“There are many opportunities for everyone in this room,” were the encouraging words Bill Corso had for the up-and-coming make-up artists attending Make-Up Designory’s Industry Speaks night on Wednesday, January 11th. While preparing for his next feature film with Jim Carrey, the make-up guru took time to share his personal experience and wisdom. He discussed his career path and exceptional accomplishments, and offered advice to each artist in attendance.
A New Jersey native, Corso grew up admiring make-up. Movie monsters captured his attention as a child, and it was at a young age that he set the goal of becoming a make-up artist. Inspired by Young Frankenstein, he started reading books about monster creation, and soon became a student of make-up. “I loved anything out of the ordinary, and I loved drawing faces,” Corso said.
Corso moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to attend make-up school and pursue his dream. Interested in Special Effects, he worked in Steve Johnson’s lab, XFX. “Steve was the one person who could come and make what I thought was good, perfect,” he explained. Corso was also given an opportunity to work with Rick Baker – his biggest influence – on films like Planet of the Apes and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He encouraged the students to absorb as much information as possible from everyone they work with.
Corso accomplished his goals one by one, and he advised his audience to do the same. “Set a goal and you will start making choices to reach that goal.” Admitting to a competitive nature, he made an example of his initial desire for an Oscar – a goal he achieved by continuing to work as a make-up artist on feature films.
Once accepted into the union, Corso worked alongside Ve Neill on movies like Batman and Robin, and on Steven Spielberg films. He became personal make-up artist to Harrison Ford and contributed his skills to Indiana Jones and the recent Cowboys and Aliens. He is Jim Carrey’s personal make-up artist, and they are on their fifteenth film together.
Corso has won several awards, including two Emmys for The Shining in 1997 and Grey Gardens in 2009. Most notably, he won an Oscar for Best Make-Up in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2004.
Corso concluded his talk by emphasizing the importance of making friends with everyone. He also explained that when working on set, it is necessary to have many skills – not just artistic talent. “You have to be able to work well with others and give production exactly what they want.”
The students seemed inspired and even slightly star struck. It was a great honor to have someone so accomplished come and encourage the artists that will soon be the future of the make-up industry.
— Katie Williams