Actor Damon Herriman talks about tackling the role of Charles Manson (again) in Netflix‘s Emmy®-nominated series Mindhunter. Oscar®-winning makeup designer Kazu Hiro, meanwhile, details the actor’s physical transformation from mild-mannered Aussie to iconic cult leader.
July 2, 2020
Kazu Hiro breaks down his process of using special effects to transform actors physical appearances. Kazu demonstrates the techniques he used to turn ‘Bombshell‘ cast Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman into Gretchen Carlson, and John Lithgow into Roger Ailes, ‘Darkest Hour‘ cast Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill, and ‘Mindhunter‘ cast Damon Herriman into Charles Manson, and Olive Cooper into David Berkowitz.
The multiple Oscar-winning special effects makeup wiz is the Emmy favorite for helping Damon Herriman with his spot-on, riveting Manson.
Last year, Australian actor Damon Herriman did his spot-on performance of Charles Manson not once, but twice: the teasing cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and the riveting interview with FBI agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) in Season 2 of David Fincher’s “Mindhunter.” Although they were shot within weeks of each other, the more demanding portrayal in the Netflix crime drama came first.
And, thanks to the deft physical transformation applied by the multiple Oscar-winning special effects makeup wiz Kazu Hiro (“Bombshell,” “Darkest Hour”) — who first worked with Fincher on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — Herriman gave the definitive Manson portrayal for the streamer. But we’ve come to expect nothing less from Hiro, the master at reconstructing iconic historical figures. It’s all the more impressive when there’s no physical resemblance, which was the case here with Herriman nearly five inches taller than the diminutive Manson and possessing different facial traits.
Charles Manson sculpture over a Damon Herriman life cast
A look at the crafts behind the killer interrogations, including cinematography, sound editing, prosthetics, editing, and rerecording mixers.
Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan and the technical team behind Netflix’s Mindhunter Season 2 (cinematography, sound editing, editing, prosthetics, and rerecording mixers) break down why each killer interview is completely different.
Mindhunter Season 2 starts with a “doozy” of a sequence.
“You’re not sure where you are,” said Mindhunter re-recording mixer Scott Lewis.
The opening sequence reacquaints us with the mind of a killer—in this case, specifically the BTK Killer (Sonny Valicenti), who we’ve been following in Season 1 through vignettes. BTK’s wife comes home to discover him tying himself up in the bathroom while wearing a mask. Lewis and his re-recording mixer partner Stephen Urata went back and forth about how the sound of the door, bumping from BTK’s aggression, was supposed to sound from down the hall.
“[Director] David [Fincher] gave some vague directions for that,” said Urata. “We tried to keep it really mysterious. We started with really dreamy, big reverb, did some fabbing, and [the wife] starts picking up on those knocking sounds. We took our liberties with it. The knocking sounds probably wouldn’t be that loud.”
It had to compete with Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” something they had to find the right timing for with the knocks. When it came to editing the sequence with the music, editor Kirk Baxter felt like he was working on a music video.
“The track was predetermined, so I could plot everything to the music, when it was gonna hit,” said Baxter. “So much of the reaching, the hand, it was based around being stretched so the door opened at the exact beat I needed it to. To me, it was like a Christmas present. When you’ve got all of the angles and coverage, you can expand the tension and manipulate the hell out of it.”
The Crafts Behind the Madness of Mindhunter Season 2
It’s specific technical details like this that take Mindhunter to a new level of creepy with each episode. And though these elements are subtle, they add so much to each and every scene, especially when Holden (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) interview the killers.
While they might seem like they’re similar in format, each interrogation scene is completely different and tells you so much about the killer they’re questioning, with precise engineering and great care that goes into them. Let’s look at how Berkowitz, Tex Watson, and Manson are all completely different from each other.
Kirk Baxter, editing
Kazu Hiro, prosthetics
Scott Lewis & Stephen Urata, rerecording mixers
Erik Messerschmidt, cinematographer
Jeremy Molod, sound editor
“I want to have no idea what’s going on in your head.”
David Fincher is issuing instructions to a moustachioed man, who is gazing into a mirror, adjusting the shoulder strap on the woman’s slip he’s wearing. The crew, similarly delicately, adjust the lighting for this moment of self-fulfillment — one of a series of episode-puncturing vignettes of Dennis Rader (played by Sonny Valicenti), aka The BTK Killer.
Bind. Torture. Kill. And do it quickly.
Fincher is on a tight schedule for these late additions to the lengthy shoot. While the scene is set, he sits at the monitor with lead writer Courtenay Miles, adjusting dialogue, as the art department present him with crime-scene photographs and mementos of victims for sign-off. Multitasking can be murder.
Camera set, they shoot. Once. Twice. “That is fucking creepozoid,” says Fincher, after the third take. If you can manage to unsettle the director of Seven and Zodiac, then you’re probably doing your job. The next few days filming in this cavernous Pittsburgh studio will involve FBI office politics, masks (literal and figurative) and autoerotic asphyxiation. As one crew member puts it, “Some things you can’t unsee.”
Back for its second season, Mindhunter has lost none of its fearlessness. BTK returns, of course, but following impactful portrayals of lesser-known serial killers Edmund Kemper and Jerry Brudos, this year is taking on the iconic — including arguably the two most famous serial killers of all: Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) and David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam (Oliver Cooper). The latter we’ve previously seen on screen being commanded by a demon-possessed dog in Spike Lee‘s Summer Of Sam. And — on the 50th anniversary of the murders his ‘disciples’ carried out — Manson is everywhere, including in Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (portrayed by the same actor, Damon Herriman). But whereas most movies lean into the mythology of Manson, or embellish Berkowitz, Mindhunter is looking to re-examine reality. This isn’t hellhound hyperbole or gauze-softened myth. It’s the ugly truth.
“We want to believe they’re madmen,” says Courtenay Miles, “But when you read their history, their journals, letters, you see it is a human being in there. But it’s a human being gone wrong.” Miles was first assistant director on the debut series — the aide-de-camp to the director’s general — and made the unlikely but long-cherished transition to writer when Fincher gave her a shot. She immersed herself in the world of serial killers, and lost sleep as a result. “All of the characteristics that are in their mental structure and their compulsions are things that any other human being can identify with,” she says, reflecting on the long gestation of serial killers. “They’re made over 20 years. Nurturing these compulsions. That just got under my skin.”
Miles got the chance to be disturbed — and earn her first screenwriting credit — because Fincher cares considerably less about reputation than he does about his own lived experience. But while the first season saw him employ emerging directors (the most high-profile being Asif Kapadia, whose greatest achievements were in documentaries), here he’s joined behind the lens by two cinematic heavyweights. Carl Franklin is of late an in-demand director of TV, including House Of Cards, but was responsible for some astounding crime cinema in the 1990s: Devil In A Blue Dress and One False Move. In that grubby, merciless thriller, the wife of Bill Paxton‘s seemingly guileless cop observes, “Dale doesn’t know any better. He watches TV. I read non-fiction.” Mindhunter bridges that divide. The other director is Andrew Dominik, whose three features all deal with the ruthless reality beneath criminal lore and legends (Chopper, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly). Dominik has wrapped his two episodes. Franklin is shooting four, Fincher three — but, as Dominik puts it, “his tentacles are everywhere”.
Read the full on set report in the September “30th Anniversary” Special Issue of Empire Magazine, now on sale.
Click for a full screen view:
Rick Baker’s Cinovation Studios deliver the aged Brad Pitt silicone heads by Kazu Hiro to Digital Domain to be digitally scanned. Top center: Kazu Hiro and Rick Baker. Top right: Eric Barba, Visual Effects Supervisor for Digital Domain (Kazu Hiro, 2006)
Sculptor and Special Make-Up Effects Artist
Kazu Hiro (Make-Up Artist Magazine, 2018)