Makeup artist Rick Baker tweeted the news Thursday morning that his mentor had died, at age 92. Smith inspired hero worship in Governors Awards presenters Baker and J.J. Abrams “before any of us had heard of a pixel,” said the “Star Trek” director. Smith befriended young actress Linda Blair as she submitted to his most difficult career challenge, turning her into the vomit-hurling, neck-wracked Devil in “The Exorcist.” He stuffed straws up her nose, whited out her eyes with contacts, and wrapped her like a mummy in polyester strips. He cast every part of her anatomy. He extended her teeth and tongue and put goo in her hair. “It was not a little girl’s dream,” Blair said.
“He’s the greatest makeup artist alive,” said Baker. Overcome with emotion, Smith accepted the award to a rousing standing ovation. “I have loved being a makeup artist so much,” Smith said, “but this puts a crown on all of that. I am so grateful.”
Smith also won the Makeup Artists Lifetime Achievement Award at the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, accepting praise for his legendary makeup transformations in television and on films such as “Taxi Driver,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Marathon Man,” “Death Becomes Her” and his Oscar-winning feat with F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in “Amadeus.” (Variety obit here.)