Oscar Nominee Barney Burman Talks Star Trek Makeup

Veteran makeup artist Barney Burman lead the team creating the aliens on the Star Trek movie, which were mostly done with traditional makeup and not CGI. The work garnered Burman and (two other Star Trek makeup artists) an Academy Award nomination. Burman spoke to the LA Times about the challenges of the work, excerpts below.  


Barney Burman Talks Trek Make-up
Excerpts from LA Times Q&A with Burman

Q: What were your conversations with J.J. regarding makeup?

A: He was really open, and wanted to see every idea imaginable, including old stuff that had been on the shows, and new things that no one had ever seen. What he said to me in regard to the aliens was, "I don’t know what they look like – I just know that they have to be right." He acknowledged that such a thing was tantamount to finding the woman you’re going to marry over and over again, but that’s what we had to do. So a couple of designers and people on my crew started pumping out ideas.

Q: Which of the designs were the most complex for you?

A: All of them (laughs). I decided to do them in silicone rather than foam latex, and I think it’s the first time that silicone had been used for "Star Trek." It has a flesh-like translucency that foam latex just doesn’t have. J.J. is very knowledgeable about makeup and makeup effects, and he’d seen the difference, so I didn’t even want to risk it. The guy at the bar (Long Face Bar Alien, played by Douglas Tait) — we named him Brian as a sort of code name — I made this big, long face for him, and what I didn’t really consider was just how much heavier silicone is than foam latex. He was one of our first aliens, so fighting gravity on him taught me a lot about how to approach the makeup thereafter. I had to literally dig out big chunks of silicone and thin them out and then glue them higher than they were initially supposed to be placed so that gravity would settle them back into place.

Q: Where do you stand on the debate between CGI effects and physical makeup effects?

A: I like CG when it’s done well. I think a combination of CG and makeup effects can be a really wonderful thing. "Pan’s Labyrinth," for example, was a really wonderful example where they used both perfectly. Initially, J.J. and I had talked about combining them, where we would erase body parts from humans to make them more alien forms, but unfortunately, I think time and budget prohibited that kind of work.

Go to the LA Times to read the rest

Barney Burman ‘Long Face Bar Alien’ Douglas Tait

More on Star Trek Make-up

And if you haven’t see it yet, here is part of the "Aliens" featurette on both the 2-disk Star Trek DVD and the 3-disk Blu-ray.


Barney Burman with his creations

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Let’s hope he gets the award~ He did a fab job!

He did an exquisite job on both Spocks.

He did SUCH a good job. I hope he wins.

The most interesting thing about makeup in Star Trek, I think, is the Vulcan ears. You don’t really notice it unless you’re attentive/watch the movies in sequence, but each artist has their own look.

That long-faced dude is totally an ancestor of Morn.

i thought the long faced alien was cg until i got the blu-ray

#5 :: LOL! Like a really strange-looking Lurian, indeed. xD
He was sitting at a bar, too.. Would’ve been perfect if a Ferengi were on the other side. ;3 (But of course that would be a violation of canon gone off-the-wall… hehe.)

Kudos to Barney for keeping up the great tradition of Michael Westmore, who developed many of the makeup techniques used during the past several decades of Star Trek. At STTE, the alien characters used foam latex prosthetics from Westmore’s workshop, but silicone is obviously a viable alternative. My Andorian antenna were foam latex; however, my Vulcan ears were fashioned from liquid latex, and were actually created by one of our actors, George Reith. He went to Paramount to meet with Westmore, who helped him perfect his technique. George was my “ear guy” for many years, using the molds he had crested to provide me with several pairs of ears per year until STTE closed in 2008.

Very good job on the makeup and aliens- I hope they win. :D

Excellent work!

I still say that the resemblance is striking…



Some good work! Can’t wait to see what he does next.

Is that a salt vampire at around 6-7 seconds…. cool. Never noticed the similarities in design.

He did a fantastic job, but it’s a pity he didn’t get to try his CGI+makeup combo that he wanted. Some of that type of design ended up in the Art of Star Trek book and they would have looked amazing onscreen.

Out of all the categories, this is the one I think Star Trek will definitely win.

He did a good job on original designs but the retro designs didn’t look anything like the originals. If he’s going to do things like the Gorn & Salt Creature he needs to make them close enough to the original so we at least recognize them.

I dunno “No Khan,” I recognized the Salt Creature just fine. Remember what a change the Klingon make-up was in Star Trek TMP. I would call that “unrecognizable” compared to the original but still an improvement. Same goes for the Gorn. The 1960s lizard suit needs some SERIOUS updating. I enjoy all the creativity he can muster, so long as Vulcans still look like Vulcans! (And humans still look like humans.)

I wonder if a “double casting” method might overcome the weight problem of a silicone applicance for large scale additions. In other words, a silicone outer “shell” for the surface quality, with a foam latex inner core to achieve bulk at a lighter weight.

Anyone who works with the stuff know?

Well, Barney, kudos on “Long-Faced Brian,” but how come there were no Andorians or Tellarites among your aliens? That’s a serious oversight if your directive from J.J. was to incorporate “old stuff that had been on the shows,” like the Orions.

And why didn’t your Romulans have pronounced brows like in all the contemporary TV shows (and in the last movie, “Star Trek Nemesis”)? The cranial tattoos were a great idea, but there was still room for you to have included the forehead ridges.

@#18 LordEdzo

An excellent point, I would have loved some Andorians. But if you look closely at the Romulans they almost seem to have very slight eyebrow ridges, more like bony plates but still there. However, since Nero and his crew were 24th century Romulans, you’d think they’d have more pronounced ridges.

#16 Rastaman: Where in the movie did a Salt Vampire and a Gorn appear? I gotta check those out. I totally missed ’em. Thanks.

#19 RedShark

I agree with you. The finished Romulans *did* have very slightly pronounced brows. If you’ve looked through the “Art of Star Trek” book, then you saw that some of Burman’s other Romulan attempts had much more pronounced foreheads. Too bad J.J. didn’t go with them.

While I feel the look of the Vulcans was excellent, the rest of the onscreen aliens in the film were very meh at best. I can only clearly recall about 3 or 4. I’m not sure where all those masks and hands in photo #3 came from but I certainly don’t recall them in the movie.