As an actress, Linda Pawlik, known professionally as Linda Lawrence, has met and had the pleasure of working with many individuals in both film and television. Among them, she considers her late brother, Dennis Pawlik, one of the most talented and inspirational. Dennis was well-known for his expertise in special effects makeup and worked diligently to ensure that his practical effects gave acting talents the opportunity to shine on the screen. Here, Linda Pawlik, previously Linda Pawlik Picardo, discusses some of Dennis’s most impactful contributions to special effects work.
The Work of a Special Effects Makeup Artist
To fully grasp the scope of Dennis’s work, it helps to first understand what the duties that special effects work encompasses. Special effects makeup artists use makeup and prosthetics to reproduce wrinkles, deformities, wounds, or other features that add to the realism (or surrealism) of a film or movie. One of the most interesting facets of Dennis’s career path is that there is a staggering amount of diversity within the work. Some days a person could be fully changing the face and identifying features of an actor to create a supernatural entity, whereas another day they may be simply adding a wig, bald cap, or wrinkles.
His sister recognized that behind the scenes work such as that of a special effects makeup artist utilizes an entirely different skillset than she needed to pull from for her acting- but the work is equally indispensable to the success of a project. Sheparticularly admires the sheer amount of patience required of a special effects makeup artist. To perfect Dennis’ craft and get the looks required for films required a great deal of patience. He and his colleagues could be working on a look for anywhere between 3 and 18 hours!
Examples of Dennis’s Memorable Work
Dennis made a name for himself in the 80’s and 90’s, where he worked various positions to provide high quality effects for television and film. Naturally, his contributions to several works were very well received and Dennis received multiple award nominations over the course of his career.
In terms of cultural impact, perhaps some of Dennis’s most prolific work was for the RoboCop series, where he headed the roboteam for RoboCop, Robocop 2, and RoboCop 3. Dennis was also the special effects supervisor. Many fans question how the robotic effects in all their charm were produced- and the answer is quite simple. For example, Dennis was asked during production if “Robo” needed a “gun lag”, and he designed and manufactured one immediately.
One of Dennis’s most elaborate feats in special effects makeup were for The Fly II. For his work on the Fly II, Dennis received a nomination at the Saturn Awards for the category Best Make-Up alongside his colleagues Stephan Dupuis, Jo-Anne Smith-Ojeil, and Jayne Dancose. The multiple special effects makeup types required for the film reflects some of Dennis’s most varied work.
A few years after the Fly II, Dennis worked on the HBO television film “Stalin”. The television film, released in 1992, chronicled the career and personal life of the former leader of the Soviet Union. Stalin received a multitude of awards in its critically acclaimed success, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie, and more- including several nominations as well. Dennis notably received a nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a miniseries or a special for his contributions to the film. In fact, Linda believes that his effects work was instrumental in setting the scene for Robert Duvall’s convincing portrayal of Joseph Stalin.
Dennis was born November 23, 1957, to Alex and Jean Pawlikand grew up in Riverdale, IL. Dennis will always be remembered by his family, friends, and colleagues for his generosity. Dennis will be known for his staunch dedication to his craft, ability to use his talents to set the scene for numerous projects, love for the guitar, and consistent willingness to teachothers. To family and friends, Dennis will be remembered and treasured for his patience, kindness, and especially his wacky and wonderful sense of humor. Regardless of the ways that those in his life had the pleasure of knowing Dennis, he and his contributions to the world will be truly missed.