Spock is back in town! “Star Trek” alum and Boston native, Leonard Nimoy will be speaking at Boston University this Monday evening at the Metcalf Ballroom. The Emmy-nominated actor will lecture on his career in Hollywood as an actor and director, as well as his success as a poet and photographer.
Nimoy, now 80-years old, announced his retirement from the entertainment industry last year, after a 60-year career. He was born in Boston to Yiddish immigrant parents and attended Boston College before studying photography at UCLA. Nimoy has remained a staple in the Boston community throughout the years. He lent his voice to the Museum of Science’s Mugar Omni Theatre and in 2009 Boston declared November 14 “Leonard Nimoy Day.”
There is limited free seating at the lecture for BU students, but tickets can be purchased by the general public for $25 by calling (617) 353-3697.
Only film and television aficionados can truly appreciate the hard work and skill involved in all the behind-the-scenes work of a production. When the cameras aren’t rolling, various members of the crew work their tails off to make sure the cast look nothing short of perfection. One such craftsman is veteran make-up artist, Donald Mowat.
Mowat served as the Makeup Department Head for the recent film out of Massachusetts, The Fighter, having worked closely with Dorchester native Mark Walhberg in 18 films. The film is a candidate for Oscar nomination in January for Best Make-Up, underscoring the challenging yet brilliant artistry involved in Mowat’s job. “All the fighting scenes were shot live,” Mowat says. “So all that make-up had to happen live, those scenes were not rehearsed. It was a tremendous amount of work; truly the hardest people working during that time were myself and Mark .” All the hard work more than paid off. “The Fighter is something I think we’re all really happy with, and I’m thrilled that it’s getting attention. I loved being in Lowell, it was an extremely interesting place I was very welcomed there. The Boston crew were all people that I’ve worked with before, and they were fantastic.”
HEC: How did you get started in your career as a make-up artist?
Everything kind of happens by accident. I loved the movies as a kid; I was especially fascinated by period films like Barry Lyndon, where the make-up looks almost like an oil painting. I was always involved in doing school drama as a kid, and I did a lot of make-up for school productions. I was really the only one who had a clue what to do; at that time there wasn’t any formal training you could get for make-up. I basically just went from theater to television to film. My first film was in 1984 to 1985 as an assistant make-up artist for “Joshua Then and Now.” Then I did the extras for “Meatballs III: Summer Job” with Patrick Dempsey, which was pretty much a nothing film. But when you start at the bottom you have nowhere else to go but up. It really gave me a starting point to do good work on bad films.
HEC: How has your education/training helped you in your career?
When I was first starting out it was 24-25 years ago, and there wasn’t any proper training for make-up artists. I went from one program to another for a few years, picking up what knowledge I could but realizing it was a dead end. I really drove my parents crazy. I went to live in the UK with my great aunt, and started interviewing at theater schools like Old Vic in Bristol, and then realized it was a big waste of time. So I got a job doing make-up demonstrations for Christian Dior at a Harrods department store. I owned one suit, a tie and a couple of shirts, and I just went to work every day and did tons of make-up. I was good at it, and learned to do a lot of different kinds of faces. You can only really learn from experience; I learned to be quick, and I mastered the technique.
My first television show came after that initial experience, when I landed a job with Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. It was a Mattel production, and it was innovative because it was an interactive TV program for kids. It was kind of like the poor man’s version of Star Trek. But it gave me lots of experience with tattoos and specialty make-up. I was nominated as a daytime Emmy for that show in 1988, but it was canceled after a year. After that I moved to New York to really start my career.
HEC: What professional qualities are important in doing this type of work?
It is so important to have an open mind, because we are working in a creative capacity but it is also very much a team effort. It can be a very democratic process, so if you’re a good team player and you’re open to suggestions and to trying different things you will be ok. If you’re not a team player you can find yourself in trouble. You’ve got a lot of different people working in the department; many different people have different ways and opinions, and no ways are necessarily right or wrong. It is a creative job, but you are ultimately there to support the actors, the writer, and the directors.
HEC: What are the best and worst parts of your job?
What I’ve really enjoyed is the excitement when you start a project, because the possibilities really seem endless. If you’re a positive person, like a kid, you go in thinking about what you can bring to the project, what you uniquely have to give. When you go in as a team and all the elements come together, it’s pretty magical.
Creating and developing relationships with the people you work with is also a real highlight of the job. Traveling and getting to experience all the various things that we get access to on the road is very exciting, there are so many places that we have access to everyday that people never get to see.
But it is also difficult. You need to have a very thick skin, like a suit of armor, to work the hours we work, in some of the locations, to deal with the harshness of shooting in the desert for months and months. It’s hard, very very hard. It’s a young person’s game, so it’s much harder for me now. Sometimes you get up at 4 in the morning and go for 14 hours. I work almost all the time. It’s also very hard when you can’t get a decent meal, have to stay in a funky hotel, and go to places that you really don’t want to be. We shoot at some great locations, but sometimes you don’t get to film in very glamorous places. It’s also hard on your personal life, hard on your family. But we’re all grown ups, we all deal with it.
HEC: What advice do you have for someone trying to get work in this field?
When you love something (whether it is being a cameraman, a script writer, whatever) it requires a certain kind of personality. But you know what you like, and whenever you have a true passion in doing something, that is what makes it possible. When you really believe in something you’re going to be good at it. In this industry, people really just have to persevere and persist without being arrogant or aggressive.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Mowat’s work in several upcoming films including two starring British actor Daniel Craig: Cowboys and Aliens, shot recently in New Mexico, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, currently being filmed in Sweden.
Legendary actor, and son of Boston, Leonard Nimoy recently announced his official retirement from the entertainment industry last week. The 79 year-old that is most famous for his starring role in the original 1960s “Star Trek” series as the half-alien, half-human Spock has been appearing in film and TV professionally for 60 years. His most recent role has been as Dr. William Bell in the set-in-Boston television drama “Fringe”. Watch Nimoy and legendary costar, William Shatner (above) take shots at each other and reminisce at a conference last year.
Nimoy was born Boston in 1931 and raised in a tenement by his Jewish Ukrainian parents. His father owned a barber shop in town for many years, which even featured a special “Spock” style cut when Nimoy’s character on “Star Trek” hit its peak popularity. Before leaving the area to move to LA, he attended Boston College, where he received a MA in Education. Proving his heart has never left his hometown, the actor lent his recognizable voice to the Museum of Science by recording the introduction at the Mugar Omni Theater. In 2009, the city of Boston proclaimed November 14 “Leonard Nimoy Day” in honor of the beloved actor.
The actor also recently made headlines for visiting the small farming town of Vulcan, Calgary, in Canada. The tiny community happens to share the name of the planet Nimoy’s Spock character came from.
I’m sure many of you were wondering if any part of the latest Star Trek movie was filmed in New England. According to Vermont’s Times Argus, Paramount movie producers visited the E.L. Smith Quarry in Graniteville, VT last year in search of a backdrop for a car chase, which can be seen in Trailer Two on Apple’s Start Trek trailer site. Todd Paton, Director of Tourism and Visitor Services at Rock of Ages Corp., which owns the quarry, says they didn’t know the team was photographing the site for the Star Trek movie at the time. Taking photos and video of the quarry were Tommy Harper from Paramount and Giles Hancock from George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. Directed by J.J. Abrams, the movie stars Chris Pine as a young Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as a young Spock and Eric Bana as Nero.
You can subscribe to HollywoodEastConnection.com by e-mail address to receive news and upates directly in your inbox. Simply enter your e-mail below and click Sign Up!