Comic Book Movie
June 24, 2011
Excerpted from Coming Soon‘s set-visit report for Marvel and Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, now highlighting Hugo Weaving’s portryal of the villainous ‘Red Skull’ andthe process of bringing him to life. With a word from prosthetics designer David White, VFX supervisor Chris Townsend, costume designer Anna Sheppard, and Weaving himself, read on below.
Prosthetics Designer David White ultimately discussing translating the drawings into something “tangible”, he says…
“It took a while to get to what we really needed. I think it was a question of it being a, not an ugly kind of look. It had to be kind of slick and clean, but also menacing. It had to have all these different feels to it, but it didn’t need to look gory in a way. It has a kind of clean finish to it, and that in itself, to get together and make sure all the lines were sweet and smooth, without all the wrinkles and too much visceral attention to muscles and veins… it’s more difficult to do a cleaner, smoother look.’
With the design finalized, White had to actually create the makeup. Starting initially with a lifecast of the actor, White sculpted the design of the makeup. Once he was satisfied with this, his next task was to break the makeup down into several component pieces, which were then used as the basis of molds.
“It means a lot of people and a lot of time, and we have to process all the pieces,” reveals White. “The end result, though is a series of bright red-tinted silicone makeup pieces, ready to be applied.”
In addition to this silicone mask, White’s design also required Weaving to wear contact lenses & a set of bottom dentures that, which White says,
“just kind of protrude at the bottom a little bit… so he has a mean underbite.”
VFX supervisor Chris Townsend now weighs in on the process and where and his team take over.
“This is a great start, what David White in prosthetics has given us, but obviously because Hugo is a regular human, he’s got a certain amount of fat on his face, he’s got a nose, which is unfortunate, so what we’ve done is put tracking markers over his face, and we’re in the process of looking at what he would look like once you remove the nose, what he would look like if you were to square up his chin a little bit more, if you were to make once of his eyes a little bit bigger, or both of his eyes. Or if you were to make all of that a little bit more extreme, and make his face much thinner.”
Costume designer Anna Sheppard now discusses the uniforms worn by the Nazis during World War II, and for Red Skull of course.
“If you look at Red Skull, this coat weighs a ton,” Sheppard reveals, “even if I tried to make it light, I wanted leather, and this is the kind of leather that is thinnest, but still works in this, but it’s such a construction to follow the design that it’s unbelievable. It’s probably about 10 Kg. It looks OK on the mannequin, but poor Hugo… really feels the weight.”
“I didn’t think it could be made out of plastic, it wouldn’t look the same. You actually need the weight for the coat to hang correctly, and it looks fantastic, the movement. There’s a big fight between him and Cap on the high gantry of Hydra’s factory, and on the back it’s all pleated, and really moves beautifully, and for that you need weight. So I couldn’t cheat on that, it couldn’t be made any lighter, but they’re not easy costumes for actors. Lucky they understand they have to look this way.”
White took considerable pains to reduce the time Weaving had to spend in makeup, by painting each of the silicone pieces before they were applied to Weaving’s face. Even still the makeup process took up to three hours.
“It’s just such a smooth finish, very streamlined, and there’s a lot of different angles,” and while that meant more time in makeup for Weaving, for White it did have some benefits, “In certain lights you get some lovely effects. It’s like a Cadillac. In certain shots it’s got a lovely quality to it. It just takes a lot of time to get everything in the right place.”
Actor Hugo Weaving now discusses creating the human element, and essentially how he should sound.
“I listened to a lot of Werner Herzog talking… also Klaus Maria Brandauer. I thought Klaus Maria Brandauer’s accent was probably more interesting in one way, but the more I listened to Werner Herzog, the more I found him amusing. So I sort of started to lean more towards him. There’s something wonderfully mad about him.”
“I think the major difference between Skull and Cap, they’ve both had the serum, and the serum seems to augment certain qualities that each of them have. Cap is much more in tune with other people I think. Schmidt is in tune with himself, and his own needs, and his own ego, so I suppose it augments that. From that point of view, they’re quite opposite.”