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Thomas R. Burman (born 28 November 1940; age 81) is a five-time Emmy Award-winning and one-time Academy Award-nominated make-up artist who worked on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as the head of the Burman Studio. He is father of make-up artists Barney Burman and Rob Burman, the uncle of make-up artist Ellis Burman, Jr., and husband of Bari Burman.

Thomas Burman was the first to coin the term "Special Make-up Effects". He was also the first make-up artist to open a studio that was outside the major film studios, along with his partner, John Chambers, the designer of Mr. Spock's Vulcan ears for Star Trek: The Original Series. [1]

Burman, along with his wife and partner, Bari Dreiband-Burman, are perhaps best known for their Emmy Award-winning make-up effects work on the two Tracey Ullman television programs, The Tracey Ullman Show and Tracey Take On..., and on the FX series, Nip/Tuck. In total, they have won five Emmy Awards and were nominated for 16 others. They were also nominated for an Academy Award for their work on the 1988 film Scrooged, featuring John Glover, Michael J. Pollard, and Alfre Woodard.

Early career

Burman provided special make-up for many science fiction and horror films from the 1960s through the 1980s. His early make-up career included such classic science fiction films as the original Planet of the Apes (which featured James Daly, Lou Wagner, Paul Lambert, Jane Ross, Billy Curtis, and Felix Silla, music by Jerry Goldsmith and designs by Wah Chang), Steven Spielberg's acclaimed Close Encounters of the Third Kind (which starred Terri Garr), and the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which starred Leonard Nimoy).

In 1974, Burman and Chambers designed the make-up for the four-part documentary series Up from the Ape (aka The Primal Man), on which Janos Prohaska worked as costume designer and actor. During filming of the final episode, some of the cast and crew boarded a chartered plane to return to Los Angeles, but it crashed into a mountain near Bishop, California, killing all 36 people on board, including Prohaska and his son, Robert. It was due to sheer luck that Burman missed the disastrous flight.

He also worked on 1972's The Thing with Two Heads, which starred Don Marshall, and created the make-up for the 1973 horror film The Boy Who Cried Werewolf. His other work during the 1970s included make-up effects for the 1978 film The Manitou, which starred Michael Ansara, and designing the special make-up used in the 1979 film Prophecy, which starred Robert Foxworth.

Burman received two Saturn Award nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1979, one for his work on The Manitou and the other for his work on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He shared the latter nomination with Edouard F. Henriques, who later provided special make-up effects for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.


Burman designed the special make-up effects for the 1981 horror film My Bloody Valentine and the 1983 sci-fi film Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. He also did effects work for such 1980s horror films as The Hand (starring Bruce McGill), The Beast Within (starring Bibi Besch and Ronny Cox), and Happy Birthday to Me (starring Sharon Acker). Burman worked on a number of films outside of the horror and sci-fi genres, as well. Among these were the 1980 action/thriller The Exterminator (starring Samantha Eggar), the infamous 1980 box office flop Heaven's Gate (featuring Brad Dourif and Terry O'Quinn), the 1984 thriller Body Double (starring Gregg Henry), and the 1985 family comedy Teen Wolf.

In 1989, Burman directed and co-wrote the science fiction comedy Meet the Hollowheads. For this film, Burman cast John Glover in the lead and also cast his son, Barney, and actor Lee Arenberg in small roles. Tom Burman himself also made a cameo appearance as a "The Crazy Man." Barney and Rob Burman both provided special make-up effects for the film, working out of their father's shop, Burman Studios.

Work with Bari Dreiband-Burman


Burman first worked with his future wife, make-up artist Bard Dreiband, on the 1982 horror film Cat People, which starred Malcolm McDowell, Ed Begley, Jr., and John Larroquette. Burman hired Bari Dreiband to assist in the film's transformation effects, beginning a professional and personal relationship that has lasted for over 25 years. [2] [3]

Shortly thereafter, Burman and Dreiband again worked together on the cult 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, with Burman as special make-up effects designer and Dreiband as special make-up effects supervisor. Peter Weller, Christopher Lloyd, Robert Ito, Clancy Brown, and Vincent Schiavelli were among the actors who starred in this film.

Burman and Dreiband were married shortly after working on Buckaroo Banzai. Afterward, they worked together to design the make-up for Jeffrey Jones' Dr. Jennings on the film Howard the Duck. More memorably, they co-created and co-executed the make-up for the character of "Sloth" in 1985's The Goonies. In 1988, they received an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup for the fantasy comedy Scrooged.

Since their Oscar nomination, Tom and Bari Burman have worked together as co-owners of the Burman Studio on many films, including (but not limited to): Die Hard 2, The Godfather: Part III, Wayne's World, Last Action Hero, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (which featured a cameo appearance by Patrick Stewart), Con Air (which co-starred Colm Meaney), The Mask of Zorro, Men of Honor, and Harsh Times. They also did several films with Tom Burman's son, Barney, including 1993's Body Snatchers and 1995's Powder.


Tom and Bari Burman were make-up artists on The Tracey Ullman Show for all of the program's four seasons, from 1987 through 1990. They won two Emmy Awards and received two Emmy Award nominations for their work on this series. They reunited with comedienne Tracey Ullman for her next show, Tracey Takes On, which ran from 1996 through 1999. The Burmans earned two Emmy nominations and one win for their work on this series. They were also nominated for their work on the TV specials Tracey Takes on New York and The Best of Tracey Takes On...

In 1992, the Burmans won an Emmy for an episode of The Young Indiana Chronicles. In addition, they have received Emmy nominations for their work on the 1988 mini-series War and Remembrance, the 1989 TV movie A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story, and episodes of L.A. Law (starring Corbin Bernsen and Larry Drake) and Chicago Hope.

Tom and Bari Burman have been make-up artists and designers on the FX Network television series Nip/Tuck since the show began in 2003. When production first began, James MacKinnon was the head of the make-up department. The Burmans have received one Emmy Award and an additional three Emmy nominations for Nip/Tuck. They have also received three Emmy nominations for their work on the hit medical drama Grey's Anatomy, on which they have been working since production began in 2005.

Other television shows they have worked on include The X-Files, Monk, and the pilot for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In 2005, they were make-up artists on an episode of the short-lived CBS series Threshold, produced by André Bormanis and David Livingston, executive produced by Brannon Braga, and starring Brent Spiner. Mike Sussman was a supervising producer on the series. Most recently, between 2006 and 2017, the Burmans designed the special make-up effects for the medical series Grey's Anatomy.

In 2019, Burman wrote and produced the documentary Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film about the make-up artists who worked on the original Planet of the Apes films.

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