We were delighted to speak with Make Up/Special Effects Artist and Director Todd Tucker whose company Illusion Industries Inc. provided a new take on the iconic Leatherface mask for the 2022 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre (click here to read our review).
“…It opened the door for every icon slasher character that came after including Michael, Jason, Freddy, the list goes on. It was an honor for our team to create the new version of Leatherface”
Todd has worked on over 100 feature films and television shows. In addition, he created and acted in many of the creature characters for the hit supernatural television series Charmed. He was part of the creative team for movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Pirates of the Caribbean, Van Helsing, Hook, and many others He is now the president of Illusion Industries Inc., a world-renowned, special-effects make-up studio based in Los Angeles, California, Louisiana, and Moscow. Additionally, Illusion Industries Inc. has received significant media recognition for its feature film, and television credits that include Smurfs 1 and Smurfs 2, G.I. Joe Retaliation, and The Iceman.
How did you get your start in Make Up/Special Effects?
I was an only child who became obsessed with movies at a young age. The films Jaws, Star Wars, The Dark Crystal and Halloween changed my life. I took a number of art classes growing up, then was fortunate enough to meet artists Matt Rose and Steve Wang my senior year of high school. Matt and Steve had their own FX company in our hometown and taught me how to sculpt, paint, mould and create special-effects make up and creatures. I moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and they got me my first job and continued to be my life long friends.
What were some of your early inspirations in Film and Make Up/Special Effects?
And I was obsessed with the shark in Jaws and loved going to Universal Studios to watch it attack the tram on the tour. Jim Henson‘s Dark Crystal Puppets blew me away and I instantly wanted to start building and puppeteering. The movies The Howling and American werewolf In London had a major influence on me, being that I am a huge werewolf fan. Definitely my favourite monster!
How was Illusion Industries founded?
I started Illusion Industries around 10 years ago with my business partner Ron Halvas. One of our first film’s was Sony’s The Smurfs. We got to design and create the Gargamel make up. Since then we have created the make up effects for the films G.I. Joe Retaliation, The Iceman, Ouija; Origin Of Evil and most recently Leatherface for the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
How did you become involved with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and what can fans expect to see in this new instalment?
I had a fortune of working with producer Herb Gains in the past on the films The Watchmen and Jack Reacher 2. He reached out to me and asked me if I’d be interested in working on the film, of course I said yes! We started moving forward and a week later everything was shut down by the Pandemic. Herb asked if we were good to keep moving forward, we said Hell yea, then designed and created Leather face during the shut down. By the way, none of our crew got sick.
I do believe that the fans are going to enjoy this new installment of the franchise. The film has a lot of action and will deliver the level of violence and intensity that the fans expect. Leatherface is a bad ass with a mission!
Were you a fan of the Texas Chainsaw franchise before being involved ?
As a true horror fan I absolutely respect what Leatherface and the original Texas Chainsaw film did to change the horror genre back in the 70s. It opened the door for every icon slasher character that came after including Michael, Jason, Freddy, the list goes on. It was an honor for our team to create the new version of Leatherface.
With the new Leatherface make-up what elements did you choose to keep and what did you change for this evolution of the character?
Any changes to the Leatherface look were made based on the script. I can’t tell you why but you will know when you see the film. The face was designed and applied by one of our key artist Martin Astles. We actually attached the silicone face to the actor with Velcro tabs so that it was easy to take off in between scenes.
It worked great and gave us the ability to slightly change the expression of the face itself. Leatherface himself gets pretty torn up throughout the film, so he goes from bad to worse.
See more behind the scenes photos from Texas Chainsaw Massacre below.
You have been involved with transformations for films such as’ Mrs Doubtfire’ and ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’, Is there a particular approach you take during transformation work?
After we read the script for a project, we meet with the Director and pick their brain creatively to see what their vision is. Then we will come up with a number of designs to present to the production. Once they sign off on what they like, we sculpt, mould and fully fabricate the make up, creature or puppet. We then go on the set with our creation and apply the make up or perform the puppet. Sometimes even play the creature. All in all it is a creative blast!
How has the way you work been affected by Covid-19?
While working on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we had to do all of our creative meetings on a new thing called Zoom. I had never used it before, but it instantly became the only way to have a meeting. Finding a crew that was willing to come in and work at our studio was also a challenge. Once everything was built, it had to be shipped to Bulgaria where the film was being shot. Shipping at this point in time was a nightmare so Martin took the majority of it with him on the plane when he traveled over to do the make ups. Covid definitely made it much more challenging and continues to make things difficult.
How has directing informed your work in Make-up effects and visa/versa?
I actually started off as a second unit director on independent films with a lot of FX make up and digital shots on films with directors that didn’t have a lot of experience with those elements. By the time I directed my first feature, a family film called Monster Mutt, I’d worked as an effects artist on numerous studio films and had the pleasure of working with great directors. Having experience as a Director and a make up effects artist helps when working on these types of films. I love what I do and appreciate that I’ve been given these opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone looking to make a career in Film and/or MUFX?
Get as much information as you can online and start creating content. Experience is the best teacher.
Any other upcoming projects we should look out for?
Illusion Industries just created 26 creature characters for a new Netflix original film coming out next October. We are also about to move forward on our next in-house project that I wrote and will be directing.It has some fun old age character and creature make ups in the film and will should be released later this year.
You can also see behind the scenes and fun images of our work at our website:
Illusion Industries credits for Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Todd Tucker, Project / Creative Supervisor
Martin Astles, Key Designer, Sculptor and Applicator
Miles Teves, Designer
John Donahue, Designer
Chris Gallaher, Denture Technician
Daniel Crawley, Mold Supervisor
Dalton Kutsch, Silicone Technician
Richard Mayberry, Painter
Christine Mansfield, Hair Technician
Toi Rodchompu, Hair Technician
Miya Aoki, Shop Technician
Melanie Eichner, Shop Technician
Doug Brown, Coordinator
Texas Chainsaw Massacre production credits
David Blue Garcia, Director
Ricardo Diaz, DP
Herb Gains, Producer – Legendary Pictures
Fede Alvarez, Producer – Bad Hombre Films