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.
Barney Burman ‘Long Face Bar Alien’ Douglas Tait
More on Star Trek Make-up
- Exclusive: Profile of Star Trek’s Barney Burman
- Star Trek movie makeup secrets
- More Star Trek movie makeup secrets
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