has been your favorite wax model you’ve created?
really is no “one” favorite, but I’ll mention a few I got real
pleasure from. There was a Bela Lugosi Dracula, that I did for Hell
House, which is now part of the Spooky World Operation in . A model
of Jack Nicholson as portrayed from the Film, “The Shining” and the
most recent piece of Charlie Chaplin.
What is the biggest challenge in creating a wax model?
Obtaining a good sculptural likeness!
other artist do you admire and why?
Davidson…..tremendous ability for creating likenesses, his
stylistic realism, and
The way he seemed to capture his
subjects personality. You know the way the American Indians feared
that photographs captured part of their soul? I think he capture
their personalities in the same manner only in sculpture. This is my
goal, in my sculptures.
Malvina Hoffman……Also a strong force
in the sculpting arena. For the time period she produced in, much in
the same way as Katherine Stubergh did, they both did a great amount
of work and in Malvina’s case, she also provided a lot of
instructional information in two highly sought after books. Her
style of sculpting was and is, very inspirational.
Gutzon Borglum…….Have you ever read a
book on his life, titled, “Six Wars At A Time”? Amazing, and the
amount of work is astounding! Even though I have not produced as
much work as he, there is a kind of bonding, knowing that all
artists go through similar trials.
Felix De Weldon……Again, an amazing
talent, the only sculptor
to have a major memorial on every
continent of the world. The size of the Iwo Jimo Memorial , the
amount of work he has created and the individuals that have actually
“sat” for him. He is an inspiration and it was an honor to have him
visit my studio, to view my work.
Dick Smith……An excellent artist and
human being. He is one of the few, truly great make-up effects
innovators of the film industry. His work inspires hundreds of
And he truly “Paved The Way” for
individuals like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, and the many, many make-up
effect artists in the film industry, in this country as well as many
other countries. Aside from his film work, Dick creates personal
portraiture of which I enjoy
a new found means of communication
with him. Actually, that is what drove me to write to him many years
ago. It too, was a great moment, to have him step into my studio for
a visit. I think young people today, don’t fully appreciate the fact
that they are in the presence of a huge historical moment, when they
meet a person like Dick Smith.
What are some of your favorite pieces of art
created by other artists?
The wax figures
of Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn by Katherine Stubergh.
Wax figures by Pierre Imans out of
Wax figures by the “Newer” core of
Sculptors for Madame
Tussauds, of England.
Bronze sculptures by the previously
The early Don Post masks, quite a few
out the studio of Jeff Keims, Steve Wang’s work,
Lanning’s “Chaney Wolfman”, A few of Jordu Schell’s pieces and a
host of others, too many to name individually.
LMC: Are there any artists in any medium that
inspire you today?
Rick Baker continues to light a fire when I
see his work and the young man, Kazu, he has working for him, that
kid is amazing in his abilities.
about your work in the motion picture industry? What movies have you
worked on and what FX/creature work?
Well, first, how about I tell
you how I got into the business? When I was foreman for Stubergh
Studios, a young man came to work for Katherine, He was fresh out of
high school and loved wax models. He had previously worked a summer
for the Stuberghs as a “go for” when he was sixteen. Anyway, he
worked under my supervision for about a year and then move
years later, he turned up working with Rick Baker and Rob Bottin. It
was in the early eighties that I hooked up with him again. Rob
Bottin wanted David to sculpt some pieces for the film, “The Thing”.
David did not want to work out of Rob’s studio, so he rented space
from me. Rob came down to see his progress and saw my work.
He immediately asked Dave to ask me
“If I wanted to sculpt for him”. Well, Dave, as he admitted later,
did not want to lose the work, so he held off for two weeks. I
finally met Rob one evening and he ended up buying a huge wax model
of the Frankenstein monster from me and enlisting my talents as a
sculptor. I “worked Under the Table” as they had a union for
sculptors and if you were not in, you could not work on the film.
The first piece of film work I did, was the head of the “Blair
Monster”, which is the last creature effect in the film.
First I took a clay pull of Wilford
Brimley and opened the eyes and lifted the facial forms so he would
not look dead. A mould was made over that and then I roughed out the
deformed head with the gaping mouth and then worked with Rob to
finish out the piece according to his likes.
