"Full Metal Jacket"

Producer & Director: Stanley Kubrick

Co-Producers: Jan Harlan and Phil Hobbs

Cast: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard, Arliss Howard, Ed O'Ross, John Terry, Kieron Jecchinis, Kirk Taylor, Tim Colceri, John Stafford, Bruce Boa, Ian Tyler, Sal Lopez, Gary Landon Mills and Ngoc Le.  For TA and other members of cast please refer to IMDB.

Credit: Co-Make-up Artist - Single Card front end.

This was probably the best picture of my careeer.  Nothing before or since compares with the experience, the amazing experience that was working with Stanley Kubrick. His focus and concentration were unswerving, his discipline total and his dedication to perfection and detail uncompromising, the best I've ever known. Maybe, as great artists often are, that's why he was considered 'difficult' to work with.  But I don't have, and have never had a problem with doing my best to 'meet' a director or artist in their vision.  Sometimes it isn't easy and you have to dig deep and push yourself until you nail it, as nothing less will do - and there's nothing wrong with that.  If you don't - then how are you to grow as an artist or a film technician?  

Stanley was well known for his chess playing and he was direct but he was also private, as so much was going on in that head of his he didn't indulge in  unnecessary discourse.  He wasn't cold, just very careful of his energy.  The word was that Stanley would like to do everything if he could, but he bit off more than he could chew when it came to make-up.  He did on one occasion admit to me he'd messed up my make-up 'show 'n' tell', a bruising make-up he'd asked me to do, by dabbing his fingers in my palette to push a bruising further and messed it up.  "I messed that up.  Fix it." he said and walked off without missing a beat.

He had a great smile when he chose to and I have a photo to prove it ;-)

How on earth did I get this gig at the age of 25 you may ask?  It all began, as it always does in this industry with a phone call, a magical phone call.  My mother Connie Reeve, who had done dailies on "Barry Lyndon" had received a call earlier in the day which she didn't discuss with me, but later there would be an explanation.  In those days, the early 1980's the union NATTKE as it was known then kept a list of available make-up artists and hairdressers who could be called by productions.  It became apparent they were working their way down the list, I was a junior so it took a couple more hours before the phone rang again, mum answered and called me to the phone.  Obviously she made the connection, but I'm not sure the productio office had, and just handed the phone to me without explanation.  Phil Kohler was asking if I was available, that's the first question - check, then he said they needed someone to come in and do some dirt and grime on a bunch of guys, soldiers, for the latest Kubrick film beiing shot in the East End of London, Beckton for 07.00 for the following day as they had lost the head of the make-up department and the remaining assistant was struggling on her own.  I can't exactly remember how much I was told by Phil, but he must have put me in the picture because I said yes, was given directions and the call was ended.  After the call, Mum said, "You didn't say yes did  you?", (harking back to the experience of dailies on "Barry Lyndon", I replied, "Well, if he fires me I'll be in good company!  It's worth a go."  So I got my dirt and grime kit ready, packed the car and got ready to leave at 05.30 from Ewelme, Oxfordshire to Beckton. 

1984 and 1985 had been very busy years for me working as an assistant on "Lady Jane", "Club Paradise" and Chiefing my own picture for Lewis Gilbert "Not Quite Jerusalem", so jumping in on this seemed like the next logical adventure.  I have a creed, go where you are invited, if it feels right.

The following day I discovered Stanely had fired not one but two department heads of make-up, along with apparently double figures in other departments so far.  I was told the names of the make-up heads that had gone, but the rest was possibly a scare tactic, who knows, who fires 45 people in the first 5 weeks of filming??  That was the number quoted to me. 

I arrived at the appointed time pulling off the A13, turning right at a roundabout and finding a turning on the left onto what I could only describe as a derelict site which gave way to an uneven road of brick and rubble.  I found the modest, single axle Make-up caravan propped up both ends and parked my 6 cylinder BMW 320 a little way off outside.  Suddenly feeling a bit self conscious, I spied a line of about 30 men in uniform ready to be made up, in total there were would be 60 cast and crowd that day which we did between just the two of us.  I didn't know this was a mix of actors and TA 'extras'.  We just cracked on, got the call out and only then did I meet Jenny properly for the first time.  Talk about jumping into the deep end, but we went to set and stood studiously by, not talking very much, because you don't make small talk on a Kubrick set.   I'm not entirely sure, what the first set I worked on was, but soon after the Pagoda set, it was certainly one of the first.  The scenes with the hooker and Rafter Man's camera being stolen had already been shot.

Stanley asked for me to be asked back the next day .... and the next and then, on the third day, I received a message ... "Stanley wants you to do a bullet hit test".  I did the test on a TA volunteer while Jenny covered set and I went to see Stanley with my test for a "show'n'tell".  Continued below ...

Matthew Modine as Pvt. Joker on the advance.  I used a tinted gel for the sun-kissed effect first because gels were nice and translucent.  Then, over the top of that, the dirt and grime was a mix of water based and greased based make-up.

Matthew Modine as Pvt. Joker on the deck.  Due to the number of tyres being burned it was necessary keep an eye on the continuity as the soot could build up. Often we'd be trying to remove the soot without destroying the make-up beneath.  But occasionally we had no choice and just had to start over, but we avoided it at all costs because Stanley really, really didn't like the interruption.


