Recently at Smallville Comic Con, I was able to watch a 3-hour transformation of alien actor Bill Blair into the beloved Green Goblin. OK, well in some peoples minds, beloved. His partner in crime was professional make-up artist, Carl Taliaferro.
Blair has been acting since the early 80’s, picking up bit parts here and there. His first alien encounter was in Alien Nation on television. This led him to becoming apart of an elite group of actors that specialize in playing aliens, monsters, and other out of this world characters. A great portion of his work as a non-human have been on Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Other human acting gigs include The X-Files, Crossing Jordan, King of Queens, and The Division. Blair’s movie credits include Blades of Glory, The Muppets, and Argo. He also wrote The Professional’s Talent Handbook: The Guide to Getting Started.
Taliaferro has been doing make-up for over 20 years. He was trained by a Hollywood make-up artist and has trained others himself. He has done work on several films and television shows. He and Blair have worked together for over 14 years, attending different conventions to educate the public on professional make up techniques.
This time out, they chose to do the Green Goblin. Part of this decision is due to the fact that Blair currently holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for portraying the most individual characters with effects make-up. Currently he sits at 202 and mentioned he has 5-7 more to submit to Guinness for consideration. After watching him undergo Taliaferro’s artistic hand, if I learned anything today (and there are a lot of tips I’ll be sharing), Blair is a very patient man to have sat for that many, plus hundreds more, for X amount of hours each.
Yes, hours. This demo was only 3 hours, which probably would have been shorter if they had not been stopping to explain the current step, give tips on products and techniques, tell stories, yell at the cosplayers walking by in awesome costumes, or answer questions from the audience.
One of the questions asked was the longest and shortest times he was in the chair. For Blair, he considers time to mean “sitting till screen ready.” The longest was 5 1/2 hours, but it was also his favorite. He did a project where he was transformed into Frankenstein’s monster. However, he had the privilege to wear the exact same costume that Fred Gwynne had worn for The Munsters.
The shortest was 45 minutes. Blair happen to be on set of Babylon 5 doing a non-acting job when it was discovered they were one Minbari short. They were able to grab Blair for the job and turn him into the alien while the lighting guy finished his job – 45 minutes before they started shooting.
However, the usual time was about three hours. Blair did say that there are a number of actors who end up falling asleep in the make-up chair. He even recalls one artist who used an old barbe’rs chair so the actors had a place to rest their heads when they did sleep.
He also talked about some of the more complicated costumes he has dealt with. A favorite but also most difficult was when he was playing a Borg. He had a full body suit for two days of shooting. It was 105 degrees out and he lost seven pounds of water weight. As Taliaferro pointed out during the demo, some of the prosthetics they use do not breathe well. For today’s costume, he made Blair bald, covering his head with a latex bald cap. Usually Taliaferro will try to keep the back open so that there is a place for the body’s heat to escape.
Between Blairand Taliaferro, they definitely kept the crowd engaged for the entire period of time. Yes, the audience changed through the process, but there were also a good number of us who watched the entire transformation.
And what a transformation it was. He looked good as the finished Green Goblin, if you want to consider that a compliment. But what I was most impressed with was the process and artistry it took to do this. We are not talking about the face paint kits you get at the store during the Halloween season. We are talking about building, sculpting, and painting puzzle pieces on a surface that is not flat and that moves and breaths…and can have a bad reaction to any of the products you put on them.
So now I’m going to share the process and as many tips as possible so you can learn and use in your future cosplay ventures.
First I’m going to list some of the products they mentioned. But first, one tip they constantly reminded the audience of , always test your product for allergies. Use a small area of the skin, on the arm, to make sure there are no allergic reaction.
- Dries and becomes an adhesive
- it stays on until you want it off with product.
- It can be diluted for different strengths
- like tree sap, holds the eyebrows, it conforms to the eyes arch for natural look.
- Helps keep the latex from getting into the eyebrow
- It has a matte finish to not have a shine
- like a hair spray but gel or paste, but makes the hair like a helmet
- Needs Vaseline or Dawn to remove
- Leave conditioner in hair for 24 hrs to make it soft again since the Dawn will strip it completely of its oil.
- It acts like a shield to protect the person and stops anything from getting under it to the skin.
- Water is used to be used to remove
- a thin net material that will have each hair knotted into it – takes hours to do
How that you have a list of some of the products Taliaferro used on Blair, here is the process he took to turn Blair into the Green Goblin.
- Made out of latex/rubber, it is dull on one side, shiny on other. Use the dull on the outside, it allows the make up to stick better.
- Place a piece of gauze between the cap and skin to help to keep the skin from getting irritated.
- To hold the cap in place, Taliaferro used liquid latex. On a film set they may use Pros-Aide if the actor is going to be in their costume for a longer period of time.
- Attach the back of the cap while the head is in a resting position (up and down) to keep tight or there will be wrinkles when the head moves back. That is how you can tell the difference between a good and bad make-up job.
- Keeping the back open allows the heat from the head to escape, like a chimney and smoke. On Deep Space Nine, most of the Ferengi had head skirts so they didn’t have to attach the head piece and have breathing room for the head.
- First, pasting down the brow. Today, Taliaferro is using spirit gum to mat down the eyebrows.
- Start in the middle of the face when placing the prosthetics and move out. Since there is no where to blend and hide the edges, it allows the middle piece’s edges to be covered by the other edges of other prothestics.
- If there is an allergy to latex, spray a barrier spray.
- Prosthetics can be reused, but it’s not recommend because the edging is so thin, it wears down.
- Avoid alcohol consumption during the time the makeup is being worn. Alcohol comes through the pores and kills adhesives within 15 minutes.
- Brow – This is considered the T-zone of the face.
- Apply adhesive in the center and leave the edges alone. The edges are thin, can tear, and can cause wrinkling. Once a prosthetic is wrinkled, it cannot be undone.
- When shaving facial hair, do it 2 hours beforehand to allow pores to recuperate. If an actor has any facial hair that will not be shaved, use the gafquat. Hair does grow back during the day and will grow into the liquid latex. The brides lace can also be used.
- Place the chin on piece by piece to keep it straight and prevent tearing.
- Once the nose, brow, and chin are in place, powder the face. It keeps the surface from getting tacky and the makeup from getting muddy.
- When cutting the ear part, put over the ear and trace the inside of it, then cut to paste behind. Ears are not one size fits all. They need to be adjusted to fit the actor.
- Do not wipe or smear make up on, stipple or pound it on (like tapping). Smearing shows streaks.
- To create depth Taliaferro used first cream makeup, then liquid makeup, then cream again. Even though it may be the same color, it varies enough to create more depth when applied.
- Never use black! Black is “void of all color” but not really. Aim for the darkest of that color to make it a darker tone (think complimentary colors – red/green, yellow/purple, blue/orange – they darken the other) This also keep the three dimensional look that artists create so that the two dimensional drawings have some three dimensional characteristics.
- For the Green Goblin, they used swim goggles, cutting the head band off for just the eye pieces.
- Taliaferro used the adhesive to attach; however, it fogged up from Blair’s body heat and had to be removed. For the second try, he flipped the goggle piece upside down and put on the other eye. It was more comfortable for Blair and looked better.
And finally…….the costume
Once Blair had his make up finished, he put on his outfit and BOOM we had a Green Goblin prancing around the stage, throwing pumpkin bombs into the audience.
Even though the whole process was three hours long, you leave the demonstration with a greater appreciation of what the actors and the makeup artists do to bring our favorite characters to life.
Well done, Bill. Well done, Carl.