We Talk G.I. Joe: Retaiation, The Smurfs 2, and Iceman With Special Effects Makeup With The Legendary Todd Tucker

Even with CGI being all the rage in movies, the skills of a makeup artists are essentioal. Todd Tucker is a legend in the industry and he was kind enough to speak to us about his work.

How did you get your start in the business and what was your first big break?

I was an only child who spent every weekend at the movies. As a teen I started learning how to sculpt, mold, fabricate and paint my own masks, puppets and prosthetic make ups. I put together a portfolio of my best work, then moved to Los Angeles and started working professionally. My first big movie credit was Steven Spielberg’s Hook.

What type of prep do you do for each film and how much advance work goes into each creation?

Every time Illusion Industries starts on a new film I include the two key artists of our creative team, Martin Astles, Joe Colwell, and we always research as much information and visuals as we can find that relates to the project. It gives us a starting point for creating the designs of the creatures or characters that are in the script.

How has the digital age affected your work?

Computer Graphics has defiantly taken over a lot of what use to be practical effects. Because of my involvement on The Passion Of The Christ, I was educated in how to combine practical fx with C.G. enhancement to get an amazing finished result. I now often interact with the digital company on a feature film, to come up with ideas that help bridge the gap for the effects.

When you are first given a script, can you walk us through how the creation process happens?

When we get a script for a project the first thing we do is read it and do a breakdown of what the makeup effects are needed. We then do a budget to present to the production company. Once selected for the project, we have in-depth talks with the director to understand their vision or the final looks so we can create designs in that realm . Once the designs are approved we bring in, or even go to the actors to do head, body and teeth casts as needed. We then sculpt, mold and fabricate the finished make up prosthetics and then, usually with a team, I go on set and apply the make ups for the run of the filming.

How do you manage egos in your line of work as it must be so hard to put so much effort into creating something and have a Director or Producer shoot down your idea?

When it comes to designing a creature or character for a production, we always listen to the director’s and sometimes the producer’ vision so we can present them with different design options, usually ones they hadn’t thought of. Of course you sometimes deal with egos but they soon learn that we are there as part of the team, working with them and production to give them the best possible results. It makes the creative process exciting and inspiring for them as well as us.

How would you compare and contrast working on film to that of television?

The main difference between working on a film as opposed to television is time and money. Television budgets are small and the turn around time is very fast. On a feature film we usually get between 1 to 3 months for the build. With television we usually get between 2 to 10 days for the build. The trick is knowing how to cut the right corners so you don’t lose the quality of the finished product.

Who were you idols growing up and when you started out and whose work do you admire in your industry?

As a special effect make up artist, my idols were my two mentors Matt Rose and Steve Wang. Both are friends of mine who helped train me and got me my started in the industry.
As a film maker my idols were Steven Spielberg, Jim Henson and George Lucas. I really enjoyed movies that took you to another world.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from an over active imagination and my obsession for the cinema. I completely amerce myself into the story and journey of a good movie, then to be involved in the creative process of a production and see the finished product is my ultimate rush.

What were your biggest challenges on a film?

One of the biggest challenges on current films is creating make ups that are flawless when they are being shot with the new ultra High Definition digital cameras. The new cameras are like a magnifying glass that sees everything. It is more important than ever that the sculpted appliances, make up application, and coloring is absolutely perfect.

What can you tell us about your work in Iceman, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Smurfs and the challenges they presented?

For the film The Iceman, we created period looks for some of the actors along with the trauma and blood gags. I saw the film at the Toronto Film Festival ant it was intense. The performances were great and the over all film was really well made.

On G.I.Joe Retaliation, we did a number of different types of make up effects. I can’t go into any details until the film comes out, but I can tell you that it’s gonna be a fun ride and the action scenes are amazing. The cast and director Jon Chu did a great job and the fans are going to enjoy it.
With the Smurfs 2, we re-visited the Gargamel makeup for on Hank Azaria. We used a combination of prosthetics , hair pieces and dentures to help transform Hank into the hilarious bad guy. Hank, director Raja Gosnell, and the other cast and production team at Sony are a pleasure to work with.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Any free time I get I try to spend with my family. I am often asked to work on location for months at a time, so family time becomes very valuable.

What do you have upcoming that we can look forward to beyond what was mentioned?

My business partner Ron Halvas and I also have an in-house production division here at Illusion Industries and we recently produced and I directed a film called Monster Mutt that just premiered on Direct TV, iTunes and Vudo. The DVD can be purchased at Wal-mart. com, Target.com and Amazon.com. Monster Mutt is a PG family comedy made for kids 5-10. We are currently in pre-production on two new in house projects. One is a PG 13 supernatural creature film and the other is a PG 13 dark fantasy film.
See pictures and video of some of our work at Illusion INdustries