There is a famous quote that says "Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real."
This is a powerful sentence and couldn't be more true when you're talking about one group of talented individuals in particular.
They are the artists behind the scenes. They are the magic makers. The people busy behind the camera changing imagination into reality. The Special Effects Makeup Artist has to be a master of visual illusions. The unsung heroes of the television and film industry who make movie magic happen. The Special Effects Makeup Artist is responsible for the task of creating the impossible, sometimes the unthinkable! They have to bring a sense of realism in everything they create. If it's not believable then they will lose their audience completely.
It is a most delicate process.
But sometimes, if you can get past the realistic on screen illusions they create, you often get to wondering, "How in the world did they do that?" When your eyes open to that possibility, that's where the delicious fun begins.
A WORLD OF MAKE UP, MONSTERS AND MAGIC
It took us only one episode of a television series to become completely drawn in by legendary Bristol-based Special Effects Make up Designer Marcus Whitney and his work. Marcus has been working in make-up and FX for over 20 years and is one of the most established make up effects artists in the UK.
It was his handiwork that was responsible for all the glitz, glamour and gore on the hit BBC Television series Being Human, as well as numerous projects in both television and film in the United Kingdom.
Fans of BBC TV have probably seen Marcus Whitney’s work, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. The longtime makeup and prosthetic designer got his start on the longest running British medical drama series Casualty back in 1997.
His impressive resume includes over fourteen BBC television series to date, such as Stella starring the brilliant actress Ruth Jones, to the hilarious Trollied and Sirens series. His work has been featured in films such as the 2002 thriller horror film Long Time Dead and the 2016 British action comedy film Golden Years to name a few.
More currently, Marcus Whitney's artistry can be seen on the BBC comedy series The League of Gentlemen.
On the hugely popular supernatural BBC series Being Human, Marcus and his team went to great lengths to achieve the most realistic look they could for the werewolf transformations, which were mostly done with make-up, prosthetics and animatronics. The train carnage massacre was also quite the devilish disaster! A visual brew of blood, bodies and guts! Not for the faint of heart, but artistically, mind blowing!
Zombies, vampires, you name it. Bringing them to life is just all part of his job. And a very cool job in our opinion.
It isn't just Mr. Whitney's knowledge and experience; but that he has a true passion for what he creates that is really inspiring. And if one thing is for certain, this titan of makeup/special effects art and design certainly knows his craft.
With a lot of foam latex and even more imagination, Marcus creatively gives life to a variety of characters and gory situations that are conceived by the directors and screen writers. It's often like 'Artistic Surgery' as Marcus often has his hands covered in faux blood and guts to create the super detailed effects of scars, prosthetic burns, and open heart surgeries, as well as just making the actors look like they've been through hell and back.
And that's just the normal scenarios. What about the really gruesome supernatural stuff?
Marcus is certainly no stranger to creating his personal brand of fresh concepts or awesome characters that captivate the viewer with his increasingly frightening, bizarre or horrific effects.
Cool Magazine recently had the chance to pick the brain of the man who is usually the one picking brains, blood and gore for his next victim!
We talked with the talented Marcus Whitney on his frightfully fantastic career, his favorite horror film, and what's to come for this Master of Make Up...
How did you first become involved in the area of special effects make-up?
"I started in the television and make up industry when I was 19 years old on a uk television show called casualty, set in the emergency department of a hospital.. I always found it fascinating creating all of the gory injuries that the script department came up with. It could be anything from a splinter under a nail to open heart surgery. Casualty is really where my fascination with making the unreal become real started."
One notable job of yours was designing the George Sands werewolf transformation for Being Human – How was the idea for the series pitched to you?
"Being human was first pitched to me by my agent. I thought the idea of a vampire a ghost and a werewolf living together sounded mad and it didn’t really interest me. My agent sent through the scripts that the hugely talented Toby Whithouse had written, and I could not stop reading it. I thought I HAVE to do that job."
What are your thoughts on 'traditional' special effects makeup being replaced by CGI in film and television? Do you find it as a step ahead into the future, or does it take the 'art of illusion' back a step or two?
