As one of the key behind-the-scenes creatives on the TV series, The Walking Dead, legendary Hollywood makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero has reached the A-list of his Hollywood below-the-liners. With fellow effects maestro’s Howard Berger and Bob Kurtzman, Nicotero heads up KNB Efx, the 25 year-old Hollywood visual effects outfit that has on their resume such hits as Oz The Great and Powerful, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2 and Misery.
Ahead of the Australian premiere of Donna Davies’ Nightmare Factory, a feature-length documentary that traces Nicotero’s rise, SCREEN-SPACE decided to check out some of the great man’s most famous works, sick visions and little known contributions to the world of makeup visual effects…:
DAY OF THE DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2
Nicotero did his apprenticeship with two legends of the horror genre on two of the 80s most ground-breaking works, George Romero’s Day of the Dead and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. On Day…, he would be under the tutelage of the great Tom Savini; the team would win a Saturn Award for their wildly horrific scenes of gore, "In the late 80s you had make-up people like Rick Baker and Rob Bottin and films like ET, and The Thing, and The Howling," says Nicotero in an interview with Bizarremag.com, "and suddenly make-up effects became the reason people would go to the movies.”
DANCES WITH WOLVES
Kevin Costners’s Oscar-winning epic is perhaps best remembered for the vivid and exciting buffalo hunt sequence. KNB Efx had been steadily building a reputation over 2 years when they got the job on what would become the most successful western ever released. Nicotero told the Icons of Fright website that the film’s success made him somewhat anxious. “I was really nervous, because I was terrified that we’d be remembered for Dances With Wolves!” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Jesus, we’ve peaked in two years.”
THE BLOODY WAVE OF 1990’S HORROR
It would be the decade that established Nicotero and his team as the go-to guys for the industry’s finest make-up effects results. From Bride of Re-Animator and Tales From The Darkside: The Movie in ‘90; Army of Darkness in ‘92; Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday in ’93; In The Mouth of Madness and Lord of Illusions in ’95; From Dusk ‘til Dawn and Scream in ’96; Spawn in ’97; The Faculty in ’98; and, House on Haunted Hill in ’99. “We've done 12 projects with Sam Raimi, we've done 7 projects with Robert Rodriguez, we've done 5 with Quentin Tarantino, we've done 3 with Spielberg,” Nicotero told Horror.com in 2005. “The people that we work for call us back over and over again. It's something that I'm very, very proud of.”
“I have friends who will introduce me to people as, 'This is Greg Nicotero – he did the dick in Boogie Nights',” Nicotero told Time Out London, 2009. Despite a career crafting some of the most intricate physical effects in cinema history, it would be for enhancing Mark Wahlberg’s appendage (pictured, right) that has fuelled the legend of Greg Nicotero. “The first penis we had sculpted, it was pointing at a 45 degree angle. And (the studio) said ‘We need to get the tip to point down, pointing out is bad.’ They were concerned about the rating, and if he appeared semi-aroused, that would be a problem.” He has became Hollywood’s leading expert in prosthetic penis’, outfitting James Franco in Milk and John Cho in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.
THE MIST, PIRAHNA 3D and THE GREY
KNB Efx have created some of the most terrifying screen villains ever to come from the animal kingdom. The eagle-sized flying insects in Frank Darabont’s The Mist, the savage underwater carnivores (and their impact upon human flesh) in Alexandre Aja’s Pirahna 3D and, in some of Nicotero’s most subtle effects work, the wolves that stalk Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey. Talking to Horror.com, Alexandre Aja (who worked with Nicotero on his The Hills Have Eyes remake in 2007) said of their working relationship, “You go to see him and you say, ‘This is what I would like to see.’ Even if it’s impossible, he will find a way to make it happen. He can create prosthetics that looks absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine working without him.”
Nightmare Factory will screen at A Night of Horror / Fantastic Planet Film Festival on Saturday, April 20.