Jennifer Aspinall is one of the most prolific and respected artists in the world of makeup. Her creations have been seen by millions, including her work on Saturday Night Live and her Emmy award winning work on MAD TV. To horror film fans, she’s best recognized for her inventively gruesome special makeup effects in the 1980s cult classics “The Toxic Avenger” and “Street Trash.”
Ms. Aspinall was kind enough to take time out for a chat about her life and career.
How did you become interested in makeup?
I was really really shy as a kid, and I liked to disguise myself. I found a book at the library called “Stage Makeup” by Richard Corson, this book is a makeup artist’s bible. It gives you pretty much all the basic information you’d ever need to know. So for me that book was amazingly inspiring. I got really into illusion. I would make myself up, and disguise myself, and be different people. This is about when I was nine years old. When I was ten my next door neighbor, who produced dinner theater and summer stock, took me to a professional makeup supplier in Philadelphia. By the time I was eleven, going into twelve, I started working for her doing theater productions. I celebrated my twelfth birthday onstage, doing a dinner theater production. And from that point on I just continued working.
Anyone who has seen “The Toxic Avenger” or “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” will instantly recognize Robert Prichard. During a decade when The Bully became a comedy cliché (“Back to the Future,” “The Karate Kid,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” etc.) Prichard stood out in creating two of the most hilariously over-the-top bullies in cult movie history: Slug, the Tromaville Heath Club thug, and Spike, the Tromaville High School gang leader of “The Cretins.” Mr. Prichard was nice enough to chat with me about his integral roles in these classic Troma films, and his later formation of the influential New York City avant-garde theater group SURF REALITY.
Probably in grade school. I think the first thing I ever did was in French class, in grade school. It was to get us to learn French and that was fun. And then later in high school more. I came of age in the 70s, I was in high school in the 70s, college in the 70s, sort of too young to be a hippie, a little before punk rock, I was sort of in between the two things. So there was a whole “do-it-yourself” kind of thing about acting that I liked. I didn’t want to work for the man, you know? In my young crazy way I saw it as a way to be self-employed in a creative way and be master of my own destiny.
I sort of saw it as a way to travel a lot, meet girls, be creative. Also I thought if I could really just learn how to act well, and be in control of my expressions, my body, in touch with my emotions, then no matter what else I wanted to do, if acting didn’t work out for me I’d have a good base as a human being. So that was attractive to me. Didn’t really work out for me though. (LAUGHS)