Larry Van Duynhoven is a Melbourne-based special effects makeup artist who has worked on a number of amazing films like Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Invisible Man. We were lucky to be able to chat to him about how he got his start in the industry and why he loves it so much!
My name is Lawrence, but people call me Larry; I run a prosthetics company here in Melbourne called ScareCrew Studios.
I discovered the art of makeup when I was about 10 years old. I had always been so terrified of horror films—they just seemed so real to me. But when I was around 10, I saw a behind-the-scenes video and it totally changed my way of thinking. It was like the ultimate magic trick! From there, I became really intrigued by makeup, and I think that being a quiet, shy kid sort of helped me in a way. Makeup changes you—it’s kind of like hiding behind a mask, which appealed to me as an introverted kid.
So I started sculpting. Back then, there was no schooling for special effects makeup here in Australia, so I was mainly looking through magazines and books, trying to work out how they created iconic characters like Frankenstein and Freddy Kruger. My Nanna used to do pottery, so she had some water clay that I would use. I started small and just kept at it. It took perseverance, that’s for sure—I was stealing my dad’s tools from the shed and caulking silicone for wounds! There was no Internet back then. I sometimes look back and wish I had YouTube back then, but in reality I’m glad I didn’t. It forced me to think for myself. Tutorials are great, but they don’t foster creativity and new ideas. I remember when I was around 12, I took a mirror from my mum and put butter or vaseline on the surface, then used superglue mixed with her red nail polish to paint a cut on the mirror. I let it dry, peeled it off, and I had a wound!
Once I finished school, I worked in trades to fund my passion for special effects makeup. It didn’t come easy, but when I was 27 years old someone recommended me for a special effects makeup job and I ended up getting my start in the industry. Slowly but surely I started getting more little jobs and films. And then, like in any industry, if you do a good job, people notice that and start asking you back for more jobs. Before you know it, you’re working bigger jobs.
Initially I worked on a couple of short films and student films. They were fun! Then one day when I was about 20, I saw an article in the Herald Sun talking about a big Hollywood movie coming to town, Queen of the Damned. I flipped out! I wrote a letter to the person they mentioned in the newspaper and sent it off with my CV. I was naive and didn’t know who else to get in contact with. I half expected Spielberg to call me the next day. After a few months, I got a call. They had passed on my CV. From there, I got to work for seven days as additional makeup. SPFX makeup artist Bob McCarron was working on that, and I got to assist him a little bit—that was a great introduction.
Working as a special effects makeup artist is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. You get to work with some amazing people; for me, I love the comradery in the workshop with all the artists and friends. You get to create fun things that you get paid for while you’re hanging out with your friends. You also do get to meet great actors and go to amazing places to shoot. For example, for the film Cargo we were in the Flinders Ranges and it was absolutely amazing. There’s nothing there in the desert; it’s a very bizarre feeling, almost spiritual. We stayed in these old shearing sheds, about an hour from the rest of the crew, just our prosthetics team in these sheep shearing sheds. There were emus out the back of the sheds when you’d get up in the morning. So bizarre!
I was also once doing a Chinese movie in Melbourne when I got a phone call one Monday night from an industry friend, hair and makeup designer Nicky Gooley, who was working on a shoot in Malaysia. Their local prosthetics teams were struggling to put some battle scars on an actor. They asked me to come over to Malaysia to help out, so I flew over that same night, a few hours after I finished work for the day. It took me about four hours to get to the mountains where they were shooting. I helped them with the prosthetics for a couple of days, and then flew back to Melbourne, arriving back home on Thursday. Sometimes it can be like that!
The biggest thing when you’re trying to break into this industry is determination. Reach out to people in the industry and ask if you can shadow them. Go and visit people on set and test the waters. Put your heart and soul into it. It might take you a little while, but it’s all about pushing forward and being willing to keep on learning.