"I have always been slightly worried about CGI effecting the make up industry.. but over the tears I have found out that it actually helps. I had an exploding hedgehog in my last job and it said in the script that they wanted to see embedded spines in the actors eyes,, we could of made a full head prosthetic, but I suggested CGI would be a much cheaper and effective option. The end result was amazing."
You have produced such a diverse multitude of character types with your work, from elderly make-up to creatures galore! Of all the characters you’ve created who’s your favorite?
"I have had lots of favourite make ups over the years, Being Human pushed me to my limits, but one of my all time favourites was on one on my most recent jobs called League Of Gentlemen for the BBC. Turning the actor Mark Gatiss into a 70 year old man. We only had one hour to make him up in to the character. It involved fake teeth, bald caps and prosthetics, and the longest nasal hair I have ever seen ,But was very pleased with the end result."
You have done some of the most exceptional and quite fantastic monster creations for the present-day horror genre, so we must ask - What is your favorite horror movie of all time?
"My favourite all time horror film has to be Jaws. It scared the life out of me as a child and I was fascinated by all of the fake blood and gore and how they could of filmed it.. also love a psychological thriller, some thing that makes the mind work.. sometimes it’s better if you are scared of something that you don’t see."
Being Human is an absolute favorite of ours. A true classic that will never get old. What can you tell us about your experience on the set with such a brilliant cast and crew? Do you still stay in touch? Any fun or interesting stories you can share?
"Being Human was a huge part of my life. It really was one of the most fun jobs ever. The scripts were amazing. I couldn’t wait for the next scripts to come out to see what was about to happen next. The cast were adorable. Every other day my hands were stained red with fake blood. I remember sitting and chatting with Toby Whithouse at the end of series two and asking him what was going to happen in the next series. When he said the words Zombie I got very excited. The Bristol crew were amazing on that show.. everyone of them wanted the show to be huge. I still get make up question from fans of the show on Twitter. Millennium FX who created a lot of the Anamatronics /prosthetics for the show were amazing... the big transformation days were very hard to shoot. We would start MUP and prosthetics at 4am in the morning, and I probably wouldn’t get home till 8 at night... I have never used so much fake blood in a show before."
Outside of your own work, can you name any special makeup effects sequences or creations - of any time era - that you wish would've come from you?
"If there is one job I would like to have been involved with it would be The Walking Dead. I love the way the zombie make ups have progressed over the years the decomposition of the bodies created by Greg Nicotero's prosthetic studios have been amazing."
How long have you lived in Bristol? Does the city's colorful and artistic influence contribute at all to the inspiration for your work?
"Bristol in the UK has been my home for the past 22 years. I love the place. It’s full of a lot of creative people.. so many different shows ate made here. In the past few years we have had the Bottle Yard Studios open up where many television shows are made including Poldark. We have Ardman animation where we have the likes of Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run are filmed. Bristol is also the home of the BBC natural history unit... planet earth etc. It was the home of BBC Casualty for 26 years where I first started my career."
Photo via Twitter @marcuswhitney1
What's your definition of "cool"?
"Cool is a fab word. I think the definition of cool is about someone that does not know that they have it."
What's next for you? Any projects or ideas in the works?
"My career has spanned many different TV shows over the years. I have found I have been doing less drama action and prosthetics and have moved more in to the comedy world, for the past two years I have worked on a comedy called Benidorm for ITV. League of Gentlemen was my last. I love working abroad in the sun, and very excited about my next job called Death In Paradise for the BBC. I will be filming in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe for 6 months. I can not wait to feel some heat from the sun again."
And so, it is confirmed. Marcus Whitney certainly has the magic touch.
This is a guy who works hard and it shows. He has created numerous characters and creatures just from his very own talented hands. A true artist that really does make us believe what we are seeing. With just the flick of his wrist and the dance of his fingertips, he can turn a sweet, innocent face into a snarling beast and a quite nice looking chap into one of the most sexiest vampires ever seen!
He makes entertainment real for us - and for that we thank him.
But, in addition to his many talents, we can truly say that Marcus is really a very lovely guy with a super sense of humor and a pure heart of gold. He is certainly quite an interesting fellow to have had a chat with if we do say so ourselves. All that was missing was a few Bloody Marys, of course!
Oh well, there's always next time!
-J & M Shepherd (2018)