Harlow's 'Star Trek' duties included making up the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy
Photo courtesy of Joel Harlow

Creating a unique new look for the rebooted Star Trek franchise was a big priority for J.J. Abrams, the producer-turned-director of the forthcoming Star Trek film.

So Abrams turned to Barney Burman and his team at Proteus Make-up FX to craft alien creatures for the film, which recounts the earliest adventures of the Enterprise crew. It was a big job: The artists had to produce and execute new designs for various aliens, and they had to do it more quickly than they originally anticipated. As Burman recalled, “There was originally going to be a scene with most of our alien species, which would shoot towards the end of production, but J.J. always had a problem with it, because it was like, ‘Here’s our big cantina scene where all the aliens show up!’

“J.J. didn’t want it to be a Star Wars kind of scene, so he ultimately scrapped it and changed it to just one alien. For the rest of the aliens we were going to make, he said, ‘Let’s pepper them throughout the film from the beginning,’ so instead of having more than three months to get them all done, we suddenly had to produce them in a matter of weeks.”

With such a massive workload to deal with all at once, Burman wound up assigning some of the featured humanoid races, notably the Romulans, to Joel Harlow and his team. “The majority of Romulans had a three-piece make-up,” Harlow said, “which was two ears and a forehead that went up to the crown of the head. Nero [played by Eric Bana] also had an extra piece on the back of his head, which was the continuation of a bite mark, so he was pretty much fully covered.”

Although Burman was involved in every aspect of the Proteus build from start to finish, the scale of production made it impossible to be in ten places at once. “I used to look at guys who ran big shops and big shows and think, ‘They’re designing and overseeing it, but they’ve got everybody doing all the work. Why don’t they get their hands dirty?’ Now I understand why. It was probably the least I’ve ever slept in my life and the most stress I’ve ever gone through—but was ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had!”

Get the full story (including exclusive material) on Star Trek’s make-up in the May/June issue of Make-Up Artist magazine, on sale May 1. The artists will also speak at the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show, held June 20-21 in Los Angeles. For more information, go to https://makeupmag.com/imats/.