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Dan Striepeke, Oscar-Nominated Makeup Artist on 'Forrest Gump' and 'Saving Private Ryan,' Dies at 88

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 1/19/2019 Mike Barnes

Dan Striepeke, who served as Tom Hanks' "cosmetic consigliere" on 16 films, including Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan, for which the makeup artist earned his two Oscar nominations, died Thursday, his family announced. He was 88.

The former head of the makeup department at 20th Century Fox, Striepeke at the studio worked on the original Planet of the Apes movies; on other films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and the best picture Oscar winner Patton (1970); and on the CBS series Mission: Impossible, where he helped design the spy series' famous latex "peel off" masks.

In addition to the best picture winner Forrest Gump (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), Striepeke fixed up Hanks in Dragnet (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Turner & Hooch (1989), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Apollo 13 (1995), That Thing You Do! (1996), The Green Mile (1999), Cast Away (2000), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Road to Perdition (2002), The Terminal (2004), The Ladykillers (2004) and The Da Vinci Code (2006).

Hanks called Striepeke "his cosmetic consigliere" in a love letter that he wrote in 2006 for The New York Times upon the makeup artist's retirement following his work on The Da Vinci Code.

"Most civilians — people who don't make movies for a living — think makeup men are little more than hovering sprites who powder noses," wrote Hanks. "But they are true artists, often unsung, who imprint films with the soft touch of their brushes and the hard work of their craft. Their creation, which will be examined on the big screen for as many years as the film holds its audience, is the most physical manifestation of an actor's interpretation of his role.

"Trust is required of both parties, in the instincts of the actor and in the skills of the makeup man. In a partnership any actor would envy, Danny protected the exterior finish of my characters so I could ponder my roles without having to explain things that can't be explained anyway."

Hanks' son, actor Colin Hanks, said on Twitter of Striepeke: "Never met a kinder man in my life."

Born on Oct. 8, 1930, and raised in Santa Rosa, California, Striepeke came to Los Angeles when he was 19 and landed a job at the fledgling TV station KTTV. After enlisting in the U.S. Air Force and serving for four years, he assisted on the famed 1956 films Around the World in 80 Days, Giant and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.

Striepeke in 1959 was given the reins of the makeup lab at Universal Pictures before contributing to Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus and to John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven, both released in 1960.

After being chosen by the retiring Ben Nye in late 1967 to be his successor as head of the makeup department at 20th Century Fox, Striepeke took on the daunting challenge of making the characters believable in Planet of the Apes (1968).

He "sculpted individual chin pieces that married perfectly to the face components, resulting in a fit that allowed articulated speech," James C. Udel wrote in his 2013 book The Film Crew of Hollywood. The movie's makeup designer, John Chambers, won an Academy Award, only the second given for makeup. 

Striepeke left the studio to write and produce the snake movie Sssssss (1973) before returning a couple years later and then becoming a free-lancer. He entered into an exclusive relationship with Hanks in the late 1980s.

His résumé also included the TV shows Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip and other films including Follow That Dream (1962), The Sound of Music (1965), Hello, Dolly! (1969), MASH (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), best picture winner The Deer Hunter (1978), Grease (1978), My Favorite Year (1982), Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and Lost in Yonkers (1993).

Survivors include his wife, Sherry; sons Dean and Chris; and brothers Gilbert and Ed. A service will take place on Jan. 29 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. Donations can be made to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Rhett Bartlett contributed to this report.

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