|20120625||20130627||Mark Burman strips away the layers of Stuart Freeborn's remarkable life in movie make-up.|
Stuart Freeborn's face launched a thousand space ships, his hands fashioned the Dawn of Man. Freeborn, who died in February 2013, was the self made genius of British make-up.
A career that began in the Denham dream factory of Alexander Korda in the late 1930's culminated in the creation of Yoda for the original Star Wars Trilogy. Freeborn, desperate to escape the humdrum fate of City clerking, longed to emulate his hero Jack Pierce, the man who transformed Karloff into Frankenstein's monster. Despite the almost total lack of information available he devised increasingly elaborate make-up's in his bedroom. Testing them by leaping out to terrify unsuspecting neighbours. Dreaming and drifting from a succession of jobs just to pay for his materials, Freeborn's parents despaired. It took a moment of fate to finally enter professional film-making at Alexander Korda's new dream factory of Denham Studios.
From the very beginning Freeborn was an innovator, experimenting with new plastics and later engineering and early radio control. He created the controversial Fagin makeup for Alec Guinness in Lean's Oliver Twist, the many faces of Peter Sellars in Kubrick's Dr Strangelove and the near impossible design of the ape families for the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A career littered with achievements culminated in the creation of Yoda for George Lucas in 1979. The wizened Jedi master drew on all Freeborn's skill and experience and took make-up into a new age.
Back in 1997 producer Mark Burman spent a week in Freeborn's company amidst a shed of delights since sold off to collectors around the world. What he got was the story of a make-up genius, the history of a face backwards.
Presenter & Producer Mark Burman.
Stuart Freeborn's face has launched a thousand space ships, his hands have fashioned the Dawn of Man. Freeborn is the self made genius of British make-up, beginning his career at the Denham studios in the late 1930's. In those days there were no websites, no books, just a few scant pages in the film magazines on the secret science of film make-up. But Freeborn, yearning for a life beyond his father's Pooterish plan of City clerking, transformed himself at home, alone, before startling neighbours with his suburban appearances as Frankenstein and even Haile Selassie. Eventually Freeborn talked his way into Alexander Korda's shiny new dream factory of Denham.
Innovative, obsessive and secretive, he was taxed with the controversial Fagin makeup for Alec Guinness in Lean's Oliver Twist, the many faces of Peter Sellars in Kubrick's Dr Strangelove and the seemingly impossible creation of the ape families for the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. His is a career littered with achievement finally peaking with the creation of Yoda for George Lucas, bringing make-up into the age of prosthetics and mechanics.
Shortly before his collection was scattered and sold off, Mark Burman visited Freeborn's garden shed of secrets. Where, amongst the cobwebs, Peter Sellar's head nestled next to a severed arm & lightsabre and ape feet lay in boxes along with sets of Wookie teeth. Burman teases out a long life in make-up and hears from some of those under Freeborn's magic skins like Dan Richter (Moonwatcher in 2001), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) & Frank Oz who breathed life into Yoda as well as Nick Dudman, today one of Britain's leading make-up artists who began his own apprenticeship under this very English sorcerer.
Presenter & Producer Mark Burman.