Friday, October 19, 2012

X-Men Costume Exhibit at Bell Lightbox

The current exhibit in the Canadian Film Gallery/Film Reference Library on the 4th floor of the Bell Lightbox is called X-Men Master Gordon Smith - Makeup Artist Extraordinaire and Special Effects Wizard.  It features costumes, makeup and special effects used in the X-Men movies, designed by Ontario native Gordon Smith.  The characters Mystique, Wolverine, Toad, Sabertooth, Nightcrawler, Lady Deathstrike and Senator Kelly are represented.  Artifacts of costume and makeup are presented and an accompanying video illustrates how each actor is transformed into his/her mutant character, along with a short scene from the X-Men movies to show the final results.

Smith revolutionized the special effects industry by developing the use of silicone in prosthetic design instead of the previously used latex.  Silicone is a safe, reusable substance that can look and feel like skin, and can be coloured to match any skin tone (human or mutant).

Mystique's look was created by covering the naturally shapely actress Rebecca Romijn with individually painted blue scales that were glued onto her nude body.  Any uncovered part was then painted a matching blue. She wore a prosthetic headpiece which had the fiery red hair attached to it and placed yellow contacts in her eyes. Samples of the scales and the headpiece were on display, as well as a life-sized model of Mystique.  The process of applying all this material onto Romijn originally took 12 hours to complete but eventually the makeup artists got it down to 4 hours.

Wolverine's aluminum claws and a silicone mould of his head and shoulders were showcased.  Our tour guide explained how the claws were so sharp that Hugh Jackman accidentally scratched himself even through a body suit.  For safety, Smith created a plastic set of claws for fight scenes.  Director Bryan Singer didn't want to use the plastic ones for fear they would seem fake, but when asked to pick out the aluminum from the plastic, he could not tell the difference.

Toad's 6 foot long prosthetic tongue as well as his goggles were featured.  The tongue is attached to a mouthpiece that was made from a mould of the actor's teeth.  CGI is used to extend the length of the tongue to 12 feet.  Food colouring was used to achieve the "toad-like" tone of his skin. 

Sabretooth is played by a 6 foot 10 Canadian former professional wrestler who wore 4 foot lifts in order to tower over his opponents.  His lion-like mane, eyebrows and facial hair are all applied to silicone prosthetic pieces for easy application.  Before this technology, individual hairs would have to be attached one by one to an actor's face.  A video of this painstaking process was shown.

Nightcrawler has blue 2-digit feet, 3-digit hands and religiously symbolic tattoos all over his face and body. The tattoos, which are meant to represent his past sins, are traced on and then built up with paint.  The actor wears a harness with a long pointy tail attached to it.  All these items were on display in the exhibition.

Lady Deathstrike is played by actress Kelly Hui who was once Miss Hawaii.  She has long claws like Wolverine, but hers are attached to her fingernails and are thinner and more delicate but apparently no less deadly.

Senator Kelly was kidnapped by Mystique and turned into a mutant who can contract and expand.  With his new powers, he escapes his jail cell by squeezing his head through the bars.  To simulate how this would look like, Gordon Smith used a prosthetic head that he happened to have on hand.  It was one of Nicolas Cage probably from the movie Faceoff.  He squeezes this mask through some bars to get an idea of what a squished up face would look like.  A prosthetic head was then made for Senator Kelly and is on display.  It looks exactly like the actor who plays him.

At the start of the exhibit, there are some beautiful charcoal drawings of each of the characters, as well as a history of the X-Men comics and of Gordon Smith's career.  The exhibit runs until March 2013, is free and guided tours are given on Thursdays at 5 and 6pm.

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