Gaston Leroux / Lon Chaney Makeup Tutorial

Lon Chaney's incredible portrayal in the 1925 silent film adaptation of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera has remained a powerful image over the years.  Paired with an amazing ability to create a multi-dimensional character through his acting ability, Chaney's makeup skills helped transform Erik into an iconic figure of Hollywood.  Chaney used techniques that might be considered fairly "low tech" by today's standards, and yet he was able to create a truly ghastly appearance with his secretive ways.  "The Man of a Thousand Faces" worked his magic in the movie industry for years, never failing to create lasting tributes to his genius.
  • Do NOT use liquid latex if you have a latex allergy. If you are unsure, consult your doctor. Be sure to test makeup on your wrist prior to applying to ensure no adverse reactions.
  • Avoid getting liquid latex in your hair or clothing.  It is difficult/impossible to remove!  Use gelatin wherever hair is concerned, as it can go directly on hair with easy removal
  •  Avoid getting Barrier Spray or No-Sweat spray in your eyes
  • Allow about two hours from start to finish
Creating the Chaney Disfigurement

- Barrier/Setting Spray
- Liquid Latex
- Cotton balls
- Foundation Makeup (greasepaint, creme, water-based, etc)
- Translucent Setting Powder (for creme and greasepaint makeups)
- Contour makeup: eye liner/shadow for highlights/shadows (or creme makeup highlights/shadow)
- Lipstick/color
- Makeup sponges
- Sponge paint brushes
- Prosthetic adhesive (and remover)

Optional Supplies:
- Castor Sealer (for creme makeup)
- ProFace No-Sweat Spray
- Nose Putty/Mortician's (Derma) Wax

A Word About Makeup:

There are numerous options to choose from when it comes to selecting the type of makeup (foundation) to use.  Generally speaking, stay away from everyday street makeup you can find in drug stores, etc, and stick to theatrical quality makeup.  It will have much better coverage and therefore be much more effective.  I've stuck to creme makeup over the years, but one thing to keep in mind if using creme makeup is the need for castor sealer.  You cannot put creme makeup on latex, because the latex will begin to break down.  Creme makeup lacks an ingredient to prevent this, so before you put on any creme makeup, you must put castor sealer on the latex first.  Let that sit ten minutes or so, then wipe the excess off.  After that you can apply the creme over the latex and continue.  Creme makeup also requires the use of setting powder to set the makeup and prevent it from rubbing off all over you and your clothing.  Rubber mask grease paint (RMGP) is a widely used makeup made especially for latex appliances, therefore requires no preparation with the castor sealer.  I would suggest RMGP only for use on the appliances, though, and not the entire face.  Use creme makeup everywhere else if you choose RMGP for the latex.  RMGP also requires powder to set it, and generally much more powder than creme makeup does.  Water-based cake makeup is another option, and should not require any special preparation.  Finally, alcohol-activated makeup is a fine choice that does not need any preparation or setting materials like spray or powder.  It stays put on one's face very well on its own.  However, it's generally much pricier than other options listed here. 

Advice on Adhesives:

Spirit gum is a favorite sell for Halloween shops, but it is a poor choice for attaching prosthetics.  It is much better suited for lace hair pieces and crepe hair.  It is cheap and easily found, but be aware that there are higher quality products available.  A silicone or acrylic based adhesive such as Telesis or Pros-Aide (prosthetic adhesive), respectively, will offer a much more secure bond.   Be aware that these more powerful adhesives require a proper removal agent such as Isopropyl Myristrate, Super-Solv, Bond-Off, etc.

Nose Putty/Scar Wax/Mortician's (Derma) Wax:

Some people prefer to use these materials for building three-dimensional effects instead of the latex/cotton routine.  However, be aware that wax/putty can be quite heavy when compared to latex/cotton, gelatin, or silicone. As a result, it can often crease, shift out of place, or look rather fake if too much is used. If using wax, ensure it is warm and soft. Lay down a layer of prosthetic adhesive on the skin before adding the wax. Seal with a layer of liquid latex once complete to prepare it for the foundation makeup.

Covering Eyebrows:

You want to cover your brow to conceal it and protect the hair from the latex.  You can purchase eyebrow plastic to cover, use gelatin, or go especially low-tech with a simple bar of soap.  To use this method, simply dampen the soap and rub it into the brow with and against the hair growth until all the hair is well covered.  Smooth the hair down and cover with creme makeup, latex, or whatever other product you intend on using. Another low-budget method to cover eyebrows is school glue (such as Elmers) in glue stick format. Work the glue stick into the brow, smooth back the hairs, and powder. Repeat until the brow hairs are all covered and lying flat.


Instructions (Liquid Latex/Cotton)

1.  Clean face thoroughly
2.  Pour small amount of liquid latex onto disposable plate or dish, and allow ammonia smell to dissipate 
3.  Apply a thin layer of latex with a sponge on the cheekbone and above the eye (over the eyebrow, ONLY after the eyebrow has been covered/protected!)
4.  Rip cotton balls into desired size and roll pieces of cotton in latex
5.  Apply cotton/latex to face in desired areas (focusing on building up the cheekbones and eye sockets) 
6.  Apply several layers of latex over the cotton to help smooth and secure it, then allow to dry
7.  Apply spirit gum to the tip of the nose and between the eyes, tapping both spots until the glue becomes tacky
8.  Place a strip of surgical tape on the tip of the nose and hold down so it bonds with the spirit gum.  Then pull the tape up and back, and place the free end on the spirit gum at the top of the nose/between the eyes.  This pulls the nose up to give it a more skull like appearance  
9.  Prepare the modeling wax/nose putty by working it in your hand until it is soft.  
10.  Apply spirit gum over the top of the nose, and pat it until it becomes tacky
11.  Tap a cotton ball over the spirit gum to get some of the fibers to stick (the cotton fibers will help hold the wax in place on your nose)
12.  Place and sculpt the nose putty over the nose and tape, securing with spirit gum and a layer of liquid latex over it
13.  Once finished with latex, apply Castor Sealer to latex and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes (*ONLY if using creme makeup.  Castor sealer prepares latex for creme makeup)
14.  Wipe off Castor Sealer
15.  Apply makeup makeup with sponge
16.  Apply settingt powder to help set the creme or greasepaint makeups
17.  Create highlights/lowlights using eye liner and eye shadow to desired effect
18.  Apply lip color as desired.
19.  Spray Barrier Spray onto a piece of cotton and dab over face and all areas covered by makeup to prevent it from rubbing off (be careful not to get setting spray in your eyes!)

* Apply Spirit Gum to glue the edges back down if/when latex separates from the skin
* To remove, simply peel off.  Remove makeup with makeup remover cloths, etc