In the new DreamWorks/Disney film I Am Number Four, an Ohio teen (imaginatively named John Smith and played by Beastly‘s Alex Pettyfer) is actually an alien who lands on Earth after his home planet, Lorien, is destroyed by a group of fishy bad guys called Mogadorians, or Mogs, for short. Designing these gilled villains fell to KNB EFX Group—on extremely short notice.
“The director, D.J. Caruso, and producer David Valdes contacted Greg [Nicotero] two weeks before needing Mogs on set,” said KNB co-founder Howard Berger. “We were able to quickly design and create the characters within the time frame allotted.”
Kevin Durand (Lost, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) plays the Mog Commander. Nicotero spearheaded the design process; resident KNB designer John Wheaton created up to 30 options for Mog make-ups. One criterion DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg had was that the Mogs needed to intermingle with the human race and not stand out as aliens in public.
In the end, D.J. Caruso chose a design in which all the Mogs were bald, so the detailed Mogadorian military ranking tattoos could be seen. This posed an interesting challenge when it came to Durand, who had to keep his hair for another film in production, Real Steel. So KNB life cast Durand and began the sculptures, outfitting him with a custom silicone bald cap on top of forehead pieces, brows, nose gills, custom tattoos, contact lenses designed by Cristina Ceret and dentures made by KNB’s Grady Holder.
“We had two weeks to design all these characters: the Commander, the Warriors, the Scout, the Henchmen,” said Berger. “Kevin was the only actor we were able to meet with prior to filming, so everyone else had to be designed and created generically and hope for the best. We had all our sculptors—Jaremy Aiello, Garrett Immel, Kevin Wasner and Andy Schoneberg—knocking out noses, gills, brows and caps. The mold department, led by Jim Leonard, worked his team 24-7 to create all the syntactic positives and molds to get them to Derek Krout and Steve Katz as fast as they could to run all the encapsulated silicone prosthetics, to have everything ready for all the stuntmen and actors playing Mogs that worked on the first day of filming.
“After prep was completed, we headed to Pittsburgh to shoot,” said Berger. “We hired Gino Croganle and he and I spearheaded
the on-set work while Greg and the KNB team continued running tons of silicone Mog prosthetics. We brought in Peter Montagna (right) and Lee Grimes to help with the other Mog make-ups, as we did Mog after Mog after Mog each night they were required. At first, we had eight Mogs. At the end of the day, it was like 14, so I brought in a few extra make-up artists from L.A. to apply make-ups for a few days. We also had Laura Hill on set handling all contact lens application.
“All in all it was a fast and furious project, but our team at KNB stepped up to the plate and batted it out of the park as they always do. We never say no at KNB, as each project confronts us with new challenges to conquer and that’s how we like it.”
I Am Number Four is in theaters now. See Issue 89 of Make-Up Artist magazine for 2011 spring movie coverage (on newsstands early March).