I am always keeping an eye out for mind-blowing creatives and as I finished watching Looper for the umphteenth time, I noticed the name in the credits…Kazuhiro Tsuji – Make-Up Artist. After a bit of research I found Kazuhiro Tsuji’s sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. His creation, which stands at the same height as the actual man, is currently part of the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library, open to the public until September 30, 2013. In addition he has supported multiple Hollywood films. Some of his films include, Hellboy, Men in Black I & II, The Ring I & II, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Life, Total Recall, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We sit and talk about everything under the sun, from make-up, creative processes, and of course, film! Read below for the full interview…
Between your work currently, and with Cinovation Studios, you have worked on countless Hollywood films. Has there ever been a project that has alluded you that you wish you could have worked on?
Kazuhiro: Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick movies.
This summer you hosted Master Classes in London where people could learn and demonstrate your abilities first-hand. What aspect of your work is the hardest for people to grasp? Is it blending applications or perhaps brush techniques?
Kazuhiro: Discipline. There are a lot about it in my work because of Japanese culture I grew up in. And it is invisible but it is one of the most important part of what we do and who we are that reflect in each person’s work.
The one job you worked on that has me the most curious was your work on Looper. Joseph Gordon Levitt worked on his mannerisms to mimic that of Bruce Willis, however your job was to make him look like a younger version of himself. What areas of focus on Joseph’s head did you pay attention too most to accurately make this vision come to life?
Kazuhiro: It was pretty much impossible because their proportion were totally different. What I tried to do was apply the characteristic feature of Bruce to Joe’s face without overly doing it and keep them in good balance. Since they were so different, the more I did something, it would look wrong and distract audiences.
CGI effects have their place in films for making the impossible look probable but when it comes down to creature/monster effects there’s no substitution for the real thing. What is your current opinion on Hollywood relying on CGI rather then make-up effects in todays movies? Does it make it noticeably ungenuine?
Kazuhiro: Hollywood itself is becoming ungenuine. Becoming too much about marketing and ego than art. Many decisions made based on money rather than art. That is always when the quality could be sacrificed. There is nothing wrong to use CGI, I have seen many bad make up or creatures as well. Just how to use it and what you do with it is important.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Speaking of which, you began your career in Japan before moving to the states. Were there any particular Asian films that inspired your work or got you initially interested? Or were you always attracted to Hollywood?
Kazuhiro: It was the first Star Wars inspired me to do special effects (not make up at that time). There were no particular Japanese film inspired me to do special effects make up. I liked to watch Fantastic Voyage, James Bond seriese, 2001, Westworld and Duel when I was kid. These came out before I was born or around that time. I am talking about really early inspiration. Movies inspired me to do special effects make up were Exorcist, Amadeus, Elephant man, Greystoke, An American Werewolf in London, Little Big Man, The Hunger.
Your work has evolved into sculpturing, and this year you hit the public with your amazing Lincoln bust. What challenges does sculpting present that make up artistry doesn’t?
Kazuhiro: Challenges in film make up are based on compromising in many cases recently. Challenge in fine art is pure challenge, challenge to myself and life.
Do you have a general fascination with Lincoln yourself deciding to participate as part of the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln exhibit? Or did you feel his facial features would convey a challenging and interesting sculpt?
Kazuhiro: I love his face and of course I respect who he was and inspired by him. I had this idea of creating Portrait of Lincoln 10 yeas ago.
How do you personally feel about being recognized by the Academy for your work? Are you chasing a ‘win’ with your future projects or do you not put much emphasis on accolades?
Kazuhiro: It is great honor of course. I don’t choose my job based on “Win”.
Lastly, what kind of films are you working on? Can you tell us any surprises or info?
Kazuhiro: I have not been working on any film job lately. I have been turning down since most of the film projects are tight on budget and time recently. I don’t want to sacrifice the quality I put out there. I am focusing my career in fine art now.
Want to stay up to date on all of Kazuhiro’s work? Visit his official site below: