He helped create the signature look of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” made Gwyneth Paltrow fat for “Shallow Hal,” and is currently turning Kanye West into a wrinkled old man for his upcoming “Stay Up! (Viagra)” music video. But at night, make-up and effects legend Tony Gardner is re-inventing the zombie.
“Basically, it’s the end of the world; the entire nation is zombies,” Gardner told us of “Zombieland,” which features Woody Harrelson and young rising stars Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard and Mila Kunis, and is due in theaters in time for Halloween. “And [the humans] are trying to get from the east coast to the west coast.”
Judging from the plot (humans running from the living dead), “Zombieland” sounds like your typical end-of-the-world thriller - but the comedic elements promise something unique. “It’s a comedy,” Gardner insisted, looking past the ghastly nature. “It’s really funny.”
“Last night,” Gardner told us of the shoot, “There were 160 zombies, in prosthetics, on set in an amusement park.”
One of the actors he won’t be zombie-fying, however is Harrelson. “He’s one of the humans trying to make it across to the U.S.,” he revealed. “[They’re fleeing] to this amusement park where they think they are going to be safe.”
Some of the other actors, however, will have to trade in their movie star looks in exchange for their zombie makeovers. “Amber Herd, who’s stunningly beautiful in real life,” Gardner laughed, citing an example in the “Pineapple Express” beauty. “She wasn’t [after going through makeup]. Seeing some of the characters in their makeup for the first time is a little off-putting.”
“It’s how you present yourself as a zombie that determines how people will react to you,” he said of Heard and his other evil creations. “Once the contact lenses go in, I think all bets are off.”
“We are going to do some prosthetics on the a-list guys,” he added.
Gardner said he’s excited about working on the movie with first-time filmmaker Ruben Fleischer, who has given him free reign in his zombie design. “[We] are just trying to be real extreme with it,” the Hollywood veteran said, “and trying to balance the scares out with the comedy.”
Do you prefer your zombie movies sarcastic and silly, or terrifying and full of torment?