Göran Lundström Is a Swedish Special Make make up effects artist and Two time Oscar nomenie. His career has a global span and he has worked on productions in Europe, North America and Africa. He started in the 1980s with making amatuer films with his friends and Is now working on large hollywood productions like Star Wars: The last Jedi, The Batman and House of Gucci. The last one being the movie that got him his second Oscar Nomination. His first Oscar nomenation was Gräns ( Border) from 2018. Hope you enjoy this interview.
How did your love for movies and make up start out? Is there a specific movie that birthed your love?
I’ve always been intrigued by movies. Especially fantastical movies. Star Wars made a big impact of course. Raiders of the Lost ark as well. Back to the Future is my favourite movie, but American Werewolf in London birthed my love for makeup effects.
Your first movie was a slasher fan film called Micheal Myers resurrection part 2 from 1989. How did you get that job?
That was an amateur film, a sequel to a film that I wasn’t involved in. I used to make to make my own short films in my teens with friends, then I got to know another aspiring makeup effects artist when I was around 20 and we joined forces to learn more and get better. It was his circle of friends that had made the first Resurrection of Michael Myers film so we both got involved. Unpaid of course:-)
You have done some work in both the Swedish movie industry and the American industry. How is it working in both and how is the Swedish movie industry vs the American one?
I like challenges. I like pushing myself to see what I can achieve. And the American industry has bigger budgets and higher expectations generally than the Swedish, depending on the project of course. The main difference I’ve noticed in recent years is that when I work on American movies we are treated as experts in our field and our opinion or requests matter. On Swedish productions it can feel, a lot of times, like productions don’t want the expertise. I’m gonna sound negative here, but they seem to want to have made up their minds beforehand and then just order a makeup with not much concern of why and with relatively limited discussions. It can feel like being thrown back into the amateur film world where no one expects anyone to have actual experience or knowledge. There’s a tendency to tell me how to do my job in Sweden. That rarely happens on international productions.
You have worked on Swedish Productions, Norwegian productions, German Productions, British productions and American productions. How have you gotten this international span when it comes to your career and do you have any good advice on how to create those connections?
I have also worked on Dutch productions, Egyptian productions, Danish productions and Spanish productions. I’ve kept Stockholm as my base throughout my career, so anything looking like I’ve changed paths is just me going with the jobs I’ve been offered. And I stay in touch with a lot of my pers and idols in the industry, so they know who I am.
I think there are several reasons for my international span. People in our industry we always keep a lookout for other talent and make-up geeks. It can be quite a lonely thing to spend hours and hours doing this job or even as a hobby. So you find inspiration in other peoples work and sharing knowledge. I was lucky enough to be relatively well known by my peers early on through the internet. When the first IMATS trade show happened in London in 2002 it became a huge networking event for everyone outside of the UK doing this work. So there were a lot of swapping portfolios and admiring other peoples work. I started getting referred to jobs by other European artists or working with them my colleagues in their workshops. My advice is to focus on getting as good as you can. Today, with Instagram and Facebook people will find you if you have good work to show. Being too focused on getting attention is not necessarily gonna get you there. Let the work speak for itself. Being friendly and generous to your peers and sharing advice is also a good thing. In the end, most of the work comes from referrals from your peers.
Do you prefer doing make up on a person or did you prefer designing and making a creature and why do you prefer that option?
I actually like both almost equally. I prefer to design and sculpt my own makeups and then apply them myself. There’s no absolute “right” way to design a makeup, it’s all qualified guess work. When you apply a makeup you have designed you will almost definitely find things you want to improve, and being the designer gives you options to perfect the work. I like applying other artists makeups if they are really good, like the old age makeup on Mahershala Ali in True Detective 3, designed by Mike Marino. Then I get a chance to see how well I can do that makeup and also learn what choices other artists make when they design their makeups. I don’t really like letting other people apply makeups that I have designed, since I always look for ways to improve them up until the point that they are being filmed. I had really good experiences working with Pamela Goldammer on the film Border though where she applied my makeup designs, she and I have very similar aesthetics and goals with our work.
In recent years you have gone from doing movies and TV series shot in Europe to doing a lot of movies and tv series shot in the USA. Like True detective season 3, project power and coming to america 2. How has that come about ?
That is thanks to Mike Marino. A lot of the Hollywood productions I’ve worked on before has been shot in Europe – like Harry Potter, Star Wars Rogue One, Narnia 2 and X-men First Class. Marino runs a company in New York called Prosthetic Renaissance and he contacted me in 2019 since he needed someone to lead the Mahershala Ali old age makeup on True Detective and he felt that we had very similar aestatics and styles. I had visited his workshop a few years earlier once, which I try to do whenever I get a chance with a lot of my colleagues. We hit it off filming in Arkansas and he asked me to come to NY that fall for Project Power and the following year for Coming 2 America in NY and Atlanta, and then for The Batman shooting in London.
Last year it changed again and Hollywood came to me and I did House of Gucci and The Last Voyage Of The Demeter out of my workshop in Stockholm!
How is working in Hollywood as a Swede?
If anything people show me a lot of respect for making it this far being from another country. I remember early on when working in the UK on Hollywood projects, a lot of people were sceptical since I wasn’t from there and they had never heard of me. In the UK, as opposed to the US at that time, the quality of your work wasn’t that important, it was about who you knew. Fortunately their bosses liked what they saw of my work and hired me based on that. That has changed now since people know who I am and with 2 Oscar nominations I think I have proved that I have some talent:-)
Since Evil Ed from 1995 is such a horror cult classic, we have to talk about that a bit. How did you get that job and do you have any fun set stories?
Evil Ed wasn’t really a job I got. I actually came up with the idea of making a movie, and me and Anders Jacobsson even flipped coins on who wouldn’t have to direct it since both of us were passionate about other jobs, me for the creature effects and him for the cinematography! The story was based on an idea that Anders and his friends had had years earlier and we decided to “write” the script together. So after we initially came up with a storyline for a full feature and laid out a plan how we could do this with no budget, we started involving our friends and everyones connections to pull this project off. In the end it took us 3 years to get it finished and it was mainly down to Anders who really dedicated himself to the final edit. We have a bunch of fun stories from Evil Ed, one that comes to mind is us scrambling to shoot this on film, when we didn’t have a real budget, and asking the film companies for free test rolls of film that we ended up using for certain scenes. We have one whole scene we shot with a 3 minute roll of Kodak, another is the Agfa scene, but I think most of it was done on Fuji 16 mm film stock.
How was it being a part of the crew that brought a new version of DCs the penguin to the world and how did you get the job?
Again, this was Mike Marino’s job. He needed someone he trusted to take on the daily applications of the Penguin makeup on Colin Farrel. Little did we know that we would be shut down after only a month due to the pandemic, and 6 months later start up again under much more difficult circumstances. So Mike stayed on a lot longer than planned, so instead of me applying the makeup with someone else helping me, me and Mike applied it together for quite a long time.
Any advice for young artists just starting out?
Yes, I definitely do. Focus on getting good and enjoy the ride of learning and improving. I never ever expected to get as far as I have, but it was never a specific goal I had. It was a dream of course, but I have never worked to get to a certain place or position. I have always only focused on getting better and enjoying the work that I do. There is no short cut. If you don’t enjoy doing the actual hard work, I doubt that you will get that far and get the jobs you dream of. You need to to live and breath this job, very similar to professional sports. I don’t think a football player will get to play for a great team without doing the hard work and becoming really good at it, and it’s the same for us. If you don’t love kicking a football in your backyard, how would you ever end up playing at Wembley Stadium in front of thousands of people?