Of Makeup and X-Men: The Mystique of Gordon Smith

Sixty year old Gordon Smith looks like an ordinary aging man; he is tall and thin, his hair and beard long since faded to white. Yet anyone who knows superheroes, or makeup for that matter, knows Smith is so much more than he appears to be. A Canadian legend, Gordon Smith is the makeup master that brought the fictional characters of X-men to life.

The X-men Master: Gordon Smith exhibition at the TIFF Bell Lightbox takes up the near-impossible task of doing Smith’s special effects makeup justice. The exhibit showcases designs from seven X-men characters, “making of”-style videos and legendary items from Smith’s personal collection.

Entering the exhibition centre, a small room filled with glass cases and sketch-lined walls, the most visible piece is, of course, Smith’s famed makeup chair. A minty green leather, with stains, rips, and creases. This is the legendary chair in which Rebecca Romijn became Mystique after 10 hours of labour and makeup. It is the chair that held Hugh Jackman and Tyler Mane as they became bigger, hairier, and scarier; when they finally stood up, they were transformed from men into Wolverine and Sabretooth. Celebrities sat down in it one by one, and almost magically, they became more than just actors; they became living, breathing comic book characters.
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