To create the otherworldly looks of his Oz, director Sam Raimi called upon the makeup artist that had worked with him since “Evil Dead II” in 1987. Howard Berger is one of the premiere makeup effects artists working in Hollywood today, having originally studied under the legendary Stan Winston. In 1988, he formed KNB Efx Group with Greg Nicotero, zombie master for AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
As an Academy Award winner for his work on the first “Narnia” movie, Berger had more than some experience creating witches, but, as he explained to MTV News, for the notorious Wicked Witch of the West in Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” he faced a bigger challenge than he expected.
Since “Oz the Great and Powerful” has no official ties to the 1939 “Wizard of Oz,” Disney wanted Berger and his team to avoid a lot of the iconic imagery from the classic film, including the witch’s green skin. For Berger, the issue of the skin tone was cut and dry. It needed to be there. “We were like, ’That’s insane because everybody knows the witch is green. The Wicked Witch of the West is green.’ After a certain period of design work, we came up with different concepts and options that the studio felt very comfortable with,” Berger said.
To find the perfect shade of green, the makeup effects teams tried many different varieties of the witchy color before discovering the perfect hue. “The first time we tested it, it was almost like a forest green, and then we ended up finding a variety of greens. It was actually five different colors that make that color,” Berger said.
Creating the Look
Once Mila Kunis was cast as the Witch, Berger and Nicotero designed around the specifics of the actress’ face to find the right look. “Greg and I did designs that were very, very subtle, all the way to very extreme,” Berger said. “I took the designs to set one day, and I laid them out in front of Sam and Mila. To my surprise, Mila picked the most extensive, the real wicked, wicked witch, and so did Sam.”
One of aspect of the design process that was particularly important to Berger was crafting a Wicked Witch that “maintained Mila’s personality.” He wanted to make Kunis’ most distinguishing features — her eyes and lips specifically — still visible through the layers of foam-rubber. “I wanted to keep it very sleek, very clean,” Berger said. “There is no texture, no warts. Her eye brows are very manicured. I wanted to keep her very classic.”
Making the Magic
On days when Kunis would need to be in her Wicked Witch makeup, her call would be 3 a.m. to begin the application process, but since Berger and his team designed the prosthetics to be convenient, the whole thing would only take an hour and a half.
Kunis’ makeup consisted of two main pieces of foam-rubber prosthetic. The first, a “horseshoe piece” covered her neck and the sides of her face, while another shaped her nose and forehead. Though the application process was relatively short, Berger had to be on-hand all day for constant maintenance.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Oz the Great and Powerful.”