If you’ve seen a blockbuster in the past couple of decades, chances are celebrity special effects make-up legend and founder of Illusion Industries, Todd Tucker worked on it. In this exclusive Q&A with Moviehole, Tucker tells us about his work on such hit fare as “The Smurfs”, ” G.I Joe : Retaliation” and “The IceMan”.
You’ve worked on some major blockbuster films during your career, what’s your favourite / most memorable? Why?
One of the most memorable films that I’ve worked on was, Hook. This was my first big studio film as a professional FX artist. It was amazing to watch Steven Spielberg directing on set and I was a huge fan of Robin Williams. Going to work every day was a blast.
”The Smurfs” is a classic cartoon, how did you go about adding your own flair to it? i.e. how did you make it “your own”?
For the Smurfs we turned actor, Hank Azaria into Gargamel. It’s always a challenge when asked to translate a cartoon character that everyone knows, into a live action practical design. Luckily Hank is a great comedic actor and he really brings the character and the make-up to life.
Where do you draw your inspiration from regarding creating the amazing special effects and creatures you produce?
When creating an old age, a character or a likeness make-up, we always do the research and gather the information needed to make the finished make-up as accurate and realistic as possible. If we are asked to make a creature or monster, we try to create original and innovative designs that cater to the director’s vision.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I decided that I wanted to do Special Make-up FX when I was a senior in high school. I got as many books and videos as I could find, then started building make-ups, masks and puppets in my garage. After a few years of practice I put together a portfolio of my best work, moved to L.A. and started working. My two friends, Matt Rose and Steve Wang were instrumental in helping me get into the industry.
Did you have a movie that inspired you to pursue your career path?
There were so many great movies that inspired me like, Star Wars, Jaws, The Dark Crystal, Halloween, etc. I would have to say that the one movie that started it all for me was, The Wizard of Oz.
You’re both an accomplished actor and a special effects legend, which is your true passion? Why?
I am a 706 Union Special Effects Make-Up Artist, a SAG/AFTRA Actor and a DGA Director. I’m truly passionate about each job. They all do have one thing in common though, each requires me to create some form or illusion that is both convincing and entertaining.
”GI Joe Retaliation ”was delayed due to reshoots, how did that impact you? Were you required at these shoots? Did you have to create anything new?
We were not needed for any of the G.I. Joe reshoots. Sometimes a film’s release will get pushed if the studio feels it needs additional scenes to make it a better, finished movie. I think fans will appreciate how Director, Jon Chu made the action scenes look like they were shot practically. This movie is fun and visually amazing.
”The IceMan” is a drama thriller based on the life of a notorious hitman, what can we expect to see from you? A lot of prosthetic makeup, blood, guts, that kind of thing?
For the film, The Iceman, we designed and created a number of period looks for actors, Michael Shannon and Chris Evans. We also provided some of the gore effects. I saw the film at the Toronto Film Festival and it is intense. This is, in my opinion, the best Mafia movie since GoodFellas. The Performances are great.
I’d like to thank the Illusion Industries team: Ron Halvas (CEO), Martin Astles and Joe Colwell (Key Artists), Adam Walls, Jane Pfeister and Marine Khachatryan (Coordinators), and Jason Garber (Paradigm).