Exclusive Interview: Makeup FX guru Mike Marino talks Deliver Us From Evil

Those of you seeing Scott Derrickson's DELIVER US FROM EVIL this week are in for all sorts of bloody, ghastly sights: Mutilated corpses, disembowled animals, violently possessed people - and more - fill practically every frame. And while these visions come courtesy of Derrickson's twisted mind, they're brought to freakish life thanks to special makeup effects artist Mike Marino. (If you missed some of the nasty images of his work we premiered last month, check them out HERE.)

Marino is a veteran of the makeup business for over fifteen years, having worked on such titles as I AM LEGEND, BLACK SWAN, MEN IN BLACK III and "Boardwalk Empire," the latter nabbing him a Primetime Emmy nomination. In the below interview, Marino and I talk about the complicated work he performed on the film, his collaboration with Derrickson, some of his favorite creations, what grosses him and what else is on his (bloody) plate. (All photos by Andy Schwartz.)

What was the movie that made you want to get started in the special makeup business?

Marino: When HBO first came out, they only had something like six movies they played on repeat and one of them was the Elephant Man. So at age four, I was watching it over and over again – it was the first film I ever saw. It wasn’t that it was a bad film, it was a great film, but I don’t think you’d want to show the Elephant Man to a 4 year old - ever. But thank god I did. It really bothered me and I didn’t know why. I thought it was real, and I found out later it was. It was that and Michael Jackson’s Thriller when they started showing it on MTV in 1982. They showed the making of it with Rick Baker doing all the makeups. The combination of those two things made me know I wanted to do this.

What were some of the more elaborate makeup gags you had to perform for Deliver Us From Evil?

Marino: I would say the most elaborate gag was the fake body of Griggs. His eyes explode with flies so we had to figure out what to make the eyeballs out of, how to reset them, and what the flies were going to be made out of. Then we had to find a way to make the stomach explode and what material was going eat the stomach away rapidly. I had an idea to glue this piece of bald cap material that you could pump acetone through and it would melt the plastic away quickly. Bill Sturgeon had made these weird organ things that Mike Fontaine sculpted and we figured out a cool way to make it look like a bunch of organs and flies coming out of his stomach and eyeballs. Art Sakamoto and Bill Sturgeon made the eyeballs, Art had painted them and Bill found a cool way to make the eyes collapse. We used real dead flies and little black seeds that could push through the eyes. Scott Derrickson wanted to do all the makeup effects practically and use CG very minimally, so I told him it would be cool to do this for real and he said, ‘if we can do it, let’s do it!’

What is the collaboration between you and Scott like? How much input do you have into the actual design of the gore/creatures?

Marino: He would give me an idea and then I’d do a design and run with it. He was pretty free and open to what I came up with. He was specific as far as the effects - especially the camouflage that was supposed to be on Santino, but that rapidly changed once Sean Harris got in the mix. We came up with an idea and I did a design on Photoshop of this guy with all these scratches and symbols all over his body. I didn’t even wait to get it approved, I just started making things cause we only had a week before they started filming. It was a last minute change and almost impossible to do. The ambitious end of it was that there were over one hundred and fifty prosthetics that had to be made in a week, but we pulled it off. I pretty much figured out what it was going to look like and we all collaborated on it in the shop.

What can you tell me about what’s going on with Sean Harris’ character in some of the images we’ve seen of him thus far? The makeup on him looks like it took quite a while to create.

Marino: The process took five to six hours and we had four people doing the makeup on him all at one time. It was me, Mike Fontaine, Dave Presto, and Art Sakamoto all jamming on it. We would do his face first and then glue on all his body prosthetics. Finding out where they go and how they line up again for the next day was quite a challenge. He was super patient and a very intense actor so he was into it and he didn’t care how long it took. There are a lot of hidden symbols on him and backwards writing, too. You may have to pause it and look, but there’s definitely some subliminal stuff in there. There were even a couple of days when he slept in the makeup. We took all the paint off and removed the face pieces so we could redo his face the next day. It was just too long of a process to do everyday and too difficult on the skin so we tried to leave as much on as we could and then repaint everything.

What was the most complicated makeup design you’ve ever had to create?

Marino: Walter Mitty’s aging makeup was super complicated and there were a lot of pieces made. You barely saw it in the movie, but it was pretty complicated. So was the Grigg’s body in Deliver, but everything is usually complicated. Every show in some way, even if it seems simple, is always complicated. The actor may be allergic to something or we have no time to do it, changes by directors or producers, or actors not being cast until the last minute, etc.

Do you have aspirations of directing your own feature?

Marino: Yes, one hundred percent. I’m actually planning some future film projects right now. I think naturally as an artist, you are a director in a way. You’re either an art director or you’re supervising and you have a vision of what something should be like. Sometimes you’re disappointed with how the effects you build end up being shot, that people don’t take your suggestions and they aren’t shot the way you think they should be. I think a good designer is also a good director in some way and I think I could do a pretty good job at that.

Do you think you’ll work with Scott again on a certain upcoming Marvel project he’s prepping?

Marino: We spoke about it and I’d like to. It sounds like a really cool project. I don’t know the logistics of it, but I love Dr. Strange. In fact, I have over 10,000 comic books, so I’m a big comic book fan. I think we could bring a lot of really cool stuff to the table if it goes that route. I trust Scott and his vision on what it could be like.

Do YOU ever get grossed out by gore in movies? If so, what was the most recent time?

Marino: I never get grossed out over the effects cause I’m always looking at it technically, unfortunately. I think Deliver us from Evil has some pretty intense makeup fx, and I’m really proud of what we did there. The newest grossest/coolest thing we’ve done recently is in American Ultra - we did this guy’s face splitting open. There are a lot of crazy gore effects in that film. I think there’s a lot of cool character gore makeups. I used to get grossed out looking at reference photos, but now I just look at what color or shape it is. Sometimes when I see little kids in reference photos I get pissed off or if I see someone eating someone else I’ll get grossed out, but other than that I’m kind of numb to it by now.

Have you ever had nightmares from doing this stuff, or are you just so used to it at this point?

Marino: I’m used it, but I definitely have nightmares. A lot of them actually and I write them all down. Clive Barker had said that most of his film inspirations come from dreams and nightmares. It’s true – a lot of my ideas come from them and things that I can make sense of. It’s like your mind is trying to work something out and your nightmare is somewhat of a solution or possible solution. The best part about it is that it’s all left to interpretation. So anyone could say this dream means this or that dream means that, but you’re the only one that can ever know how to solve what you’re trying to work out.

What’s the next project you’re really excited about?

Marino: We did a really cool character makeup on Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum 3, which I’m proud of. I’m excited for Deliver Us From Evil and everything else coming up like Ryan Gosling’s movie, Lost River. I haven’t seen it yet, but it has a lot of special makeup effects in it. One of them was an extremely difficult makeup to do on one of the guys where his lips were cut off - there was a lot of trial and error with that. It was a total Lon Chaney style makeup with hiding his real lips and stretching it back with wires. It was a really interesting makeup, so I hope it gets a good response.

Has Scott talked about Deliver Us From Evil 2?

I really can’t say... Maybe, maybe not! You’ll have to wait and see!

Thanks once again to Mike Marino for participating in this interview. You can check out his official site right HERE. And in case you missed it, catch up on our interview with DELIVER US FROM EVIL director Scott Derrickson HERE. The film opens everywhere July 2nd.

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