Rob pulled strings to get me into the
union and I then worked 13 years as his sculptural designer and lead
sculptor. At first, I was just lead sculptor, but later became
sculptural designer, hiring artists, Studio management and art
direction. Basically Rob relied a lot on my whole experience as an
artist, sculptor, and business person.
I worked very closely with Rob,
helping to design and create the high quality imagery he required.
The majority of my film work was done with Rob’s Studio.
I‘ve worked on: “The Thing”,
“Twilight Zone: The Movie”, “Explorers”, “Legend” All three
“ROBOCOP” films, “Total Recall“, “Witches of Eastwick“,
“Inner Space“, “Bugsy” “Basic Instinct” “Wilder
Napalm”, a segment of the TV Series “Amazing Stories” and a
superbowl commercial that starred Michael J. Fox.
I have also worked on a few others;
North, Super Mario Brothers and the re-make of “Psycho”.
Explorers was fun, creating the
cartoon like aliens, and creating the “Darkness” character was a
real challenge. Before Rob even got the job, we spent weeks trying
to draw the image from Ridley’s description. He had to have a head
like a hammer head shark, huge horns, and definitely were given the
image of Disney’s Chernabog from Fantasia for reference. Well, Rob
and I are not great at drawing, so after awhile, stopped,
Darkness did not come again until we
had created the images of Brown Tom and Screwball, the characters for Cort
Hubbert and Billy Barty. Rob was going off to England to do the
first make-up tests on those characters. He charged me with putting
a team of sculptors together to try out different verbal ideas on
Darkness. Bull’s horns on this one, goat horns on that one, big
ears, long nose, pointed chin, etc. So while he was away we came up
with a dozen or so different versions.
Rob comes back, we hear the great
stories of his success on the make-up tests and then it’s down to
business.. ”What about the Darkness Sculpt” ?? we proceed to unveil
each piece and got some interested responses, but mostly “Been
there, Done that”.
Rob goes” What are we gonna do?,”
Ridley’s coming to town in two weeks and what are we gonna show
him? I was thinking, hey we got some good pieces here, but they
were kind of the standard Devil images. Rob was not in a mood for
any of those! He turns to me and says, Have you been working on
anything? (meaning Darkness). I say, yeah, sorta. He says, lets see
it, so we go into my office and I unveil the piece. He stands there,
looking at it for the longest time, not saying a word. He pulls the
stool over and sits down, He rotates the piece several times and
finally says, “I think we got something here“.
So, between Rob and
I, we tried adding different forms, nothing permanent, until we both
liked it. I had always photographed my work with black and white
Polaroid film to see how it looked through the camera and Rob
acquired that method. We shot the Darkness piece using different
lighting and then he took the picture and had Miles Teves do a
drawing to enhance the forms, under his direction. Miles did a lot
of drawings and we tried different aspects that he drew up. Some
worked and we used them. Darkness was a great collobration under
Rob‘s direction and there were a lot of other sculptors and artist’s
involved to bring that image to the screen. It took the great acting
talent of Tim Curry to bring it to life.
RoboCop was another great challenge
and Rob had a fantastic imagination to come up with the make-up idea
on that one. Again, I was given the challenge, and after Rob laid
out his idea, we were so excited, it took half a day, for me to
break loose from Rob and get my hands into the clay. A great
challenge and it too worked out pretty well. I could go on about the
creative process and working with Rob, but that, maybe some day,
will be a chapter in a future book.
I knew nothing about the process of
creating make-up effects, but it was new and challenging and I was
up for the experience.
Do you enjoy working on motion pictures?
to be truthful, not now. I have my own goals and while I enjoyed
working on motion picture effects, I basically burned out after 13
years. I did return for a short visit, to work on Super Mario
Brothers and the re-make of Psycho. My work was not included in the
film, it was edited out. It was the same old thing, the time
constraints, the days went by too fast, I had my business going on
at the same time, and was burning candles at both ends. Plus, I had
always spoke to Rob about my intentions of doing work in bronze and
tried to get him interested, but his love was and is, in “films”,
while mine is in Wax Models and Bronze portraiture. (I do get side
tracked as I really enjoy the art of latex masks too).