EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Hellraiser's Own "GARY TUNNICLIFFE" Sits Down With Standish913...

Standish913.com has been blessed to do an exclusive interview with...


Gary J. Tunnicliffe has been working in the film industry since 1990, primarily designing and creating special make up effects on over 130 feature films including entries in many of the most well known 'horror genre' franchises (Hellraiser, Halloween, Candyman, Scream, Exorcist, Blade, Feast, The Collector etc).

He is especially known for crafting elaborate and shocking death sequences which earned him the moniker 'The Hollywood Assassin'.

He has also written and directed several feature films (working with actors including Christopher Lloyd, Chevy Chase, Dakota Fanning, Chloe Grace Moretz, Lynne Redgrave, Howie Mandel etc).

Semi retired he still continues to design effects for occasional projects, for Patrick Lussier (a relationship spanning 23 years and 8 Films) and for Vincent Van Dyke as a part of his make up effects team.


Let's get into some exclusive questions...

HEATHER: Which Hellraiser character was your favorite to work on?

GARY: Oh undoubtedly Pinhead… it was an absolute ambition achieved, a character, design and performance from a film I loved, so getting to do that make up, refine it and streamline the process and (hopefully) maintain the legacy was fantastic… And whilst all of the cenobites I have designed and created over the years (Angelique being an absolute favorite) the other ‘character’ I loved and feel privileged to have worked on is Lemarchands Lament Configuration aka ‘The Puzzle Box’ , Simon Sayce’s brass filagree and mahogany cube is just beautifully designed. I really don’t think Bob Keen, Geoff Portass and the incredible team that was Image Animation get enough credit for the work done on the first two classic films.

HEATHER: How does it feel to be such a big influence in the horror makeup industry?

GARY: Oh wow I don’t think I am… I’m just a guy who got paid to glue some stuff to peoples faces, I’m standing on the shoulders of artists who figured all of this stuff out, pioneers of the industry like Dick Smith and John Chambers and then the ‘Fangoria’ era of ‘rock star’ make up effects artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin and Tom Savini etc all of whom had a tremendous impact on me.

HEATHER: Being able to act in several movies, which was your personal favorite to portray?

GARY: The Auditor - I absolutely loved playing that character and it’s overwhelming when people are kind enough to say they like that character and enjoy the performance… it was also fantastic because I had such a great relationship with the director and an inherent love of his work lol

And…Although it was a tiny moment… being killed (well, having my larynx crushed)  by Michael Myers in Halloween Ressurrection (I played the paramedic) and therefore killed by Jamie Lee Curtis in H20 (are you following me?) is pretty damned cool!

HEATHER: What was the most challenging obstacle at the beginning of your career?

GARY: I think probably the idea that it actually was something I really could do, I come from a blue collar family in the Midlands in the UK, my mother worked in restaurants, my Father was an electrician, unfortunately I think they felt it was wrong or ‘giving false hope’ to tell their son he could be an actor or a singer or a make up effects artist, these were aspirations akin to being an astronaut… I’m not saying they aren’t proud now, but initially my desire to do ‘monster make up’ and forge a career in Hollywood was met with confusion and skepticism by them (and pretty much everyone around me) and that was probably the hardest thing to overcome.

HEATHER: How does it feel being a previous winner at Screamfest?

GARY: Very grateful especially since the award itself is SO cool and designed by the legendary Stan Winston!… I love my ‘skully’!

HEATHER: Were there any times that you doubted your future in the entertainment industry?

GARY: I don’t think I doubted my future, I didn’t allow myself the privilege, I was ‘all in’, frighteningly optimistic and ferociously ‘driven’… I often look back and wonder why I didn’t and how I managed to be so fearless when it could have all gone so wrong at any moment… Perhaps it was just blind faith or just the arrogance of youth… but I guess it served me well. 

HEATHER: What is the most important thing in your mind you would like to tell aspiring special effects makeup artists?

GARY: If you wanna be a make up effects artist or technician do it because you ‘love it’ not because you think it seems ‘cool’ or it seems like a ‘fun’ job, you’ll be good at it if you do it or think about it ALL the time, if you’re sculpting or molding or applying whenever you have ANY free time you’re gonna succeed, and I don’t mean winning awards, that isn’t how I equate success in this industry, in my opinion ANYONE who does this job, makes a living at it and survives has utterly succeeded and deserves credit.

HEATHER: During the writing of some films you've worked on, where did you draw your inspiration from?

