Listen now 28 mins
Stuart Freeborn's face has launched a thousand space ships, his hands have fashioned the Dawn of Man. Freeborn is the self made genius of British make-up, beginning his career at the Denham studios in the late 1930's. In those days there were no websites, no books, just a few scant pages in the film magazines on the secret science of film make-up. But Freeborn, yearning for a life beyond his father's Pooterish plan of City clerking, transformed himself at home, alone, before startling neighbours with his suburban appearances as Frankenstein and even Haile Selassie. Eventually Freeborn talked his way into Alexander Korda's shiny new dream factory of Denham.
Innovative, obsessive and secretive, he was taxed with the controversial Fagin makeup for Alec Guinness in Lean's Oliver Twist, the many faces of Peter Sellars in Kubrick's Dr Strangelove and the seemingly impossible creation of the ape families for the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. His is a career littered with achievement finally peaking with the creation of Yoda for George Lucas, bringing make-up into the age of prosthetics and mechanics.
Shortly before his collection was scattered and sold off, Mark Burman visited Freeborn's garden shed of secrets. Where, amongst the cobwebs, Peter Sellar's head nestled next to a severed arm & lightsabre and ape feet lay in boxes along with sets of Wookie teeth. Burman teases out a long life in make-up and hears from some of those under Freeborn's magic skins like Dan Richter (Moonwatcher in 2001), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) & Frank Oz who breathed life into Yoda as well as Nick Dudman, today one of Britain's leading make-up artists who began his own apprenticeship under this very English sorcerer.
Presenter & Producer Mark Burman.
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