Mary Wills

Really great movies are those that draw you into the story; they make you believe what you are watching on screen. Making this magic happen is no easy task, and many different aspects of creating the scene have to be taken into account. Of course everyone recognizes the actors as playing a part, as well as the director and even the camera men, but one often overlooked role is that of costume designer.

For a movie to be believable, everything must look in its place. It wouldn’t do to have modern day blue jeans in a movie set in the 1700s. While that’s an obvious example, it’s really the details of a character’s costume that lend it an air of authenticity. Creating that air is the responsibility of the oft forgotten costume designer.

One of the greatest and most respected costume designers to work in Hollywood was Mary Wills. Born in 1914, Wills worked as a costume designer on all sorts of Hollywood films for more than four decades. She was a gifted individual, and was the first woman to study at the Yale Art and Drama School, receiving her Master’s Degree there.

She was also a talented sketch artist, and some of her sketches for costume ideas to be used in the movies could easily be called works of art in their own right. In many of these sketches, she would even include subtle background scenery, which would give the costume context.

Able to breathe life into characters via their convincing clothing, Wills designed costumes for both contemporary and historical period films. In The Diary of Anne Frank, she perfectly evoked the bleak plight of a little Jewish girl running from the Nazis during World War II, and for this she was nominated for an Oscar.

This style of dress was far more contemporary than others she worked on. Her historically accurate costume designs for the 1955 film The Virgin Queen were truly works of art, the sketches for which make the characters really come to life on the page. Wills gained another Oscar nomination for her work on this film.

Throughout her career, Mary Wills was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design a total of seven times. She won the Academy Award once, in 1963 for her work in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grim”. The film is set in the early nineteenth century, depicting the tale of the Brothers Grimm as they retell three of their most famous fairy tales. This gave Wills the opportunity to showcase her considerable skill at creating costumes for dance, as the film featured ballet performances in addition to the historically accurate costumes for the rest of the cast.

She continued to work on Hollywood films until 1976, when she contributed for the last time to the film The Passover Plot. Once again she was honored with an Academy Award nomination for her work. Mary Wills then retired to Sedona, Arizona. The world lost a great artist when she passed away at age 82, in 1997.

5 Outrageous fantasy costumes

Sometimes, a costume comes along that just blows people out of the water. Either it is so scantily clad that people’s tongues drop to the floor or the level of artistry leaves people star struck. Here is a list of five costumes that can be rightfully deemed outrageous.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine: Although she first appeared as a cybernetic killing machine bent on assimilating all sentient life, Jeri Ryan’s costume as Seven of Nine left little to the imagination. While she may be called cold, the audience was undoubtedly hot for her skin tight, feature hugging, one piece jumpsuit.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi: Princess Leia always had sex appeal throughout the series due to the charming performance and effortless attraction brought to the screen by Carrie Fisher. However, fans had no idea what they were getting into when the character was taken prisoner by the gangster Jabba the Hut. Gone were her cinnamon bun hairdo and long white robes. Hello golden metal, barely there bikini.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella: This campy sci-fi romp featured the always sexy Jane Fonda as a scantily clad action heroine trying to save the planet. Never mind the outrageous opening sequence of her undressing in zero gravity, Barbarella was an underdressed space warrior with a penchant for escaping torture devices that delivered lethal doses of sexual stimulation.

Beau Garrett as Gem: She may be digitized but you won’t catch me complaining about Beau Garrett as Gem from Tron: Legacy. That form fitting white, neon clad, one piece could crash a hard drive. Combine that with the pseudo-beehive hairdo and you have a digital girl with all the right moves.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri: Fully computer generated characters can get away with some looks that flesh and blood actresses can’t. Take for example Neytiri from Avatar. Not only is she a giant blue cat lady, but she also sports a decidedly minimalist approach towards clothing. Is that an eye patch or a loin cloth? Nevertheless, this animated leading lady certainly won the heart of the hunky lead and the audience by prancing around Pandora in a truly outrageous outfit.

Rick Baker

To those in the movie business, the name Rick Baker is synonymous with mind blowing special effects makeup. He can lay claim to several industry awards and has wowed audiences for three decades, making jaw-dropping special effects in movies and TV since the 1970s.

