MOVIES | Star Trek’s first Oscar: Make-up win is the sci-fi franchise’s first Academy Award in any category


HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA—Making Romulans look animal-like and Vulcans look logical were some of the things Star Trek Oscar winners in Hair and Make-up said helped bring home the gold. That, and all those tattoos.

“The mythology of Star Trek was that the Romulans and the Vulcans sort of began as the same race, and the Romulans followed their more animal tendency and the Vulcans followed their more logical tendency,” said one of the winners, Joel Harlow, in the backstage media room.

“So in designing those prosthetics, we want to make a Romulan stand out as more animal. We adjusted their brows, the bone on their nose, and the ridge of their brows. This particular band of Romulans were tattooed to sort of single themselves out from all the other Romulans.”

The trio—Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, and Harlow—said that as make-up artists they try to make people believable. “Whether it’s strength or beauty or some kind of extreme prosthetic make-up, we make them as realistic to the eye as we possibly can,” said Burman. “[Star Trek Director] J.J. Abrams wanted to create a world and a universe where everybody can live and breathe as though that’s a real place and I think we achieved it.”

The original Star Trek began as a television series in the 1960s. Several additional TV series spun off it, as well as feature films. All things Star Trek created a huge fan base that continues. A reporter pointed out that Sunday’s Academy Award win in the make-up category was a first for any Star Trek connection.

“I think we have a whole new generation of fans and that was one of our goals,” answered Hall. “We wanted our Star Trek to appeal to the current fan as well as a new generation, a younger generation. Kind of a younger, hipper Star Trek, if you will. [The Oscar] is fantastic for the whole franchise.”

And it doesn’t hurt to be Chris Pine, either.

Hall says Star Trek actor Pine (in the role of James T. Kirk) and the cast collaborated with make-up. “Chris Pine is amazing. He’s not only a wonderful actor, he’s a wonderful human being. Our entire cast surrendered themselves to us completely… but Chris Pine is amazing. I mean, I was all over him.”

Prior to the Awards ceremony, I interviewed Academy Governor in the Make-up and Hair category, Leonard Engelman, at the Shorts reception held on March 2. He is the first governor of this branch, formed three years ago.

“A make-up artist is a storyteller,” he says. “They help the actor form the look and emotion of the character. They help the actor realize the character.”

Engelman did the make-up on William Hurt in the film The Accidental Tourist. He said Hurt’s character (Macon Leary) was to appear withdrawn—the character had lost a child. “I did age make-up on him, shaved his hairline to be receding and to look very distraught. Through much of the film, Hurt would look in the mirror and say ‘the character is just about here.’ So make-up visually helped Hurt be in character.”

Make-up can often cover-up flaws with actors on set. “In every picture, sometimes it takes three months to shoot, some actors have colds, runny noses, a bruise somewhere. A make-up artist takes care of the continuity of the film,” Engleman says.

Engleman was Cher’s make-up artist in her movie Suspect. Engleman said Cher’s character had a jail argument with Liam Neeson’s character. The script called for Cher to be hit in her right eye by left-handed Neeson. It was a story-point in the movie that Cher’s right eye be bruised. “Several times during shooting, Cher got too close to the cell door. She hit the cell door and cut her eye. She was brought to the hospital and had stitches and a cut on her left eye. The next week, I had to cover her left swollen eye. The audience couldn’t even tell.”

Engleman said up and coming make-up artists can attend cinema make-up schools and work in fields such as industrial, theater, bridal, or graduations to build a portfolio. He also teaches at a LA make-up school. All movie make-up artists belong to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union. He said there is one in Minneapolis.

Engleman visited Minnesota for a presentation in cinema make-up and skin care at the Mall of America. “That place is huge! I mean, we’ve got big malls here [in California] but you could spend a few days just seeing all the stores [at the MOA],” he says.

Above: Best Makeup winners Joel Harlow, Mindy Hall and Barney Burman backstage during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday. Photo by Todd Wawrychuk, © A.M.P.A.S.

Above and below: some of the prosthetics used in the film Star Trek during the Make-Up Symposium and Reception held in Beverly Hills March 6. Photo by Barb Teed.

Above: Make-up Oscar nominee Il Divo‘s display at the March 6 Make-up symposium and reception held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Photo by Barb Teed.

Above: Make-up nominee The Young Victoria display at the symposium and reception. Photo by Barb Teed.

Above: Academy Awards photographer Greg Harbaugh snapped me interviewing Leonard Engelman, Governor of the Make-up Artists and Hair Stylist branch at the Shorts! reception March 2 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Beverly Hills, California.