Todd Tucker,40,creative director of the US-based Illusion Industries,has been the man responsible for the make-up in Hollywood films like Mrs Doubtfire (1993),The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Master and Commander (2003). His repertoire also includes the make-up for the Oscar-wining The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In his first Bollywood venture,Vishal Bhardwajs 7 Khoon Maaf,Tucker tried his hand at making actor Priyanka Chopra seamlessly fit into seven different looks from a woman in her mid-thirties to a 70-year-old. In an interview with Debesh Banerjee he talks of the challenges of working in a new environment and creating looks for actors he had never met.
What was your brief?
We had to make Priyanka Chopra age from 30 to 70 years through the film. We did seven major looks to have her appear progressively older. We also did two other characters the narrator Arun,played by Vivan Shaah,and Gunga,played by Shashi Malviya who is one of the dwarf helpers of Priyanka in the film.
How did you approach this project?
We took a look at the script to see how many looks were mentioned. Then we did a head cast of the actors,so we had a copy of their head in plaster. We sculpted the different looks from clay onto Priyankas head cast and made moulds of those. After this we created old age appliances which were exact fits on the sculptures. And then,as we completed the sculptures,we sent pictures to the production house for approval. After approval,we sent some guys over to the set for applying the pieces on the actors.
Which look did you find the hardest to create?
Undoubtedly Priyankas. We had the production team send us pictures of Priyankas family,like her mother,her aunt,to see how they have aged. Her aunt seemed to have the most facial reference as far as where we felt that Priyanka would go at that age. It is a guessing game. The look for the 70-year old Priyanka was the hardest since we had to make sure it did not look unnatural. But we have done enough research on what happens to peoples skin when they age,as a result of all the old age movies we have done. For The Curious ¿ it was similar,since we had pictures of Brad Pitts father and grandfather and it gave us an idea where Brad would go at that age. It just gave us a reference point to see how they looked at that age.
On an average,how many people are involved in such a project?
Every projects strength depends on how big the build is. The build on this one wasnt huge since we did the ageing only on a few characters. We had about 15 people like sculptors,mould guys and technicians. It took four months to build the casts and then three make-up guys flew to India,on the sets,for another four months. But there was a lot more make-up happening on The Curious Case because there were more actors going through the stages. We also had mechanical baby puppets for Brad Pitts character,Benjamin Button. It was a bigger build,but as far as the design approach goes,it was the same.
Was managing the project any different from what you are used to in Hollywood?
In Bollywood,simply putting some grey colour in the hair and drawing some wrinkles are sufficient to reflect the ageing of a character. In Hollywood,there is more concern over photo-realism as opposed to the sentimental approach in India. The other problem we faced was in shipping the equipments. To send over the materials,we had to produce things much earlier than we would have otherwise.
How does that influence the result?
For this film we had to pull back on our make-up. according to our original plan,there was much more ageing material to age Priyanka with. But when our team tested it on her,we felt it made her look a little too old,a little unrecognisable. So we chose to project Priyankas natural beauty as a substitute to applying too much make-up.
Do make-up plans depend on the genre of films?
The hardest make-ups are really the ageing or character make-ups. Monster films are easier to do since they deal with fantasy characters and there is nothing reference-wise to know if it is realistic or not. But when you are doing old age make-up,instinctively people can tell whether something looks off. In such cases,you have to stay subtle. The make-ups we used were very thin so that it didnt make Priyanka look fat and kept her natural look intact. Too much make-up changes the look,and you cannot tell who it really is.
Does this project compare with any previous project of yours?
It is closest to The Curious Case because of the emphasis on the different stages of ageing. When we did Mrs Doubtfire,there was one look other than Robbin Williams natural look.