He was born in New York, the son of a professional artist, and he clearly inherited a talent for creating visual masterpieces. Captivated at a young age by horror movies and of course the creepy creatures that they are filled with, Baker began creating artificial body parts in his own kitchen as a teen. Also during his teenage years, he was the assistant to the legendary effects designer Dan Smith, whose work on such movies as The Exorcist had audiences terrified.

Known for transforming actors into almost unrecognizable versions of themselves using prosthetics and stage makeup, he was awarded the first ever Academy Award for special effects makeup artists for his work on An American Werewolf in London. The creatures he created kept audiences spellbound, and his work with werewolves was far from over.

He was the makeup artist for Thriller by Michael Jackson, bringing to life the creatures that captured the attention of so many young MTV watchers.

Baker has also survived the biggest upset to movie special effects since the beginning of film, the introduction of computer generated imagery. In the early 1990s while working as an effects supervisor on Gremlins 2: the New Batch, he successfully continued his use of physical prosthetics and effects while embracing the new technology. Though some thought the advent of CGI would render the laborious physical prosthetics he creates useless, Baker’s career and adoption of this new resource say otherwise.

One movie that utilized this flexible approach for its effects was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which relied heavily on the genius of Mr. Baker for the creation of Jim Carey’s character “the Grinch”. He buried the actor under mounds of makeup and green fur to create the grumpy creature we all know and love from children’s book by Dr. Seuss.

Another eye popping film he was involved in that married the art of CGI effects and traditional stage makeup was Men in Black II, where he worked on the makeup for the many weird and varied looking aliens.

He has worked with dozens of A-list movie stars, including recently Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman, where he continued to use his expertise in all things werewolf to earn himself another Academy Award in 2011. One top tier actor he has collaborated with several times is Eddie Murphy, for whom he conjured up multiple personas in Norbit, The Nutty Professor, and Coming to America. In these films, as well as when working with Adam Sandler in Click, he was able to transform these normal sized men into flabby 300 pound versions of themselves, convincingly.

With digital technology advancing as fast as it has, and Rick Baker’s expertise only growing, audiences can look forward to enjoying his fantastic creations for years to come.

Renaissance life and dress

Perhaps no other period in history has been more romanticized than the Renaissance. It gave us more beautiful art, literature, and important scientific achievements than any other era. Such a time should hold a revered place in history, and of course the Renaissance does. But oddly it has a place in our modern life as well.

Many people in our modern and fast-paced world devote much time and energy to re-creating the atmosphere that those living during this time would have experienced. Almost everyone is familiar with the Renaissance Faire.

These festivals let enthusiasts gather and live like the people who were actually alive during this much revered time did. Celebrants eat, and even dress like people did back in that period.

Life during the age of the Renaissance was far different from what we know today. Obviously all the modern conveniences we take for granted like electricity and washing machines, weren’t available. But life was different on a more basic level.

Society itself was structured differently during that time, with people’s roles being more rigid. One was expected to dress appropriately for their station, and this could mean some elaborate threads!

Dress during the period varied from the beginning to the end of the Renaissance, which isn’t hard to believe considering it spanned a period of almost 150 years. It also varied from region to region. Europe as a whole was experiencing this new era of enlightenment, but various countries had their own particular style.

During the early years of the Renaissance, women’s styles still followed a more Gothic look, but began to trend more toward more natural looks as the years progressed. Ccorsets, which are rigid garments that shape the figure of a woman’s torso into an inverted V, were also popular during this time. These featured low necklines that showcased a woman’s “assets” prominently.

A woman’s outfit would generally consist of a bodice or corset and a skirt attached to an outer robe. Skirts were flowing and long, often pleated to increase their size. At the height of this trend, wire hoops were actually inserted into the body of the skirt to give it a round, drum shape. Luxurious fabrics were popular during this period, with many dresses being sewn out of velvet or brocade. Fashion overall grew far more elaborate for both men and women.

Sleeves for both men and women became puffed, and trim around the entire garment was ornate. Men wore breeches that reached to the knee, with a stocking covering the length of the calf. A tunic would be worn over this, often with a second shirt over it, or if not, then with a cape. Broad hats with feathers and other embellishments dominated the style of the day.

Of course, all of this finery was not necessarily available to just anyone. A peasant would have been sporting a much more simplistic version of these outfits, although they might have wanted the upgrade. Thankfully, nowadays it is generally acceptable to forgo the elaborate getups that were once so popular… that is unless you are heading to the Faire.

