INTERVIEW: ‘Suspiria’ Spoiler Filled Interview With Prosthetic Make-up Designer Mark Coulier

Interviewed by Fiona Underhill

For our latest Sunday Spotlight, Fiona sat down to interview Academy Award-winning prosthetic make-up designer, Mark Coulier, who has worked on films such as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel – for which Coulier won the Oscar for ‘Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling’ in 2015,  Ready Player One, the Harry Potter series, and upcoming films Stan & Ollie and Pinocchio!

Fiona chatted with Coulier about his recent work in the Suspiria remake and the use of practical effects for some of its standout scenes, so there are spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet!

You’ve been warned…


I have to start with what is a stand-out scene, from a make-up point of view and that’s the infamous scene with Olga in the mirrored dance studio, where she’s being contorted and twisted – how much of that was practical and how much was CGI? How did you achieve that scene?

So, I’d spoken with Luca (Guadagnino, director) about that scene quite early on in our conversations about the film and he wanted that to be a pretty brutal scene that establishes how dangerous the situation is and he wanted to, I think the word was ‘pulverize’ this woman and break her down so we talked about how to do that practically, we wanted most of it to be practical. I’d seen Deliverance, I mentioned this guy who gets washed down a river and his arm gets dislocated and it’s twisted round his shoulder and it looks pretty intense. We decided that would be a good place to start – to twist this woman’s arm around and break her jaw, what else could we do that would make her all twisted and contorted? He had this amazing dancer called Elena Fokina playing the part and she was able to do a lot of the stuff herself. So we started off with the arm and then we did the leg and the rib cage – we did a prosthetic chest piece for her and a jaw piece and we moved her teeth. It kind of built from there really and we tried to get her into this position at the end where she was completely broken down and twisted up. It was Luca who wanted her to look really destroyed.

So it sounds like it was heavily practical then?

It was all practical in the sense that it was prosthetic appliances, the visual effects side of it was that they removed her real arm and her real leg. I think they augmented the jaw being twisted into place. So I’d say it’s about 75% us and 25% visual effects.

I have to ask about the character of Dr Josef Klemperer (played by Tilda Swinton). I think the creation of that character, from the performance combined with the make-up is just absolutely phenomenal. I want to ask about how you built that character – I mean the detail on the face is just sensational – how did you achieve that?

Thank you. That was Luca calling up and I think he’d seen Grand Budapest Hotel and we’d done an age make-up on Tilda Swinton in that film and Luca wanted to see if it was possible, to see if we could turn Tilda Swinton into this old Jewish man. So we did a test make-up probably eighteen months before the film actually started, just to see if it was possible. The test make-up was totally different to the Josef Klemperer character that you see in the movie, but it gave Tilda and Luca an idea of what we could possibly do. It was an idea that Luca had that he wanted all the characters, the strong characters to be female. This idea of Tilda playing this part is linked to the idea of the three witches that are the core of the story – Mother Suspirium, Mother Tenebrarum, Mother Lacrymarum – and he wanted Tilda to play the three parts of Madame Markos, Madame Blanc and Klemperer. So that was it really, that was the start of it, so we did a test to see if we could possibly do it and we ended up re-sculpting it and re-making it and applying it to the finished character.

I heard a rumour that she even had a prosthetic penis, can I ask if that’s true?

That is true, yes. Well it was really more of a weighted thing that we put in there because she wanted to feel masculine, so she wanted to feel this weight between her legs. So I guess it’s a bit like Robert De Niro wearing silk underpants to play Al Capone. One of those little things that nobody else will see but it makes her feel more of the part.

I have to ask about the finale – how long did it take to shoot that sequence and what was the preparation, what were the decisions involved in that sequence? Again, how practical was it, how many buckets of blood did you use etc?

Yes, again, it was heavily practical. This is not a big budget, we had very little time for everything. We had nine weeks, we were supposed to have fourteen weeks, but we had nine weeks which is not a lot of time. We had full body suits – we did the character of Death, which is really intense and quite a  character to create. We had the character of Markos to do – the witch, which is also Tilda Swinton playing that character in full body make-up which is pretty intense. And we had all sorts of stuff – we had disembowelments, lots of crazy stuff that Luca wanted to create for that finale. And we sort of created a workshop out where we were shooting and I brought people over from the UK and we were just frantically building things and finishing things off while we were out there. As well as making stuff in the UK, we did a full body make-up on Chloe Moretz. We were supposed to do that for two days I think and we ended up doing that make-up for five or six days. So we were frantically building pieces and making pieces out in this abandoned hotel where we were shooting everything in Italy. And it was quite intense but it was quite practical, a lot of it was practical, a lot of visual effects augmentation of the self, the blood, the bodies being destroyed, pulling the intestines out. [spoilers] We had the dead Patricia, the dead Olga make-up, we had Markos – which was this big full bodysuit thing that we built for Tilda, who was also playing Madame Blanc in that scene. We had the make-up where she gets her head chopped off…or almost chopped off. So, again, it was about 75-25 practical – there was visual effects involvement. And when you read that stuff on the page and spoke to Luca about it, it was really hard to try and work out in your mind what Luca actually wanted, what was it going to look like, you know?

