Follow up Interview with Hunger Games Makeup Magician Conor McCullough

Last year, we did an interview with the delightful Conor McCullough, the amazing make-up artist who won SyFy Channel’s first season of Face-Off and worked on The Hunger Games film. Though Conor did tell us a great deal about his work on the movie, he also had to keep a few secrets until its release. Recently, I had the pleasure of a follow-up interview in which Conor shared more about his work, including the fact that he is the true master of “frosting” who did Peeta’s camouflage. Join me after the jump to learn more about Conor’s wonderful work and the challenges of filming!

Only after The Hunger Games hit theaters could Conor reveal his creation that filled him with the most pride: “I am most proud of the camouflage makeups I did on Josh Hutcherson. There were no prosthetics used for these effects. Since he had to come out of the rocks looking like he used only found materials to hide himself, I blended Josh to the rocks with water clay, and matched the colors and textures with airbrush makeup. Same goes for the scene where he blended his arm to the tree trunk [in training].”

The designs used were often the brainchildren of brilliant make-up mistress Ve Neill, but the execution was Conor’s, particularly in the case of the effects used on Peeta (Josh Hutcherson)

“It was Ve’s idea to use clay. She had done a couple test makeups ahead of time. I ended up mixing glycerine into the clay to keep it from crumbling while on Josh’s skin. It worked out really well.”

In addition to creating “the last word in camouflage,” Conor, who does some incredible work on horror designs, was responsible for making Cato’s last moments look realistic, even though the wolf-mutts existed only in the computers of special effects Gamemakers, “For Cato’s flesh wounds, we just went big and scary. The mutts had to come off as vicious, so we made it look like the claws could cut through him like butter.”

Make up is a much harder art form than it may seem to those of us who simply enjoy the results or imagine the concepts as we are reading a book in which characters have unusual appearances or undergo radical transformations. Conor had to make sure all the characters kept their looks, and he’s very pleased with the results of all his labors:”Since most of the work I did was maintaining makeup on set, there were very few surprises. Glimmer’s death looked good, as did Cato’s. I didn’t catch any mistakes on film, so I’m happy with it.”

Of course, an unusually warm North Carolina summer didn’t do much to help an art form that is very climate sensitive: “heat and humidity is a makeup artist’s worst enemy and there’s little we can do about it when we’re on an outdoor location in the forest.”

If Conor does get to work on Catching Fire (and he doesn’t know that just yet), he will at least get to work in the cold for part of the film, but then there is that tropical arena, which will surely jar any make-up artist’s nerves.

While waiting to hear if will see his artistry in Catching Fire, Conor is looking forward to the release of his next film, Jessabelle, and to taking some time to relax. If he does get to work on those horrific acid burns, whip lashes, and monkey attacks in Catching Fire, he’s going to need the rest. Thanks, Conor, and best wishes to you in all your creations!


  1. And I assumed the tree trunk bit was worked with some kind of CGI wizardry — neat!

    As good as these folks are, though, they’ll have a hard time creating a Tigris for Mockingjay that outstrips Jocelyn Wildenstein of New York.

    Cat Woman

    Jocelyn Wildenstein, 72, a New York City socialite, had her face “remodeled” over the years (via extensive plastic surgeries) to give her the look of a jungle cat. She apparently did this to please her husband who liked big cats (the two have since divorced). Wildenstein was said to be ecstatic and loves what she sees when she look in the mirror. Meow!

    Given Ms. Wildenstein’s notoreity in NYC, I have to wonder if Suzanne Collins’ Tigris wasn’t a direct allusion.

    No make-up here, just life-altering surgery…

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