Creating the Face of LBJ

Tania Thompson
 | Sep 20, 2016
LBJ Prothetics

Kevin Haney's LBJ prosthetic work for ​All the Way.

Academy Award-winning makeup artist Kevin Haney is the go-to person for South Coast Repertory’s production of All the Way—to help actor Hugo Armstrong achieve the “look” of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Haney’s previous work for SCR helped transform a normal-weight actor into a 600-pound, morbidly obese shut-in (The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter). 

What inspires you in your work—where do ideas come from?
In the case of work on historical figures, it’s through research. With fantasy work, I look at art books containing paintings, etchings and sculpture play a huge part. I also find the work of other makeup artists can be inspiring, as well.

What was your process for creating LBJ’s makeup and the prosthetics?
The process always starts with a life-casting of the actor. In this instance, it was complicated slightly by the fact that Hugo (Armstrong) had a beard, which he couldn't shave because of movie work he was doing at the time. Fortunately, a product called Smooth On 'body-double silk' enabled us to get a good impression through his beard.

We cast a resin copy and then I started the sculpture. We kept the prosthetics to a few integral pieces, rather than covering Hugo’s whole face. After the pieces were approved,  we made silicone molds of the individual sculpture pieces and corresponding silicone molds of Hugo's face were generated. Hugo's face parts were then cast in resin and the sculptures were cast in a special clay/wax formula. The sculptures were de-molded and placed and refined on the Hugo positives. The finished pieces were cast negatively in a proprietary, very hard, but flexible silicone and backed with a product called Ultracal, which is a very accurate plaster. Once completed, the clay/wax is cleaned out and the fleshy silicone is poured into the molds. These appliances are then glued to Hugo's face and can be made up with makeup colors.

What does it mean to you to take on this very iconic historical character of LBJ?
One of my first professional jobs in New York was a PBS special on LBJ, produced by David Susskind, featuring Larry Luckinbill as Johnson. Larry had some speaking tapes of LBJ from some dinner engagements and knew that his off-camera personality was very different, more colorful and homespun. I have always been fascinated by LBJ—the consummate politician, who had a misguided idea of what presidential persona—and how he was disgraced by the Vietnam War. 

What type of research on LBJ did you do?
Lots of pictures research. The Internet makes it easier than ever before.

What was the most fun aspect—and most challenging—about this process?
It is always great to see an actor bring your makeup to life. I never get tired of that. The challenge is keeping it simple and designing pieces for reuse.

Haney received an Academy Award for Best Makeup for the film Driving Miss Daisy. Most recently, he has been involved with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) and Iron Man 3 (2013). He is based in Los Angeles.

LBJ Prosthetic

A side view of Kevin Haney's LBJ prosthetic work for ​All the Way.

Learn more about All the Way and purchase tickets.