The Department of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara welcomed the legendary make-up artist Michael Westmore, who revolutionized the make-up industry for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994) and won an Academy Award for the movie Mask (1985). Westmore sits down for a conversation with UCSB professor Cheri Steinkellner, and talks about his work bringing aliens to life and other tales from his career.
Career Biography 1
He began working for Universal Studios in 1961 as a make-up artist, and was promoted after three years to Assistant Department Head of Make-Up. He apprenticed to John Chambers on the 1963 film The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). Some of Westmore’s earliest roles at Universal included The Munsters (1964–1966) and Land of the Lost (1974–1977).
He became a freelance make-up artist during the 1970s and 80s, working on films such as Rocky (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). For Raging Bull, Westmore designed the prosthetic noses which Robert De Niro wore throughout the film, and the make up which simulated bleeding though tubes placed under fake skin. One of the more unusual effects used on the boxing film was a special effect which showed a nose breaking from a punch on screen.
He worked with Tom Burman on make-up sets for the Central Intelligence Agency for operatives overseas to change identities. A set created by the pair sold for $20,000 in 2011.
In 1985 he appeared in a video released on VHS called Looking Your Best with Michael Westmore.
He was hired in 1986 to work on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994), and would go on to work on all other Star Trek television series to date, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. He was initially apprehensive about working on a television show as his previous experience had been only with feature films, but after discussing it with his wife he thought that the idea of a year-long project was positive.
During his time on the shows he developed the make-up for several alien races, including the Ferengi, Cardassians, Jem’Hadar, and further developed the make-up used on Klingon characters. One of his first roles was the development of the make-up used on Brent Spiner to create the character Data. He left the Star Trek franchise in 2005, following the cancellation of Enterprise.
Following Star Trek, he went into semi-retirement and worked on the musical version of Mask (1985), having previously worked on the movie version. He was responsible for Kamal Hassan’s make up in the Shankar directed Indian Tamil film called Indian (1996) [alternate title, Hindustani]. He also spent eighteen months on the Indian film Dasavathaaram (2008), where actor Kamal Haasan played ten different roles which each required prosthetics.
He has begun work as a producer and aims to write a two-volume autobiography. He also made a guest appearance on the third season finale of reality TV make-up show Face Off (2011), alongside his daughter McKenzie Westmore who is the presenter of the show. After that, he has appeared in subsequent seasons as a mentor to the contestants of the show.