Many improvements went into the positive reception that “Captain America: The First Avenger” enjoyed this summer – a 79% fresh-certified rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the risible 11% rating that its predecessor, from 1992, pulled – including some fairly persuasive body-mapping technology on the pre-transformation character of Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans. But surely a big portion of credit also rests with the characterization of Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Captain America’s frightening and forthrightly named nemesis. That challenge – of crafting a practical makeup fix that was scary but, more importantly, visually iconic – fell upon prosthetics makeup designer David White. ShockYa recently had a chance to submit a few questions to White via email. The responses are as follows:
ShockYa: Artists worked up many different “looks” for Red Skull prior to the movie (some more gruesome/realistic, or inclusive of scarring). What was your personal opinion on that, and were you privy to any of those discussions with the producers/filmmakers? Or had they more or less settled on the nature of the character look by the time you were brought on board?
David White: I was privy to all the discussions regarding the final look of Red Skull, I understood the brief and agreed with final outcome of the Red Skull look.
ShockYa: On the “Captain America” Blu-ray featurette, you talk about using silicone instead of the more common foam latex for Weaving’s makeup. Have there been other facial makeup creations/effects for which you have used silicone?
DW: I have used silicone materials on a few make-up some old age some disfigurement.
ShockYa: Also on the Blu-ray featurette, you also mention that Red Skull’s facial application was many distinct pieces — is this many separate layers normal, or is it a function of either the material, or the need for a high degree of facial expressivity?
DW: The Red Skull prosthetic was broken down into a total of seven pieces. This was to make the application process as clean as possible; it’s easier to glue down, and helps with the movement. The thinner the prosthetic, the more difficult it is to apply. Hugo’s makeup was very, very thin in areas.
ShockYa: Obviously you’re not going to use materials that aren’t safe, but what sort of wear and tear on the skin does a prosthetic like Red Skull’s mask typically have for the actor?
DW: Silicone prosthetics are great for low-maintenance work. Sometimes the makeup would look as good when it was applied as 12 hours before. We also made sure Hugo’s skin was well looked after at the end of a shooting day.
ShockYa: Were you particularly a genre movie fan growing up, and if not how did you first become interested in make-up and effects?
DW: I have always loved sci-fi and fantasy movies. As a kid I was always in the movie theater, sometimes even hiding in the stalls to see a second showing.
ShockYa: Given your professional background, do all your friends and family all expect you to go big for Halloween?
DW: My wife said to the kids, “What’s daddy going to be this year?” And they both shouted out, “Red Skull!” What more can you say!
ShockYa: Finally, what film(s) are you working on now, and what can you share about them?
DW: I am currently working on “Snow White and the Huntsman” in the United Kingdom. It’s a great story, with a great cast and a brilliant director. I feel very privileged.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” is now available at all retailers on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, inclusive of a digital copy of the movie.
Written by: Brent Simon