June 18, 2021
Makeup artist who spent seven hours a day applying the prosthetics for the 1980 film The Elephant ManThe complex makeup required for the title character of The Elephant Man was nearly the undoing of that celebrated 1980 film. Its director, David Lynch, had the first stab at designing workable prosthetics. “But when I tried a piece of it on John Hurt,” Lynch recalled, “he couldn’t move and he said, ‘A valiant effort, David’.” Lynch was plunged into despair, certain that his film would be a disaster, until the British makeup artist Christopher Tucker came to the rescue. But applying the resulting designs, which had been modelled from a cast of the real Joseph Merrick, whose story the movie told, fell upon the makeup artist Walter Schneiderman.
Walter Schneiderman obituary
Schneiderman, who has died aged 98, called the film “one of the hardest pictures I had to do”. It took seven hours each day to put the makeup on Hurt, and another two to take it off again. “Everything was so precise,” he said. “There were 14 pieces, not including the head, and they had to be applied exactly, every day for continuity. You couldn’t afford to make a mistake.” Schneiderman was acclaimed for his work on the movie, which was nominated for eight Oscars. The lack of official recognition for Tucker and Schneiderman caused a furore, which led to the implementation the following year of a new Oscar category for best makeup.
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