Harry Houdini

Few magicians will ever enjoy the notoriety that the master of escape Harry Houdini did. He captured the attention of audiences around the world with his seemingly impossible stunts. Astonishing viewers with never before seen feats, his name has become almost synonymous with magic.

The man we know as Harry Houdini was born Erich Weiss, March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary. He arrived in the United States with his family as a child on July 3rd, 1878 and they settled first in Wisconsin, then in New York City. A performer early on, the young Houdini took a job as a trapeze artist at age 9. According to his accounts later in life, he took the name Harry Houdini as homage to the French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin and American magician Harry Kellar.

Houdini began his magic career in 1891 doing sideshows and performing at dime museums with little initial success. He started out performing with his brother “Dash”, but soon met and married Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, who replaced his brother as his stage assistant for the rest of his career.

Originally focused on card tricks, it wasn’t until he began experimenting with escape acts that his true genius was discovered. His career took off after meeting manager Martin Beck and impressing him with his handcuffs act, in which he freed himself from locked handcuffs right before his audience’s very eyes. After joining forces with his new manager, Houdini toured cities across Europe, challenging local police to shackle him and lock him up in their jails, after which he would escape miraculously.

Throughout the early 1900s he toured the United States and had great success thrilling audiences with his escape from not only handcuffs and jails, but chains, ropes, straightjackets and locked boxes. He would often do this while in plain view of his audience, which made it all the more astounding.

Imitators began to pop up however, so Houdini decided to retire his “handcuff act” and began to escape from even more difficult situations, such as locked, water filled milk vats. Houdini became famous for the devices he built, and subsequently escaped from, in front of astonished audiences. He freed himself from packing crates nailed shut, mailbags, and riveted boilers. Sometimes, whatever container he had been placed into was lowered into water; making the feat even more exciting for audiences by adding the threat of death should he fail.

Houdini continued to up the ante with his stunts, developing for himself the Chinese Water Torture Cell. This contraption hung him upside down in a locked glass and steel cabinet, which required him to hold his breath for over three minutes. Another famous escape stunt he performed included hanging upside down suspended by a rope, bound by a straightjacket and in plain view of the audience.

After getting his start in vaudeville, Houdini attempted a movie career that would not last more than two films. He was one of the highest paid vaudeville performers of his time and reportedly found the profits to be made from appearing in motion pictures “too meager.”

His career ended with his death at age 52 from a ruptured appendix. Despite his untimely demise, Houdini’s legacy lives on to this day. Many modern magicians name Houdini as one of the greatest influences on their careers. His amazing escapes inspired generations of young daredevils and performers to continue to push the envelope and amaze audiences with ever more mind blowing stunts. Check out this awesome book to learn more about Houdini.

How To: Bruises, Scars and Stiches

Getting into character for costume parties or Halloween celebrations is a ton of fun, especially when you decide to go all out. While the outfit you choose is important, if you really want to wow your friends, makeup effects are the way to go. For creepy Halloween parties, gory costumes are fun and relatively simple to do, provided you have the right equipment. Here are some tips on how to apply makeup to create bruises, scars, and stitches.

Bruises:

First of all, the right kind of makeup is key for creating realistic bruises. A good stage makeup supplier will carry a cut & bruise wheel. This is a makeup set with different colors geared specifically toward creating the bruising effect.

You must choose the age of the bruise you are going to apply, as well as a suitable location on the body. Once you have found the perfect spot for your bruise start with a yellow and map out where you want your bruise to be. Try not to make perfect circles, as bruises are not perfect. Once you have your yellow base depending on how old you want your bruise to be add a small amount of green to age the bruising, leaving the outer edges yellow. You are now ready to add your red. Be sure to over blend your colors and more red as you work your way inward. Finally add your point of impact with a deep purple or blue. Gently dab on the dark color, making sure to feather the color as you work your way out. This technique is sure to give you a 3 Dimensional bruised look.

Scars:

To create realistic looking healed scars a good technique is using rigid collodion. This is a viscous liquid substance also found where stage makeup is sold, and is also referred to as “scarring liquid”. It is important to test the skin’s reaction before any large application to avoid a possible allergic reaction.

To create a healed scar, first cleanse the area where you wish to create the effect with rubbing alcohol. This will help avoid peeling along the edges. Next apply the liquid in a line along the area you wish to scar and allow to dry thoroughly. The skin will pucker along this line. For a deeper scar, apply additional coats, taking care to let each dry in between applications. Lastly, apply a light layer of skin tone foundation and a pink color along the edge of the scar. Darker tones can be added to make the scar appear older.

