Rick Baker might not be a household name, but the special-effects makeup maestro has won more Oscars—seven—than Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep combined for creating some of cinema's most memorable creatures. This weekend he goes back for Men in Black III to create more outrageous aliens, including some groovy retro-looking ones for when Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to 1969 and encounters a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin).
Baker's first professional gig was to assist makeup legend Dick Smith on The Exorcist. He worked on other notable movies for years (including second unit on Star Wars) and won his first Oscar for Best Makeup for An American Werewolf in London the first year the Academy created the category. The wolf transformations in that classic horror film were hideously convincing and still hold up in our current era of CGI overkill.
The next time Baker won a little-gold-man statue was for 1987's Harry and the Hendersons. The Bigfoot family flick showed Harry as a gentle giant who develops a friendship with George Henderson (John Lithgow) and his family. Baker will tell you that of all his fantastical creations, Harry is still his favorite.
Martin Landau won an Oscar for portraying Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, and Baker also won the Academy Award for creating the prosthetics that helped transform Landau into Legosi while still allowing Landau to emote. Ed Wood—about the cross-dressing director of Plan 9 from Outer Space—remains one of Burton's best original works.
Two years after Ed Wood, Baker walked to the podium again to pick up an Oscar for The Nutty Professor. His seamless makeup in that comedy favorite turned Eddie Murphy into every member of the overweight Klump family, including the titular character.
A year later, Baker took home another Oscar for the original Men in Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the titular guys that help monitor alien activity on earth. Baker dreamed up an array of odd creatures, including those wisecracking wormlike aliens in the break room at MiB headquarters. Baker went on to create more aliens for Men in Black II and, of course, this weekend's Men in Black III.
In 2001, Baker won his sixth Oscar for transforming Jim Carrey into the eponymous green grouch with a heart a few sizes too small in 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The film was also nominated for two Razzies, but that just shows that even award-winning makeup can't cover up a bad movie's blemishes.
Baker's extraordinary career came full circle last year when he scored on Oscar for transforming Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro into werewolves in 2010's The Wolfman. Unlike in An American Werewolf in London in which all the transformations were done with practical effects, The Wolfman relied on CGI for the transformation sequences, much to Baker's chagrin. Still, the latex prosthetic makeup and loose hair applied to del Toro every day took three hours to put on and one hour to remove, not including the dentures and wigs del Toro also had to wear to transform into the titular monster. It was Baker's second Oscar for a werewolf—he told yours truly that hair work is his specialty—but it won't be this makeup genius's last award in this category.