If you haven't read the introduction to the KRULL stories click there.
The Widow of the Web
Of all the make-up effects on KRULL it was the Widow of the Web that intimidated me most. Monsters and creatures......... who knows what they are supposed to look like. Crabby old ladies........??? .....every critic knows one! I told Ron Silverman (Producer) that the Widow was the one job I wouldn't rush. I needed 12 weeks to prepare for the 23 piece prosthetic make-up on 36 year old Francesca Annis. That may sound like a long time but consider this..... We were only 6 weeks from shooting and during the same period, (besides modeling a maquette of the Widow plus remodeling the actual 23 pieces and make the 23 molds and duplicating them and foaming the 184 prosthetic pieces required for 6 days of shooting and spares for an extra 2 days), I also had to be preparing for Rell the Cyclops, the Emerald Sear transformation, dummies for Ergo and the dead Sear in the swamp and get started on the Beast. (Little did I know that I would also have to make 44 Slayers at 10 days notice too!).
The lifecast of Francesca Annis that I modeled on had been made by my old friend Christopher Tucker who was going to design the MFX for the movie until creative differences caused a rift between him and the production team. (That kind of thing does happen sometimes and in the long run the wisest course of action is to withdraw from the project as Chris had.) Consequently I didn't meet her until the pieces were complete and we were getting close to shooting. I was sure there wouldn't be a problem because the people I knew who had met her told me she was gracious and fun loving.
The Widow of the Web on the other hand was a bitter, twisted old woman who had been neglected by her lover, murdered her child and been abandoned to live out her life with a gigantic spider...... quite a contradiction. When I met Francesca she was clearly disappointed that I had made the look less beautiful than she might like herself to age but she graciously accepted the logic behind the Widow's crabby looks.
She had a very sensitive skin so after initial discussions I decided to use a gelatin based glue to minimize irritation. It meant that she could step into the shower at the end of a shoot and literally wash the prosthetics off. Of course gelatin greatly reduced adhesion but I was confident that it would be a short day and if we took care of the make-up we could make it through O.K. After all Francesca was so amenable.
Little did I realize that as the pieces were applied and she spent more and more time staring at the old witch that was forming before her eyes in the mirror that she would begin to absorb the character I had created in clay. As each piece went on she got crabbier and crabbier. She started to insist on stopping every hour to eat something (I seem to remember egg and bacon sandwiches were a favorite) and she would even chew them in an aged disgruntled fashion. I don't know whether you realize the effect egg and bacon can have on prosthetic lips. I struggled to get her to break the food into small pieces to minimize the damage and the longer the make-up took the more agonizing the situation became.
In the end the make-up averaged out to 6 hours ( about 15 minutes for each prosthetic piece). The make-up seemed effective.... Derrick Meddings who was a very courteous guy and was supervising the optical effects treated Francesca like his aged mother. He appeared to forget that she was 36 and would take her by the hand each day to gently guide her to a chair and get her a cup of tea. (Tea is not good with lips glued down with heat sensitive gelatin). In addition she took to picking at the prosthetics on her hands whilst waiting to shoot. I can't believe she did it consciously.... it was more like a nervous twitch, but I had to put plastic bags over her hands to minimize the damage and assign Beryl Lerman (my trusted prosthetics assistant) with the task of trying to distract Francesca any way she could.
The six days were quite an ordeal.... probably as much for Francesca as for me. She clearly hated every minute of her metamorphosis into this mean old woman. As each day's shooting finished she would rush off the set to get the make-up off. It was like Jeckle and Hyde. She would emerge from cleaning up as radiant and well tempered as ever.... like the past 12 hours were a bad dream.
The make-up won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for a while as the 5th longest recorded make-up ever. (I wasn't sure if I should be proud of the inclusion or ashamed that it took me so long.) It was actually the longest recorded make-up on an actress (at that time at least).
For the technically curious this link will take you step by step through the make-up.
text © CineSecrets 97/98
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