The Stories Behind 6 Famous Masks

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Just in time for Halloween, here are a few behind-the-scenes tidbits about some famous masks (of both the scary and not-so-spooky variety).

1. Leatherface

Portions of the classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were based on the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, but the trademark Leatherface mask was inspired by a far more personal (and equally grisly) experience. Writer/director Tobe Hooper had a doctor friend who'd once confided to him that, while a pre-med student, he'd sneaked into the morgue and harvested the skin from the face of a cadaver to make a Halloween mask. Bob Burns, the movie's art director, took several of Leatherface's props home with him after filming wrapped, including one of the three original "killing" masks, which he mounted on a Styrofoam head and sprayed with a transparent sealant. He kept the head in a shoebox in his closet for many years before selling it to a friend, who then auctioned it on eBay for an undisclosed sum. The successful bidder was a horror film fanatic who now proudly displays the mask in his home in a specially built air-tight case.

2. Guy Fawkes

guy-fawkesBritish actor James Purefoy was the original freedom fighter in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, but he quit the project after a few weeks because of the Guy Fawkes mask required for the role. Not only did he find it hot and uncomfortable, as filming progressed he realized that he would never be seen onscreen without it. His own face would be completely incognito throughout the picture, which is a bitter pill for any actor to swallow. "Even Spiderman gets to take his mask off once in a while," he complained. Hugo Weaving replaced him and earned a Best Actor nomination from the Australian Film Institute for his work.

3. Robin

robinThe Lone Ranger-style mask that "Robin" wore on TV's Batman exposed more of his face on-camera, which meant extra work for actor Burt Ward. Batman's cowl was concealing enough that a stuntman could easily step in for Adam West during vigorous fight scenes. But Burt had to roll with most of the punches thrown his way, as a stunt double would be immediately noticeable without a lot of extra (read: expensive) editing. Luckily Ward had a black belt in karate and had previously worked as a professional figure skater, so he not only had the moves, but also a high pain threshold.

4. Ghostface

ghostfaceThe "Ghostface" mask from the film Scream only debuted 13 years ago, but since that time it has consistently ranked right up there with Frankenstein and Dracula in terms of sales every Halloween. Even though Ghostface made its big screen debut in 1996, the actual original mask was created back in 1991 by Tony Gardner of Alterian Effects (the same studio responsible for the ghoulish make-up in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video).

5. Darth Vader

darthWhen the evil Darth Vader was finally unmasked in Return of the Jedi, the face revealed was not that of British bodybuilder David Prowse, who'd worn the costume for the first three films. It was actor Sebastian Shaw, whom George Lucas allegedly chose because he looked more "paternal." Prowse claims, however, it was to keep his face off screen (even though the villain's mug was covered with disfiguring make-up) to discourage him from negotiating a higher salary for future films.

6. Halloween

myersHalloween, like most indie horror movies, was filmed on a shoestring budget, with precious little money available for expensive props. Back in the 1960s, a particular episode of Star Trek required the studio's prop department to make a death mask of Captain Kirk (William Shatner). Once that episode was in the can, some bean counter at Paramount decided to capitalize on the cult popularity of Star Trek and authorized a Halloween mask to be manufactured and available in stores. Of course, by the time the Halloween propmaster was scouring shops for discounted scary items, the Shatner mask was on the 99-cent rack. Spray paint it white, cut the eye holes a little larger and voilà "“ the perfect murder mask for Michael Myers.

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October 31, 2009 - 8:10am
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