What was the detail like in the script, what were the descriptions like?

I think Luca just wanted it to be a descent into madness, which is at the core of the witches. This is all going to ramp up and the film builds slowly into this big crescendo at the end, with the Mother Suspirium character appearing in the movie and he wanted to give a sense of craziness and the evil that’s at the core of the movie, this sort of power of the witches and we were just trying to put that into visuals. It was quite hard to read it and understand what Luca wanted. When you see the movie, we’re like; “oh right OK – so this is what we were making! It was very interesting.”

I’m sure there’s surprises for you, even when you’ve worked on the film. When you see the finished product, you’re still surprised by it.

Yeah, more so than most films that I’ve ever worked on. There’s three movies I did last year, I did Stan & Ollie and Bohemian Rhapsody and I did Suspiria at the same time and I think the most surprising one out of all them is Suspiria. We make these sequences and we make the stuff, I remember Fernanda the hair and make-up designer, who did most of the ‘straight’ make-up looks said to me – she’d worked with Luca on a few movies – and she said “we just have to trust Luca, we have to trust our director.” It’s an interesting comment that she made – you’re making all this crazy stuff, how’s it going to look? She said; “We just have to trust Luca, he’s a visionary” he’s got this idea and when you see the movie, you understand. This crazy end sequence – the tension builds throughout the movie and then it all goes pretty wild at the end.

That’s the exact experience I had watching it, because I was skeptical going in, with it being a remake. But, as soon as it started, I thought, of course, it’s Luca, just trust in that vision and he absolutely has this precise vision and I think he totally followed it through with this piece.

Yeah, I felt the same way about it, actually. When you see the movie, we were busy out there making stuff, while he was busy filming all the stuff that didn’t have prosthetics in it, we didn’t see any of the dance stuff, the drama and the development of the witches’ characters. We weren’t privy to any of the filming of that, we were busy making stuff. So it’s always a surprise when you see the film at the end, I’d read the script and the story obviously and had all the conversations with Luca, so I had a pretty good idea of how it was going to develop, but it’s still quite surprising. And I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great. It’s a long movie, it’s slow, the tension builds, it’s really creepy and that end sequence. There’s a couple of sequences – the Olga dance sequence really grabbed me and I’ve seen it three times now and the audience is completely silent after that bit. Everyone is watching it thinking “my God, this is what the witches are all about – this is the evil at the core of the movie.” And you know then it builds quite slowly to that crescendo at the end, which really grabs you.


We ran out of time there (I had at least three more questions)! But I loved the movie and Luca created something truly unique with his team of master craftspeople, including Mark.

We’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to talk to us!

 

 

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Dispatches from LA Comic Con 2018

Written by Fiona Underhill

I went to some really interesting panels at LA Comic Con, covering a wide range of topics, all of which were supremely geeky, so therefore right up my street. I really noticed this year (after last attending the Con in 2016), that every single panel made reference to politics and the wider society which we live in. The zombie panel talked about their function throughout history and whether we still ‘need’ them today, the Superman panel was about how he is a symbol of hope, the Harry Potter panel was about using that universe as therapy, which is something I can very much relate to. Of course, the #MeToo movement was also referenced many times as well. So, it was a surprisingly emotional weekend!

Women in Horror Esther Goodstein, Kathleen Behun, Jessica Sonneborn, Jessica Cameron, Ivet Corvea
Jason Blum has recently come under fire for stating that; “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.” Of course the women of this panel were very much here to refute that.
– Sonneborn and Corvea were in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)
– Sonneborn has Holidays of Horror coming up – an anthology series, each based on a different American holiday eg. Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Hanukkah
– Behun has The Maple House coming up
– Goodstein produced The Black Room (2017, now available on Netflix)
– Cameron directed An Ending (2018) and Mania (2015)

 

I am no Man: The Women of Middle-Earth TheOneRing.net
The focus of this panel was to highlight the lesser-known women of Middle Earth, who could be a large part of the new LOTR TV show which will be coming to Amazon, which will reportedly focus on a young Aragorn, at least to begin with. The hope is that it could feature Gilraen, Aragorn’s mother who was a widow who went to great lengths to protect her son. It could also feature Arwen’s mother Celebrian, to whom Elrond had to prove his worth by becoming a ring-bearer and building Rivendell. Following in the tradition of formidable mothers, Bilbo was said to have got his sense of adventure from his mother, Belladonna Took.

Another prominent female character is Luthien, who not only subverts the ‘damsel-in-distress’ trope by being a self-rescuing ‘princess’, but she also rescues the man she loves. Lúthien forced Sauron to give ownership of the tower to her. She freed the prisoners, among them Beren. She also heals Beren and sings a song which subdues the Dark Lord Morgoth. Tolkein and his wife Edith have the words ‘Beren and Luthien’ on their joint grave, indicating that Tolkein believed his wife ‘rescued’ him. There is also Varda Elbereth who ‘kindled the stars’ (created the universe) and Yavanna The Valar – who is a ‘Mother Earth’ type figure.

