When it comes to cre­at­ing the faces of his crazy and fan­ci­ful char­ac­ters, Mr Johnny Depp turns to one man, and one man only: Academy Award win­ning make-up artist Joel Har­low.

Schon! - - A Passion For Prosthetics - Words / Rachel McCul­loch Photography / Mas­simo Masini

Joel Har­low an­swers the phone and we ask if it’s a good time to talk. “Of course, I’m just work­ing on the next Star Trek movie,” he ca­su­ally re­sponds. Har­low cre­ates fan­tasy for a living: he pushes the imag­i­na­tion to its lim­its and trans­forms char­ac­ters from words on a script to the most in­cred­i­ble cre­ations seen on screen. While work­ing on Star Trek (or col­lab­o­rat­ing with Johnny Depp, or win­ning an Academy Award) would bowl most peo­ple over, it is sim­ply an or­di­nary day in the life of Joel Har­low. So, in short, yes, now is a good time to talk.

Har­low’s pro­lific fil­mog­ra­phy in­cludes some of the most vis­ually ex­cit­ing pro­duc­tions of re­cent years, but it all started with the 1933 ver­sion of King Kong, which his fa­ther showed him at a young age. The movie trig­gered a life­time ob­ses­sion with science fic­tion, fan­tasy and hor­ror films and would de­ter­mine Har­low’s fu­ture ca­reer. “Watch­ing that film is what started me on this path,” he states, “although I didn’t know what the path was for a long time.” Af­ter re­al­is­ing that sculpt­ing char­ac­ters, mon­sters and crea­tures was his pas­sion, Har­low moved to LA to cut his teeth at a stu­dio called XFX, where “work­ing in the trenches” was the great­est tu­ition that he could have had.

The tra­jec­tory of the ca­reer of a make-up artist in 1986 ver­sus 2015 is very dif­fer­ent. On the changes in the in­dus­try, Har­low muses: “There are a lot of peo­ple whom I see turned out from schools to­day who have this delu­sion that they want to go to Hol­ly­wood and make a grab for some sort of celebrity by be­com­ing a make-up artist.” This is not so sur­pris­ing, as make-up artists seem to be the so­cial me­dia side­kicks du jour – just look at a celebrity on Instagram and you will be hard pressed to find one who doesn’t tag their make-up artist. “As a pro­fes­sional, that’s not what I want to see,” Har­low con­tin­ues. “The rea­son I got in to this in­dus­try is pas­sion… It’s a pretty spe­cial ca­reer when you get into it and you have to give it your all.”

While de­vel­op­ing a char­ac­ter, Har­low be­gins with the script, but in­put comes from all di­rec­tions – ac­tor, direc­tor, pro­ducer and wardrobe – as well as from books (par­tic­u­larly the work of H. P. Love­craft), films and mu­sic. He re­calls the process of build­ing his favourite char­ac­ter, Boot­strap Bill (from Pi­rates of the Caribbean). “As I’m get­ting closer and the pieces are go­ing on, I feel that I have to hurry and race against my­self, like an anx­i­ety,” he ex­plains. “The char­ac­ter is re­ally a part of me. I put so much of my­self into my work that it’s dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate from it.” Boot­strap Bill took three peo­ple four hours to as­sem­ble each day – pa­tience and pas­sion are a must for this ca­reer. Har­low ex­pe­ri­ences the trans­for­ma­tion with the ac­tor, some­times hav­ing to ease him or her into the idea that they won’t recog­nise them­selves. There are some ex­cep­tions though: “I love it when an ac­tor em­braces the char­ac­ter trans­for­ma­tion. That’s when you know you have an ally.”

Har­low’s great­est and most loyal ally is un­doubt­edly Johnny Depp. The pair met on the first Pi­rates film and, since then, Depp has re­quested Har­low on each of his films. “No mat­ter what hap­pens in my ca­reer,” he re­flects, “it’s be­cause of him and be­cause he gave me the op­por­tu­nity.” The cre­ative pin­na­cle of this re­la­tion­ship so far earned Har­low an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion (he pre­vi­ously won an Os­car for Star Trek). “Hands down, my favourite piece of work was The Lone Ranger,” he says. “I sur­round my­self with a team who love this work, so we were able to go above and be­yond.” Such is Har­low’s in­flu­ence that he was even able to cre­ate an en­tire scene of char­ac­ters that didn’t ex­ist in the orig­i­nal script: “I told Gore [Verbin­ski, the direc­tor] that we had cre­ated th­ese spe­cial char­ac­ters and he said, ‘Tell me when I’ve got a ringer and I’ll put a cam­era on it!’”

Har­low’s jour­ney be­gan as a wide eyed lit­tle boy watch­ing King Kong, and he now has an Academy Award, the ad­mi­ra­tion of A-list stars and some of the most mem­o­rable films of the past decade un­der his belt, but what makes him happy? “Work­ing. Pretty much any­thing I think of I can cre­ate, so if I have got­ten to that point, then I owe it to my­self, and this gift, to cre­ate.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.