Story by Lesley Goldberg
For Lesley Goldberg’s complete story on the make-up (excerpted below), and Deverill Weekes’ exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, see Issue 90 of Make-Up Artist magazine.
Oscar-winning make-up artist Barney Burman took a detour from film to theater this spring, creating a full suit for the title character in The Elephant Man. The play, now running in Los Angeles, is produced by Lascaux Entertainment at the El Centro Theatre.
Burman and Afton Adams created “a full-body silicone skin suit over a sheet-foam-fabricated body form, glued onto a Spandex suit,” he said. “It was made in multiple pieces, kind of like a multi-piece overlapping prosthetic make-up, only over the entire body. In the end, the body suit was all one, except for the head, which was tacked down only around the eyes and mouth.”
Creating for the theater also allowed Burman to go a “little bolder, a little broader” for the suit, which, with the help of historical photos and sketches, re-creates the face and body of Joseph Carey Merrick, an Englishman with severe deformities who was exhibited in London in the late 1800s and known as the Elephant Man.
Burman and his team—Adams, Shielu Bharwani-Burman, Boutheyna “Boots” Kramer, Jayson Boyd, Ken Bunprasert, Lee Komet, Yusuke Tateishi and Travis Weikel—researched images of the real Elephant Man.
“I tried to be very true to who he actually was as much as I could in making this a suit with a mask,” he says of the creation. “Because it’s a theater thing, they don’t have the kind of budget and manpower to do a full application of make-up every day, so it had to be practical as well.”
The Elephant Man (http://theelephantmanplay.com/) runs through April 24 in Los Angeles.