Rick Baker recently announced his retirement after four decades in the special effects industry. Baker is best known for his work in the original Star Wars trilogy as well as being the makeup artist for Michael Jackson in his Thriller video.
Baker has had a long and lucrative career as a special effects makeup artist. He began his trade as a teen by creating fake body parts in his kitchen. He got his first professional start on the set of the Exorcist as an assistant in prosthetic makeup.
His career took off and he worked on dozens of blockbuster movies including American Werewolf in London, Harry and the Hendersons, King Kong, The Ring and most recently, Maleficent.
In 2008 Baker received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. In 2009 he was awarded the Jack Pierce Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2012 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Baker also won seven Best Makeup Oscars during his career.
Baker says the time has come to close the doors on his Cinovation Studios shop. The 64-year old cites his age as one of the reasons for retirement but also says that the industry has changed.
As for his future, Baker says he is not necessarily going to quit the makeup business altogether. While he is no longer interested in running a large studio, he says he is open to being a makeup and special effects consultant for upcoming projects.
With the push towards computer-generated imagery (CGI) for special effects in movies these days, Baker says he hopes that the studios don’t move away from physical effects, stressing the importance of an actual actor in makeup.
“When you have a good actor, in a good makeup, and he’s been sitting in the makeup chair looking at himself in the mirror, seeing himself become something else…he gives a performance that he’s never going to give on a motion-capture stage.” Says Baker.