5 Mins With X-Men Makeup Artist Brian Sipe

Special effects makeup artist and the man responsible for X-Men character Mystique’s unique makeup look, Brian Sipe dishes the dirt on what it was really like to work on a major Hollywood film set.

Brian at IMATS with a model he demonstrated the Mystique look on.
Brian at ACMUSE with a student he demonstrated the Mystique look on.

When it comes to working in makeup, there aren’t too many things that look more impressive on your CV than having a makeup gig working on the set of a major Hollywood blockbuster. So prepare to get a little green with envy as the man responsible for transforming Jennifer Lawrence into iconic X-Men character, Mystique, spills the beans on what it was like working behind the glitz and glamour.

What was your role, working on the set of X-Men?

“I was the lead specialty makeup artist on the character of Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, for the film, XMen – Days of Futures Past.”

How did the role come about?

“I was hired by John Rosengrant and Legacy Effects to remedy an issue they had during the XMen – First Class film. During Jennifer’s makeup process on that film, it took seven makeup artists up to eight hours to put her in makeup, and then up to two hours to get her out of it, and they knew that they neeed to shave that time down.”

How long did it take to put together Mystique’s look on an average day?

“On average, we were able to get our version of the makeup down between three hours to three hours and 20 minutes.  Besides myself, I had a team of two others – Michael Ornelaz and Caroline Aquin.”

What was it like working with Jennifer Lawrence? 

“Working with Jennifer was great.  She always came in with a smile, even at three in the morning. One thing I’ve learned in doing these types of long makeups, is that the DVD player and big screen TV are your best friend.  It’s so much easier for an actor to deal with the time in the chair if they’re being engaged or entertained. Also helps them from moving around too much!”

What was the most memorable part of working on X-Men?

“We were shooting the Quonset Hut seen, where Mystique comes in and saves a bunch of mutant army soldiers from being sent back to the test facility. Adrien Morot had done up a whole bunch of cool prosthetic makeups.  Toad, the porcupine guy…on and on…and then Mystique.  It was cool looking around and seeing all of these makeups.”

How did you get into special effects makeup as a career?

“I’d always been into watching the horror or monster movies of my childhood. Even movies like the Wizard of OZ fascinated me. But it wasn’t until the John Carpenter remake of The Thing that I really got interested in it.  I rented and re-rented that tape. Then it dawned on me, this was someone’s job.  This could be my job.”

What advice do you have for other aspiring special effects makeup artists?

“The best advice I can give is, make sure this is your passion.  Not just a job. Not just a cool job, but the only job you want to do. To quote inspirational speaker Eric Thomas, “You have to want success as much as you want to breath!” Every word rings true for anything that you want to do. You just really have to want it. Then practise, practise!”


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