The Oscar-winning make-up artist Dick Smith has died aged 92. In a career spanning over fifty years, Smith was responsible for some of the most iconic transformations in cinema, especially his work on The Exorcist and Amadeus. The news was confirmed by long time friend and former assistant Rick Baker, who won an Academy Award for his work on the make-up for An American Werewolf in London.
Rick Baker worked as Smith's assistant on The Exorcist
Originally Smith had been studying at Yale University to become a dentist when he became transfixed with the idea of make-up artistry after reading a book from his university library. This twist of fate led Smith to become one of the most intentive masters of his craft, long before the possibilities of CGI. He terrified audiences with the makeover he gave young actress Linda Blair for The Exorcist, complete with bulging eyes and 360-degree head swivelling.
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Less terrifying but equally impressive was his work on The Godfather, transforming Marlon Brando into Don Vito Corleone, and Amadeus, in which F. Murray Abraham was unrecognisable as Mozart's rival Antonio Salieri. His work on Amadeus won him an Academy Award for Best Make-Up in 1984, and in 2011 he was presented with an honorary award recognising his achievement in his field and contribution to the film industry as a whole.
Other credits include giving Robert DeNiro a mohawk in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and making Dustin Hoffman appear years older in Little Big Man.
In an interview with The Washington Post in 2007, Smith said “Even when the characters were fantastically weird, I always tried to make them believable. Actors have to feel like they are the person they are portraying. I think my work has helped many to achieve that.”