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Meet Cliff Wallace- Makeup Effects and Movie Monster Maestro

Gory greetings, boils and ghouls. I am back with another killer interview for all you monster lovers out there. I am HEXcited to talk with this FANGtastic Monster Man! Every film and project he has been involved with is just absolutely TERRORiffic. I wouldn’t want to eat him before the interview so let’s get to it… Without further Ado, meet the movie monster maestro himself. 

1. Please introduce yourself… Tell us what you do and where you are from?

My name is Cliff Wallace, I’m a creature designer and special makeup effects artist from London, England. As well as working on movies and television. I’ve also exhibited sculptures throughout Europe and the US as well as organized art shows featuring other mufx artists. I’ve written numerous articles for Makeup Artist magazines, and other Sfx journals. I ran the museum gallery at the London IMATS for over a decade. I’ve also written several collections of horror short stories. Although I’ve worked on feature films in all genres, horror was my first love and is the genre I still most enjoy working in.

2. Whom or what inspired you to pursue art/effects makeup?

My makeup heroes are really the people who were pushing the envelope in the early 80’s. A time when special effects makeup really took off as an art form, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin in the States, Stuart Freeborn and Christopher Tucker, here in the UK.  Further back,  makeup artists who were working for Amicus and Hammer here in England. There was a show called  ‘Appointment with Fear’ on Friday Nights when I was growing up and that was how I was introduced to the nightmarish creations of Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton, which had a huge impression on me long before I knew the artists' names.  My other heroes growing up were Gerry Anderson who produced English puppet shows like Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and Ray Harryhausen, the stop motion animator responsible for films like Jason and the Argonauts and the Golden Voyage of Sinbad. 

3. Your work is intricately diverse, how long have you been an effects artist for?  Over thirty five years now , which was not  my intention. I certainly never thought of it as a long term career, but I’ve managed to fake it pretty well.

4. What kind of art did you start with?      

I had no idea what I was going to do when I left college. I was ‘artistic’ in temperament at least, but in no way an artist. I’d always had a good imagination and thought that If I didn't end up in a band, I could probably do something in advertising or television.. . but I never had any formal art training.     Eventually I got accepted on what was at the time one of the first ‘Media Studies’ courses in the country. It seemed the ideal course for someone with absolutely no idea what they were going to do with their life, which is why they’ve become so popular over the last thirty years or so. The big appeal of the course for me was that the college was next to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and they had a fully equipped tv studio. I learnt pretty quickly there that if I wanted to make films with lots of special effects involved, then I’d have to learn how to do them. Most of the people on my course wanted to produce ‘serious’ drama or magazine shows. No one was very interested in monsters or aliens!

5.How did your career begin? What was your first commercial gig?   I used to spend a lot of time at college not actually being ‘at’ college but being at the cinema across the street watching whatever horror movie was out that week. It was a werewolf movie ‘The Howling’ that made me seriously think about makeup effects as a career. I’d never seen on screen transformation effects before and it was the most spellbinding thing I’d ever seen. Over the next couple of years I was determined to find out all I could about makeup effects and how they were done. It wasn’t easy. There was no internet then, no makeup schools, very few books or magazines.  My best bet was to find out what movies were shooting in England, write to whoever was in charge of makeup effects and hope they’d answer your questions or maybe even invite you to the studios. The first person I contacted was Rick Baker who was in England making ape suits for the Tarzan film ‘Greystoke’ He was very generous with his time, gave me a huge amount of information about materials and just encouraged me to have a go.  Over the next couple of years I taught myself and made a lot of mess in my bedroom. Eventually I had the beginnings of a portfolio and had a friend who was selling my masks from his wig stall in Covent Garden Market. A researcher from a kids Saturday morning tv show saw some of these and invited me on the show to demonstrate my peculiar little hobby. It was a live show and whilst it was on, I got a job offer to work on a low budget horror movie that had just started shooting. The film was called Rawhead Rex, and it was based on a short story by an up and coming British horror writer called Clive Barker.