GARY: I think like most I draw inspiration from things I’ve seen, read and heard and that can be fact or fiction and then mostly from from allowing my mind to wander and to wonder ‘what if?’ and to simply ask questions like ‘what scares or intrigues me’ etc 

HEATHER: Out of directing, acting, and special effects which would be your personal favorite and why?

GARY: Hmmmm… as a narcissist ‘Directing’ is undoubtedly the best lol… if you enjoy being asked your opinion all day long and having a bunch of people paid to execute your ideas and imaginings it’s utterly intoxicating!

Acting is fun, always a trip to ‘be someone else’ for a while and hopefully create a memorable new persona!

Make up effects is hard work and can be nerve wracking when a director, producers and a whole crew are waiting on you to ‘deliver’ …but then of course absolutely wonderful when you actually do! A good make up effect or prosthetic garners an ‘instant’ reaction from people and that’s very cool!

HEATHER: When coming up with the design of any newly introduced characters how hard is it to perfect what you imagine?

GARY: Oh it can be incredibly hard, sometimes what seems like the simplest idea can be a nightmare to do physically or technically, simply because of the limitations or structure of human anatomy or materials… at the same time you have to try not to let your knowledge of those limitations or potential problems ‘limit’ your design or fantasies … does that make sense?

HEATHER: Are there any future films you are currently working on? If so may you give us an overview of the work you are doing?

GARY: I’m currently working on a live experience based on the IT films in Las Vegas and doing some designs for various film projects that are set to happen once the current writer and actor strikes are over, hopefully a project with my great friend Patrick (my bloody Valentine 3D, Drive Angry etc) Lussier

HEATHER: Have you ever been offered work on a film that you've declined? If so do you regret not taking it?

GARY: Not declined but i was unable to do due to work conflicts or availability… I could have worked on Event Horizon which I always thought was a cool movie and I had an opportunity to join the make up crew on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it would have meant leaving to live in New Zealand when I had my own shop in LA, a wonderful opportunity as a freelance make up effects artist but not for a designer/shop owner, but obviously looking back at those films and their legacy you have to wonder (occasionally) how it might have been (exhausting and exhilarating I’m sure) and where it might have lead.

HEATHER: What has drawn you to continue working on the Hellraiser franchise?

GARY: Quite simply my love of the source material, I love Clive Barker’s novella (the Hellbound Heart) and the mythology of the Engineer and the law of the Cenobites.

HEATHER: Are there any actors you would love you work with in the future which you've been unable to thus far?

GARY: I’ve been very fortunate to work with and get to know personally some fantastic actors but I would say there are only a few I can think of that I would really love to work with,  even if only just to watch them work and see their process… Anthony Hopkins, Ewan Macgreggor,  Gary Oldman and Michael Sheen, if the opportunity was to work with actors who are no longer alive I would simply LOVE to have worked with the great Peter Cushing and my hero Rik Mayall

HEATHER: Have you had any difficulties with any location which you've had to work? If so what made it so difficult?

GARY: Sleepy Hollow, the actual village they created for the movie was BEAUTIFUL but it was mud bath!… doing any kind of effect in or underwater is a challenge but as someone who enjoys scuba diving I have to admit I find it great fun… feels like a paid vacation…. I’ve had to apply prosthetic make up in some pretty bizarre places!… the stair well of a multi storey parking lot, an airplane hangar, on a boat, in a barn, numerous attics and cellars.

HEATHER: During covid we all had our struggles. What was your biggest struggle through covid?

GARY: Honestly I didn’t really have any struggles apart from not being able to travel, I was at my house in Bucharest, Romania and I sculpted and painted, wrote and read, played and wrote music and watched a lot movies… I’m actually kind of ‘insular’ so (I hate to say this) it kind of suited me … I did miss LA and sushi though!

HEATHER: Are there any further comments you would like to add?

GARY: I think I’d just add that if you have a desire to follow a career path whether it’s in the movie industry or any field don’t let anyone put you down or tell you, you can’t do it, strive to prove them wrong, most of them are just scared of failure, scared to try and follow their dreams, so put your dream into action. I’d also like to recognize the effects artists that inspire me NOW people like Vincent Van Dyke, Joel Harlow, Norman Cabrera, Richard Redlefsen and Mike Fontaine etc.!

Thank you team Standish913! šŸ‘šŸ»


Thanks So Much For Your Time!

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