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Matthew W. Mungle Interview
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Who put the gore in Dracula's fangs? Who can turn a beautiful young woman into a crotchety old lady? Who is known for burn scars, shark bites, and other hideous decapitations? This man is none other than Matthew Mungle. An Academy Award winner for his brilliant work on Bram Stoker's Dracula, and an Emmy Award winner for his work on "The X-Files," Matthew is easily one of the top notch makeup artists in Hollywood. I got to chat with this talented man who gave the readers of Classic-Horror a wonderful glimpse behind the scenes of movie magic.
Classic-Horror: Hi Matt! Are you ready to start?
Matthew Mungle: Sure!
C-H: Thank you very much for doing this, by the way!
Mungle: Oh, no problem. It's my pleasure!
C-H: I researched your work quite a bit this weekend and you really have done some very impressive work in the field.
Mungle: Thank you so much!
C-H: What I would like to know is, what started the fascination with doing makeup for you?
Mungle: Well, when I was a kid it was monster movies. You know, the classic Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. You know, all the black and white ones. Then, I saw The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. That movie made a huge impact on me. It was amazing how they put the makeup on Tony Randle and changed him into all of those characters. Planet of the Apes was another one that was equally as influential.
C-H: Who were your major influences in the field?
Mungle: I think John Chambers, first. Of course, William Tuttle who did The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. Not to mention, Jack Pierce (The Wolfman, Werewolf of London, Bride of Frankenstein). Finally, the man who started it all, Lon Chaney, with the Phantom of the Opera. Then later, Dick Smith (The Exorcist, House of Dark Shadows)..
CH: Wonderfully talented people. My personal favorite of your films was Edward Scissorhands.
Mungle: Oh, thanks!
C-H: Now that was your first major film. How did you get the job?
Mungle: Ve Neill (makeup department head for Edward Scissorhands) called me, as she was working on the film, and she asked me if I would like to work on that film as her second. So, I did and I went there and helped put on that makeup everyday.
C-H: That is really excellent. What was it like to work with Johnny Depp?
Mungle: He was really wonderful to work with. Very easy to get along with. Tim Burton too was also very fun to work with.
C-H: Now, those of us who have followed your work know that your specialty is aging. Perhaps your best example of this is James Woods in Ghosts of the Mississippi.
Mungle: Yes, exactly.
C-H: Now, my question is, what made you decide to perfect aging? Did it just kind of happen, or do you have a fascination with the aging process?
Mungle: Both. It just kind of "happened", and I've always been fascinated with how the face changes as it ages. Not to mention, there's also a fascination with making the aging as realistic as possible. That's really the trick about it, to make it as realistic as possible. The whole point is to make it subtle enough so that the audience can't tell what you've done.
C-H: Actually, I have noticed that your work is very realistic because it is so subtle. So, my question is, how do you prepare for a new makeup project? Do you research, or do you learn by "trial and error"?
Mungle: Well, I look at the person's face first, and I analyze it to see how they are going to age as they get older. Then, I start sculpting from there. Sometimes, I do Photoshop renderings to see what they are going to look like in their older age. Then, I go straight into a sculpture of the person's face, and try to make it look as realistic as possible by remaining subtle.
C-H: Now, our readers might now know this, but you won the Academy Award for your work on Bram Stoker's Dracula. That seems like a makeup person's dream film.
Mungle: It was great! Greg Cannom got the film first and designed the creatures, and I applied the makeup everyday to Gary Oldman on the set. I also made all the teeth for Gary Oldman, and also for all the brides. It was just so wonderful to work on an updated version of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
C-H: Absolutely! Just looking at the final product, it looks like the film was very intense. Were there any parts in particular that were especially challenging for you?
Mungle: Um, not really. I think it was ALL challenging. One, to make the old age look as realistic as possible because we were still using foam latex at that time. It was especially difficult with color trying to get depth. However, Michael Ballhaus did a magnificent job with lighting and filming.
C-H: It truly is a great looking film. Gary Oldman seems like a such a professional actor. What was he like to work with?
Mungle: He was great! So excellent! He was so professional. We had our own trailer to do his makeup in. He was just so amazing. Coppola would just say "action" and he would snap right into that character. Then after the scene runs, he would drop it. He is a true actor.
