Not everyone talks about Rob Bottin (pron. Bo-teen) as much as they should. Other artists who came out of the golden age of practical effects, Rick Baker, Tom Savini, and the late Stan Winston are canonized in the world of movie makeup, but Bottin never seems to get the attention he deserves anymore. And he deserves a lot.
He is one of the most talented creators to emerge from that era when scares relied more on manipulating tangible materials rather than source code; when people said “the money is on the screen,” they were talking about the practical effects and not the star’s salary.
Figuring out how to create living fantasies from storyboard to screen meant solving a multitude of problems back in the day, it was a task that only a few in the business could do, Bottin being one of them.
Today’s special make-up effects artists seemingly have to compromise between what they can feel in their hands and what computer software can fill in for them. Movies and television shows are finding talented FX alchemists who use an alloy forged from latex and CGI.
Bottin didn’t have Movie Maker back then, because he was one.
Where is he now though? Does he believe in digital assistance?
The hirsute genius is still young. According to many sources, he is only 61-years-old; he just celebrated a birthday on April 1.
Some say Bottin is a recluse who doesn’t care much for social media or granting interviews. His last project according to IMDb was on Game of Thrones in 2014.
He wasn’t always this isolated. That’s because his high-profile projects back in the early 80s were of interest to genre journalists and industry peers who lived in awe of his special kind of talent, one that pushed envelopes by giving moviegoers something on-screen they had never seen before. This was never so evident as in his work for John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Just as Leonardo Da Vinci was mythologized for his Mona Lisa, Bottin’s skill on The Thing remains an industry masterwork, something legendary.
Always humble Bottin said in an interview for Fangoria back in 1982 that he’s really not the one responsible for creating the scares, instead he gives that honor to the writers and directors.
“The story is scary, and then the monster is just the period at the end of the sentence,” he said. “In other words, if The Thing is scary, it’s not the monsters that are scary, it’s the way John (Carpenter) builds suspense.”
As the story goes, due to his penchant for perfectionism and detail, Bottin would sadly suffer from exhaustion and other health issues after The Thing wrapped which is a testament to his dedication to the craft.
In another interview, Eric Brevig, Total Recall‘s visual effects supervisor who worked with Bottin on that film, says he rarely needed correction, it was one and done.
“One great thing about Rob’s work was that it didn’t need post fixing,” Brevig told FXGuide back in 2015. “He just worked with the tools he had until it looked great, and it was essentially an insert shoot when it was photographed. So we didn’t have a lot of hands-on participation in terms of what he was doing, except that we both collaborated where we would take it.”
For those who don’t know, Bottin is also the man responsible for the effects in classics such as The Fog (1980), Maniac (1980), Robocop, Se7en–the list goes on. In fact, the record of his artistry in film is so long and revered you should check out his IMDb profile, there are too many to list here.
You would think with such a large catalog of work he would be more in the public eye. But even though he is austere, his monsters are forever burned into celluloid so even if he never shows his face in public again, that’s where you can always find him.
So in honor of the man who made some of the scariest and most realistic prosthetics in horror film history, we are going to showcase some of his most notable works below. These are only a few but they represent a cross section of his talent that, if you were lucky enough to see first-hand, gave you nightmares. They are indelible in the archives of horror movie history.
And Mr. Bottin if you are reading this, we hope you are well and considering coming back to the silver screen with more ideas for a new generation of filmmakers and horror fans.
As a side note, for people who are fans of Rob Bottin, you can check out a Facebook page set up by a fan named Devon who noticed the artist and his work were missing from social media.
“I made this page back in 2010 because I wanted to give you, Rob’s fans, and myself (also a huge fan) an outlet or a place to share and revel in his work,” writes Devon. “I did this because I noticed there where all these pages for all the people: artists, creators, directors, etc – that had worked with him; but, not a single one for Rob. Ever since the beginning this page was only ever meant to be a fan page. Never did I think it would grow to be this big. For that, I’d like to say ‘Thank you’; hopefully, with your help perhaps we can get him to share a little bit more of his life with us. I know I would like that, but until that day – just a heads up, I am not the Rob Bottin. “
Below are some scenes in which Rob contributed, some are trailers, some are NSFW and many contain spoilers:
The Thing (1980)
The Fog (1980)
The Howling (1981)