Rick Baker: Creature By Creature

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With just two weeks to go before he auctions it all off, we joined the supremely talented make-up effects artist Rick Baker to bid a fond farewell to some of his finest creations.

From the still unmatched transformation sequence in John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London through to Gremlins II: The New Batch and Hellboy, Rick Baker’s work has contributed to many of the last few decades’ most memorable movie moments, as well as winning him no fewer than seven Oscars.

But now he’s downsizing and selling many of the fruits of that astonishing half-century career. “It was a difficult decision,” says Baker. “I’m kind of a pack-rat, I had at least 20,000 square feet of storage space. The storage cost for these things over 30 years is really outrageous when I really think about it.”

Even though the 400-odd items going up for auction via The Prop Store by no means comprise his entire collection, getting rid of a lifetime’s work is still a bittersweet moment. Baker hopes his creations bring their new owners as much happiness and satisfaction as they have him. “If these are in the hands of a collector or fan then maybe it will be something they love and cherish and enjoy on a daily basis. I’ve already heard from some people who are really excited about being able to bid on these. That really does make me very happy.”

Prototype Gremlin Puppet

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

“Originally they asked me to do [Gremlins 2] and I wasn’t that interested. Chris Walas had done the original and I didn’t just want to reproduce somebody else’s designs. They said, ‘What can we do to make you interested?’ I wanted to redesign the gremlins and the Mogwai. I really wanted to make them individuals. The decisions that they made on the original were right for that film, but I wanted to contribute ideas too. So we came up with the idea of the genetic lab where we could mutate the gremlins and have the vegetable gremlin and the spider gremlin and so on. Then it became much more appealing to me, to change Chris’ designs and do Rick Baker versions of them. It would be CG these days, but there is a certain charm to having something real, and you have to think cleverly about how you’re going to achieve all these different things.”

Estimated sale price: $1000-1500

Harry Head Skin
Bigfoot And The Hendersons (1987)

“I think this movie is among my best work. If you look at that film today it totally holds up. It would be totally acceptable to an audience today. And what I like about it is that that character is the movie, he carries the movie. And he emotes so well, yet it’s an animatronic mask. It was a challenge and just a pleasure to do. I had so much fun not only designing and building it but also performing. I was one of the puppeteers on Harry’s face. And the puppeteers and Kevin Peter Hall, who was a dear friend, worked as a team. It was the first thing we did that was radio-controlled, up and till then it was all cables. Many of my colleagues in the business say that Harry is the high watermark for an animatronic character. I have a real fondness for him.”

Estimated sale price: $1000-1500

The Hammerhead Alien Figure

Men In Black II (2002)

“On the first movie none of us really knew what the tone was going to be. We knew it wasn’t H.R. Giger aliens, but then we didn’t want them totally goofy. But after the first one we at least had a blueprint. They're real but they have a certain comedy to them. The good thing and the bad thing about doing aliens is you can do pretty much what you want. Frankly, it’s much easier to make an alien that’s acceptable on a film than it is to do a good old-age makeup on somebody. On the MIB films it was just about throwing a lot of designs out there and saying pick one. This one was designed by a man called Carlos Huante, a really good artist. He did a sketch, it was picked and that’s what we made!”

Estimated sale price: $6000-8000

For the full Rick Baker feature, pick up Empire’s July issue, on sale May 28. The Rick Baker: Monster Maker live auction is on May 29 at propstore.com/auction