AngelMakeup man creates TV’s frighteners
By Dave Mason
Friday 31 October 2003, by Webmaster
Scary specialist: Makeup man creates TV’s frighteners By DAVE MASON, Scripps Howard News Service October 30, 2003
Robert Hall has a good head on his shoulders — when he isn’t tossing it up in the air.
"Angel" fans might have seen Hall’s head. The wicked Beast ripped it off a body last season. Fortunately, it was only a sculptured replica of Hall’s head — a frighteningly well-done replica — and that’s as close as Hall gets to acting. He prefers to work behind-the-scenes, creating the monsters and special makeup seen on "Angel," which airs Wednesdays on The WB.
Hall is the owner and president of Almost Human studio, an independent Los Angeles area business working with Hollywood studios. Walk in at your own risk. The Beast, the creature Hall’s staff created last season for "Angel," is bursting through a wall, and the werewolf from an episode this fall has his arms out to grab you.
Eeeeeeek! You’d better watch where you step. Burnt corpses that Hall created for ABC’s short-lived "Miracles" series are lying on the floor! What kind of guy leaves corpses lying around? Someone who loved to dress up like Freddy Krueger for Halloween as a kid and has done so as an adult with his studio’s resources behind him, that’s who.
"Since I was a kid, I loved scaring people," said Hall, a Detroit native who grew up in northern Alabama. "I wasn’t into normal things like sports. . . I wanted to put blood on my face, and I would take my mom’s makeup for Halloween."
When he outgrew Mom’s makeup, he would wait until the stores had clearance sales after Halloween and stockpile his supplies. "By the time I was 13, 14, I had a huge shoebox of fake blood, fake skin, greasepaint."
Today Hall’s shoebox has grown into a studio with a high ceiling, where steep wood stairs lead to a storage area for Beast body suits, right under the rafters. Here, Hall and his staff have created monsters for "Angel" and the final seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as well as the flesh for human injuries on the CBS family drama "Judging Amy."
The studio is a warehouse for the dead and scary, with monsters, monster heads and acrylic paintings of monsters hanging around.
As Hall gave his tour, the studio smelled of latex and rubber, the stuff of monsters and horror makeup. Across the studio, a couple workers were busy with elaborate body suits, lying so innocently on their tables. A can of Chunks O’ Flesh — latex to make your skin crawl (or peel) — sat on a shelf, along with containers of Karo syrup, used for fake blood.
Hall uses silicon for special flesh-colored makeup, but he generally uses foam rubber for his monsters.
Viewers like their scary experiences to be as real as possible, but Hall has found from forensics books that his studio has to do better than real. "Real stuff often looks fake," he said.
Hall said he tries to make the vampire bumps on "Angel" match the real features of the human actors. "You don’t want to make them unrecognizable. Say there’s a crease in David’s brow; you want to take that and amplify it." (David Boreanaz stars as the vampire Angel.)
Hall’s creations begin in a small, well-lit room nearby, one you wouldn’t mistake for Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. It’s here that his staff creates pencil, ink and computerized drawings based on the ideas in scripts.
He pointed to a pencil and ink drawing of Frankenstein, a modern rendition with long hair, that his staff did for a "Frankenstein" miniseries set to air next year on the Hallmark Channel.
The next step after drawing a monster is to create a small sculpture as a guide for creating the prosthetics, makeup and body suit.
To create the vampire prosthetic for the bumps above Angel’s eyes, Hall must first create an alginate mold of Boreanaz’s face. (Alginate is the same material used for dental impressions.) Hall makes a plaster duplicate of that mold and then creates a clay sculpture around that duplicate. Then Hall scoops out the clay from an area inside of the sculpture. He fills in that area, which corresponds to where the prosthetic will fit on Boreanaz, with foam rubber. He puts the clay sculpture in a large oven on the other side of the corpses and bakes it for an hour at 250 degrees. After removing the creation from the oven, Hall uses powder to remove the rubber prosthetic from the clay sculpture.
Hall’s work doesn’t stop in the studio. He goes on the "Angel" set at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood to apply special costumes and makeup. And he’s there to help actors who are uncomfortable in their hot rubber suits.
Sometimes all an episode needs is a maggot-ridden face. The demonic head for Jasmine, the demon from another dimension on last season’s "Angel," was an animatronic puppet head, Hall said. "We took an impression of (actress) Gina Torres, made a cast of her face, hollowed out the eyes and made a deranged version of her. We made it with silicon.
"But we don’t harvest maggots. We have a no-harvesting-maggots policy," he said — with a straight face.