Christopher Tucker, the preeminent makeup and prosthetics designer behind The Phantom the Opera's deformed transformation, has passed away. Mr. Tucker was 76. News of his passing was confirmed by a production representative for the Broadway run of Phantom.
Originally an opera singer, Mr. Tucker began designing prosthetic noses for himself when appearing in Verdi's Rigoletto. In 1970, he worked as a makeup artist on the film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, starring John Gielgud and Charlton Heston, and was soon in demand as a visual designer for Roman era epics, including the BBC series I, Claudius, where he was tasked with aging the characters over a period of 70 years.
By 1974, he had abandoned his performance career, and set up shop in an 18th-century manor house west of London, making every manner of facially applicable prosthetic. Mr. Tucker was a part of the team that designed the makeup and prosthetics for the extensive Mos Eisley Cantina scene in Star Wars, which contained more than two dozen highly stylized and unique creature designs, and his work has since been replicated in countless Star Wars properties.
In 1980, Mr. Tucker designed the layered prosthetics that transformed John Hurt into Joseph Merrick for David Lynch's film adaptation of The Elephant Man. Taking seven hours to apply, the head portion of the prosthetic consisted of fifteen different silicone rubber and foam sections that overlapped to visually replicate Mr. Merrick's deformity. Mr. Tucker's work on the film was so influential that in 1981 it led to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences creating a Best Makeup category at the Academy Awards in response to public outcry over Mr. Tucker's inability to be recognized the year prior.
Throughout the 1980s, Mr. Tucker created a wide range of wearable prosthetics for film. Mr. Tucker transformed comedian Terry Jones for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, received a BAFTA in 1983 for his work on the film Quest for Fire, and designed the werewolf transformation in The Company of Wolves, including extensive skin tearing sequences that were achieved through innovations in latex. Mr. Tucker received two BAFTA nominations for his work on the gothic fantasy film.
In 1986, Mr. Tucker was tasked with designing the Phantom's deformity in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Applied nightly, the system remains shrouded in mystery nearly 40 years after it was first applied to Michael Crawford. The Phantom's deformity prosthetic has been slightly altered for every performer to take on the titular role, but Mr. Tucker's vision has remained intact throughout.
Also in 1986, Mr. Tucker was the subject of a television documentary. Titled Skintricks, it included interviews with numerous actors that had worn Mr. Tucker's designs, and documented the process behind The Company of Wolves.
Mr. Tucker is survived by his wife and collaborator Sinikka Ikaheimo.