Brian Penikas interview
For more than 20 years, Brian Penikas has made a career of bringing interesting characters
to the screen with the use of Special Make-up Effects.
His career began as an assistant and designer to many of Hollywood’s top make-up artists. He worked on the likes of Jeepers Creepers
and Jeepers Creepers 2, Stigmata and Hellborn to name just a few. The Pit was lucky enough to catch up with him...
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE BUSINESS? AND COULD YOU GIVE US SOME HISTORY?
A culmination of all childhood interests (drawing, painting, crafts, modelmaking, costume making, comic books, etc.) led me in the direction of a career in film.
After graduating High School, I went to work for a photolab. I refused to go to art school, thinking that I was soooooooo talented that I didn't need it (and couldn't afford it). You know how it is, the "know-it-all" teen syndrome. I did not want to go to an academy and lose my identity by becoming a generically "stamped out" art school graduate. (Had I only known...)
So I put together several photo portfolios (at the expense of the lab) and sent them to the makeup artists that I knew of at the time. My choices were few and limited. Mind you, there was not a great interest in special makeup effects yet. Star Wars had only been out a few years and home video was just a concept.
Anyway, people started to call. A couple of calls were to tell me that certain artists were "No longer with us," but I did get some real offers for work. My first gig was making a few background masks for a cantina scene in an MGM film, “Ice Pirates”. Rick Baker referred me to Greg Cannom for an illustration gig, and Michael Westmore called me in to do some prototype sculptures for Mask (the Rocky Dennis Story). That film won the Oscar for best makeup that year. Kind of exciting for the second makeup gig of my career.
And that's pretty much the beginning...
WHAT LED TO SIN-JIN SMYTH?
Actually, we had been doing some designs for another project Ethan was developing about a year prior to Sin-Jin Smith project. I guess Ethan was impressed enough to bring us aboard this one!
EVERYTHING ABOUT SIN-JIN SMYTH SEEMS HIGHLY-CLASSIFIED… WHAT CAN YOU TELL US?
All I can tell you is that “EVERYTHING ABOUT SIN-JIN SMYTH IS HIGHLY-CLASSIFIED”, except for the Keith Richard’s cameo. No wait, that’s Pirates 2. Jeeze, I’m getting my gigs crossed...
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT DOING AN ‘ORIGINAL’ SCRIPT VERSUS ANOTHER RE-MAKE?
I’m always thrilled when Hollywood does something original. Praise be to the free thinkers and down with the bean counters!
ETHAN SEEMS TO HAVE A CLEAR CUT IDEA OF WHAT SCARES PEOPLE… HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING WITH HIM?
Working with Ethan is great. We come from a similar fan-base, so it’s pretty easy to convey ideas when we are discussing things. The collaborative effort on the final designs for the Sin-Jin Smyth character is a perfect example of how well we work together.
WE KNOW THEY REFER TO ETHAN AS ‘STAFF SGT. BARNES' (TOM BERENGER’S ROLE IN PLATOON) WHAT IS HE LIKE TO WORK WITH AND COULD YOU EXPLAIN THE CREATIVE COLABORATION?
We are pretty well matched, size-wise, but I think I could take him if one or two of the other recruits had my back.
COULD YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR PREP WORK FOR SIN-JIN SMYTH?
· We met with the actor, took photos and measurements, and did his lifecast.
· We then drew and painted up some Sin-Jin Smyth make-up concepts as well as a test sculpture to show Ethan and the actor and get feedback.
· Once a design was approved, we proceeded to complete a working prosthetic sculpture, made molds, ran foam, made hairpieces, and did make-up tests on a photo double of the actor.
· Once all of that was finished, we were ready to film the actual scenes for the film.
ETHAN SAYS HE’D ONLY DO A SEQUEL ‘IF THE FANS WANTED IT!’ HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SEQUELS AND WOULD YOU WORK ON SIN-JIN SMYTH 2 IF IT CAME AROUND?
Sure thing. I like the work. Sometimes the sequels can be even more fun than the first film, especially if more is required of us the second time around.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN YOU CAREER?
That’s a tough one. There are so many.
I don't think people are aware of the fact that just because a film is great or wonderful to watch, the actual experience of making it all happen can be anything BUT enjoyable. Every now and then a little project comes about and just makes it all worthwhile.
Here’s a few that come to mind:
Carlsberg Beer "Bigfoot" commercial.
This was more of a vacation than a job. We had a blast!
“Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin”
Just big, "good" clean fun projects.
“Call From Space”
One of the first Showscan projects designed for an amusement park attraction along the line of IMAX, this gig was one big time-travel piece. We did everything from cavemen, to Greek warriors, to gangsters and cowboys. The biggest and most enjoyable day of my career to date was the battle of Waterloo sequence. Man-Oh-Man! It was entirely one continuous shot and dolly move. Soldiers and guns and horses and cannons and explosions! WOW! An epic scene that took days to prepare and moments to film. We did two takes, and that was it. But man! What an event to experience! Veteran effects man, Joe Viskocil out-did himself on blowing up the Big Sky Ranch (Little House on the Prairie location) that day!
And of course, JEEPERS CREEPERS 1&2.
I'm also currently having a great time on PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN 2.
PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN 3 and JEEPERS CREEPERS 3.
BRIAN THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME…
My pleasure! Say Hi to all of your readers for me!
August 22nd, 2005
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