George Lucas,  Prequel Trilogy,  Revenge of the Sith

Vintage interview: Star Wars Prequels makeup artist and model maker Danny Wagner

From Fantha Tracks:

Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our sixtieth guest was an artist at Kerner Optical, making maquettes, shooting models, sculpts and make-up – Danny Wagner. […]

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Lightsabre – What is it like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?

DW – Pretty amazing! I had no idea I was going to have such a big part of contributions towards this trilogy. I went to the Celebration 3 for Sith and felt so special . It was a blast to share the stories and pictures with the fans. I know how they feel because I am still a fan myself. I wouldn’t have worked so hard and long at this career if I wasn’t a fan. My passion for the art of all of it Is a powerful force, a force I will always carry around with me. I guess you can say the force is strong with me….

Lightsabre – Looking back on your tour through the Star Wars galaxy, what is your proudest moment, and your best work?

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DW – WOW! That’s a hard one. Mmmm, I would pick the environment maquettes I did for Jak films art department on Revenge of the Sith. I total loved it. I was working at Jak and every Friday met with George [Lucas] to discuss the maquettes and get feedback. It was so amazing to be there, contributing my ideas with George and Eric Tiemens and Ryan Church. Coming up with new and really interesting worlds for the last film. On top of all that I was pleasing George so much I was receiving Fabulouso stamps on my maquettes all the time. Which I learned was a rarity. Most people got the work stamped with an OK. For a while people were called me Mr. Fabulouso was very proud to be apart of the Art department for Episode 3. I feel that my work was really a strong contribution at that time.

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Last year during the Oscars, the makeup for Sith received a nomination and my good friends Dave and Lou Elsey got a nomination for this category. I got an email from a good friend and this is what it said.

OSCAR NOMS: There is one unsung hero in this nomination – Danny Wagner of the model shop. He was responsible for all Makeup shot here at ILM for pick ups (of which there were many), including the makeup done on George Lucas for his cameo. Unfortunately, Danny probably won’t be recognized in any formal way, but I think everyone here should be aware of his achievements and contributions.

That was very nice to him to send out. I was very proud of this. This was a great moment for me. In a sense I was included is this nomination and was greatly honored. […]

Lightsabre – You must have interacted with some special people, working on Clint Eastwood’s Bird and War of the Worlds for Steven Spielberg. In that working environment, how do you approach working with such legendary people? Is it overwhelming, or does that pass into a working relationship?

DW – […] As for Spielberg, I was lucky enough to be a part of the JAK art department when they announce that George was going to bring in a guest director so he could add some creative input on the film and work with the crew on Sith. We all were guessing which one would it be. I was hoping it was Steven! I won! I said that would be sooo cool to meet Spielberg. The Friday meeting went very well and he (Steven) was very open and nice. He was telling us about a helicopter ride he took over a volcano in Hawaii and he had to pay this pilot a lot of money to fly as close as he could to get the best reference he could. This was of course for Mustafar. I gasped and he looked at me and said this was a amazing tour of a volcano and could have been dangerous if they came too close. He said more technical things and was so understanding of the people in the room. He didn’t just focus on Lucas, he was there for all of us. Which was heavenly! […]

Lightsabre – You had the daunting job of turning George Lucas into Baron Papanoida. Tell us something of the day’s events. Were you calm and cool, or were you palms sweating at the thought of Lucas being in your hands?

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DW – That’s a good question, It all started when Brian Gernand came into the spray booth where I was painting something. He grabbed a chair and told me to set down. I said to myself oh shit, I’m fired?? He said that something came up in production that concerns George Lucas, I’m thinking ‘Oh dear.’ Hmmmm. ‘What’s Up?” I ask. Brian said George is going to have a first-time cameo in this episode and he gets makeup on his face and they want you to do it. I said Oh man! are you serious!! Yes!! I scrambled in my chair with excitement and Brian started laughing. He said I wanted to give you a chair because he was afraid I would faint. I’m glad he did. I might have.

