If you’ve liked awerewolf or ape creature at the movies any time in the last three decades than chances are it was a creation of Rick Baker, a master make-up artist whose skill and accomplishments may only be matched by his contemporary, the late Stan Winston. Baker’s achievements cover huge blockbusters and small horror films, complicated make-up appliances for alien creatures and the subtle art of making an actor seem decades older than they actually are. The impact of this man’s career and work can’t possibly be understated, which is why we sadly confirm the news that Baker is retiring from the business at the age of 64. Sadder still, lack of work seems to be a bigger rationale for his decision to step aside as opposed to his age.
Baker talked about his decision to retire on 89.3 KPCC saying:
First of all, the CG stuff definitely took away the animatronics part of what I do. It’s also starting to take away the makeup part. The time is right, I am 64 years old, and the business is crazy right now. I like to do things right, and they wanted cheap and fast. That is not what I want to do, so I just decided it is basically time to get out. I would consider designing and consulting on something, but I don’t think I will have a huge working studio anymore.
Baker recently held an auction of some the items from his archives, which looking back should have been an early sign that he was getting out of the business. Less work for Baker’s unique art skill has meant that he’s had to downsize his shop, laying off artists and selling his Glendale studio. Baker has only worked on four major films in the last five years. “I did Men in Black 3, which was good for that [space], but the last film I did was Maleficent and I could’ve done that in a garage basically,” he added.
Baker got his start on the stop-motion animated The Gumby Show and Davey & Goliath in the 60s and then moved on to special effects and make-up on small films like Cop Killer and Schlock before stepping up into big Hollywood productions like the ’76 King Kong and Star Wars. He took the lead in creating An American Werewolf in London, teamed up with David Cronenberg for Videodrome, and created the zombies for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video.
From there, he became of the most indispensable men in the make-up business designing all the aliens in all three Men in Black movies, the world of apes in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, and every single last Klump in the Nutty Professor movies. He was nominated 12 times for the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Make-up,, including seven victories, the last one for Joe Johnston’s remake of The Wolfman in 2010.
Although he wish Baker a happy retirement, we will miss his creature creations on screen, as few now as there may be.