The Makeup of Penny Dreadful

The Makeup of Penny Dreadful

Some of classic horror literature’s most iconic characters, including Doctor Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and figures from Dracula, are stalking the darkest corners of Victorian London. Created and written by John Logan, "Penny Dreadful" weaves their stories together with those of original characters Sir Malcolm Murray, Ethan Chandler and Vanessa Ives as they confront their personal demons and real monsters in search of Mina Murray. Penny Dreadful stars Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green. A new illustrated companion goes behind the scenes to unearth the show’s secrets and dissect every aspect of the production. Exclusive interview material with the show’s creator, executive producer Sam Mendes and supervising producer Chris King, as well as key crew and the main cast, accompany previously unseen images, from storyboards to stills and blueprints to sets, in this in-depth look at the making of the series. 

“The one thing we knew very early on was we didn’t want computer generated monsters,” says Logan. “We simply were not going to do that, because there is something about them I find inherently false. I think audiences can tell if you’re watching an animation or if you’re watching an actor, and I believe in acting. We knew we needed to create a vampire – an actor in old-fashioned makeup to fit with the ethos of what the show is. So it would have texture, so it would be grainy just like everything else in the show, and so it would feel real.”

The production turned to special effects makeup maestro Nick Dudman for help. Dudman’s experience in producing makeup effects for film and television stretches back decades, although in recent years much of his time has been taken up with the Harry Potter film franchise. “Nick Dudman and his incredible group of artisans from all over the world created that vampire and every prosthetic effect and makeup effect we have,” continues Logan. “Nick’s very sensitive to text. He reads the script very closely, so he knows who the characters are. He lets them evolve in him before he will even suggest to me what he thinks they should look like, and there’s a process of refining and refining and refining. I had a particular idea for how the vampire moves, and what it feels like. Nick was able to embrace that, and then most importantly, he was able to make it.”

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    Concept art showing the slow decay of Fenton's face during his time in Sir Malcolm's basement

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    A variety of early designs for Sembene's scarifications. After the first makeup trial, it was decided to drop the forehead application.

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    Sculpting the moulds for Frankenstein's creature's scars

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    Sarita Allison applying the final result.

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    The large prosthetic chest piece at the sculpt stage.

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    The vampires fingers at the sculpt stage

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    The finished chest prosthetic, complete with paint.

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    Makeup artist Sarita Allison puts the finishing touches to Robert Nairne's vampire on set.

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    It wasn't possible to actually shave Eva Green's head as in the present she still has her long hair.

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    The makeup and hairdressing team devised several wigs, including one that could be shared for the scene and a skull cap with stubble and scars.