For the new Derek Cianfrance film The Light Between Oceans, make-up effects artist Mike Marino was contacted for the final sequence in the film where lead actor Michael Fassbender ages 20 years further into the story.

With nearly a month of preparation before Fassbender’s scenes needed to be shot, Marino had Weta Workshop in New Zealand take a new lifecast of the actor and send it to Marino’s New York-based Prosthetic Renaissance facility. To design the concept, Fassbender sent Marino a photo of his dad that he and Cianfrance liked.

The Light Between Oceans
Fassbender and Alicia Vikander before age make-up in The Light Between Oceans

“I just used Michael’s own face in a combination of also looking at his father’s, and came up with my own version of it,” Marino revealed.

Then, Marino sculpted Fassbender’s make-up plus old-age make-up pieces for co-star Alicia Vikander, but that stage of her character was cut out of the film. One of Marino’s key artists, Michael Fontaine, facilitated the finishing and texturing once the appliances were floated off and put onto separate molds.

“We worked on it together, but primarily the rough sculpture, I had done,” Marino explained. “I always have a predestined plan on where I would like the pieces to be.”

With regards to his laboratory materials, Marino stated that he used materials that he typically uses for his make-up effects work. “The sculpture was done on a painted lifecast with alcote as a separator and then I sculpted the make-up in Chavant NSP Medium clay,” he said. “Once the make-ups were done, I floated them off using the old ‘Dick Smith alcote trick.’ The molds were made out of the syntactic epoxy system.”

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansAfter the director approved a rough sculpt of Fassbender’s make-up, it was tested, re-sculpted, tested again, then went into filming for only a few days. On set in New Zealand, Marino created Fassbender’s make-up and Fontaine created Vikander’s make-up simultaneously. “I always like to intrinsically tint the silicone to match their skin as best as I can, and then paint with an airbrush as minimally as possible,” Marino conveyed of the Fassbender application. “Even though there is a significant amount of paint on it, there is much less than a foam-latex piece would have.”

The application process for Fassbender took about two hours with nine silicone appliances: a chin/jowl, a top of chin, a middle-brow furrow piece, two nasal-labial fold pieces, two crow’s feet corners and two inner upper-eye bags. “The lower jowl and neck piece blended into stipple,” Marino divulged. “His hair was done by Nana Fischer, where little individual white and gray hairs were glued into his own hair to make it the shade it needed to be.”

Though the older Fassbender character is onscreen somewhat briefly, Marino feels that the work stands up with his other cinematic achievements. “I think it’s bold to be able to have pieces land in the middle of the face without covering the entire face,” said the make-up artist. “I try to model myself after what Dick Smith would do, and his pieces always landed in the middle of the face somewhere, only where they really needed to be, not worrying about the transition of them. These are the hardest make-ups to do because they are subtle, they are realistic and they have to be believable. It’s definitely a challenge and very difficult to pull off.”