Interview with Makeup Artist Luigi Rocchetti (Gangs of New York, The Devil’s Advocate)

Based in Italy, Luigi Rocchetti has worked with some of the greatest filmmakers of our time as the lead Makeup artist. He currently just wrapped the remake production of Ben-Hur. It was such a pleasure speaking with him about the art of makeup in film.

Matthew Toffolo: You have been a makeup artist and designer on over 70 productions in the last 35 years. Is there a film/TV show or two that you’re most proud of?

Luigi Rochetti: I have to say, “Dolores Claiborne”, directed by Taylor Hackford. At that time there was no Silicon prosthetics to use for aging actors and in that project I had three major actors to make twenty years older. We used stipple aging, with highligths and shadows. I have to give big thanks to the collaboration of the actors, director and director of photography. I think the results were really good and I’m very proud .

PHOTO: Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Dolores Claiborne”:


MT: Can you give us a teaser of what we’ll expect to see in “Ben-Hur”? How was it to work on the remake of such an iconic film? That’s seems like it would be a very daunting and overwhelming task!

Yes, daunting and overwhwhelming indeed. This is an immense project and the ghost around of the 1959 movie is always around the set. The look that the Director wanted is completely different from the old, is more real and less fashioned. The two major scenes, the race and the Galea battle, with the help of digital will look amazing.

We will soon see the response of the audience and critics. Let’s cross the fingers.

PHOTO: Behind the Scenes on the NEW “Ben-Hur”:


MT: What is the main job being the Makeup Department Head on a production?

The main job for a Makeup Head on a movie is for me to do something that follows and helps the story without bothering the audience. That means never going over the top. Often I see movies with forced makeup. Like they are doing something something to show how good they are. You know what I mean?

MT: Being a makeup artist is more than just doing the face….right?

I do Makeup trying to help the actors in their performances – that’s the biggest part of my job.

MT: The film “The Young Messiah” will be hitting the theatres soon. How what that experience like? How was doing makeup for Jesus Christ?

To work on “The Young Messiah” has been funny and interesting as in all Christ movies. It is a tender story of young Christ at six years old. Regarding make up, we had a lot of layered beards and some characterization in the Herod’s Palace and for the Devil.

This is not the first Jesus movie I worked on, my first experience was to do the makeup for Willem Dafoe in “The Last Temptation of Christ” and the more recently “Nativity Story”. Of course the crucifixion in “Ben Hur” and in others scenes at the market. So I covered most of Jesus’ life!

PHOTO: Still Shot from “The Young Messiah”:


MT: What makeup designer task do you love to do the most?

Period movies for sure are my preference. I think they are the most challeging because we are taking a real life situation with real people. Science fiction is interesting as you can mix things and make it look unreal as everything is acceptable. With real life no! Is what it is!

MT: What type of film would you love to do makeup for that you haven’t done yet?

I would love to work on a Western movie. I had just one experience for a TV project in New Mexico and I had a lot of fun. I loved the old Sergio Leone Movies and hope some other Italian Director will follow this style.

MT: How has the makeup department changed from 35 years ago to today?

The makeup has changed in terms of materials and its challenging with the HD advent for us because it’s more difficult to hide the make up. Film gives a movie a sort of charm and mystery that HD does not. But you have to roll with the times.

MT: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

“Once Upon Time In America”

MT: Do you have any advice for high school and university students who want to work makeup in the film industry?

This is not an easy answer. There are so many make-up schools and everyone claims to be the best. If there is a chance to watch a makeup artist at work, from the best to the worst, everyone can teach you something. That’s what I would do now if I was attempting to get into the industry.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: