Exclusive: Academy Award-Nominee Barney Burman Talks Star Trek Makeup, Oscars & Sequel Klingons

As noted yesterday’s Academy Award analysis, the Makeup category appears to be Star Trek’s best chance to take home an Oscar, which would be a first for the franchise. So TrekMovie thought it would be good to check in with nominee Barney Burman to see how he is dealing with the Oscar nomination, and to talk about his work on the first Star Trek, and what he would like to do in the next one.  


Barney Burman is a third generation makeup effects artist from an extended family that has been doing movie makeup for decades. He has worked on over 80 different film and television projects since starting off as a teenager. His first job was actually working in the makeup lab on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984 and he also did makeup work on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In 2004 he co-founded the Proteus Make-up FX with fellow make-up artist Steve Prouty. Burman first worked with JJ Abrams when Proteus was hired for Mission: Impossible III. JJ brought him back for Star Trek, which has now culminated in his first Academy Award nomination.

Barney Burman with his "Star Trek" creations


How has being nominated for an Oscar changed your life, if at all?

Well it has got me a lot of publicity and I have got a real wonderful outpouring of support and kindness from a great many people. It has been a really good few weeks about feeling good.

You share your nomination with Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, can you explain how you worked together on Star Trek?

I initially brought Joel on to be my key artist and to work as the supervisor on set for prosthetics, while I was designing and creating stuff back in the shop. Once we started shooting I became so overwhelmed with stuff to do in the shop that I decided to have Joel take over the Romulans, close to where JJ could see them every day, so we broke into two different camps. And Mindy was always handling the straight makeup, so that were three different camps but we stayed in communication with each other and supported each other. We worked as close together as one unit, while being three units.

Joel Harlow working on Eric Bana — he focused on the Romulans while Burman created other "Star Trek" aliens

For such a big popcorn movie, were you surprised at how little CGI JJ was using for the alien characters?

Initially we talked about doing some more blends of prosthetics and CG so we can change the shape of people a little bit, but time and money prohibited that. So that went away pretty quickly, but I was never surprised that JJ wanted to do a good amount of practical effects because he loved that stuff. And he believes in always having as much in camera as possible, and I love that about him. I love filmmakers that want to create a world that people can live in and react to, in the moment.

Do you think in the post-Avatar world, that filmmakers like JJ who like the practical will still stick with it? Or is there pressure to go more CG?

I don’t know if it is pressure, but there will be those directors that what to control everything in post. And there will be those guys like JJ who want to see as much in front of them as possible, and then enhance things in post. Avatar was obviously a landmark and a wonderful movie, but I think it is still the kind of the exception, rather than the rule, or at least I hope.

I remember after the first time I saw footage from the film back in 2008 I made a comment to one of the producers about how good the CG looked on the long-face guy, and I was surprised to learn it was all done with makeup. Have you had that kind of reaction from people in the industry who didn’t realize how much of what we see in Star Trek is your team’s work?

I have talked to quite a few people who did not know, like when I show pictures from my portfolio people will say "wow I didn’t know that guy was really there" which is a weird sort of compliment. Even one of our own makeup artists made that mistake, telling me how well she thought the movement on the characters came out after post.

There were a few CG additions to some of the characters, like Keenser’s eyes right?

Keenser was always planned to do some kind of CG element on the eyes, and there was a blink added to the alien you see on the Kelvin. But she also had some facial movements that the actress came up with to make the mouth flutter, which was really interesting.

Barney Burman with Kelvin alien (aka Alnschloss K’Bentayr)

Which Alien was the most challenging for you?

That is hard to say, but that first one at the bar, because he was one of our first aliens. I did it in silicone and so I had to learn how gravity was going to effect where the silicon came to rest on the actor. There was one alien that was a butterfly-fish alien type of character and I don’t think we ever got it right to my liking, but in the end the scene got cut so it didn’t matter.

Some people have wondered if the long-faced Alien in the bar was a call back to the Deep Space Nine character Morn. I know your uncle Ellis worked on DS9, so was there a connection or just a coincidence?

I never saw Deep Space Nine, so I wasn’t familiar with the character. Ellis ran the lab, but I don’t know if he designed any aliens. If there is any similarity, it was unintentional. That is a character where I sat down with a bust and some clay and just put it together and that is how it came to life.

Barney Burman working on the ‘Long-face Bar Alien’ — no relation to Morn

A lot of alien characters got cut, that were in the Rura Penthe scene. Who was the hardest for you to see go?

Several of them in that scene actually. One of them was a character we called four square, because he had four eyes. He is in the deleted scenes, being tortured by the Klingons. The CG guys just added the additional eyes, and I was really excited about that character. There was a Gorn and a Salt Vampire, and I was sorry to see them go. They were more pull-on overhead masks, with body suits and gloves, but they were nicely fleshed out characters. 

If you end up coming back for the sequel, what kind of Star Trek challenges would you like to take on?

Prefacing this with I don’t know what the script is and I don’t know what they are going to do, but it seems that it is crying out to bring Klingons into it. And I would really love to revisit the Klingon race and develop them some more. In the original series they were just a color and hair treatment. And then in The Motion Picture, the Klingons had sort of a vertebrae going along their head. Then my dad rethought them for Star Trek III and gave them more of that bizarre demonic forehead treatment and brought the hairline back. So I would love to bring my take into it.

I also think it would be fun to add different kinds of Klingons, or some characters…whoever the aliens are. It would be nice to create a more fully fleshed out race of those characters, so there is not a single look for an entire planet. With the variance in the human race that we have, I would love to see those kinds of variances in an alien or race. Whether it is Klingons, or whatever.

Even though they were cut, you did create Klingons for Star Trek, although you punted on their whole look with the helmets and masks. So you would like to unmask them for the sequel?

Yeah! I would love to see the Klingons unmasked. To me it is kind of like with Batman Begins, and they made it anew. And in the sequel the knew they had to bring the Joker into it, because he is the most iconic Batman villain. So to me it is the same thing, if you are going to do the second Star Trek, hopefully we get to see the Klingons in the sequel.

Klingon created for "Star Trek" — Burman wants to unmask the Klingons for the sequel

You mentioned your dad. I know there has been a lot of Emmys and other awards in the family, but he is the only one with an Oscar nomination. Any advice from dad on dealing with the pressure?

Well I haven’t really felt pressure, I have just been enjoying, which is exactly what he said when I talked to him, he said "just enjoy yourself". That is all I can control is how I feel, and I feel pretty good. I am having a really good time sort of riding this period out, and we will see how it plays out.

So you have your tux picked out and your wife has her gown?

Yes that is all done, but there is a funny story. 20 years ago I had this really dear friend in a theater company and she and I always joked, whichever one of us makes it to the Oscars first we have to take the other one. Much time has gone by, but we have recently reconnected on Facebook and she has a family out in New Jersey, and called her and asked her "so you still want to go to the Oscars?" I am taking my wife of course, but I got two extra tickets so my dear friend from 20 years ago can come and she is escorting my son. Apparently this has become big news in her small town, even the Mayor knows.


Here is a Flickr slideshow of some of the work from Star Trek done by Barney Burman and Proteus FX Team.


Burman has remained busy after Star Trek, saying that he has been recently focusing on more independent films, as he didn’t want to just be doing big blockbuster films. In 2010 his work will be scene the films Shuffle, Grey Skies and One on One: Death’s Door.

Aging makeup for T.J. Thyne (Lovell) in "Shuffle"

A ‘Reaper’ in "One on One: Death’s Door"

A ‘Drone’ in "Grey Skies"

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I hope we see Klingons before we see Khan!

Good luck, Barney. The ‘verse is rooting for you to take home the first Trek Oscar ever!

Klingons > Khan

Here’s how I would re-imagine the whole Khan story – he gets picked up by the Klingons instead. Bob, you out there? Run with it. But get my brother a job on the sequel, he’s an aspiring filmmaker.

I really wouldnt mind if they didnt unmask the Klingons in the next Trek,, or the one after that,,

Theres that creepy element to those makeup pics that I like very much.


Klingons >> Khan

I want to see Andorians too in the sequel!

I agree with SirMartman; I wouldn’t mind seeing those helmets again. I think they’re pretty cool, and a great way to stay with the “canon”.

Klingons would make for a great movie. A real movie completely devoted to them. Haven’t had that since Star Trek VI, and look at how blindingly awesome that one was.

Just looking at the Klingons under the inquisitor masks at Rura Penthe, I have to say that while I hope overall the “modern Klingon” look from Star Trek III onward is maintained (with all the racial diversity peppered throughout TNG and DS9) … I wouldn’t mind if their facial bones were made just a tiny bit more lupine. Drawn forward a little at the chin and nose and mouth, and slightly wolf-like. (But with nose ridges!)

And of course, some with strong ridges and some with smoother, more TOS ridges. And for god’s sake … pink blood.

Khan >>>>>> Klingons !

By the way….

Its really interesting they had the “salt vampires” done ! Are there pictures of the “salt vampires” up ?

The new Klingon make-up should enable the actors to use their eyebrows! Imagine how much more depth worf’s character would have had if Michael dorn could have used his eyebrows while he acted!

I definitely would like to see Klingons in the sequel, along with Khan. I want to see the smooth-headed Klingons as well as the bumpy-headed ones. As well as Klingons who are just beginning to get their bumps back.

The make-up for “Star Trek” was pretty good, but for me “Star Trek: First Contact”, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” rank higher in terms of overall quality.

yeah andorians they are the most under used race. I loved seeing them in enterprise. I would love to see the klingons too. Megan fox should be an andorian. that would be cool

I thought putting the Klingons was cheap and lazy, lets hope they unmask them for the sequel.

#15 I too would like to see Andorians as well as Gorn and Tholians.
All have been underrated, underappreciated and underused for the most part. Although the Andorians played a significant role on “Enterprise”.
But absolutely no Megan Fox. But I would take Scarlett Johanson.

I want Klingons! Andorians, Tellarites, Gorn, and Denobulans would be nice as well. As for rigdes or no rigdes, both would be ideal, acknowledge the fact that there are both, but the ones without should wear the masks when interacting with other Klingons or when wanting to be extra sinister or mysterious. Otherwise without the masks could be for more “diplomatic” and on their own situations. Ridged Klingons should wear masks only sparingly.
Oh, and for the love of God, the Prophets, the Great Bird of the Galaxy, or whatever deity you believe in NO Megan Fox in Star Trek. Scarlett Johanson, no to her either. Hayden Panettiere, yes, as a Starfleet officer I will take that.
Also bring in Yeoman Janice Rand and Nurse Christine Chapel.

They stole that alien with the 4 eyes from me! OK, not ‘stole’ but took.

I entered a character in the DS9 “Design an Alien” contest years ago called Phoorize, and guess what? He had 4 eyes.

I know, I know… I signed away the rights by entering the contest. And it is possible they came up with it independently of my design. I just wanted to mention it. I’m not bitter. Really.

I hope he gets the chance to try some of that makeup+CGI to change the shape of the head — his concept sketches for that looked really cool!

Personally, I hope we get to see more of the bronze alien woman in the blue uniform (second photo in the slideshow). That was a really good makeup job.

Good luck on Oscar night, sir!

For all the great makeup, most of these “characters” didn’t really add that much to the story. It would be nice to have the character design influence the story, and vice versa.

Odo, for example, was one of those characters that flowed (pun intended) from what the character was: he tried to look human(oid) to fit in, but didn’t quite succeed.

Putting a bump or two on a guy does not make the character alien. It may make him look alien, but you also need to ad backstory and other things to flesh out the character, let alone his/her/its race.

Once again praying that they leave Khan be and go with a Klingon story. As for the makeup, I think it would be cool to see some that suffer from the augment virus and some that havent. I don’t think a major change in look would be good, though. People know what the late 23rd and 24th century Klingons look like and the look works. Maybe adding some detail would be good, though. But at this point, Id take redesigned Klingons over a Khan story in a heartbeat.

I agree — Klingons for the sequel, in both smooth and bumpy form. Khan is a great villain, but he’s not the *main* villain of Star Trek — everyone *knows* that the Klingons are the main antagonists of the original Star Trek, so given that they don’t appear in the first movie they *have* to appear in the second. Bring back Khan later if you want, but he should be left to movie #3 at the very earliest.

(I’m counting ST09 as movie #1 rather than #11, because it really is the first in a new series.)

Yeah. Smooth and bumpy Klingonoid races for Q’onos (or however that’s spelled). Also give the Klingon Empire AT LEAST a couple dozen alien races that they’ve subjugated (space-faring cultures only, that they’ve beaten in battle. More primative planets they’ve simply taken under their wing and developed them into loyal subjects). Their Empire should be at least as big as the UFP.

With all due respect to the Westmores & Co., I really like Barny’s take on the aliens. A fresh approach was sorely needed for the new Trek.
The unmasked Klingons should not be the cliches they became- watching old Next Gen eps is at times like watching bad Klingon convention skits.

Klingons? Khan?


@24: “I really like Barny’s take on the aliens. A fresh approach was sorely needed for the new Trek.”

Which is what exactly? Aliens that are just background fodder who have no character and don’t serve any purpose? I don’t know about you, but humanizing the Gorn is not my idea of a ‘fresh’ approach.

26. Jeyl

Actually, ‘background fodder’ aliens help the atmosphere of the piece far more than having them as major characters. The fact that their presence is so casually accepted, for example in the bar scene, really grounds us in the Star Trek world.

@27: “Actually, ‘background fodder’ aliens help the atmosphere of the piece far more than having them as major characters.”

