Blanche Macdonald


Memoirs Of A BC-Grown Makeup Artist

Arts & Life – The Vancouver Sun


Even as a kid in Victoria, Todd McIntosh was obsessed with makeup. "I was doing makeup around the age of eight – trying to copy the popular TV soap opera Dark Shadows," he says.

The obsession paid off, as McIntosh is now working as a makeup artist on big screen productions such as Memoirs of a Geisha, playing in theatres now.

McIntosh's career began at 17, when he got a job in the makeup department at CBC TV Vancouver after a stint in community theatre.

He left there to go freelance and finally got into the union after being hired to do makeup for the 1986 Darryl Hannah film, The Clan of the Cave Bear, shot near Penticton. He also found work here as makeup department head on the 1987 series, Wiseguy, the Look Who's Talking flicks, and TV's Neon Rider doing beauty and glamour makeup as well as special makeup effects and prosthetics.

Then, in 1990, McIntosh packed up and moved to L.A.

"After seeing the industry grow in dribs and drabs and seeing a barren future for special makeup in this city, which I wanted so much to learn and do.

Of course, a year after I left, The X-Files hit and Vancouver has been on a continuous roll since then," he jokes.

But things haven't been too shabby for McIntosh in Los Angeles.

One of his first jobs there was on 1991's City Slickers, he worked with Shirley MacLaine on Out on a Limb, did the aging makeup on Mr. Saturday Night, went on to Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel, and most recently was makeup department head on the hit show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which he won an Emmy in 1997.

He also did prosthetic surgery makeup on the Vancouver-shot series Traffic, and found time to write the curriculum for the Blanche Macdonald Institute's Makeup Division, and to teach in the school as well.

McIntosh's latest work can be seen in Steven Spielberg's Memoirs of a Geisha, on big screens now.

That job came to be when makeup artists in L.A. were invited to show their skills with geisha makeup at a private seminar given by Noriko Watanabe and Kate Biscoe who were designing and running the show's makeup department.

Afterwards, Biscoe, who is a friend and past student of McIntosh, called and asked if he would work as key makeup artist under her on the show.

"Of course, I accepted!," he laughs.

McIntosh's responsibilities were to make up the mother, the sick granny, and all the men.

"The male actors needed beards and moustaches, and in one case, eyebrows," he says, "and the granny was a prosthetic bald head with a complicated disease paint job. The amber lighting obscures much of the work, though."

His biggest challenge was the very exact and precise geisha makeup.

"It required quite a learning curve – particularly the mouth," says McIntosh.

Not speaking Japanese or Chinese (the two lead actors playing the geishas are Chinese) made things interesting. McIntosh used an interpreter to communicate with the mother character.

And as for meeting Mr. Spielberg?

"He visited the set but I was not introduced to him," says McIntosh.

One of the California locations particularly amazed McIntosh – the Japanese village built in a field in Thousand Oaks.

"You drive through the pastures and past the horses and a thriving ranch, and then suddenly – Japan! It was the most astounding set I've ever worked on. It's all gone now. I've worked in that field since and there is just a huge mud patch that's being re-seeded."

For the past several months, McIntosh has been in Vancouver working on the Fox crime series, Killer Instinct, which wrapped shooting its first hectic season last week.

Lynne McNamara

Share Share

Blanche Macdonald