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Director and star Kenneth Branagh had a specific vision for the Creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and it would demand “an actor of great courage and brilliance.”
He said, “[The Creature] had to be two things – he had to be hideous, but he also had to be tremendously sympathetic because of his terrible plight.”
For Branagh, that actor was Robert De Niro.
“I knew that Ken was going to make more than just another horror film, that he was going to give it a deeper meaning,” De Niro said.
Integral to this vision was the Creature’s appearance.
“In keeping with the spirit of the rest of the film,” said make-up designer Daniel Parker. “We went back to the novel for inspiration, but Mary Shelley gives no details at all about how Frankenstein created the Creature.”
Branagh wanted it to be very clear in the film that Frankenstein’s creation was put together in a rush during a plague. Parker and his team researched the scientific techniques in use at the end of the 18th century in order to come up with a look that would be consistent with the medical knowledge of the day.
Nine long months of research and development led to the creation of a truly extraordinary make-up that covered every inch of De Niro with a prosthetic skin so flexible that the actor's performance was not compromised in any way.
For the full body make-up, De Niro was in the chair for up to 12 hours at a time. It was grueling for both the make-up team and De Niro.
“Some people asked me if there was so much makeup that I was totally disguised,” De Niro said. “We were concerned about keeping a balance between making the character distorted and still allowing people to recognize me.”
The effect was electrifying and terrifying.
“It was the most difficult thing I had ever undertaken,” Parker said, “but being asked to redesign the most famous make-up in the world puts the job into a league of its own.”
Adapted from Sony Pictures Production Notes.