So atmosphere is more important than characterization?

@27: “The fact that their presence is so casually accepted, for example in the bar scene, really grounds us in the Star Trek world.”

Yes, that bar scene totally represents the absolute best at how Star Trek deals with aliens. Designing alien creatures to be nothing but a sight gag. “Get it? He’s got a long face.” Forget about the lizard like Gorn species (which they totally screwed the pooch in this movie), the rock-like Horta, the crystal like Tholians, the feline resembling Caitian, the tri-limbed Edosians (who actually served as a bridge crew member), the very non-human ‘species 8472’, the Xindi-insectoids, the changelings, and the ever disgusting Denebian slime devils. Did I forget the Tribbles?

So that’s my stance to the respect of all things alien in Star Trek. Putting them in the background is the single most easiest thing you can do in any production. Making them characters? That’s hard. It’s good to know that the original series back in the 60s were able to bring us such alien looking characters on a TV budget, where as you’ll be lucky to even spot one in this 150 million dollar motion picture.

That pic of the Salt Monster looked GREAT!

I love the Gorn, I think that needs to be done more. Same with the Tholians.

For all you gripping about how the alien characters weren’t really “characters,” I have this to say: In ST09, JJ barely had time to introduce and to characterize fully the Star Trek’s main characters, so how was he supposed to give each new alien species/character a fully developed history/culture at the same time?

The answer is that he simply doesn’t have the time do both in a two and a half hour film. To fully characterize the aliens, he would have had to have sacrificed screen time for Sulu, Chekov, and the other secondary characters, who barely received any time on screen as it was.

We have to remember that Star Trek the television series and Star Trek the film franchise inherently have different styles of story telling because of the differences between their respective media.

With a TV series, you can take several episodes to focus on aliens because writers have so much more time to create and to develop not only the main human characters, but also distinct alien cultures. In TOS alone, the writers had 79 episodes to create the species and characters we all love. 79 episodes–that’s a lot of hours to tell a story and to create a complex fictional world. Consider TNG–the writers had over 100 hours to develop Picard et. al, in addition to all the unique races they encountered.

In comparison, with a feature film, the time to tell a story is so much more condensed, so writers have to to make sacrifices. They can a dense, detailed universe, but only at the expense of the main characters. A film must be focused on its main characters because there is so little time to tell the main characters’ story as it is. Even If the JJ Star Trek franchise lasted for twenty movies, that still would be only a small fraction of the story-telling time that the writers of even TOS had.

So what do we fans want, a movie dedicated to developing strong, realistic relationships between Kirk, Spock, Bones, etc., or do we want one that gets sidetracked by less important background details?

I’ll take one that focuses on the characters we care about, and not fanboy details and distractions.

Klingons are so tired. No more please.

To quote The Simpsons: “Again with the Klingons!”

Star Trek I: Klingons
Star Trek III: Klingons
Star Trek V: Klingons
Star Trek VI: Klingons
Star Trek Generations: Klingons
All TNG films featured Worf. ST: II and 2009 used them as enemies in the simulator, and IV had the Ambassador making threats.
TOS. TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT all had Klingon heavy episodes, especially DS9.

And you guys complain we might see Khan again after 25 years, a villian only seen twice on screen in all of TREK.

@34: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a franchise in posession of Klingons, must be in want of more Klingons.

Good point, Simon.

I vote Tholians or some new races!

I think the Botany Bay should drift on for 100 more years and eventually get assimilated by the borg. Then the “borgified” Khan can take over the collective and match wits with Picard. That is if Abrams and crew ever get that far and do an Abramsverse version of Next Gen. Really wanna see a re-imagined 1701-D someday.

@32: “So what do we fans want, a movie dedicated to developing strong, realistic relationships between Kirk, Spock, Bones, etc., or do we want one that gets sidetracked by less important background details?”

Like the character of Uhura? She’s the most useless character in the whole story once she mans her station on the bridge, yet the story keeps focusing on her moments with Spock that could very well be removed from the story without any consequence to the characters or the development of the plot. I would say her removal from the last half of the film would be beneficial to the story because she’s so god awful inconsistent. The way you present your argument for not wanting to have a ‘less important background details’ interfere with our main trio is kind of interesting since Uhura represents that very problem.

