More Than Just Little Green Men
As cool as the Klingons look in their hard-shelled- armor and masks, they simply aren’t Klingons if they don’t actually look like aliens underneath. And because Abrams wanted his aliens to look amazing he hired David LeRoy Anderson.

A two-time Oscar winner (Men in Black, The Nutty Professor) and an artist on great titles such as The Cabin in the Woods, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, and the Abrams-produced Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Anderson is a newcomer to the Star Trek franchise – but it didn’t take him long to discover the extreme challenges of the job. While he initially thought that most of his job would involve working in his makeup trailer and bringing designs to life, he found himself on-set a great dealing with one very specific, yet very important task: setting Spock’s classic Vulcan eyebrows.

“I was mutilating his face, and shaving his face,” Anderson said jokingly. “It made me nervous, it made him nervous, so I approached it very delicately.”

Because of their comfort level with each other he understood that he would have to be the one to apply Quinto’s makeup every day. The process involved plenty of careful shaving and plucking, but by far the most painstaking and time consuming part of the process was setting the fake hairs – of which there were many. All told the eyebrows took 45 minutes for each side, which I have to imagine would be an amazingly awkward thing to have to sit through every day for weeks on end.

And, of course, that kind of time commitment also has an effect on the other side of the job, the realization of the alien designs, which was all simultaneous to his work in applications.

“We’d have a four o’clock in the morning call, we’d be done with the makeup by 6:00am. I got on the road, an hour later I’m in Van Nuys in my studio – I work eight hours there. Get back in the car, get back [to set] and they’re still working because it’s 16 hour days – and I’d catch the last four or five hours on set. So my days were really long, sleep was really brief, but it was awesome.”

On the design side, Anderson also ran problems when working to figure out the best way to design Klingons in this new version of the Star Trek universe (though the new movie doesn’t ignore what can be seen in the deleted scenes from Abrams’ first movie). When trying to determine the Klingon look they realized that by using huge blocks of foam rubber on the actors’ faces they would end up making everyone look exactly the same, and they wanted each individual member of the species to look different. To fix this issue the makeup team worked to leave faces more exposed and used multiple pieces when applying makeup to allow for better facial movement.

“It’s a real balancing act,” Anderson talked about dealing with the fact that the Klingon look is so iconic. “You don’t want to stray too far, but you also don’t want to go back and cookie-cut the exact same thing. There have been a lot of advances and we have the opportunity to do a new, fresh pass without losing anything.

Beyond established alien races, the movie also allowed Anderson to flex his creative muscles a bit as well, coming up with all kinds of designs for new species. A number of alien busts were out on display, and we got to see multiple cool designs, including a strange one for Joseph Gatt (who has a metallic disc in the back of his head that has the exact same design as the ceiling of the bridge on the Enterprise), as well as an alien with a strange waddle around its neck that inflates and illuminates when the creature breaths (this particular one will be played by Heather Lagenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, who also happens to be Anderson’s wife).

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