 

Superman 80th Anniversary Panel Tony Kim, Jason Inman, Jace Milam and Alfred Day
This was the best panel of the weekend for me. Despite unfortunately being an all-male panel, there was a lot of emphasis on Lois and the fact that it’s her 80th Anniversary too. There was love for The New Adventures of Superman (known as Lois & Clark in the US) which is my favourite Superman property and Superman – The Animated Series, which is underrated. There was discussion of where DC has/is going wrong with Superman and where it could potentially go in the future, all of which I strongly agreed with. I even got a bit emotional when the panel was talking about what Superman should symbolise “truth, justice and the American way” and the fact that these values have lost their meaning in larger society, not just in popular culture. Superman is meant to be inspiring, is meant to be the best reflection of ourselves – he believes in us even when we don’t believe in him. Wonder Woman got it right by creating a hopeful, likeable character who still had humour and was still cool. Why can’t that happen with Supes?

 

Star Thieves – check out the trailer on insta @StarThieves
I can across this completely by accident, but I’m glad that I did. It’s a 20 minute short Sci-Fi film featuring a cast completely made up of people of colour. It is going to be turned into a feature length film – so keep an eye out for that.

 

Other panels which I attended:
Everything you wanted to know about zombies but were afraid to askClarke Wolfe etc
The Psychology of Harry Potter
The Original Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW)
Batman 80th Anniversary Panel Kyle Higgins and Chris Burnham
Wonder Women Filmmakers: Insight from Women in the World of Filmmaking – Jenn Page, Joanna Ke, Cheri Gaulke, Sonja Mereu, Emily McGregor, Allison Vanore, America Young
The Chimaera Project http://www.chimaeraproject.org

Why We Need Star Trek In A Star Wars World

Written by Gillian Finklea

Going to see the latest installment in the ‘Star Trek’ series has become a weird ritual for me, that I look forward to more with each passing movie. It’s a fictional universe I have no deep relationship with, having never watched the many television versions or any of the movies made before J.J. Abrams rekindled the franchise. Truth be told, my favorite ‘Star Trek’ movie is probably ‘Galaxy Quest’. And yet, I am actually giddy each time a new movie comes out, because this new ‘Star Trek’ series is wonderful and is only getting better. It is a compelling and fun exploration of what our relationship to space could be in the future, along with excellent characters and exciting action set-pieces. However, my happiness is dashed when I realise that very few will ever experience ‘Star Trek’ in this sense — because of a little juggernaut called ‘Star Wars’.

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Fans v Critics: Dawn Of Hypocrisy

Written by Chris Winterbottom

A great chasm has opened between critics and film fans. Upon the release of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, critics gave the film a monumental kicking whereas fans seemed to be a lot more forgiving. With the release of ‘Suicide Squad’, audiences and critics were split once again. The cracks have re-emerged and the debate about the use of critics and fan-boy (and fan-girl) reactions is back at the forefront. Why is this? Why are there such differences of opinion when it comes to films? In particular, those films in which there is already a huge built-in fan base. From the outset, I want to make it clear that I have not seen ‘Suicide Squad’, so this article is not to pass judgement on the film, but to raise questions about the (almost) extreme reactions of those who are connected with it.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them Teaser

Well, well, well…if it isn’t Mr. Redmayne. Eddie Redmayne is quickly becoming the next big thing, and as much as it pains me to say it, he might just be the perfect fit for entering the Wizarding World. As much as I love this film series, I’m glad this trailer isn’t showing too much, seeing as it is more of an original story, rather than translating a novel, but I don’t know what to expect. There’s random bits of Colin Farrell, and a reported cast list of lots of talented actors who aren’t as well known (including Dan Fogler, Ron Perlman and Ezra Miller). Frankly, I know I am going to see this movie, and probably enjoy it very much, but these trailers aren’t really getting me pumped to go see it, and I think it’s because Harry Potter has been out of the limelight long enough for the “magic” of the universe to be diminished. I hope this is a good film, because any wizard movie from JK Rowling is always welcome to me.

‘Fantastic Beasts’ is set to hit UK cinemas on 18th November 2016

Eddie Redmayne Set For Harry Potter Spin-Off

Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne is set to follow up his fantastic performance in ‘The Theory Of Everything’, by signing up to star in a spin-off from the ‘Harry Potter’ series, titled ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’. 

Author of the Harry Potter stories, J.K Rowling, will write the screenplay for the film, which she promises will be “at least” a trilogy. Redmayne is the favourite to play the role of Newt Scamander, in what could be a lucrative deal should he fulfill the role for the prospective series. Although nothing has been confirmed, and no official offer has been made, according to sources the role belongs to Redmayne barring any disaster.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes