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From the Archives: "V" Make-up Designer Leo Lotito

Back when "V": The Series premiered in the fall of 1984, Warner Bros. issued a press kit for the show that included a number of interviews, including this one with make-up designer Leo Lotito.

V - The SeriesOnly veteran Warner Bros. makeup artist Leo Lotito -- head of makeup effects for "V", the new NBC television series -- can satisfy the rodent appetite of Diana, the evil alien leader.
   The sci-fi action miniseries "V," which garnered the highest single ratings for NBC's '82-'83 season and achieved even higher accolades for its '84 sequel, will return as a regular part of NBC's 1984-85 fall schedule. The makeup and special effectsd will play a significant role in the action. Bringing reptilian humanoid-aliens and laser burst to the screen is part of what makes "V" a unique television series. "We're making history with 'V,'" says executive producer Robert Singer. "Audiences will see something they've never seen before on television. Eighty-five percent of the series will be comprised of illusion."
V - Leo Lotito    Lotito, whose credits include Planet of the Apes, is working with a crew of six full-time makeup artists at least 12 hours a day. "We are using a very involved and complicated makeup process in order to reveal the faces of the seemingly friendly Visitors," Lotito explains. "Layers of foam latex prosthetics are applied to the actors so that when the outside human skin is pulled off, it reveals the reptilian prosthetics underneath. The audience will then see that they are aliens. Prosthetic masks are made for each actor so that they genuinely look like that person.
   "Sometimes," he continues, "we are called upon in my department to do things that are impossible. In the first four-hour miniseries, Diana, the alien commander, swallowed a guinea pig, which required her to open her mouth six inches."
   Humanly impossible, Lotito's team had to design a mechanical head for Diana that could open up wide enough and look like a reptile's mouth. It took the team three weeks to design one that would unhinge and droop down the way it should and another nine weeks just to actually build the mouth. Then the live mask with skin and fiber gills had to be made and cut to fit on the mechanical head, which took another week. Hydraulic rams wre used to open the month. The camera operators took over from there with the prooper cuts and reaction shots. When the villainess lifted the live animal to her mouth, the cameras cut to the dummy and Diana stuffed it in the dummy's mouth.
V - Diana Eats    Diana's rodent diet cost Lotito's team 13 weeks of hard work -- the longest Lotito has ever spent on a particular makeup effect, and that includes his work on such films as Blow Out and The Last Starfighter. "That was the most effective shot we've ever had on the screen. No one in the industry can understand how this effect can be accomplished," Lotito says. "I never dreamed we'd go so overboard with the effects on 'V,' but it has been proven to me that, with the proper lead time, nothing is impossible."
   It takes the cooperation of many to pull together the makeup effects for the show. it takes close to three hours to transform actress Jane Badler into the reptilian Diana. And if her scene has to be shot over again, Jane must return to makeup and spend more time getting herself back into character. The effort is paying off, though. All those hours in the makeup chair are certain to make "V" the most unique series on television this fall.

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EdGross
3/27/2009

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