new projects currently in development. A health, beauty, fitness and nutrition enthusiast with a background in personal training and nutrition, Westmore is also developing a line of wellness products created to enhance the health, beauty and well-being of women everywhere.  Westmore is so proud of her rich family heritage and was thrilled to celebrate in 2008 when the Westmore family received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of their pioneering work in the world of film and television make-up and the combined family contributions to over 2,000 films and television series.”

The show’s website says even less about Ms. Westmore’s background.  Again, I think she would be doing herself and her show a favor by including her other work relative to the make-up world in her bio.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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