ON SET: VE NEILL + MARWEN

How did you come to work on Welcome to Marwen?
Bill Corso called me and said he had this really unique project with Bob Zemeckis he thought I’d be great for.

Had you worked with Robert Zemeckis before?
I had never worked with him. I was really excited about it.

How does the process of creating a makeup design with Vfx work on a film like this?
It was kind of a weird thing because Billy said, “Do you mind if I design the makeup for the dolls and you recreate it on  the humans?” I said, “Absolutely not. Do whatever you want to do.” First, we scanned all the actors at Gentle Giant Studios and got copies of their heads. Billy designed renderings of what the characters would look like as dolls in
Photoshop. Then I applied the design on as human beings. In the end, we wanted to have a meld of the two characters—the dolls and humans.

Tell me about the look of the characters.
They’re all characters in Mark’s (Steve Carell) life. Each one of these dolls had a specific character and look: Anna the Soviet (Gwendoline Christie); Carlala (Eiza Gonzalez) was a señorita-type chick; Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis) was a French
maid-type character; G.I. Julie (Janelle Monáe) was a woman from rehab. We scanned Steve because he also played an American soldier doll, Cap’n Hogi, who was
always getting captured. Nicol (Leslie Mann) was the girl he falls in love with, Roberta (Merritt Wever) was kind of Mark’s buddy and she had the most natural look of them. The gorgeous Diane Kruger played a witch with blue hair. You never see her as a human—just a doll. Then we had the bad guys who were all scanned and made into dolls too.

What can we expect to see in terms of CGI?
Bob Zemeckis really wanted the characters to look so much more human than animation has looked in the past. When they were supposed to be dolls, I made them up to look like dolls. Even though we made their entire face up to represent the doll, they were going to be mostly using the eyes and mouth. Usually they use the entire face as a mapping situation but they did it this way to look more realistic. We put
dots on everybody, but not on the eyes and mouth.

Whose makeup did you do?
I did Leslie Mann, Leslie Zemeckis and Diane Kruger—I had worked with her before. I also did Steve who had a prosthetic involved in his makeup. My assistant Rosalina Da Silva did Eiza Gonzalez, Janelle Monáe and Merritt Wever. Most of the time it was Rosalina and myself. There were four of us working when we got into the MOCAP [motion capture] zone. Makeup and doll design was Bill Corso. Billy is amazing. It
was a really fun job and I had a blast doing it.

What kind of prosthetics did you use on the film?
When one of our bad guys came in, he was really dashing. By the time we were done with him, he was horrified. I put pockmark skin on, he was wearing prosthetics over most of his face. Then we gave him a buzz cut. We gave the bad guys all character makeup to look scarier. One of the head guys had a lot of faux tattoos as well. The bad guys transformed into Nazis when they become CGI characters. Steve has a scar that was made by Aryen Titun. Any prosthetics I used, Aryen made for me.

Key products you couldn’t have worked without?
Their makeup was all so different. Every girl had a different foundation; we used everything from MAKE UP FOR EVER to Armani. Leslie Mann had a very fresh, innocent look. I used Armani foundation and some creamy Chanel colors on her
eyes. Leslie Zemeckis wore NARS Carmen for lips. Diane Kruger’s eyes and lips were very dark which is not something I like to do, but that’s how it was designed. She had no cheek color. I used MAC Night Moss and MAKE UP FOR EVER Rouge Intense 46.

What about the bruising on Steve Carell’s character after he is beaten?
We did a day in the hospital and had to get a lot of photographs after he was beaten. They didn’t want to put a lot of prosthetics on, so I suggested some out of kit stuff. I
said, we can do it backwards starting with him almost healed and you could take pictures until we get to the worst look. I did him sitting right in the bed. The producer sat there with me, like I can’t believe you’re just doing that right here. I put bumpers in his cheeks and gave him horrible bruising and some cuts; just some quick out of kit stuff to imitate his beating. The coolest part was when I was done… the woman dressed as a nurse in the room with us was an actual nurse. She came in for the worst part and said, “Did you do that?” I asked, “Does it look real?” She said, “That’s exactly what it would have looked like!” So, that was pretty impressive, and she said it with the producer sitting there. It was fun because that type of makeup on the fly sometimes works but sometimes it can be disastrous.

What was your experience like working with the cast on Welcome to Marwen?
Steve was so great to work with. What a dear, nice man he is. I can’t say enough good things about him. All the girls were fantastic too. You can only imagine how awful that could have been with all those women in one place. They were all spectacular. It was a really wonderful experience. I think it’s going to be a fantastic film.

Words Shannon Levy
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures/DreamWorks

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