But I do understand where you’re coming from. I don’t want to advocate the inclusion of Alien characters just for the sake of having them. Transformers fans advocated for more Transformers to appear in the sequel and look where that got us. I would just like ‘something’ that doesn’t feel like they’re taking the easy way out, especially on a film budget of 150 million dollars. I’ve seen movies that gave us some wicked cool looking alien characters that played an important part to the story with other human characters on a quarter of Star Trek’s budget. And being a Trek fan, having to see an alien as a bridge crew member trying to be a part of the gang sounds pretty interesting. The fact that it’s a different looking character that might put off some people could add more depth into the whole human/alien relationship theme that I would think is supposed to be a major theme of Star Trek. It’s a human story for certain, but how we deal with aliens and their cultures and way of life should play a very big part in it. Cause hey, we’re all sharing the same space!

I for one would love to see Barney Burman and his team create such a character. Building aliens for background purposes is one thing, but making a character that plays a role in the story? That would be something to look forward to. Way better than looking forward to seeing Chekov again.

To J.J. and O and K:
Please don’t take too seriously the denigration of the use of Klingons in Star Trek movies. Klingons can’t be compared to the use of individual “villains” in an S. T. movie. Klingon Empire vs. UFP is the US vs the USSR, it’s England vs France, it’s Rome vs Carthage, it’s the Greeks (and later, the Macedonians) vs the Persian Empire. It is a multi-generational conflict/challenge/competition between two ENTIRE Societies/Cultures, and can’t AT ALL be fairly compared to the cartoonish contest between “villain” vs “hero”, like batman vs joker, or roadrunner vs Wiley coyote.

The khan vs Kirk thing is so shallow and petty, compared to the grand, stately contest between the UFP and the Klingon Empire.

#39 – “Shallow and petty?” Makes no sense. “The Dark Knight” was cartoonish?

Ever hear “mano-a-mano”

#34 — Or, more accurately:
Star Trek I: Klingons as fairly ineffectual examples of how V’Ger can indiscriminately slaughter people. 3-minute cameo.
Star Trek III: Klingons
Star Trek V: Klingons as fairly non-threatening and crappy secondary villains
Star Trek VI: Klingons
Star Trek VII: Klingons as fairly non-threatening and crappy secondary villains

No other movie has Klingons as its villains. ST09, which is the first in a new series of movies, doesn’t actually feature any Klingons at all. Not bad going for a species that is supposed to be the main antagonist.

Yah, even though Klingons pop up in all the movies (aside from ST 2 and ST11 if you count Worf) they’ve only been the central antagonists for 2 out of 11 films. that’s hella small. Cripes, they’re tied with the frickin’ Romulans as main bad guys, and that’s been two movies in a row!

…okay, the Remans and Shinzon was a clone but Nemesis was still very Romulan-y. I think that counts.

But I’d want to see Kahn as a bad guy first.

To JJ and O and K:
On the other hand, perhaps main viewing audience has an ahistorical/acultural view of life, and it’s all just “punch and Judy” to them. So bring on capt roadrunner/Kirk vs Wiley Kahn/coyote, and keep that popcorn popping. I never remember how khan’s name is spelled, but I think that hardly matters anymore. I’ll just refer to him as Wiley C.

I took some of Neville Page’s rejected designs for the Romulans from JJ’s first film and reapplied them to the Klingons: the designs would work quite well for Klingons halfway between the spiny heads of TMP and the smooth heads of TOS:


The people in charge of editing the Star Trek movie did a terrible job. How in the hell can you cut the scenes with the most important aliens in the Star Trek universe, the Klingons! I am hoping for the next movie they hire someone else to do the editing, and put in some epic battle scenes like a dozen Klingon D7 battle cruiser against a dozen Federation ships. After watching the cut scenes some of them would have been so epic. I think it is BULLSHIT fallacy that movies “have” to be cut, edited, and reduced in length. Did Titanic or Avatar cut the length of their movies to conform!? NO! So why do the people behind Star Trek feel it needs to be cut? I want a 2 to 2.5 hours Star Trek movie! The new movie was great….now its time for something epic!

If Klingons are in the sequel can they please not look like Uruk’s from lord of the rings.

I mean using helmets to cover up a lack of budget is pretty lame, its like using a brewery as engineering. Yet they had plenty of money for phoney cgi.

He never saw DS9? That’s it. Fire him! Oscar or no, DS9 is required viewing for all Trek crew personnel!


I realize they want to be all new and innovative, but if they are going to use “Enterprise” as the only existing cannon for this series, the Klingons will have to look human like they did in TOS unless they want to build into the story the return to the bumpy headed Kligons or at least comment on the fact that they looked like humans for a while.

@27 – VERY agreed, re. humanizing the Gorn. Alien species should be, well… a l i e n. That includes this very reptilian race.

I know the new movies are endeavoring to make ST accessible to new audiences. That’s one element which I don’t think audiences will fail to grasp.

Bring on the Klingons and PLEASE aim a little closer to the TNG-style.