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"I. Am. Darknesssssss."

Legend Darkness

Like Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Stan Winston, the special effects master Rob Bottin is one of the most legendary makeup guys in cinema history. Every horror fan knows his work well. He crafted the futuristic armour for Robocop, created the bizarre shapeless body horror of The Thing, and he is responsible for the terrifying wolves in The Howling. Bottin's work was always extraordinary, each creation displaying design brilliance and innovation. Some of  his most captivating creations were in Ridley Scott's LEGEND. This film is packed with weird and wonderful goblins and creatures, including the dreadful Meg Mucklebone the swamp witch, but it is Tim Curry's iconic role as Darkness which people remember most. This makeup creation is by far the greatest version of a movie Satan ever devised. Nobody has ever topped it since, and I dare say that nobody has the guts to try. It is startling, beautiful, a true masterpiece of design and craftsmanship topped with a sensational performance by Curry. It's as close to perfection as any makeup character can ever get.

Rob Bottin once commented in an interview that he had always been disappointed with movie devils. They hardly ever had the grand presence that Satan would likely have (if he were real), a figure so imposing and terrifying yet with a hypnotic charm that would be irresistible. He would be a figure that you would be terrified of yet unable to take your eyes off. Ridley Scott wanted Darkness to be a satyr, full of sexual energy and power, and Bottin grabbed the opportunity to create the ultimate devil character. Few would ever disagree that he more than succeeded. Darkness is a classical vision of Satan, with red skin, strong pronounced features, and a pair of giant intimidating bull horns.

Like many fans, I've loved this character since it first appeared way back in 1985. I'm not a particularly huge fan of the film, which is one of Scotts weaker outings, but the visual spectacle and breathtaking effects seem to carry the film well, they are so good.

I decided to have a go at making my own Darkness for a shoot. I must have been mad! As projects go, it's a very audacious one to tackle and looking around at the efforts of others, it is also a very easy one to get wrong. Of all the other makeup artists and cosplay folk that have attempted to make their own Darkness, a few stand-outs are fantastic but most look weird and goofy. The character's pointed cheeks and long chin can look like Mister Punch if not done properly, and those horns can look incredibly odd if they are not right. The horns are huge, with a bend and a twist, making them very difficult to make. What the hell was I thinking?

A few of the projects I tackle, I do so on the understanding that they might fail. This was certainly one of those. I had no master plan, just the will to try and the preparedness to fail. I decided to make the horns first, and if they worked then I'd go from there, but if they failed then I'd just quit and abandon the project.

The horns were every bit as difficult to make as I thought they would be. I started with a basic template using a bent wire and polystyrene disks going from large to small, to form the basic shape of the horn. From this I made a four-part template pattern, a bit like a dressmaker would. Using the templates, I cut pieces from EVA foam (all cosplayers know what this material is) and assembled the parts. It worked okay, but needed a load of fibreglass, sanding, filling, shaping and so on. I spent months working on these things, until eventually they started to take shape.

Legend Darkness

Eventually - it worked! I say that even now with a small amount of surprise because I just did not expect them to. But they did. So the next phase was to mount them onto a headpiece which was another challenge. Fixing the horns in place and sculpting the organic details around them to form a sort of helmet, it wasn't long before the piece started to gain a lot of weight. I reached a point where it became wearable and the immediate problem was tipping. The horns were too front-heavy. This issue was fixed using small sand bag counterweights suspended from the rear of the headpiece which were not visible on camera but were essential to the horns working. I have no idea how Rob Bottin did it in the movie, but I assume his horns were virtually weightless, unlike mine.

I was finally happy with the headpiece and so moved on to sculpting face prosthetics, the cheeks and chin. I thought they looked okay but there was still the awful risk that they would look weird on someone's face so I just had to trust my judgment and go with it. The parts were cast in latex and pre-painted.

Tim Curry wore a huge muscle chest in the film but I opted to find a big muscle guy. I found him in the shape of Andrew Williams, a rather buff bodybuilder from Dover who also happens to be an actor. His credits include scenes in Legend, oddly enough, but the more recent version with Tom Hardy as the Krays, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. He was a fan of the Darkness character too so trying to convince him to do the shoot was by far the easiest part of the whole project.

On the day of the shoot my wife Claire painted Andrew red, from top to bottom, and also helped glue animal hair to his legs. I very nervously fitted his face prosthetics and the instant they were on I thought "Oh shit, I've blown it." He looked daft, exactly like Mister Punch. The cheeks and chin just looked ridiculous. There was a big sinking feeling in my heart. But what the hell, we were here now so we may as well carry on.

Legend Darkness

I painted Andrew's face to blend the prosthetics and finally crowned him with the huge, heavy head piece. Suddenly and without a shred of warning, Darkness appeared. The silly face pieces suddenly looked right. Everything just clicked together beautifully. The scale of the cheeks and chin corrected themselves when the horns were in place, and the character creation worked. It fucking worked! The final part was to add the cape I'd made, and that finished him off perfectly.

Shooting the character was difficult because the costume and headpiece, which all looked good, didn't allow Andrew to do very much so I really only managed to shoot a few portraits and basic poses. But it was enough. With my usual atmospheric lighting and a bit of smoke, the creature really came to life in the studio.

I still can't quite believe that I actually pulled this off. But I did it. I've now joined the ranks of an elite few who have successfully created a fairly decent tribute to Rob Bottin's Darkness character and I'm thrilled with the results. The only question is, how the hell do I top this?

All makeup, costume and crafting by Rick Jones
Makeup assistant Claire Jones
Lighting, photography and editing Rick Jones
Model Andrew Williams

Legend Darkness

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Thanks for reading folks. Keep loving horror :)

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