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The night before, I was on pins and needles. Making sure everything was set up and going smoothly. I actually called my mom to calm me down. She was a good listener. The morning off I started to set up and get ready for George. When he came in he was told, Danny is going to do your makeup ok, I’m sure you remember him, from the Art Department.? He replied yeah, sure. He was with his daughter Katie who I was also going to makeup. It was nice not having Georges entourage because he was so down to earth and more approachable. Even making jokes and laughing. I applied Katies makeup first, which was a big help because she said my Dad doesn’t like anything poked on his face, special his eyes. Mmmm nice tip? Thanks! I replied. Her makeup only took an hour and she said that’s was faster than last time in Australia. I said thanks! She was done and left for wardrobe, then George was next. He came in and sat down in the chair.

I had something on my mind I wanted to ask the man so I figure what the hell, I’ll ask, Have you ever got your face casted before, as in a life cast done on you? He looked at me and thought for a moment and replied “No”, I said oh, if you ever want it done I will be happy to do it. He said ok. A George Lucas life cast does not exist! Maybe someday I’ll do it.

I continue to explain what I was going to do. This is an airbrush technique and I was going to have the pressure on 15 to 20 pounds. I thought it might help to be soothing on the face instead of stipple or brushed on. I had a small fan in my hand to blow off any excess makeup. I did have a big fan behind him. Faced outwards to such the paint away. I used Reel Creations Body Art Inks for the makeup and some grey and white highlight for his beard. He was pretty adamant about his beard not being covered up. After painting him blue I had to highlight the beard because it changed the color on his normal hair. For his tribal markings I had a laser cut stencil made for this design. It was pretty simple two yellow lines on both of his checks and 3 on his forehead. I did give him highlight’s and shadow for his face, and slightly eyelid makeup. The design itself was really simple, and not that striking but the whole exciting thing was, it was going to be applied on Lucas.

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This was the first time George ever had makeup on his face, and I did it, that’s cool! When I was done He stood up and looked straight in the mirror and said good job, I like it…I replied Thank you. That was the best compliment. I told him he was one of the best subjects I have ever worked with. He said thanks.

After his shoot I took it off. It was kind of nice, He sat down and I used makeup remover and warm towels to open up his pours on his skin and loosen up the makeup so it will come off a lot faster. I was standing there explaining this to George, massaging his face around losing up the makeup. It was a neat moment.

I felt like George’s personal massage therapist for a short while. It was wild! The makeup came off quick and easy. He was pleased.

Months later they even made Baron Papanoida action figures from that. That was a must have. I should do a Danny Wagner makeup artist action figure to go along with that. One of my personal items that I kept for posterity was the stencil I used on him. […]

This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 14th January 2007.”

0 Comments

    • archdukeofnaboo

      ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’ getting nominated ahead of RotS for Costume Design is arguably even worse.

      And ‘King Kong’ beat RotS to both Art Direction and Visual Effects nominations. Was it really that much better?

      The fact that Williams was already up for two nominations for Best Original Score via ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Munich’ surely worked against Episode III in that department.

      I get that the Oscars are not about handing out awards to commercial successes (as it should be), but Lucas’s epic conclusion to the Star Wars saga deserved a lot more recognition.

      For more on the 2005 Oscars travesty:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/78th_Academy_Awards

      • Cryogenic

        @ Slicer:

        Agreed. I like the skating sequence in “King Kong”, but the movie is something of a bloated, self-indulgent slog, in my opinion — in the usual Peter Jackson “everything is sad and epic” sentimental register.

        ROTS should have netted Oscars — or, at the very least, a string of nominations. I think it ended up being conspicuous by its absence. Very sad to see nothing for art direction, costuming, sound design, visual effects, and music.

      • Alexrd

        @ joey pieper

        Hollywood hates him. Always have, because he was sucessful and they didn’t control him. And he never liked Hollywood either (which is completely understandable, in more ways than one), that’s why he fought for and earned his independence. He didn’t want to depend on them and distanced himself. All wise decisions.

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