Back in 2010 I started work on the first Marvel film to be shot in the UK, it was Captain America: The First Avenger. I was working for David White and came on board specifically to do the Red Skull Character.
Marvel supplied David with some pretty cool looking designs but we knew from the out set that CGI would have to help us out to remove key features on the Red Skull’s face like Hugo Weaving’s nose.
When we did the first test make up on Hugo we were still working out the logistics of how to make it look real but at the same time create this iconic looking skull shape, the one thing we didn’t want to try and do was the Frank Langella ‘Skeletor’ look from Masters Of the Universe as modern audiences would never have gone for that.
After sculpting numerous concept heads and make up tests we locked down the final sculpt of Red Skull. One of the hardest parts of trying to break down the prosthetic make up into smaller pieces was trying to find ways to hide the edges of the overlapping pieces, there was no room for error and if the top of the head wasn’t in exactly the right position it would send every other piece slightly off.
The pieces were cast in a red silicone (Plat Gel 10) and pre coloured to about 50%. We actually painted the pieces in PAX paint which is something you usually never do on silicone and sealed the pieces in afterwards with a fixer spray. The painting on the day was just to high light the cheek bones and shade in around the skull area then we ‘flecked’ a few colours of light and darker reds, some yellows and a brown all over, it was very subtle but needed those break up colours so it wasn’t one flat red colour on the surface.
We had a double played by the excellent stunt man Rick English and due to the nature of the fight scenes we made his make up as a pull over foam mask that just blended off around the eyes.
Hugo Weaving was an amazing man to work with and shooting that make up in the height of the summer was hard for Hugo, he had to wear a muscle suit and the SS outfit, It was great when his character discarded his leather jacket so he only wore the black silk shirt.
I also sculpted the cheek split pieces that he wears as Johann Schmidt, that was quite a hard piece to pull off as Joe Johnston the director wanted something on the side of his face but also didn’t want the audience to keep looking at the split lines across his jawline, the idea being that Schmidt is always wearing a fake face and he keeps readjusting it. I applied them as small bondo pieces for the first few days then straight make up took over after that.
It was an absolute pleasure working on this movie and 4 years later it’s nice to be back in the world of Marvel for the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron…