On the outside, the story of Uncle Drew is the classic tale of the underdog who comes back for a shot at redemption; one last shot to beat the odds.
The Story of the underdog is the main theme, not just of the film, but of the entire production of this movie. At first glance, the film itself seems like a long shot. Turning a series of Pepsi YouTube ads into a feature length story sounds like a far cry. A film where 80% of the main cast are professional athletes, not traditionally trained actors, is a huge challenge. A film with a tight budget and production time due to the rigorous schedules of these professional athletes adds yet another layer of difficulty. A film where 80% of that main cast are in full old age prosthetics for the entire run of the film, shooting mainly outdoors in the heat of the south brings even more challenges. Having only 2-6 weeks per character to design, fabricate, and begin shooting 7 full age prosthetics in a movie focused on those exact makeups, simply should not work.
Just like the story of Uncle drew, it was the passion and dedication of an entire crew who were driven to bring this film, and its cast of characters, come to life.
And it did. Not only did it get made, but, in the end ,despite the odds, it was made quite well. We believe this film was able to come to fruition because of the perfect combination of people, positivity and drive. It's because of these challenges, and the drive to beat the odds as team, that we feel a special connection to the film Uncle Drew.
Our contribution to this project started very late in the game, 8 weeks before principal photography. We were approached by director Charles Stone III and producers Marty Bowen and John Fischer after a recommendation by fellow makeup artist Cary Ayers. Upon sitting down for our first meeting, the production team pitched us the details of the film, as well as the timeline and budget. Upon first glance, it seemed like an impossible task. In fact, later we found out that many colleagues in the industry passed on the film because of these challenges. Despite that, after meeting the core team, we felt a pretty instant connection. We knew that we had to find a way to make this happen.
Although the production team’s original thoughts was to use generic appliances.We pushed back hard on this point. These were iconic American athletes, it was unlikely that generic prosthetics would fit some of them due to their immense stature. Furthermore, we realized that in order to really create something special, each character needed to be designed with their own custom pieces.
Here is a quick look at some of the pure numbers involved in creating the prosthetics for Uncle Drew. Our team sculpted, molded, and cast 7custom age makeups composed of 111 individual sculptures. Each makeup consisted of between 10 and 13 silicone pieces. We produced Approximately 2000 prosthetics across 50 days for the 35 day shoot. Between Actors, performance doubles, and basketball doubles, we applied 171 full silicone age makeups in less than 35days.
We knew that this project was going to be an uphill battle ,but we were confident in bringing these characters to life. After all, it is not often that a film comes along that grants us the ability to create true character makeups on a majority of the stars. That is doubly true when you consider they play in these makeups for the run of the film. We knew this was, potentially, a once in a lifetime opportunity which allowed us to be apart of the legacy of artists who paved the way for us to be here today. Artists like Jack Pierce, John Chambers, the Westmores, and of course, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Stan Winston, John Caglione and Doug Drexler, and Howard Berger/Greg Nicotero. We reflected a great deal on groundbreaking movies like Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, and DickTracy to find inspiration on not just creating the realistic old age makeups, but instead, creating memorable characters. To be amongst our heroes, the ones who still inspire us today was a challenge we simply could not pass up. It was a project we were passionate about meet every challenge head on.