Ve Neill‘s resume as a makeup artist is almost unmatched. The three time Academy Award winner has been responsible for bringing some of the most iconic creatures and characters to life. From her working with Tim Burton on Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks!, and Ed Wood and Joel Schumacher on The Lost Boys, to Galaxy Quest, A.I., Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hunger Games, Constantine, and dozens of others in between, her list of credentials goes on and on. Neill is also one of the regular judges on Syfy’s Face Off which kicked off its tenth season earlier this month. Nerdist had the pleasure of chatting with Neill on the set of the series about her incredible career (so far), where her love of make up design came from, and what a dream project for her would look like.
“I wanted to be a makeup artist since I was five years old,” Neill tells me when I ask when her passion for her craft began. “I wanted to do monsters. I used to watch those old black and white movies all the time, I’d scare myself to death, and my mother would go, ‘I don’t know why you like all that stuff! Where are you getting all this from?’ And I said, I don’t know, [but] I want to do that.”
The relationship with one of her most frequent collaborators, visionary director Tim Burton, began back in 1988 with the genre classic Beetlejuice. Neill won her first Oscar for that film and recalled the process of getting the title character’s now iconic look just right. “The thing with Beetlejuice was, Tim [Burton] himself is an artist. So when I went into the artist to talk to him, he had sketches of what he thought Beetlejuice should look like and he really looked like a derelict and an old bum and they were just black and white sketches and I said, ‘so do you want me to take this and bring this guy to life in my version of this guy,’ and he said sure. So I went and did Michael [Keaton] and we brought him back pictures and he said, ‘oh no, that’s way too scary, I want him to be oddly appealing or not scary or kind of lighthearted.'”
After Burton rejecting a second makeup design, Neill finally asked if she could do her own interpretation of the makeup based on Burton’s sketches, to which he agreed. “You know, all of the characters of Tim kind of come from him to start with and then I would just put my spin on them afterwards.” Neill elaborated, recalling her inspiration for the bio-exorcist. “I wanted Beetlejuice to look like he crawled out from underneath a rock, hence the mold growing up and the moss and this stuff was in his hair and he was just wacky and crazy and of course Michael Keaton was just so far out, so much fun, I mean most of his stuff was ad libbed, I think they gave him a couple of lines just to kind of go with the conversation, then he could say basically whatever he wanted to, so that was pretty fun.”
Neill also lit up while recalling the fun she and her team had on the Galaxy Quest shoot. “That movie was such a blast to do, oh my god.” Rumors have been swirling about follow ups to both films and while she says nobody has called her to return to the franchise, she would love it if they would.
So, after bringing comic books and monsters, aliens and robots, real-life historical figures and dystopian futures to life on the big screen, is there anything that Neill would like to tackle but hasn’t? “I would like to do a remake of Barbarella, that’s what I’d like to do. Fantasy, science fiction, without horrible monsters in it except for if they live in Barbarella’s kind of a world. Fun science fiction fantasy, that’s what I’d like to do, something like that… There can be creatures but I want them to be like fantasy sci-fi, not so much monstery-sci-fi. It would almost be like graphic novel comic book-y, but not dark, just something kind of really fun. I don’t know, maybe ‘girl sci-fi,’ I don’t know what else to call it but I think it would just be so much fun to do.”
Maybe ‘glamour sci-fi,’ I offer.
“Yeah, glamour sci-fi!,” she repiled. Count me in!
New episodes of Face Off air Wednesday nights on Syfy.
Featured Image Credit: Syfy