Stitches:
Using special effects stage makeup to create a freshly stitched wound is a multi-part process. This will require 3-D effects gel, or a scar effects gel, some artists also prefer to use a thicker substance such as scar wax (which will require adhesive to stick), stage blood, a bruise wheel, some cotton balls, a sharpened pencil, and a threaded needle.

First, follow the directions on the special effects gel, and pour on to the desired area, making sure to create a raised area large enough for a needle to pass through without injuring yourself. With the sharpened pencil, cut a line through the gel as it begins to dry to form the wound. Then, dip the pencil in the stage blood and apply to the line you cut through the gel. Apply bruise makeup to the area using the technique outlined above. Allow this to dry before going ahead with your stitches. Thread the needle through the gel back and forth gently, so as not to pull up the gel from the skin. Finally, tie off any excess thread and knot it.

There you have it! You are now bloody, battered, and bruised; and ready for whatever gruesome adventures that await you. Just remember that this are just a few techniques and there many ways to apply special effects. The best way to find what works for you is to experiment and practice as much as possible.

Goths

While often bullied and ridiculed in high school, Goths actually represent a very vibrant subculture that has its root in the late 70s, early 80s punk rock scene. In fact, Goths have outlived many other subcultures that sprang from the same source and continue to endure today. Furthermore, Goth influences have filtered down into mainstream culture and influenced a wide array of artists, musicians and directors.

However, what started the Goths and where do their roots begin? The early 80s, in both the UK and the US, was a time of experimentation in music. The initial wave of punk rock had altered the music scene and a second wave of musicians, all with differing aesthetics and styles, broke onto the scene, adding further diversity. This brought about bands like The Cure and Bauhaus, early contributors to the Goth scene.

The music tended to be partly heavy and industrial but with an emphasis on darkness and emotions. Nevertheless, while music influenced the Goths, their scene is much broader. Appearances and style are perhaps the hallmarks of the Goth subculture. Neoclassical and neo medieval Germanic iconography are important as well.

Dark clothing that stands in contrast to pale, light colored skin is often the first tenant of Goth style. However, as the movement has diversified, this has altered to embrace more and more differing appearances. Leather is big for Goths as is influences from BDSM culture. Metal buckles and studs along with straps, heavy boots and form fitting leather clothing are another major part of Goth design. Finally, outlandish hairstyles, typically long hair that is styled into thin strands or turned upwards, are prominent as are numerous piercings and eye makeup.

Nevertheless, Goths are more than just a subculture. If you look at the work of Tim Burton you can see a definite melding of Goth influences. Furthermore, Goth design has been instrumental to many sci-fi films with the development of dark, industrial looking spaceships and locations. Ridley Scott’s Alien has echoes of Goth design in the claustrophobic, dank, steam work setting.

Goths continue to endure until this day because the culture has such a robust following. Goths are particularly popular in Germany where large international festivals are held yearly for Goths to get together and celebrate their lifestyle.

How To: Age Yourself

Often, stage performers will need to look older than they really are. This can easily be achieved by applying generous qualities of stage makeup. Depending on the part and the age of the actor, more makeup may be needed. However, good casting can often help compensate for an age gap. Older characters should be played by older actors as the cost of stage makeup and the time invested in applying it can detract from the quality of a performance.

Stage makeup can age a person simply by making them look more mature. A young woman can look fully grown with the right application of some bronzer, lipstick an eye shadow. However, if you are looking to add decades onto a person’s appearance, this often requires the aid of prosthetics.
The nose and the ears are two parts of the body that never stop growing. An older person will generally have a much larger nose and set of ears compared to their youthful self. Therefore, applying prosthetics that accentuate these features can help complete the look. Stage makeup helps by either adding a weathered appearance to a person’s skin and perhaps age and liver spots that crop up as the years progress. Playing with bald caps and wigs can also help advance a person’s years.

There are new technologies that digitally age a person, often seen in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, these technologies, while growing in favor, are not only expensive and time consuming to add but are of no benefit to people who perform live and on stage.
Many wondrous transformations can be achieved with stage makeup and it really requires a trained professional with plenty of experience to pull off the look. Luckily, as a stage performer, there is a distance between yourself and the audience that helps compensate for the appearance of the makeup. Think of using stage makeup in very broad strokes. Put in on heavy enough so it will be seen and don’t worry about the fine details. The audience will be very hard pressed to see where the makeup starts and ends.

