Academy Award-winner Joel Harlow is one of the most innovative makeup and special makeup artists and designers in American motion pictures. Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Harlow’s passion to work on film began with his childhood viewing of the original 1933 KING KONG. Moving to New York City at college age, he studied animation at the School of Visual Arts, but his true passion was special makeup effects. Harlow gained practical experience on such New York-based low budget horror and fantasy films as THE TOXIC AVENGER (parts II and III) and BASKET CASE 2. Harlow then moved westward to Los Angeles, where he worked for several makeup effects houses, finally landing in Steve Johnson’s XFX, Inc., where he remained for eight years as a makeup effects designer on a number of films.
Anxious to apply his skills on set, Harlow began working on such high profile films as HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, AI: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, PLANET OF THE APES, CONSTANTINE and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, creating a long-standing relationship with Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Harlow would be the key makeup artist, makeup effects supervisor, prosthetic makeup designer and special effects makeup supervisor on both PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END, again directed by Verbinski, and then makeup department head on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, directed by Rob Marshall.
Harlow shared an Academy Award with fellow makeup artists Barney Burman and Mindy Hall on JJ Abrams’ STAR TREK in 2010. Earlier, Harlow won a Critic’s Choice award for his work on ALICE IN WONDERLAND, as well as Primetime Emmy Awards for the television miniseries versions of Stephen King’s THE STAND and THE SHINING, and received nominations for MAD MEN, CARNIVALE and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Most recently, Harlow worked as Johnny Depp’s makeup artist on ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE TOURIST, THE RUM DIARY, DARK SHADOWS, and THE LONE RANGER, another Gore Verbinski/Jerry Bruckheimer production, for which he was also makeup department head. Additionally, he was key makeup artist on Ron Howard’s ANGELS AND DEMONS, key prosthetic makeup artist for Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION and GREEN LANTERN and makeup department head on BATTLE LOS ANGELES.
Harlow’s company, Joel Harlow Designs, creates a full range of state-of-the-art makeup, special makeup effects and prosthetics, from lab to set.