He's one of the most iconic villains in literature and cinema, and Lord Voldemort, with his see-through white skin, vein-covered head, lack of a nose, and pointed teeth, has a horrifying yet memorable look. And you can thank two time Oscar-winning makeup artist Mark Coulier for crafting the Dark Lord's signature look. While I was sitting in Coulier's makeup chair at the end of May — he was transforming me into a zombie to support the Blu-ray release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for which he also did the makeup for — we chatted about his work on the Harry Potter films. Specifically, how he made handsome British actor Ralph Fiennes look downright terrifying.
"On Harry Potter the designs were done in an art department, then we took a head cast of Ralph Fiennes. We only had about two hours to do Ralph's makeup, because of all the filming restrictions," Coulier explains. "They only wanted him in the chair for two hours instead of six hours, so we had to design it around that."
The biggest filming restriction was the fact that the Harry Potter film employ a cast of children, and children can only be on set for a certain number of hours each day. They have shorter days in general, plus, they have to be in the classroom for a good portion of the day, too. So because the kids had less time on set, so did Fiennes, which cut down on how long he could be in makeup. Because of this, Coulier and his team got creative.
"The nose is digital," the British makeup artist says. "We did eyebrow blockers, so when you look at him, he has no eyebrows. The vein transfers I'm using on you are very similar to what we did on his head," he says as he applies blue and purple veins to my cheek. "In order to get continuity in a short span of time, I painted the veins all on the computer, then I printed them all as temporary tattoo transfers. It worked really well, we covered his whole head in veins in about 10 minutes."
Vein tattoos, no nose, no eyebrows, got it. What else? "He doesn't wear contacts, but he's got fake teeth, long fingernails, and we painted his hands. We did a lot of paint work around his eyes, little tips and tricks that make him look more intense. It was quite involved in the coloring."
Turning an actor into the most feared man in the Wizarding World on a tight schedule is an impressive feat, even for a man with two Oscars up his sleeve.
To see more of what Coulier can do in a short amount of time, check out my zombie makeover, which took about 45 minutes.
Images: Warner Bros; Giphy