He created some of the most memorable monsters in cinematic history, but Rick Baker, at the age of 64, has called time on his career as one of Hollywood’s greatest creature makeup and animatronic visual effects experts.
Having turned his talents to the likes of Star Wars, The Gremlins, Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, and of course Michael Jackson’s epic Thriller video, the veteran monster maker’s work has been seen by millions.
But with computers now well on their way to world domination, undercutting the market with cheaper and faster CGI, the artistic masterpieces created by the likes of Baker are less in demand.
And while it’s a sad day for special effects make-up, Baker, who has no less than seven Oscars sitting on his mantelpiece, hangs up his latex, fake blood and fangs with a catalogue of work that is sure to inspire (and scare) audiences for years to come.
To celebrate his contribution to cinema, these are our favourite Baker creations…
Who didn’t totally love the Gremlins growing up, and secretly wish that having one could be a reality? Obviously making sure they didn’t turn rogue would be a major concern, but once again Baker proved his brilliance in creating creatures using special effects and animatronics that people believed to be real. And the stark difference between the sweet, cute, cuddly gremlins and the crazed little monsters was incredible, showcasing Baker’s great talent.
This scene from Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi shows one of Baker’s most gruesome, hideous and disgusting creations, Jabba the Hutt, in all his glory. Honestly, we had nightmares about this guy eating us growing up, not to mention the countless other unique and interesting aliens, monster and creatures that appear in the Star Wars films, which Baker made us completely believe.
3.Men in Black
There are so many creative and inspired aliens in the Men in Black franchise to pick from when looking at Baker’s work, but the fast talking, coffee drinking “worm guys” must be a favourite. With tiny frames to match that big attitude, they’re the perfect blend of weird and charming and will remain a lasting favourite.
The King of Pop meets the King of monster make-up, to create the undeniable epic that is the Thriller video. It was always going to be great, but with Baker at the helm of some seriously gory and creative zombie visual effects it become a masterpiece that, to this day, still makes you want to don your monster costume and dance along.
1. An American Werewolf in London
Perhaps one of the best examples of Baker’s excellence in the field of special effect is this incredible sequence from An American Werewolf in London, where the entire transformation was achieved using animatronics and make-up. With CGI so prominent in today’s cinema it’s difficult to appreciate the true artistic craftsmanship that went into – what was at the time – a ground-breaking achievement.