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During my research for the Michael Myers mask project, (see Making Michael Myers) I went to ebay to look up “Don Post /William Shatner” to see if any photos or other reference materials would come up that could be useful to our endeavors. Listed under the heading NOT WILLIAM SHATNER DON POST LEONARD NIMOY, I found the original life mask of Leonard Nimoy taken by the Don Post Studios back in 1974. This life mask was the basis and reference for the Mr. Spock “Star Trek” mask that was released in 1975.
When creating a mask of a celebrity, their staff sculptors would start by taking a facial impression of the actor. This life mask would serve as up-close visual reference as they were creating the master sculpture for the mask.
But the life mask was full of flaws, nicks and imperfections. It had obviously been copied many times over. But still, it was Nimoy’s facial structure; lips, jaw, cheekbones, nose and eyes. It was then I got the idea to add a Mr. Spock life-size figure to my collection of figures in Planet Wallywood.
As is usual, I started by conceptualizing what a life-size Spock figure would look like by creating a sketch. Every figure in the Chaney Room represents a character who meant a lot to me in my creative development; and Mr. Spock was certainly well qualified to join them given that criteria.
My first move was to contact effects genius Jim Ojala, who has constructed many of the figures on display in my house. He said it was very possible to create a full head based on the life mask (which was only Nimoy’s face) and there is certainly no shortage of reference photos of Spock available which would prove very useful. I bought the life mask on ebay, and purchased a mannequin from Roxy Display that had bendable elbows. The concept I had in mindwould require Spock to have one arm bent in order to make it a reality. I decided to keep the project top secret, with the intent to unveil him for my friends on Thanksgiving weekend.
I already had the costume, (seen here being worn by my pal Bruce Kulick) which had been hanging in my closet for years. Several years back I had seamstress Kathy Pillsbury create Kirk, Spock and Scotty tunics using the same polyester fabric (color matched with swatches from the show’s wardrobe) they used in the later seasons.
Instead of standing on the metal base that came with the mannequin, I decided to design a Transporter Pad upon which Spock could stand and look completely in character. The 60’s era “Star Trek” Transporter Pads were actually large lenses for Fresnel studio lights. They had several concentric rings with a refractive quality.
I contacted my pal Kyle Killips at Plastic Depot and hadhim cut a 24” diameter base of clear Plexiglas that was 1” thick. Kyle wrote a program to etch the bottom of the piece so each consecutive ring would diminish in thickness as it gets closer to the center; to give it an interior “dome-like” effect. The other edge of the piece was 1” thick, but as it gradually diminished it ended up being ½” thick in the center. It looked amazing.
While at Plastic Depot I noticed a big sheet of refractive plastic that was used in overhead lighting bays. It had the exact refractive quality I was looking for to fit under the Plexiglas piece. Kyle cut a piece that fit perfectly into the underside of the base, locking in right after the outer ring. But since the floor underneath was still visible through both layers, I took some opaque silver Mylar and backed the refractive plastic with that. It gave the whole base a very lenticular, 3-D look.
When the mannequin arrived I put the costume on and it was a pretty good fit. I even photoshopped on Nimoy’s face to convey the idea of the final piece. I took the mannequin and my costume over to my seamstress Karyn Hutchinson. She tailored the shirt to fit the slender body of the mannequin perfectly, and she took the pants in as well. The fit was perfect!
When Jim finished the Michael Myers masks, he started in on making the mold for Leonard Nimoy’s life mask. He took a negative impression of the plaster life mask, and once that was set, he poured in hot clay. When the hot clay cooled it was pulled from the negative mold and manipulated by an artist to take out imperfections, nicks & age lines. I also asked Jim to sculpt in Spock’s famous raised eyebrow.
When we settled on the facial improvements, we went ahead with the process of sculpting the entire head; including the famous pointed ears.
Once the sculpture was approved, Jim prepared it to be cast so a negative mold could be made.
He made the negative mold in silicone so he could cast up the finished piece in fiberglass.
Once the piece was finalized he transplanted it on to the torso of the mannequin. And then he airbrushed a basecoat of paint on to the face.
Since our research indicated that the tone of Spock’s make-up was on the yellowish side, Jim was careful to give the figure an authentic Vulcan hue.
It came time to select the glass eyes for the figure. We needed a set that were deep brown like Leonard Nimoy’s. The first set seemed too light brown, so we opted for a slightly darker set.
I assembled the figure and was amazed at how it was really starting to come together. It was like building a model kit, but life-size! The next step was to have my buddy Sergio Lopez stop by to do the hair.
We found a perfect wig at a local wig supply store that was shiny black, and already had the bangs. ( I think it might have been a Betty Boop wig) Because it was a long-haired wig, we had a lot of extra hair to use for patching, fill work, and eyebrows. I sketched on the eyebrows with a black grease pencil to give Sergio a template to work with once he started laying the hair.
Sergio did his magic and Spock was taking on new life!
The hair was perfect, and the eyebrows were perfect; even the inquisitive arched eyebrow.
I designed him with a cocked head and the famous Spock arched eyebrow, as if he was holding the Tribble and saying, “Fascinating.”
Once Sergio finished I took Spock back to Jim’s studio for some final paint touch-ups and eyelash work. When Jim brought him over the night before Thanksgiving I took great delight in assembling the figure.
I was digging through the costume closet in the Chaney Room and found some suitable vinyl boots to use. They were a little bit big, so I took a sharp needle and some monofilament and I tailored the boots to the mannequin’s calves. Then I sprayed them with a glossy black paint, and they looked perfect! Jim drilled a hole in the right heel so I could mount the figure on the base so the support rod wouldn’t be visible.
I had a prop pistol phaser and tricorder that I put on the figure. I sewed a small loop of monofilament on the underside of my screen-used Tribble so it would loop around the figure’s finger and not fall off his hand.
It had all come together marvelously! And all quite logically! And now he joins Laurel and Hardy, Lon Chaney Sr. Sean Connery, Michael Myers, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, The Phantom of the Opera, Barnabas Collins, Beetlejuice and Andy Kaufman in the fabulous Chaney Room!
Live Long and Prosper.