Walas, Chris

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WALAS, Chris

Special Effects and Creature Makeup Artist. Nationality: American. Born: Chicago. Education: William Paterson College, New Jersey; Los Angeles City College. Career: 1978—began with Roger Corman productions doing makeup and effects on such low-budget films as Piranha and Humanoids from the Deep; 1981—graduated to first-class productions with Raiders of the Lost Ark; 1984—first major credit on a major studio film with Gremlins; 1989—directorial debut with The Fly II; TV work: directed two episodes of Tales from the Crypt series. Awards: Academy Award, Best Makeup, for The Fly, 1986.

Films as Makeup/Creature-Effects Artist:


Piranha (Dante); Screamers (The Island of the Fish Men; L'isola degli uomini Pesci) (Martino and Miller)


Humanoids from the Deep (Peeters); Galaxina (Sachs); Dragonslayer (Robbins)


Scanners (Cronenberg); Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg); Caveman (Gottlieb)


Return of the Jedi (Marquand)


Gremlins (Dante); Romancing the Stone (Zemeckis)


Enemy Mine (Petersen)


The Fly (Cronenberg)


House II: The Second Story (Wiley)


The Kiss (Densham); Child's Play (Holland)


Arachnophobia (F. Marshall); Look Who's Talking Too (Heckerling)


Naked Lunch (Cronenberg)


Jade (Friedkin); Virtuosity (Leonard)

Films as Director:


The Fly II


The Vagrant


On WALAS: book—

Brouwer, Alexandra, and Thomas Lee Wright, Working in Hollywood: 64 Film Professionals Talk about Moviemaking, New York, 1990.

On WALAS: articles—

Gentry, R., Millimeter, September 1984.

Salza, G., Segno, January 1986.

* * *

Chris Walas's work as special effects and makeup artist saw him move into feature filmmaking at a time when the visuals became both more innovative and more graphic, often even grisly. He has said that when he started his attitude was to "think of something nobody's ever thought of before" and then do it.

Even as he did this, he attempted to take an organic approach, to make the makeup and effects logical to the situation. For instance, on his Academy Award-winning work on David Cronenberg's The Fly, he sought to figure out just why the creature, played by actor Jeff Goldblum, would evolve physically in a certain manner—then try to create it with the makeup. The result in that case, while hardly for the weak of heart, clearly won over its audience and the award committee.

Beginning his creature work at a Halloween mask-making company in California in the late 1970s, Walas was able to work on the feature films that came to the company for makeup assistance. When he went out on his own, he found himself in the employ of ultra-low-budget icon Roger Corman, creating fish, severed limbs, and cuts.

Walas made his leap to major productions with Raiders of the Lost Ark. But he did not feel he had reached his potential until Gremlins blossomed from an independent film to a studio work during preproduction, making him responsible for an endless array of good and evil puppet creatures.

By the time it came time to make the sequel to The Fly, Walas was eager to branch out into direction. Unfortunately, the result—The Fly II—was poorly received by both critics and audiences. Critics often cited the makeup as seeming to take precedence over the story. Walas's second stab at directing, The Vagrant, was a troubled production from the start, seeing a seemingly endless turnover in crew during shooting then barely receiving a release. The critics again savaged it and again pointed out that the special effects seemed much stronger than the story line.

At this juncture in his career, Walas has won accolades for the makeup effects he has created, bringing the whole art to a new level. Nevertheless, he has stated a determination to find work as a film director, a role at which he has not yet found equal success.

—Allen Grant Richards