Michael Westmore Interview Part 2
Michael Westmore, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning makeup maestro talks about his work on TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise -- including one particular alien he’d just as soon forget, in part two of our exclusive interview. We also pick his brain a little bit about his connections to the J.J. Abrams reboot feature and get the scoop on his latest projects, among them a memoir (or two).
Let’s look back at TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. Give us a thought or two on each, maybe a makeup that stands out because it was a challenge or a source of pride or even a total bust…
Westmore: For TNG, the character Lal (Leonard Crofoot and Hallie Todd) is absolutely my all-time favorite of every show. I thought it was wonderful. On DS9, I think the development of the Cardassians was very interesting. Voyager, I think going into Borg and developing them further from what we saw in First Contact was a challenge and a lot of fun, and we got great results. And there were two things I loved doing on Enterprise. We got to re-develop the Orion characters from TOS. And I thought the Xindi, those lizard-like running characters we had, were fascinating. The heads, with the porcupine quills coming out of them, were gorgeous. I can’t say anything was my favorite-favorite because everything was a challenge and just seeing everything put together every time, it was like doing a painting and seeing it brought to life.
And there is only one character that I can think, over the whole 18 years, that… I can’t even watch the show to this day. It was the episode (“The Most Toys”) in which a man was going around the universe stealing things, and he stole Data (Brent Spiner). To start off with, we had a little person (David Rappaport) in as our alien, and we had him all made up, and he attempted to commit suicide in the middle of filming. They had to recast the role (with Saul Rubinek) and we had no time to turn this other person into an alien. So we just put a tattoo on the side of his face. But the woman in it (Jane Daly as Varria), I had flattened out her face and made antennae that came out of her forehead, that wove into a really alien hairdo. She went up for an approval. She really hated the hairdo and she didn’t like wearing the makeup, so she talked Gene (Roddenberry) into letting them change the hair to what she wanted and take the antennae off. So what I had left was a woman with a flat face and an Annette Funicello hairdo. They literally put a line in the episode that this guy had operated on her and destroyed her looks. I mean, they had to cover their butt because she looked like an automobile accident (victim) instead of an alien. To this day I can’t watch that show.
You semi-retired after Enterprise ended. What have you been up to since?
Westmore: I went and I did a musical. The woman (Anna Hamilton Phelan) who wrote the movie Mask, which was a movie that I worked on (and for which Westmore won his Oscar), re-wrote it into a musical, and they did it at the Pasadena Playhouse (in 2007) with hopes to take it to New York. That hasn’t happened, but the music (by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill) in it is just absolutely fantastic. They had standing ovations every night. So I’m really shocked that somebody somewhere hasn’t financed (a Broadway run), though I know how many millions of dollars it takes to do something like that. Another friend of mine, Kamal Hassan, is an Indian actor I’ve worked with for decades. He’s one of the most outstanding actors in India and he’s the only one that really likes to do appliance work. Everyone else wants to be beautiful. So I did one of the largest makeup movies (Dasavatharam, released in 2008) ever done in India, where he played 10 different characters, and for every one of the characters, he had a rubber nose or a full face. He played an Asian, a European, different races in India, all the way from very light skin to very dark skin. So I spent, oh boy, 18 months to two years putting that together and then it shot for another year after that.
I’ve also been trying to get into the other end of the business. I’m involved in producing a reality show. A friend of mine who I’ve known for years worked for the CIA, and it’s his life story, basically. We’ll be putting it into episodes. He’s led a fascinating life and he and I reconnected after many years and put some scripts together. We’re trying to do a pilot now and put together a package. So I’m starting to dabble outside of makeup. I’ve also been writing for a couple of years now. I never realized the body of my work until I started to try to put it down on paper, to write a book. I’ve got about two inches worth of material and there’s nothing yet on Star Trek. It’s all basically about my career from 1961 until the late 80’s, just as I got involved in Star Trek. I spent a lot of time with Stallone (Westmore created the makeup for the Stallone films Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Paradise Alley, F.I.S.T., Victory, First Blood and Rocky V) and De Niro (Westmore worked with De Niro on Raging Bull and True Confessions). These are behind-the-scenes stories that I’m putting together. And after I finish this I want to do one just on Star Trek.
A lot of people who worked for and with you over the years have moved on to other projects. Have you kept in touch? Did any of them work on the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie?
Westmore: I’m still very good friends with these makeup artists. On the movie that J.J. Abrams did, they would call me. There was supposedly an edict out that they didn’t want anyone there who’d worked on Star Trek before, but I counted it up one time and almost 40 percent of the people that they hired on that show had worked for me. Hence, it’s part of the reason why the tattooing and things like that were wonderful, because old Star Trek people were in there helping.
And let’s end at the beginning. A couple of your earliest credits were the television shows The Munsters and Land of the Lost. What was it like to see Land of the Lost remade as a movie? And have you heard that a Trek alum, Bryan Fuller, is producing a Munsters remake for NBC?
Westmore: The Munsters was one of my first jobs. Bryan is doing (a remake)? Oh my gosh. Actually, I still wind up talking to Butch Patrick, who played Eddie, once or twice a year. Or when he’s in town he’ll call and say, “Hey, can I come over and talk?” I did his makeup when he was a little boy. I put the ears on him and did his widow’s peak and made him up every morning. There are remakes of everything. I loved what they did with my designs in the Land of the Lost movie. They took them and improved on them, but actually still kept to the original concept.