This was the scene I worked on  when I first arrived on "Full Metal Jacket" on Thursday, 5th September 1985.  I still have the call sheet.

continued ...

I stood  next to my test, which anyone in the business will tell you, is quite a thing to do - especially for Stanley Kubrick.  Stanley walked right up to the artist, then closer still, scrutinised my work for a good 5 seconds and said "I'll buy that", and with what I would come to know as his customary abruptness, he walked away.  

I was asked to go to the office and speak to Phil Hobbs who asked me if I would stay on the picture.  I had rumbled this might happen and had discussed terms with Jenny as I could tell she was concerned I might be hired over her as the new Chief. As we were of similar age and experience I offered we proceed as equals, splitting the fees, the credit.  From then on just the 2 of us cracked through the cast and TA crowd.  I chose to do Matthew as my leading artist and Jenny did Adam because they had key scenes together in those first few weeks in the Pagoda set and we split up the rest of the platoon as most practical according to the days filming, though an informal rhythm did form. We approached and prepared the make-up effects together, dead NVA were done my way, (I made-up the featured dead NVA in the Pagoda set); products, and suchlike were discussed and we worked as a pair, a team.  When necessary we worked with the SFX team, John Evans and co. and were briefly involved in discussions on how we'd do Pvt. Pyle's suicide.  In the end it was entirely John Evans effect, the blood and brain matter were delivered to the white tiles behind Vincent D'Onofrio by a pneumatic pipe from bottom left of frame.  The other effect I remember working on was the severed head of the sniper.  The artist went for a life cast and the prosthetic head arrived, but it needed finishing at the neck with more flesh and gore so I made some vein and artery tubes and "fleshy" areas and attached them to the neck and had the idea that when lifted it could be out of a tray of blood so it was dripping when lifted into frame.  Perhaps it was too much in the end, because it was not in the final cut, but that's the way it goes sometimes - perhaps it was too ghoulish in Stanley's opinion.  Anyway, as Lewis Gilbert once said, "If you don't shoot it you can't cut it." 

On my last day Phil Hobbs suggested I go say goodbye to Stanley, and I'm glad I did because he paid me a lovely compliment and said "You did a good job".  I felt terrific and felt like I was walking on air for a few hours afterwards. 

I have been asked to go in and replace the HOD on 3 other films, "Hannah's War" (1988), "The Dirty Dozen" (1988) TV series for MGM/UA and "The Devil's Harvest" (2015) - and in all three cases there was a positive outcome for the Production and myself.  In the case of "The Dirty Dozen" the problem was simply they needed another pair of hands and the existing chief and I happily worked together for the rest of the series and remained friends afterwards and in the case of "Hannah's War" Menahem Golan, asked me to do another picture with him, "The Threepenny Opera". 

The Lusthog squad dragging a wounded Arliss Howard/Cowboy after being shot by sniper fire.  

Kieron Jecchinis as Crazy Earl and Duc Hu Ta as the dead NVA. I used a pale ivory water colour make-up with a warm tone to stop it looking fake and grey, which I then buffed because the grease based version of the same colour trapped the hair and as a result looked very 'made-up'.  When it had completely dried, buffing the arm gently set the hair free so looked more natural.  Kieron wore the standard Lusthog make-up - tan gel and dirt.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Pvt. Pyle in the suicide scene, just before blowing his brains out.  There may have been some of the tan gel here, but there was definitely never any powder - sheen was sheen and most welcome.  If it were ever to get excessive, just a blotting was all that was necessary.

After the sun-kissed and dirt and grime look of the summer shoot, Stanley didn't want any 'make-up' for the Parris Island sequence.  Still, shaver burn, blemishes, sheen, perspiration were occasionally called for.

Photos from set

Below are some original black and white photos I've kept with the script and call sheets for years.  I was a keen photographer at the time, and I think I took them.  I have also took a lovely smiley picture of Stanley which I'll get around to uploading.

A pale Matthew getting started in make-up with Christine and guys in bg shaving and chatting.

It's a shame both our eyes closed with the flash, but here's a shot of us at work.  In my hand is a beard trimmer to keep Matthew's stubble in check, this is how I know it's before I applied the tan gel, sun-kissed rosiness, dirt and grime.  In the background you can see Kevin Major Howard to the right and a TA extra at the mirror adjusting his shave to the left.  It was really informal but we all cracked on efficiently and happily.  We even had a spell of practical jokes.

The road to Hue.  

The lads walking on the road to Hue. 

Helicopter and ambulance. 

The dusty road to Hue with Helicopter. 

A scan of my first call sheet on the picture.  I kept the first three days' call sheets and a few of the landmark ones including Call Sheet No.100 on 28th December and one Stanley signed to me "For Christine, with affection. Stanley". 

A scan of my script cover, which I treasure to this day.  Unlike scripts today the Parris Island section in the beginning is written like a novel it's not a collection of scenes.  Then on page 56 it starts with Scene 56, on page 88 you'll find Sc. 42 and on page 105 you'll find Sc.51.  So that was probably why we flattened out any character arcs and apart from specific effects just maintained constant looks.  Stanley hated his process or momentum being interrupted so it was best to do nothing that required doing either.

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