Academy Award-winner JOEL HARLOW is one of the most innovative makeup and special makeup artists and designers in American motion pictures. He has proven himself to be one of a very few number of artists who is able to span the world of makeup effects design and creation to the world of on set makeup application.
Re-establishing the old studio system of an “in house” makeup and prosthetics department, Harlow and his team have successfully accommodated last minute needs and changes on a variety of major productions.
In 1986, Harlow left his home town of Grand Forks, ND for the faster paced lifestyle of New York. Attending the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan afforded him the opportunity to develop his craft, initially as an animation major. It was makeup and prosthetics that were his true passion however, and he eventually found work on an array of low budget genre pictures, creating characters on shoestring budgets. It was the idea of creating characters that was his focus (be that as an animator or makeup artist), the characters were what was important.
Los Angeles was the next logical destination for a makeup effects artist in the late 80s, early 90s, and Harlow soon found himself there. After a decade long career working for the various makeup effects studios in the San Fernando Valley, he eventually joined the union. This now allowed him the opportunity to, not only create and build makeups but also apply them on set. taking a character full circle from design to completion would prove his specialty.
Anxious to now apply his skills on set, Harlow began working steadily on such high profile films as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Constantine” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” creating a long-standing relationship with Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Harlow would be the key makeup artist, makeup effects supervisor, and prosthetic makeup designer on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” again directed by Verbinski. Being well versed in the aesthetic of the “Pirate” films, he would go on to be makeup designer and department head on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” directed by Rob Marshall. Finally having his hand in all five Pirate films as Department Head of “Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” additional photography.
In 2009 Harlow had ventured from the crusty old world of Captain Jack to the futuristic polished world of Captain Kirk, where he was tasked with creating looks for the Romulans and reintroducing the Vulcans for JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek”, ultimately winning an Academy Award for his work in 2010. Previously, Harlow had already won a Critic’s Choice award for his work on “Alice in Wonderland,” as well as Primetime Emmy Awards for the television miniseries versions of Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “The Shining,” and receiving nominations for “Mad Men,” “Carnivale” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” For the past 8 years Harlow has worked as Johnny Depp’s makeup artist on “Alice in Wonderland”, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, “The Tourist”, “Transcendence”, “Mortdecai”, “Tusk” and “Into The Woods”, as well as makeup designer on “The Rum Diary,” “Dark Shadows”, “Black Mass” and “The Lone Ranger”, for which he was nominated for a second Academy Award.
In addition Harlow was key makeup artist on Ron Howard’s “Angels & Demons,” key prosthetic makeup artist for Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, key prosthetic makeup artist on “Green Lantern” and makeup department head on “Battle: Los Angeles.”
Anxious for the opportunities that Justin Lin’s “Star Trek Beyond” offered in the world of character creation, Harlow enlisted some of the industries best artists to help bring a staggering 56 different alien races to the screen. Never before had there been so many different and elaborate practical makeup creations offered up in a single film, a fact that Harlow and crew take immense pride in.
Currently, Harlow’s company, Morphology FX Inc. continues to create a full range of state-of-the- art makeup, special makeup effects and prosthetics. Seeing characters through, from lab to set, continues to be the artistic passion of everyone on the team.