PAINT JOB: Makeup effects designer Mike Elizalde touches up Ron Perlman,… (Egon Endrenyi / Universal…)
Makeup effects pro Mike Elizalde admits he had never heard of "Hellboy" when director Guillermo del Toro originally approached him about working on his 2004 movie based on the character. "I was not a comic book fan. I never have been," he says.
But the former Navy man -- who started in the movie business in 1987 as a sculptor, makeup artist and painter and struck up a friendship with the director while working on the 2002 vampire flick "Blade II" -- says he couldn't resist the opportunity to work on the outre project.
The sequel, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," which opened Friday, was no less challenging for the Mazatlan, Mexico-born Elizalde, who now operates his own creature design studio, Spectral Motion, in Glendale with his wife, Mary.
"In the first movie, we ended up building five different characters, and in this we actually created 15 characters," says Elizalde, 47, whose credits also include "X-Men: The Last Stand" and both of the "Fantastic Four" films. "It is by far the most ambitious thing that we've done."
How to make a monster: The ideas for the creatures featured in "Hellboy II" originated with Del Toro. "Guillermo has these beautiful leather-bound notebooks that he carries around with him, and he inscribes all his notes and does all these drawings in the books," Elizalde says. "It's our job to take his drawing and produce an illustration that will give not only the aesthetic that he's looking for but also a mechanically sound rendering that will translate into the real world design."
A knowing wink: To create one of the new creatures, Mr. Wink, which looks a little like a ticked-off rhinoceros, Elizalde spent about six months developing and building a suit, which in the end stood nearly 8 feet tall and weighed about 130 pounds -- and that's without actor Brian Steele inside it.
"We always look to nature in creating our creatures, to bridge the gap between what you can believe and what you can't," Elizalde says, adding that extensive research was done on real-life pachyderms to develop Wink's thick skin. "You don't want to just make it look like an elephant skin, because then it sort of just becomes that. We always try to bring a new look that borrows elements of all the creatures that have a similar sort of appearance and then translate that into a new physiognomy."
The eyes have it: While Elizalde maintains that he has no favorites among his new creatures, he is quite taken with the creepy seraph called the Angel of Death, which was built to some fairly detailed specifications.
"You would typically do wings as a CG element on an actor," explains Elizalde. "Guillermo didn't want that. He said: 'I want real wings, but I not only want real wings, I want double wings. And I also want each wing to have six eyes that blink sequentially and look around.' "
Creature suit fabricator Fred Fraleigh created the feathers out of a plastic similar to "the sort of material that garbage bags are made of," and puppeteer/animatronic technician Mark Setrakian developed an array of servo motors and software to make each eyeball roll the way that it needed to.
Star of the show: Of course, Elizalde had the task of transforming actor Ron Perlman into the devilish Hellboy. After applying a barrier cream to make it easier to remove the elaborate makeup, Elizalde would then glue on the various prosthetic pieces -- including a skullcap, a face piece and lower-lip appliance -- with surgical adhesive and attach the samurai-style wig, sideburns and goatee. Then came the paint.
"Around his eyes it's a water-based makeup stuff called Aquacolor," Elizalde says. "It's nice and silky-smooth, and you can get it off at the end of the day."
For the rest of Hellboy's body, Elizalde used a product his company mixes itself, a paste made with acrylic colors, surgical adhesive and thickening agent, which they call Bondo, "because it's similar to what auto body shops use for their cars." All in all, "it took us probably two hours to get him into the makeup and torso. In those scenes where he's not wearing a shirt, it took us about 3 1/2 hours."
The benevolent director: Elizalde can't say enough good things about Del Toro, praising the helmer for the way he kept his cool even when time and budget constraints altered his original vision. "On Mr. Wink, Guillermo really wanted to pull out all the stops and give it all the life of an actual creature, including tensioning tendons under the skin as he looked around," he says. The crew said, " 'Guillermo, we can deliver 85% of what you're asking us for, but we're just out of time to do it to the rest.' And Guillermo will typically just shrug his shoulders and wink at you and say, 'Well, maybe on the next one.' "