john wheaton

HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER

Hollywood Make-up Artist

JOHN WHEATON
tells us how

You won two Emmy Awards as one of Hollywood's leading special effects makeup artists. What popular television programs did you win these for and what exactly were your creepy sci-fi creations?

I was honored to win two Emmy Awards for Best Makeup, one for The X-Files and the other for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I worked for an effects company called Optic Nerve for about ten years and for a time we were the king of make-up FX for television. In addition to Buffy and X-Files we worked on the cult shows Babylon-5, Angel, Charmed, Crossing Jordan among others. So we'd have to dream up bizarre creatures, demons and alien character make-up on very tight schedules, but it was fun with a lot of freedom.

What other special effects projects have you done for movies and TV?

I'm currently working at a large company called KNB Effects Group, and we're just starting work on the Chronicles of Narnia sequel. We’re also finishing up location work for Grind House, Hostel 2, The Hills have Eyes 2, and Masters of Horror. You may have seen some of my work in Academy Award nominated motion pictures like the make-up designs for Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man.

Any interesting anecdotes in your career working as an effects artist?

About 12 years ago, someone broke into my apartment in L.A. They stumbled on one of my movie props I had laying in my kitchen. It was a gutted dead body for Don Post Studios and the burglar called the cops on me thinking it was real and I was a serial killer! That sure was a good alarm.

When did you realize that you had these special talents for creating horrifying monsters as a child?

I was always fascinated by science fiction, horror movies and monsters from a very young age. I remember staying up late with my Dad to watch episodes of Night Gallery and Outer Limits, and later became an avid reader of Famous Monsters and Fangoria. This love developed into artistic expression and I would spend hours drawing monsters, aliens and dinosaurs.

Was there a particular film that inspired you to be a make-up artist?

I think John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, as well as The Howling and American Werewolf in London really clinched it for me.

Do you have a favorite make-up artist?

Well Dick Smith was a huge inspiration with his early amazing work and willingness to share information. And Rick Baker and Rob Bottin for their incredible groundbreaking artistry.

Which is your favorite Ed Wood film?

Actually I love watching films of all types and am an avid DVD collector. My favorite Ed Wood film is probably Plan 9 because it's the most famous, is silly but really entertaining. And how can you not love the great cast of Bela (and his much taller stand-in), Vampira, Gregory Walcott... Dudley Manlove's killer line delivery is hilarious! And Tor Johnson who was later immortalized in a Don Post Halloween mask. And of course Paul Marco (love his confrontation with the Bela stand-in at the end!).

How did you become friends with Paul Marco? What particular memory do you have of him?

My friend Aaron Rosenberg who's in KELTON'S DARK CORNER: EPISODE 2 called me over to Paul's apartment on his birthday in June of 2005. Paul was 79 years old. I found him to be a very kind and gracious man, sometimes a bit cantankerous but full of spirit. I admitted to being a fan of his acting in several Ed Wood movies as Kelton the Cop. After that we stayed in touch and would get together periodically, but he would also phone me and tell me great stories of his time working with Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi. I heard of his passing while filming DARK CORNER II and later we attended a memorial service for him at the nostalgic Formosa Cafe in June of 2006. We all miss him greatly.

Did you have a rockin' time working on Kelton's Dark Corner II as a make-up artist?

Yeah it was a fun shoot. I got to get back to applying makeup, doing simple rigid collodion scars and highlight and shadow coloring on the girls. So much of my time nowadays is spent in the shop sculpting or doing Photoshop design work, it was refreshing getting back to the basics. The undead girls were a blast to work with and very enthusiastic and Vasily was a great, energetic director.

How did you come up with the makeup ideas for the film?

Me and Vasily had some conversations prior to the shoot, and he sent me pictures and links of what he wanted to see. I think our inspiration was largely from the Warren magazines of the past: Famous Monsters, Vampirella, etc. He wanted a subtle approach, making the girls look undead or vampiric but still sexy.

Do you have some future projects or goals that you would like to accomplish?

I would love to get back to oil painting and some personal projects, more of what I did when I was younger. Also have a couple of little horror film short ideas I would like to explore. Lately I've been very busy with the effects work and find little time for my own stuff, although doing work that is seen on the big screen is a blast too!