13.12.12

Outstanding Effect Shots, part 13 of 24

Donovan chooses poorly
- in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Steven Spielberg had one "simple" request regarding the rapid aging and death of the villain, Donovan, in the third Indiana Jones movie: He didn't want to cut away. He wanted one continuous shot.





The transformation was created by Industrial Light & Magic, with makeup effect supervisor Stephan Dupuis, and was accomplished with three different fake heads (no real heads were harmed in this production).

The first head, made from a cast of actor Julian Glover takes care of the first part of the transformation: The nose and the cheeks are sucked in and the head tilts back. The second head brings the transformation even further: The eyes are sucked in and the lips shrivel back. Finally the last head takes the transformation to the final stage - almost a skeleton - by dissolving the skin and revealing the bone beneath.

The changes in the two first stages were done with internal motion-controlled mechanics, but the third head had to have something extra. A thin layer of skin was created by melting styrofoam cups into a liquid, and painting it on the inside of the mould used to cast the head. Under this layer small pieces of plastic in the shape of tiny worms were placed. When the head was heated, the skin tightened up, and the pieces of plastic would shrivel up and break through the skin!


All the heads were placed on a motion-controlled rig, so they could go through the exact same movement. The change from one head to the next was created by a stunning new computer technique called... Morphing? Very strange. That was probably never used again.

The finale of the first Indy film set the bar pretty high, but this film manages something even more impressive than the melting heads from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). More than 20 years later it still holds up. Pure movie magic.

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