Incredibly sad news today that marks the end of an era. Special effects guru and make-up legend Rick Baker announced on radio station KPCC (via EW) that he is retiring after decades of work and a legacy that’s not soon to be forgotten. Speaking with the station, Baker cited the changing work environment as one of the main reasons for his stepping back:
“I said the time is right, I am 64 years old, and the business is crazy right now. I like to do things right, and they wanted cheap and fast. That is not what I want to do, so I just decided it is basically time to get out.”
That’s an incredibly sad and depressing notion, especially considering that Baker paved the way for the world of effects in the 80s, 90s, and today. He created the zombies for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, and his landmark work on the werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London was nothing short of game-changing. He’s won seven Oscars in his career, and his work has shown great versatility from bringing Dr. Seuss‘s world to life in How the Grinch Stole Christmas to creating incredible, weird aliens in all three Men in Black films.
But lately, Baker says, more and more studios opt to go the cheaper route and simply use CG effects or digital alteration. Speaking of his work on Disney’s CG-heavy Maleficent, Baker said, “I could’ve done it in a garage basically.” Men in Black 3 was the last time Baker was allowed to really run wild, and even his work on The Wolfman was retouched with CG.
Baker’s retirement comes on the heels of a massive auction announcement for some of his work, and now that auction is making more sense. While folks like Greg Nicotero continue to do impressive practical work on the small screen in The Walking Dead, the simple fact is that practical make-up effects is becoming a lost art form, and with Baker essentially being forced to quit the business, we’ve lost an icon.
If there’s one tiny piece of consolation here, it’s that Baker seems to have continued working even though he’s not attached to any film. He’s been sharing images of his works-in-progress on Twitter, like this terrifying twist on The Joker.
Enjoy perusing through just a smidge of Baker’s work over the years below.