Helm Control

As Picard's crew meet the Son'a and the Ba'Ku, make-up maestro Michael Westmore discusses his designs for Trek's new aliens. By James E Brooks

selected from Starburst #245

All those hours in the make-up chair could be hellFor any avid movie-goer, the name Westmore is a familiar one, stretching back to the very beginnings of Hollywood. Almost a dynasty, members of the Westmore family have done make-up for some of the highest profile features. Heir to that tradition, Michael Westmore has carved out his own unique niche, with credits including the Rocky series, Blade Runner and The Andromeda Strain. Nominated several times for the Academy Award for make-up, he won the Oscar for Mask.

For genre fans, however, perhaps Michael Westmore’s most visible work has been on the current incarnations of Star Trek – The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. As make-up supervisor, he has designed and overseen the visual aspect of all alien races to appear on the small screen. With Star Trek: Generations, Westmore brought that vision to the big screen and continued it in First Contact, for which he was once more nominated for the Oscar.

That make-up excellence continues in Star Trek: Insurrection as Westmore once again creates more alien races, this time more subtle than his work with the Borg. “The new alien races in this movie are more humanoid than alien, which means there is a lot more of the human face visible. We won’t be covering noses and changing the facial end of the actors so much.”

In fact, one of the races, the Ba’ku, appears outwardly identical to humans. Westmore describes the other major aliens. “The other new race is called the Son’a; they’re our adversaries. As they age, they go through a process of stretching their skin in an attempt to stay youthful, which is a concept that was present from the earliest draft I received. Now, I have a background in dealing with plastic surgeons – in fact, years ago, I had a business dealing with cosmetic surgery – and I had seen hundreds of women who’d had face-lifts done. Now, there are good doctors and bad doctors and in some of the very bad cases you got asymmetrical stretching in the face that gave the person a very strange look.

The skin trade

Admiral Dougherty admores Ru'afo's latest facelift “In the movie, we wanted to take it beyond what a doctor would do today, but not so far that you enter the realm of Fantasy. I wanted to stay away from Horror films like Hellraiser or the funny stretching you saw in Brazil, although I did look at a great number of films for research and didn’t see anything close to what we were looking for... I wanted an effect that looked like something more than a plastic surgeon going crazy, where the skin was pulled incredibly taut. To do that, we made multiple overlapping prosthetic pieces that could be glued to the actor’s face and pulled. That way, even when the actors turned their heads, you could see the stretching.”

Westmore reveals that the audience gets the opportunity to see the Son’a achieve their unique approach to remaining youthful. “There is a laboratory where they go to get their face-lifts done and we have a lot of interesting effects in there, like the pulling of the skin and implanting teeth. It’s like a beauty salon for the ageing.”

All Star Trek images © Paramount
Read the full interview with Michael Westmore by getting Starburst 245 - plus 11-year-old Michael Welch on playing the Ba'ku Artim, the Son'a and Ba'ku analysed, and much more from the cast and crew of Insurrection
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