Ken Diaz – Immortals

November 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

As a Hollywood makeup artist, Ken Diaz has helped create some very memorable movie characters in the last 30 years, including Pizza the Hut in “Spaceballs” and Uncle Fester in “The Addam’s Family.”

In 1989, Diaz was nominated for an Academy Award for his makeup work on the film “Dad” starring Jack Lemmon. He earned a second Oscar nomination in 1995 for “My Family” (“Mi Familia”). Other movies credited to his name include “Casino,” “Heat,” “Training Day” and “The Expendables.”

In “Immortals,” Diaz was assigned to develop the look for Mickey Rourke’s character King Hyperion and for all the Titan characters. “Immortals” tells the story of Theseus (Henry Cavill), a mortal man chosen by Zeus to lead a war against King Hyperion, who has his sights set on destroying humanity.

During an exclusive interview with me, Diaz talked about how the makeup industry has changed over the last three decades and what kind of work he did on Rourke in the makeup chair to make King Hyperion come to life.

You’ve been in your line of work for 30 years. Have the type of makeup artists that join this field changed over that time?

Yeah, at first when I was in makeup school, I saw a lot of young girls who were into beauty makeup. I was kind of intimidated by these girls. It was kind of like they were playing Barbies. Within a year, they were nowhere around and I was still striving and trying to do my best work.

Are you always looking to challenge yourself and do something you’ve never done before?

Yeah, in the course of my career I’ve gone through stages. Initially, in the late 70s and early 80s, it was a lot of blood and guts kind of stuff. Then, I went into more character-orientated makeup and age-transformations. Then I went through a tattoo phase. I did a lot of tattoos for about 10 years. It was actually the only kind of work I was getting for a while.

I would have never guessed creating tattoos for the movies was such a specialized skill.

Well, “Zoot Suit” was the first movie I was asked to do tattoos for film. I also did “American Me” and “Blood in Blood Out” back in the early 90s. I recruited some ex-cons that were tattoo artists in prison so I could bring that authenticity to the design. I was around real tattoo artists all the time and utilized their expertise.

What was it like having Mickey Rourke in your makeup chair for “Immortals?”

I’ve known Mickey since 1979’s “Heaven’s Gate.” I always try to help him out with some of his acting stuff. He’s a method actor so I will treat him like a boxer sometimes. I would sit him down, slap him on the cheek and tell him, “Go get em’, champ” just to get him hyped up. We worked really well together. It went beyond makeup. I was sometimes an acting coach – somebody he could rely on and trust on the set. He likes to rely on makeup, hair and wardrobe a lot to help develop or discover the character.

How did you help him find his character in “Immortals” through the makeup process?

Well, we met early on with the director (Tarsem Singh) and he talked about how he thought Mickey’s character should have some facial scars that were created from a ritualistic scarring using a crab claw to cut the flesh. In the meantime, Mickey asked me to put together an assortment of hairstyles and facial hair looks. Once he walked in front of the camera in full makeup, hair and wardrobe, everybody was pleased with the look of King Hyperion.

You’ve seen some of the movies you’ve worked on in your career remade in recent years like “Fright Night” and “The Thing.” What’s your take on remaking movies that relied so heavily on makeup getting more of a CGI makeover the second time around?

Yeah, they also did “My Bloody Valentine” a few years ago, too. On “Fright Night,” I think it’s a great film and I’m really proud of the work we did on that. I don’t think the CGI stuff in “The Thing” can surpass anything we did with the original. The effects we did in front of the camera for that movie were just the best.

Iron Man 2

May 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”)

If personality makes up the majority of a superhero’s likability, Iron Man should be considered the Marvel comic book character you’d love to hate.

That’s not to say two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. has lost all the charisma that made the 2008 original blockbuster film so downright entertaining and original. Even when Downey Jr. isn’t donning the maroon and gold mechanical suit that transforms him into a weapon of mass destruction, he has another captivating persona he can fall back on.

Meet Tony Stark. While you might know him from the first “Iron Man,” the sequel, aptly called “Iron Man 2,” allows us to meet the man inside the machine on a more personal level. In the film, Tony seems to be running on fumes. As Iron Man, he can still hold his own against anyone that comes his way, but as a mortal, the genius billionaire industrialist has a serious problem.

The power source embedded in his chest, which is keeping him alive, is also slowly poisoning him. Along with his health issues, Tony is butting heads with the U.S. Senate, who wants him to turn over his Iron Man machinery. The Senate says his invention is a threat to national security especially if a country decides to copy the technology and use it against the U.S.

Tony refuses to relinquish his work stating that it would take years for someone to duplicate what he has done. He is oblivious to the fact that Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has already engineered his own version of the suit and fastened it to himself to transform into the electromagnetic super villain known as Whiplash. When he teams up with Tony’s major weapons competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the two set out to develop an army of drones that would take the arms race by storm.

Replacing Terrance Howard from the original, Don Cheadle plays Lt. Col. James Rhodes, who later attempts to put a stop to Tony’s destructive ways caused by his alcohol problem. Although he manages to spiral downward fairly quickly, love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) doesn’t give up on him that easy. Neither does S.H.I.E.L.D. front man Nick Fury (Samuel L.  Jackson) who makes sure Tony’s talents aren’t wasted. His stubbornness to join the secret agency known as the Avengers will be short-lived since all these Marvel movies are linking together for one giant superhero reunion in the next few years.

No matter what is being planned for the future, “Iron Man 2” is able to stand on its own. It works well with enough action sequences, fight scenes and some interesting characters, none of which match the humor and charm of Downey Jr. who again makes the movie his own personal and egotistical show.

The Wrestler

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (“The Fountain”)
Written by: Robert D. Siegel (“The Onion Movie”)

It’s not a sports movie in the classic sense, but director Darren Aronofsky’s gracefully expressive film is a perfect example of a heart-wrenching character study worthy of unlimited reverence. At a crossroad in his professional career, wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke in an brilliant performance) must do some soul searching and decide what the priorities are in his life before he loses everything.

The Ram is in the twilight of his wrestling career and can barely afford to pay his rent with the money he earns fighting on the weekends at small arenas. Once a star in his sport, the Ram knows those days are over but can’t seem to let go of the only thing he is passionate about and the only thing he knows how to do. It’s almost like he has something to prove to himself and the fans who have been following him over the years.

Even when he has a career-ending heart attack, there is a small voice inside telling him that he can still compete. He’d rather die doing what he loves than feeling trapped at a second-rate job at the deli counter of a local grocery store where he has to answer to a disrespectful boss.

The Ram is a lonely soul and it shows through his battered face and restless eyes. Estranged from his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), the only real human relationship he has is with Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a middle-aged stripper who he visits from time to time at the club. When he does attempt to reconnect with Stephanie, there is an underlying anxiousness Rourke brings out of his character. The Ram realizes if he is given one more chance to show her he is ready to be the father she’s never known, that’s all he’s going to get. You fear for him and the mistakes you know he is capable of making. You fear for him becoming one of those washed up wrestlers who only lives through the glory days.

“The Wrestler” is the best film of Darren Aronofsky career. After directing daring films like “Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream,” and “The Fountain,” Aronofsky takes a very minimalist approach to this film and makes it feel like a documentary about an emotionally- damaged man. For a film that deals with a sport where staging is such an important element, “The Wrestler” couldn’t be more authentic. Rourke, of course, is the major reason the realism comes through the screen. Basically, he’s in every frame of the film. It is evident, however, how much Aronofsky makes these scenes vibrant, inspiring, and extremely sincere by capturing Rourke in his most fragile state from every angle. It’s the best film of 2008.