IT: Chapter 2 is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital platforms in the UK, and to mark its release, we recently caught up with makeup artist and prosthetics designer Sean Sansom.
He was responsible for transforming actor Bill Skarsgaard into Pennywise for the sequel, and in this conversation, we delve into that process, the creepy sequence where the clown took on a “human” appearance, and how practical effects were used to enhance what we saw on the big screen.
We also ask Sean about his work on Suicide Squad (where he took charge of Killer Croc’s appearance) and whether there are any other comic book characters he would like to tackle.
We want to say a huge thank you to the makeup artist for taking the time to talk to us about IT: Chapter 2, and don’t forget that the Stephen King adaptation is now available!
Despite having been gone for 27 years, Pennywise’s appearance hasn’t really changed since we last saw him. Did you explore any alternate looks for the character in the sequel?
We stuck to the original overall design, and there was talk of making him a little more aged and weathered, but it was decided to keep him the same as the kids had seen him in the first chapter. We did have the chance to streamline the makeup a little though… more so to make the application quicker, but also a few little changes to his brows – so they conformed to Bill’s expressions and movements a lot closer.
Can you talk us through the process of applying Bill Skarsgård’s makeup every day?
The makeup consisted of 5 prosthetic pieces which myself and Shane Zander would apply in sequence, working our way from back to front. We started with the largest piece, the enlarged skull, which would cover his hair and act as the anchor for the next 3 pieces. Then we applied his brow prosthetic, and depending on the scene, would have the expression that Andy wanted to see for the day (we had 3 different brows). Next the cheek appliances were applied, followed by the nose tip. Once everything was glued down, he would be based out in white makeup, followed by a subtle breakdown of browns and grey, to age the brightness of the white. Then the base of his blood-red facial lines were airbrushed with a stencil, followed by hand painting over top, his lips and his nose. His eyes were coloured last, followed with eyeliner and mascara for the finishing touch. Once that was complete, Ryan Reed (Hair Dept) would step in with his perfectly coiffed cotton candy looking wig. Once we got to set and were ready to film, Bill’s teeth and contact lenses would go in at the last minute.
Were you able to shorten the process since working on the first film and, if so, what were some of the changes you made to streamline that?
We get to see Pennywise in his “human” form in the movie during that scene with Beverly in the apartment – how did you go about ensuring Bill Skarsgård still looked terrifying even without Pennywise’s makeup?
Andy wanted Bill to have the enlarged skull as Pennywise had, but only about 40-50% of the size. I just sculpted it as a realistic piece, with the irregular ridges of a skull and the raised veins over the surface. Because Bill has such a baby face, I also made some thicker folds and wrinkles for his cheeks and around his eyes, just to age him a bit. I think because we only ever see Bill in the clown makeup, that when we see his slightly “off” human look, there’s something creepy and uneasy about that character. Plus, Bill brings all of these looks to life. Without that, they’re just pieces of rubber.
When it came to creating Pennywise’s appearance and finding the right makeup effects to do so, what would you say was more useful: Stephen King’s books, the concept art created for the film, or a combination of both?
It really came down to the concept art, and Andy’s original sketch. The book is great, but everyone will have a very different idea of how any of the characters will look. That’s the beauty of any novel, you create the look of the settings and characters in your own mind, regardless of how detailed the descriptions are. But that’s also the nice thing with the concept art, it’s a base to work from, and little changes can be made along the way.
Talking of visual effects, are there any scenes you worked on that you’re particularly proud of which were brought to life with makeup that some moviegoers might think were actually VFX?
While working on the movie, what would you say was the biggest challenge you faced?
Probably the most difficult was the death of Pennywise. There were so many factors involved, between us, sets, vfx, etc. As he starts to breakdown from the spider, his face ages and shrivels, his body shrinks to the size of a child’s, and the adults reach in to his chest and remove his heart. Andy referenced a deflating balloon for his head, so we made 2 versions – stage 1 was when he’s crawling on the ground and it’s more like an old-age makeup mixed with a sad clown, then stage 2 was when he backs up against the rocks and his head flattens. The stage 1 makeup was straightforward, but stage 2 was a combination prosthetic face and fake body with a flattened back of the head. We needed to have a hole cut in the set so Bill was recessed, allowing only his face to protrude. The body was actually a cast of what we used for Georgie’s body, with a flattened Pennywise head, all attached to the set. Bill would crawl under the set and only his face would be visible, blending into the head rig. Then we had multiple hearts that could be pulled from the chest… I hero beating heart, then 6 tear away hearts for when the adults tear it to pieces. It was a tough scene for everyone, but mainly for Bill, who had to endure the multiple makeup changes, and be in an awkward position under the set.
You worked on Suicide Squad as Killer Croc’s makeup artist, but are there any other comic book characters or movies you’d like to work on if the opportunity presented itself?
I would love it if a movie version of GI Robot would be made! Besides the usual superhero/comic characters that have already been made and we’ve seen many versions of, I grew up reading the anthology horror/sci-fi/fantasy comics… like DC’s “Ghosts” and “Secrets of Haunted House”, among others. And somewhere during that time I read a short piece that featured GI Robot and it really stood out for me. I have no idea why, but I like the combination of basically a tin man in army fatigues… like a retro version of Robocop.
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