C-H: How long did the makeup take to apply?
Mungle: It took around four hours. That included hands and everything.
C-H: You've actually done quite a bit of horror films. You've done makeup in Deep Blue Sea, Dracula, Psycho, and Red Dragon. What attracts you to a particular film project?
Mungle: The creativity of it. The "Well, I've never done THAT before" type thing. It's just really the creativeness of the makeup that really attracts me to a project.
C-H: What is your favorite movie that you worked on so far?
Mungle: Um, one had to be Bram Stoker's Dracula. The second would have to be Bedazzled with Brendan Fraiser.
C-H: You really did an incredible job with Bedazzled, especially making Brendan Fraser look so different in scene to scene.
Mungle: Thank you! Harold Ramis originally didn't want Brendan to have any prosthetics. He originally only wanted it done with regular makeup. So, I designed some looks, and Harold kind of said "Oh, that will work!" So it was a subtle thing. It wasn't an overblown thing like many special effects artists do. That's the one thing about my work. I like to do makeup that isn't necessarily over the top. I like to keep people guessing, "Well, what did they actually DO to him?" Like Schindler's List we did bald caps for eight of the principle characters, and no one even knew we MADE bald caps for them.
C-H: Is there any particular area of makeup that you haven't explored, but would like to?
Mungle: Not really. We kind of run the gamut when we do a project with all of the research we do and sculpting and everything.
C-H: Now, you also run a company called Nu-Products. Could you tell me a little more about what they do?
Mungle: Sure. Nu-Products is a Halloween business. We brought all of our technology from the film industry and we made foam rubber latex masks and prosthetics for the lay man and kids who want to wear makeup for Halloween, or any other holiday. The website, if you're interested, is www.nu-products.com
C-H: I'll be sure to check it out! Now, Matt, what was your most challenging project to date?
Mungle: Challenging….hmm. I think "X-Files" was. Just trying to keep up with the time allotted to do things was difficult. Also, the creativity behind it was outstanding. It was so excellent to be working on a television show like that. They excelled at continually making things more different and more bizarre. It was a great, great experience.
C-H: Now Matt, would you ever be interested in doing any other special effects?
Mungle: Not really. I really just enjoy doing makeup. Creating the effects, applications, I just love it.
C-H: Well, you are very good at what you do.
Mungle: Thank you.
C-H: Now what are you working on now? I know you work on two television shows, "C.S.I. Miami" and "Presidio Med."
Mungle: Yeah, "C.S.I. Miami" REALLY keeps us busy. We've got a lot of things to do there. That kind of borders in the horror genre right there with all the gross things we have to do. We also do the special effects of Presidio Med which gets into the technical hospital things. Right now we're doing an episode with premature babies.
C-H: Interesting! Any movie projects?
Mungle: We have Red Dragon and The Tuxedo out there now. Not to mention, we're working on Charlie's Angels 2 right now. We may have a couple other films in the pipeline.
C-H: We'll certainly being looking out for those! (You can check out all of Matt's work at his website www.matthewwmungle.com) Now, what advice would you give to students trying to go into Hollywood makeup as a career?
Mungle: Do as much work as you can on your own with your friends as models. Then, try to get into a school that specializes in it. I went to a great school called the Joe Blasco Makeup Center. I still go back there and lecture there. It's an excellent school to go to get a knowledge of makeup effects. Finally, just have a love for the industry and for makeup effects.
C-H: Now this is my last question Matt, because I know you are very busy. What would be your dream makeup project?
Mungle: The dream makeup project. Well, you know, I never had time to think about that. We're always constantly working on something. I suppose my dream project would be just to have enough time to do everything! You know, as the years go on, you have less and less time to do what you have to do.
C-H: Thank you so much for doing this, Matt!
Mungle: My pleasure! Anything else you need, don't hesitate to give me a call!
Classic-Horror would like to thank Matt for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule to do an interview with us. He is an extraordinarily talented man and has a true passion for his work. It's been such a pleasure to speak with someone so dedicated in his field, and Classic-Horror truly wishes him the best on all his future projects!