Matthew Mungle graduated from the Joe Blasco Make-up Artist Training Center in 1978. Now, at 35 years old, Mr. Mungle already has nearly 100 film, TV and commercial credits, including Head of Make-up on What About Bob and Navy Seals. More recently, Mr. Mungle worked on Edward Scissorhands, The Doctor, Bugsy and the soon to be released Dracula. Matthew just completed the upcoming Citizen Cohn, for which he made up Lee Grant and did the special Make-up on James Woods.
When did you know you wanted to be a Make-up artist?
I was raised on a farm in Atoka, Oklahoma. When I was nine, I became fascinated with monsters and horror movies. I picked up a book on Make-up that showed you how to do effects with nose putty and creped wool, and how to make blood. I practiced on my sisters and myself. As I got older I started doing face casts on myself. The movie The Planet of the Apes was an incredible turning point. When the sequels came out, I made an arrangement with the local theater owner to go around town promoting the movies in my ape face and Make-up.
Throughout high school I made costumes and created Make-ups to promote the local shows. I got written up in some national show biz weeklies. Then, I went to Oklahoma University, where I majored in theater and did Make-up and props. In 1977, I took a summer job at an amusement park in Houston, Texas.
A science fiction convention was held there. Rick Baker was the guest Make-up artist. I showed him my book and told him I was thinking of going to a trade school. He strongly recommended Joe Blasco. In December of 1977, I moved to California to study with Mr. Blasco. Even before school started I got to know Joe. He recognized my talent for special Make-up effects. He took me under his wing and showed me many special Make-up techniques before school started.
What was it like studying under Joe?
It was an amazing time in my life. I was like a sponge. I absorbed everything. Joe was inspirational to me. At school I also learned beauty Make-up , which I had never done. It was a totally new concept for me. Up until then I had only done lab work and monsters. I learned a lot about lighting, too. I advanced my special Make-up effects skills 100%. For example, Joe taught me how to correctly apply a plastic bald cap. He taught me better sculpting and moldmaking skills. There was a lot of time to practice and practice makes perfect. A big part of it is doing it on your own, being critiqued by your Instructors and learning from your mistakes.
How well did the Joe Blasco School prepare you for a professional career?
Tremendously well. Besides learning all aspects of Make-up , Joe teaches you professionalism, what to expect on the set, on set application, lighting and how to deal with the actors and directors.
How did you make the transition to becoming a professional Make-up artist?
Joe guided me to several small jobs for experience. The first one was a slide presentation of Beauty and the Beast. Then a student film called Death Dorm, which turned out to be a theatrical release called -The Dorm That Dripped Blood, by Jeff Obrow. As I gained professional experience Joe gave me the opportunity to teach certain parts of some classes, first as an assistant. That brief period when I worked as an instructor was also valuable experience. I was able to make contacts with directors and producers. It snowballed from there. My reputation for lab work grew. I always try to do all the sculpting, molds and foam appliances personally, then I go on the set to apply the pieces, or to supervise their application.
What was your first big break?
Working on the master, Orson Welles. In 1980, when Joe was Orson Welles’ special Make-up artist, Joe took me to Las Vegas to assist him with Orson Welles nose for the movie Butterfly. Joe showed me how to apply the nose upon Mr. Welles the first time, then I took over the Welles assignment. That’s when my parents knew my career wasn’t just a phase. They were really excited.
What was it like working on Edward Scissorhands?
That was my first union job. Ve Neill needed an assistant. I was recommended by Rick Stratton, another Make-up artist. Basically, I did the right side of Johnny Depp’s face while Ve did the left and the eyes. It’s common to have two artists working simultaneously on a major special Make-up effect.
What was your job on Dracula?
I worked under Greg Cannom. I made all the vampire teeth. Once, we started filming, I coordinated the on set applications. Dracula appears as a young man and an old man. Greg and I applied the old age Dracula Make-up and I stayed on set for upkeep.
What was a day on set of Dracula like?
I arrived at 5:00 a.m. and set up all the twelve piece appliance for the “old man” Dracula, and the hand appliances and finger extensions. Gary Oldman arrived at 5:30. Greg and I prepared Gary’s face with Aloe Vera then applied the pieces. Then Stuart Artingstall put the wig on and did all the hair. We did that at least twenty times during the filming. I was on the set about fifteen hours a day. We’d put it on. That takes four hours. Touch it up throughout the day. Then take it off. Clean up took about an hour. In addition, there were Dracula doubles and I did all of those. Then there were creatures. Dracula transforms into a bat and a wolf. I applied those effects with Greg. It was a long, but rewarding day.
What advice do you have for aspiring Make-up artists?
Practice, practice! It’s a matter of doing it. Sticking to your guns. don’t be afraid to accept a few jobs for little or no pay to get experience. You need on set experience. Also remember that you’re the first person the actors see in the morning. You’re like a psychologist to the actors. Be a good listener. Don’t talk a lot! It’s the actor’s preparation time.
What would you tell someone considering a Make-up school?
The Joe Blasco School is an excellent start. You learn all phases of Make-up artistry. Joe Blasco is the only school that takes you through all the best, most modern techniques from start to finish.