We continue our on-set interview with Nick Dudman, made when there were only six months left of the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
What creature or ‘person’ would you like to take home; which are you most proud of? And what’s the one you’d like to go back and re-do?
Oh, that’s a good one. If I were forced to choose one thing to take I would probably take Buckbeak, the hippogriff. If I could wheel it out, put it in a truck and take it home, that’s probably the one.
Because although I love Aragog, the giant spider, I just don’t know where I’d put it.
If I were to do something again? God… Everything! Nothing is ever perfect. But probably early stuff.
We got to do the goblins again, and I’m really pleased about that because at the time, on the first picture, everybody said, ‘Oh, wow, these goblins, the make-ups are fantastic. It looks really good.’ And at the time I was pleased. What we’ve done on this picture is 10 times greater; the work is just so much better because we’ve refined the processes and we’ve found more people who can do that kind of work.
We’ve kind of set a standard for ourselves that’s much higher than we had before. So I feel that I have redone the thing that I have wanted to redo. I mean, I am the make-up artist, so the animatronic stuff and all of that I find fascinating, but it’s not the thing that fire me in the same way as sticking stuff on a human being and seeing it perform.
So when you do the make-up and you get a chance to redo a make-up on a character and just get it so much better than before, than that’s the best thing.
On the set we saw Dan’s face all bruised from his battle with Voldemort. How about his make-up on this? What can you say about it at this time?
Dan, I have been very pleased with. He’s been great. Disfiguring make-ups are always difficult because if you’re doing a fantasy character, there are no. It’s just a case of does everybody like it? With something like that you’re saying to yourself, ‘OK, the audience has to believe that the other characters will not recognize that it’s Potter, however you mustn’t cover up the face and hide him completely because the audience knows it’s him and they want to see him and don’t want him masked.’ Finding a level is always tricky.
The good thing about these pictures is you do have the time to test and ask, ‘Well, what do you think? Is that too disguising or is it not disguising enough? How does it move?’ The other thing we try to do with all the make-up – whether they’re subtle or whether they’re big – is to make it so that they don’t filter the performance. And, after all, you’re asking a lot of Dan to be completely disguised, to be covered in silicon and still perform believably and have the make-up move believably.
He’s been great. You’re asking somebody to sit there for two, three hours minimum, and let you do something that’s actually very, very subtle in places. If actors don’t cooperate you’re not going to win.
How long was Dan actually in that make-up?
Well, there were three stages and I should think overall it was about 15 or 16 days. That is quite a lot. Part of it is [seen] in the first movie and part of it, the latter stages, are in the beginning of the second movie. So it crosses over.
Another interesting make-up challenge in this movie is that you have one actor, Warwick Davis, playing two characters, Griphook and Flitwick. How tricky is it to create two different characters?
Well, that’s fun. At the very beginning, when we talked about the thing, they got very concerned about Griphook. I had suggested Warwick because he’s so easy to work with and he’s such a good performer. But they went, ‘Oh, but he’s playing Flitwick. You’ll know.’
I said, ‘No, we can make it so they are different.’ Warwick actually performs it so completely differently that I don’t think it’s an issue, but in the sculpt they’re such different things. It would be far harder if you were trying to do it with two subtle make-ups, but when you’re doing a pointy-eared goblin with a great, long nose and Flitwick, which is a completely different-looking character, you’re actually creating a character to make damn sure it doesn’t look like the other guy. So, to me, it’s not a problem.
What I love about working with Warwick is that he’s used to prosthetics. He’s worn them so much over the years that he knows how to make something work, and he’ll tell you if there’s a problem. Griphook, we re-sculpted three times because [director] David Yates wanted a tiny little change in this little line here, have that be a little bit deeper. And with Warwick, he could say, ‘If this was just a tiny bit softer here… ‘ or ‘If that was slightly higher…’ You could just work it and do it. That’s another of the benefits of being on a long-term picture. You can look at that and go, ‘Yes, we can do this.’ Or if an edge is slightly too think and it’s not coming out of the mold just the way you want it, re-pour the mold. On a normal movie you wouldn’t be doing that. You’ve got your mold and that’d be that, and now you’re shooting your movie. So we we’ve been very fortunate that way.
At the end of the day, what would you like to think your contribution and that of your team has been to this whole Harry Potter film franchise?
Aah… we were an island of sanity. What have we contributed? I don’t know… I mean, the project is so huge that although we’ve had a crew of 150 on occasion we’re still a very small cog in the machine. I think we’ve provided a lot of really good-looking characters and that, after all, is our job. So I’m happy with that. And we’ve done it on time and on budget and without drama, which is what I actually take pride in.
Is this a classic situation where you don’t want people to notice your work to a certain degree? In other words, it should be there and believable and people shouldn’t think twice, as opposed to people noticing something that doesn’t look right, that distracts them from the story, acting, etc.
Oh, absolutely. There are two types of make-up that we tend to do. There are the obvious make-ups, where you’re creating fancy characters like goblins or whatever. You’re not expecting people to think, ‘Where the hell did they find those weird-looking people?’ It’d be nice, but you know that’s not going to happen. But then there are make-ups where you just don’t want to draw attention, like the Harry Melling make-up in Part One. It’s actually a bloody difficult make-up to do, but you don’t want anyone to make a song and dance about it because that’s not what the scene is about.
Likewise, Dan’s hex make-up. You want people to go, ‘Oooh!’ when the spell first hits him. And that’s the gag. The fact that it then has to wear off through several scenes mustn’t be a distracting thing. So, although it’s actually a difficult thing to do, you don’t want to crow about it.
My feeling is that when you first put a make-up on film as a test, if the immediate reaction from the director and producer and from the crew is, ‘Oh, wow, that’s great,’ then you know you’re fine. You’ll make changes. You’ll fuss about little details and things, but the concept has worked. And so far, on this one, they’ve loved everything we’ve done. There’s still six months to go, of course, but…
The movies will live on, but what happens to all of these creations – the masks and monsters and make-ups and so on? Would you like to see them in a museum?
I’d love them to go to a museum. I’d love them to be preserved in some way. What that is, God knows? They haven’t told me. But I would love to see them all preserved, just because a lot of very careful work was put into them.
What will be your last job on the movies?
The last job will be the aging make-ups on the kids for the epilogue, which will be weird, because it’s when the story finishes too. When they ‘Cut’ at the end of that scene, we’re unemployed.