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Six Things We Learned From Legendary Makeup Artist Ve Neill at ScareLA 2018

Ve Neill at ScareLA 2018

During day one of ScareLA, Academy Award winning makeup artist Ve Neill took the stage to host a retrospective on her career.  With over 80 credits listed on IMDb, Neill has worked on everything from The Lost Boys, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands to recent franchises like The Hunger Games and The Amazing Spider-Man.  The presentation titled, “From Batman to Beetlejuice: Ve Neill Retrospective” was a Q&A style presentation that was kicked off by Neill, but then lead by audience questions. Working in Hollywood for over 40 years, Neill had some stories to tell, but here are some of the highlights I thought were worth sharing.

The Lost Boys is Her Favorite Movie That She’s Worked On

During the panel Neill was asked what her favorite monster creation she made was, she explained that she had never truly made a monster, but shared that for the longest time The Lost Boys was her favorite movie that she had worked on.  “It was just so much fun to work with all the young guys and to do those vampires,” said Neill.  “Up until then nobody had ever done a vampire movie that looked like that and when we developed that film we really wanted them (the vampires) to be sexy, and fun, and scary, and beautiful.  Kind of like demonic angels. And that set the style for how vampires were going to look from then on.”  But in the end she stressed that she didn’t really have a favorite makeup she worked on, she likened it to having to choose your favorite child.

The Hunger Games Films Use Every Kind of Makeup You Can Learn

Neill worked on all four The Hunger Games films, and while talking about her favorite films to work on, she explained that The Hunger Games movies leveraged every type of makeup that can be used.  “All the way from high fashion right down to prosthetics, creatures, injuries, everything. Every type of makeup we were ever taught to do is in those movies,” said Neill during her presentation.

A Space Themed Band and A Star Trek Convention Were Her Backdoor Into the Industry

In the early 70’s Neill did costuming for local bands in Los Angeles and began working with the band Zolar X.  As part of their act Zolar X wanted a look that included pointy ears and big brains, but at the time Neill had no idea how to create the look.  She told the band she would figure it out and decided to go to a Star Trek convention. There she met two men who she thought were wearing Planet of the Apes masks, that turned out to be makeups.  After getting them to look past the fact she was a girl, Neill was able to convince the two to teach her how to do create exactly what she needed for the band.  “They kind of took me in and I went up to their garage every weekend up in Santa Barbara and I watched how they made this stuff and they helped me make these ears and these brains for this band and showed me how to put them on,” explained Neill.  “One thing lead to another. I fell in love with one of those guys and I was with him for four years and he and I did makeups on low budget, non-union movies forever and then I got in the union. And that is how I started doing makeup.”

Tommy Lee Jones is the Only Actor Who Was Ever Difficult To Work With

During the presentation, an audience member asked Neill if there was ever an actor that was absolutely horrible to work with. “You know,” laughed Neill “There has only been one, but the last time I worked with him he was an absolute dream and he was so happy to see me and I hadn’t seen him in 20 years.”  Neill explained that Jones is the kind of actor that if you showed any kind of weakness at all he’d go after it and mess with you until you cried.  Thankfully Neill knew how to stick up for herself and when Jones tried to intimidate her on the set of the movie Cobb, she shut him down pretty quickly.  Neill explained that Jones walked into the makeup trailer and looked at her and said, “You have one hour to make me look 80 years old.” To which Neill responded, “Well ok. I guess we’ll see how old you look in an hour, how’s that?” Jones kept quiet until the makeup was done, but then he took the opportunity to take another jab before Neill could shoot him down again. “We did him and he looked really good,” said Neill.  “…and at the end of it he says, ‘Huh. This looks pretty damn good, but now you’re fucked. Pardon my French.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes ‘Yeah. You’re going to have to do it this fast every day.’ And I said, ‘ Hell, this is only the first time. You know it usually gets faster after you do it a few times.’ And he didn’t say anything else again. And I never had trouble with him after that.”  Neill would go on to work with Jones again in 1997’s Batman & Robin and then last year after 20 years they worked together on Shock and Awe where Jones not only remembered Neill by her full name, he greeted her with a hug.

Beetlejuice’s Coloring is Actually Yellow, Not White

While most people think Beetlejuice is white, he’s actually yellow. “It’s deceiving because he was actually not white.  Everybody thinks he was white, but if you think about it, white usually goes blue.  He was actually the palest color of yellow he could have been,” explained Neill.  The look was designed to contrast the rest of the ghosts in the film, which were more pastel-colored.  Neill wanted him to be a “pale cruddy yellow and look like he crawled out from under a rock.”

Some of Michael Keaton’s Best Dialogue in Beetlejuice Never Made It Into the Film

“Some of his best dialogue that we shot never made it to the movie because it was so outrageous,” said Neill while discussing Michael Keaton and the filming of Beetlejuice.  While filming the scene where Beetlejuice pops out of the ground with the carousel on his head, the carousel hat kept breaking and it had to be filmed over the course of five different days.  Each time Keaton emerged from the ground he would say something different and while it was funny, they couldn’t use any of it because it was so outrageous.  In the end they settled on the “Attention K-mart shoppers” line you now hear in the film.

Neill has taken the rest of 2018 off due to a recent knee surgery, but two films she worked on that are coming out later this year are A Star Is Born and Welcome to Marwen.  Neill also noted that she received a call about possibly doing the upcoming Harley Quinn standalone film, but nothing was official as of yet.

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