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Makeup Artist Ve Neill Gets Scary (and Silly)

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Ve Neill is one of the legends of movie makeup. Her startling creations for “Beetlejuice,” “Ed Wood,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” have won her Oscars; she also created wild designs for “Edward Scissorhands” and the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies, among many others. Ve’s a judge on SyFy’s special effects makeup show “FACE-OFF.” Just before heading off to work on the second “Hunger Games” film, she stopped by to list her favorite work by others in her field.


Hi, my name is Ve Neill, and I am one of the judges on the TV show “Face Off.” You may have seen some of my work. I’ve won Oscars for “Beetlejuice,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Ed Wood.” So here’s a list of my three favorite makeups in movies.


1. “The Bride of Frankenstein” – Jack Pearce

The first one would be “The Bride of Frankenstein,” where Elsa Lanchester of course is the Bride of Frankenstein, done by the great Jack Pierce. The makeup artist who designed all of the original Universal monsters starting with Frankenstein, The Mummy, Wolfman. There’s a great scene where she meets the Frankenstein monster for the first time, and she looks absolutely amazing. Her hair is like straight back, and a huge shock, she’s got white streaks on either side, and she gets introduced to the Frankenstein monster and she turns to him and hisses, and it’s just almost like a release of like electricity coming out of her mouth from when she has been shocked and brought to life, and it’s probably one of my favorite scenes in a film with those two meeting, in black and white. It’s just an amazing makeup transformation for not only her but for him as well obviously.

2. “Star Wars” – Stuart Freebourne & Rick Baker

My second one would be “Star Wars” the Cantina sequence, which has so many fantastic characters in it. Stuart Freeborn, Rick Baker, several other makeup artists who are not even credited on the film transformed humans into these very far-fetched aliens that we see in the “Star Wars” Cantina sequence, which is probably one of the funniest things that’s ever been done. There’s a character that looks like a big fake fur snowball, and at one point or another you’ll see Rick Baker actually pop up in makeup that looks sort of like a devil character, which is kind of cool.

They do look, you know, they’re very… fake fur looking guys. It is really remedial now I mean, but it was fun, you know. You’ve got Chewbacca who was fabulous. He didn’t have fake fur he had actual hair. It was on a whole big ventilated suit. So that was very state of the art at that time, and I mean that still kind of holds up. Now they’d probably CGI his mouth and do all kinds of crazy stuff, but I mean, all in all he was a pretty fantastic character. At the time it was the most exciting makeup transformations that we had seen. I was just pretty much starting out, but to think that you could actually do that to a human being was awesome.

3. “The Exorcist” – Dick Smith

Last but not least would be “The Exorcist” which is probably one of my all-time favorite makeups. It scared the heck out of me when I was little. You know, it still is quite frightening. Dick Smith, who’s the God of makeup as we all know, or most of us do anyway, created that and he did the “Godfather” films, “Taxi Driver,” “Stepford Wives.” I mean the man is just, you know, he’s beyond the beyond.

“The Exorcist” is a film about a young girl who’s possessed by a demon, the devil, what have you, and her makeup is truly frightening. She has sores all over her face, she’s got teeth, she’s got contact lenses, she has horrible eruptions all over her body. Her head twists around backwards, which is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. She also walks down stairs backwards. When I saw it, it was frightening; I mean it was so realistic. I don’t think I’d really seen anything that looked that real. I mean, Linda Blair was truly frightening, and in that film you do see a complete transformation of what she looked like when she was a child into this horrible demon creature.

4. “Mrs Doubtfire” – Ve Neill

I think probably the film that I’m most proud of would be the transformation of Robin Williams into Mrs. Doubtfire. For those of you who haven’t seen “Mrs. Doubtfire,” it is a man passing himself off as an old woman. Robin wore 13 overlapping foam latex appliances, as well as a fat suit, as well as a wig. The first time we did it, it took about four hours to get him into makeup and eventually I got it down to two hours with an assistant, and sometimes we did it even faster, which was amazing- probably on a day when we weren’t exhausted.

Robin, when he first looked at himself in the mirror absolutely love it, and it was really fun for him because we were shooting on the streets in San Francisco and I remember standing next to him on a corner and somebody walked up to him and they said, “Hey I heard Robin Williams is here today. Is he here?” And I’m looking around, I’m looking at Robin and I said, “Uh yeah, he’s somewhere- he’s somewhere around here.” And Robin just chuckled because nobody knew he was anything but an old lady.