Flawless makeover

Flawless makeover

A British make-up artist is the real star behind some modern classics such as Harry Potter.


Oscar winning makeup artist Mark Coulier got up close and personal with a zombie of his own making.
Oscar winning makeup artist Mark Coulier got up close and personal with a zombie of his own making.

The normal reaction to a blood-soaked zombie is to run away as quickly as you can. But a group of curious Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) students have a very different response. They want to have a closer look.

"After you've finished the wounds, you can go back to darken the jaw bones," says movie makeup artist Mark Coulier, during a workshop at the design school.

Of course, these aren't real zombies. Instead, they are the creations of Coulier, an Oscar-winning make-up artist who has turned two of the students into terrifying monsters.

The British make-up artist held a series of weeklong workshops at HKDI in January. He shared with students some of the secrets behind prosthetic make-up, which is the process of changing someone's appearance with cosmetics.

Coulier has plenty of experience in this field. He worked on the Harry Potter films and other blockbusters, including X-Men: First Class. He started out as an illustrator before getting involved in film.

"So I started experimenting with makeup and sculptures. And I started sculpting things. Then, it all kind of fell into place really and I ended up doing special effect make-up," he recalls.

Coulier says the biggest challenge when doing make-up is to recreate a person. It often takes months of preparation and involves complicated techniques.

When he was invited to do makeup on the Harry Potter films, he faced one of his toughest assignments. He was asked to provide makeup for Harry Potter's aunt Marge, played by Pam Ferris, who is inflated into a giant balloon in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

"It took six months for a three-minute sequence. We built all kind of stages of big, fat, inflating make-up," he says.

One of Coulier's most famous creations is Voldemort's nose. What few people know is that it took three months and 15 different designs before it was finished.

Another scene in the Goblet of Fire, in which Harry Potter swims under water, had Coulier and his crew spend six months working on actor Daniel Radcliffe's webbed hands and feet.

Student Chan Ka-kui, who attended one of the HKDI workshops, said the most important lesson was to value creativity and research. "Apart from the techniques, the ability to generate creative ideas is very important. Coulier showed us how to research by collecting specimens and books on animals," said Chan.

Coulier even won an Oscar for best make-up and hairstyling in 2012 for his work on The Iron Lady, where he transformed Hollywood legend Meryl Streep into former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Many people commented that the likeness between the actress and the politician was remarkable on-screen, despite the pair looking very different in real life.

"[Meryl Streep] is really famous, and so is Margret Thatcher. To re-create the character, there is a lot of pressure on getting it right. If you mess it up, that could be the end of your career," says Coulier.

"There are going to be close-up shots, and everybody in the whole world is going to be able to scrutinise it."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Flawless makeover


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