They often say, “You should never meet your heroes. They’ll only disappoint you.” So it was with great fear that I walked into the elaborate hotel room where I was to speak with legendary make-up artist Rick Baker. I nervously twiddled my thumbs as I waited for the movie legend to finish conducting his interview downstairs. After anxiously waiting for what seemed like hours, I heard a knock on the door as the PR rep opened the door to reveal Rick Baker in the flesh. I couldn’t believe it. I was in the same room as the man who was responsible for so many sleepless nights after I first saw An American Werewolf in London. As he crossed the room, he extended his hand to shake mine. As I tried to regain composure, he softly smiled and said, “Call me Rick.”
After we exchanged pleasantries, he sat down and looked at me. “So I guess my first question for you would be, what was it that first attracted you to movie make-up?” I pathetically mumbled. It had to have been the most generic question he’d been asked all day, but he answered with such delight and fervor.
“I grew up in front of a TV,” he explained. “I was one of the first generations of kids to grow up in front of a TV. It was different in those days, but movies just kinda fascinated me. And ya know, I think every state across the United States on a Friday or Saturday had some kind of local horror host and they had that same package of films that they’d show, a lot of Universal horror films, and those just… fascinated me.” As he answered, his eyes sort of glassed over as if recalling a fond, if not distant memory. Question after question, he returned to the same boyish infatuation with the wonders of moviemaking.
At one point, you could almost feel Baker’s return to childhood as he recalled when he first discovered movie make-up. “When I found out, actually through the pages of Famous Monsters it was a guy’s job to turn somebody into a monster, I just decided, ya know, that’s what I wanna do with my life.” Even decades after entering the business and countless projects, Baker’s exuberance and passion for the field are truly remarkable. When asked, he described his approach to his selection of projects as, “I kinda just take them as they come and see if it interests me… I used to hafta do films I didn’t really wanna do, just to pay the bills, but I decided at one point, especially when my parents died, ya know there’s an end in sight and it may not be that far away and do I really wanna be doing things I don’t wanna do?”
The idea that this world will not always have a Rick Baker is a grim one indeed. Besides being an extremely talented make-up artist, Baker’s passion for filmmaking is a rarity. In a town like Los Angeles, that prides itself on quantity over quality, Rick Baker’s staggering work ethic and commitment to personal growth and exceptional new heights of the world of movie make-up are unparalleled.