6. Taking it back to the 80’s, what effects did you do in “Hellraiser “and “Hellbound: Hellraiser II?”   Whilst I was working on Rawhead, I heard about another Barker feature that was coming up called ‘Hellraiser’. Again it was going to be low budget but the big draw was that Clive Barker was going to be directing it. I went to see Bob Keen, who was going to be in charge of the effects work, and he said he could use me on Hellraiser.   It took a while to get the money together but Bob took me and a couple of other guys over to Clive’s house to talk about the movie, and draw monsters. It was the best of times for me. I loved Clive’s writing and he was such a charismatic guy, wickedly funny, loved horror, and was just about the most intelligent and articulate man I’ve ever met. Just a powerhouse to be around.    My main task on Hellraiser was the various incarnations of Frank, the skinned man. It was a huge learning curve as I’d never sculpted anything more complicated than a mask at this point. Clive had the coolest references too, Vesalius etchings, Joel Peter Witkin photos. Books on piercings and body modifications,  - stuff that was very underground then. Kind of scary and sexy at the same time. Always a potent combination.    I did a lot of early mornings on Hellraiser, the Frank makeups were long and complicated, especially when you were learning it on the job. But Bob had assembled such a great bunch of people. None of us were very experienced, but we were all enthusiastic and Bob really just let us all go for it.     We knew we were doing something right when New World came up with some more cash for Frank's birth sequence,  our own little ‘transformation scene’ which I got to build a lot of the puppet elements for. I also built the box demon at the end of the film. Clive had asked that it be constructed of bones rather than sculpted, which  took me a long time to get my head around, but fabrication has  since become a most important tool to me.    None of us were really prepared for the success of Hellraiser, and it seemed that “Hellbound” came together very quickly. I got to do Frank again, and also applied the Browning makeup. I adapted the Butterball cenobite and sculpted a new version of Chatterer, principally so that  actor Nick Vince could see, but I don’t think it was as successful as the original mask from Hellraiser.  He wears both masks in the movie. Again I learnt a valuable lesson… things with no eyes are scary!     There seemed to be a little less energy on Hellbound. Clive’s star was very much in the ascendant and he wasn’t about as much. I think that shows, but I’m incredibly proud to have been involved with both movies. The fact that people still love them over thirty years later means we must have done something right. Every few years a reboot is announced, which usually fills me with dread. None of them ever seem to come to anything, but  the latest person to be linked to it is David Bruckner who did such a great job directing the film of Adam Nevill’s book The Ritual, he might just be the person to pull it off, Let’s hope so! 7. Which character(s) or jobs are you most proud of?     I’ve done a lot of war films, both period and modern. Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven for Ridley Scott we’re huge projects both shot in Morocco, with gorgeous sets, loads of extras and proper filmmaking. In contrast,  something I’m really proud to be associated with was a fairly unknown movie called Kajaki (Kilo Two Bravo in the US). It's a true story about a group of British paratroopers caught in a minefield in Afghanistan. The characters go through just about the worst traumas imaginable and it’s a very harrowing but tautly made film. It was made with a very small crew in Jordan, and was just a fantastic team effort and a real tribute to the heroism of the men who suffered life changing injuries and died on that day.

8. You wrote, produced, and worked on the Killer short “The Birch.” Was this your first personal project? How did you come up with the idea?    I met Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton (Bloody Cuts) when Millennium FX who I’ve worked with off and on for the last ten years. He asked me to come up with a spectre/demon for the Bloody Cuts short “Don’t Move”. They pretty much just let me get on with it and we were all happy with what I came up with, which was a mostly fabricated suit with a sculpted head. The short was their most successful to that point and got them a lot of interest and representation in the States. I was very impressed with their professionalism and had a good time shooting with them.      Crypt tv, a fledgling company set up by Eli Roth& Blumhouse had seen ‘Don’t Move’ and asked Bloody Cuts to come up with a new short for them. They had heard that I wrote occasionally and asked me if I had a story and a creature for this new project. I wanted to do something a bit folk horror, and came up with an outline that although only a few minutes long suggested a far bigger story and mythology. So it had a number of exploitable props. The book, the sigil, the effigy, the lines of conjuration… ‘For he who makes me I shall come…’    The creature I wanted to be female, both creepy and alluring. She’s really like an exaggerated  fashion illustration.  A tall skinny woman with bare breasts, long opera gloves, a floor length sheath dress, topped off with a wildly elaborate headdress. I loved the graphic nature of the birch tree, the black and white bark, loved that she is known as ‘The White Lady of the Woods’, and that the birch tree is so revered in Wiccan and Pagan lore as a protector.    I also wanted a sense of doubt and ambiguity in the stor