Makeup artist Dan Striepeke on his five-decade ca­reer

Makeup leg­end Dan Striepeke formed a spe­cial bond with Tom Hanks

Variety - - Contents - By JAMES C. UDEL @clas­sic­film­crew

IN THE HIS­TORY of maquil­lage, few names echo more loudly than that of Dan Striepeke, who has earned a pair of Os­car nom­i­na­tions for his work with Tom Hanks on “For­rest Gump” and “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan.”

A mix­ture of psy­chol­o­gist and painter, sculp­tor and ac­tor’s best friend, Striepeke (pro­nounced STREE-PECK), was born in 1930 and be­gan his face-fix­ing ca­reer with a “walk-in” at L.A.’S Civic Play­house. Per­fectly re- cre­at­ing Louis Wol­heim’s char­ac­ter from “All Quiet on the West­ern Front,” the 19-year- old was hired in­stantly.

Tran­si­tion­ing to early tele­vi­sion on “Mcma­hon’s Min­strels,” “The Jack Rourke Show” and lo­cal news, Striepeke soon got work on ma­jor films such as 1956’s “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Gi­ant,” at­tend­ing bit-play­ers after gain­ing his union card. On that same year’s “The Ten Com­mand­ments,” he ap­plied sod­den makeup on 400 ex­tras play­ing slaves in the brick pit scenes, and placed re­al­hair beards on ev­ery­one after Ce­cil B. Demille spot­ted cheap, hook- on chin warm­ers in the dailies and shut down pro­duc­tion. Striepeke in­cor­po­rated six dif­fer­ent whisker de­signs to please the de­mand­ing di­rec­tor.

His craft chops grew amid the show­biz growth spurt of the ’50s. Striepeke worked on “Mav­er­ick,” “Play­house 90,” “The Ten­nessee Ernie Ford Show” and “The Pinky Lee Show.” He ob­tained jour­ney­man sta­tus on “The Red Skel­ton Show,” “The Jack Benny Pro­gram” and “Can- Can.” By 1959, the 30-year- old was anointed head of Uni­ver­sal’s pros­thetic makeup depart­ment by makeup leg­end Bud West­more.

For 1960’s “Spar­ta­cus,” his first project, Striepeke cre­ated Lau­rence Olivier’s req­ui­site Ro­man nose. On lo­ca­tion for “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven,” it was dark makeup and mus­taches and beards for ban­dits.

Team­ing up with John Cham­bers in 1966 for the CBS TV show “Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble,” the pair de­vised the fran­chise’s sig­na­ture face peel. Car­ry­ing the mask con- cept to ex­tremes two years later, they ap­plied their la­tex sci­ence to an­other ef­fects bench­mark, “Planet of the Apes,” where they fig­ured out ways to al­low the ac­tors be­neath the heavy makeup to ar­tic­u­late the simi­ans’ faces.

Striepeke dis­cov­ered Hol­ly­wood’s trend-set­ting power when he came up with the idea for Robert Red­ford’s Fu Manchu mus­tache in 1969’s “Butch Cas­sidy and the Sun­dance Kid.” He tried var­i­ous looks, but it was the ac­tor’s own fa­cial fur that made the grade. Within six weeks of the film’s open­ing, the Sun­set Strip was full of men sport­ing the look.

The fol­low­ing year, for “Pat­ton,” he had to be more hands- on in transforming George C. Scott’s gnarled snif­fer into the gen­eral’s aquiline nose; he crafted a sup­port sys­tem that pulled the snout straight.

For the in­fa­mous Rus­sian roulette scenes in 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” Striepeke cre­ated the look of the point-blank head wounds by fab­ri­cat­ing mal­leable shields that held ex­plo­sive squibs and af­fix­ing them to the ac­tors’ scalps. Upon det­o­na­tion, “blood” splat­tered and mock bone shat­tered. Au­di­ences gasped at the re­al­ism of the ef­fect.

By 1989, the makeup maven went free­lance, con­tin­u­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Tom Hanks that proved to be his most en­dur­ing in the craft. They had first bonded on 1987’s “Drag­net” and went on to col­lab­o­rate on “The ’Burbs,” “The Bon­fire of the Van­i­ties” and “For­rest Gump” (where Striepeke earned his first act­ing role, play­ing an as­sis­tant col­lege foot­ball coach).

“Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan,” “The Green Mile,” “Cast Away” and the per­for­mance- cap­ture-based an­i­mated film “The Po­lar Ex­press” fol­lowed, and took their work to­gether to the next level, each film in­cor­po­rat­ing pro­pri­etary makeup looks for the A-list ac­tor.

Striepeke proud­est mo­ment came not when he was nom­i­nated for Os­cars but when he re­ceived an ova­tion from the crew upon re­veal­ing the look of Tom Hanks’ Santa Claus on “Po­lar Ex­press.” He tear­fully con­sid­ers that peer ap­pre­ci­a­tion be­yond words. “At that mo­ment,” he says, “I knew I had cre­ated a work of art.”

Striepeke re­tired after work­ing with Hanks on 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code.” He lives in West Los An­ge­les, writes, sculpts and con­tin­ues to men­tor oth­ers in the in­dus­try.

Long­time Col­lab­o­ra­tors Dan Striepeke ap­plies makeup to Tom Hanks in 1999 be­fore a scene in “The Green Mile.”

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