Zombies

The dead have been frequently walking the Earth lately. No, it isn’t a sign of the end times but it is a sign that a whole culture is being constructed around these shambling corpses. Nevertheless, why do people opt to dress up in pancake makeup and fake blood and simulate the movements of the walking dead?

There isn’t a clear answer to why other than it is a trend that is becoming more and more pronounced in popular culture. For those who don’t know, zombies are walking dead people. The typical zombie costume, or appearance if you are unlucky enough to encounter a real life one, can vary greatly. The most common grab for a zombie is any article of clothing a person may wear. This means, t-shirts and jeans, business suits, dresses, all of it is apropos.

However, the real zombie costume isn’t just clothing. A lot of makeup is required to simulate the complexion and appearance of a walking dead body. Makeup that gives the skin a lifeless tone, fake blood for injury and bite marks and, if you’re feeling really ambitious, prosthetics that mimic the appearance of broken or torn off limbs.

Most zombies will crop up around Halloween. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the intense makeup can easily run in hot conditions so cool autumn weather is ideal. Secondly, Halloween is a time for zombies due to the focus on horror movies. Zombies, after all, have shambled off the silver screen and right into the hearts, or brains, of audiences. Typically zombies appear the same time mummies, vampires and ghosts appear because they all fall under the same genre umbrella.

Now, the question needs to be addressed about zombies being real. The term zombie comes from voodoo magic and it focused more on turning a living person into a mindless, still breathing, servant rather than animating a dead corpse to walk around and terrorize people. Hollywood adapted the term for its own use, giving us the modern day cinematic zombie.

However, as zombies have increased in popularity, classes, courses and literature about zombies and how to combat zombies have cropped up. Often seen as harmless fun, some people can get a little overzealous about this hobby, even going to the point of carrying zombie hunting weapons around with them. It’s all fun until someone loses an eye.

How To: Be bold, Be bald

Few things change a person’s appearance more than the transformation that takes place when they go completely bald. The difference between a flowing head of hair and shiny smooth skin can be quite drastic. But what if you want to make the switch just temporarily? Shaving one’s head is a long term commitment, and if you only want to go bald for a night, probably isn’t the best option. Thankfully there are kits to help you fake your bald appearance.

The first step in going bare is purchasing a bald cap kit, available here and at stores that sell stage makeup or special effects prostheses. These are flexible latex caps, colored skin tone, which are worn over the hair and secured with adhesive. Most of these caps are single use only, and are relatively inexpensive. Be sure to match the color of the cap as closely as possible to your skin tone; the closer the match, the more realistic the effect.

First the cap needs to be fitted to the wearer. Hair should be brushed as flat as possible and long hair tamed by using a wig cap to keep it up and held in place under the plastic bald cap. Cleansing lotion should be applied to the forehead, above the ears, and back of the neck to ensure that the cap sticks properly. After the cap is stretched over the wearer’s head, use a marker to trace around the ears; this is where the plastic should be cut to expose the ears and any excess trimmed away.

After trimming the cap, refit the wearer and fold the edges back a few centimeters, starting with the forehead. Apply the adhesive to the front of the cap. Once it is secure, fold the back of the cap up and apply to the area on the back of the neck. Lastly, glue the sides above the ears. Be sure that the cap is smooth along the edges. When applied correctly the effect can be very realistic.

Once the adhesive is dried, you’re done! Now makeup can be applied to the cap if the skin tone does not exactly match the wearer. Special effects can also be added at this point using stage makeup. Whatever effect you desire can be added to the top of your newly hairless head, like cuts and bruises, stab wounds, scars or wrinkles, the only limit is your imagination.

When you are done with your follicle free look and you wish to regain your mane, special adhesive remover should be applied. This remover is usually sold alongside the adhesive you purchase. A cotton swab should be wetted with this remover and used to gently ease the baldheaded cap away from the skin. Use caution when pulling off the adhesive to avoid any injury to the skin. Once the cap is separated from the wearer’s head, dampen a cotton cloth to wipe away any excess adhesive from the skin. Moisturizer should be applied afterward to avoid irritating the skin.