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Zoltan Elek, Gem of Hungarian Film History, Celebrates 80th Birthday

Zoltan Elek, Gem of Hungarian Film History, Celebrates 80th Birthday

The Hungarian Oscar-winning make-up artist turns 80! Zoltán Elek has worked on films such as Die Hard 5, Star Trek: Nemesis, and Mask.

“Mask”, “Independence Day”, and “Die Hard 5” – all box office hits worldwide but what else do they share? The common denominator is the Hungarian makeup and mask artist behind the scenes, Zoltan Elek, who just entered his 80th year on September 6th.

Elek has a long and rich career spanning from Hungary to the US, and it can be considered a real rags-to-riches, “American dream” story. Born and raised in Hungary, he entered the world of cosmetics influenced by his cosmetician mother, and was trained extensively in the field of makeup artistry in Budapest. He immigrated to the United States with his wife and young daughter early on in his life where his real professional struggles began.

For years, he worked hard to learn English and find his place in the field where he knew he belonged without avail. He, for one, however, was not afraid to start from the bottom and go through his fair share of rejection. After proving his talent by offering to work pro bono on an AFI fellow’s thesis film, the path became clear and the connections were formed to help him work his way up in the industry.

Critically acclaimed for his work, Elek won the Academy Award for “Best Makeup” in 1986 for “Mask”, contributing to the long list of Hungarian artists in Hollywood who won an Oscar. Grit, perseverance, and hard work are his recipe for his success, and after “Mask”, the doors opened to him internationally.

He has worked on close to 100 films, has won the biggest award one can win in film, and his work was truly a work of love and passion. Having done the makeup of actors like Jean-Claude van Damme, Mickey Rourke, and Sylvester Stallone accounts for plenty of fun stories to reminisce on and even more success as his legacy for his decades of work in Hollywood film production.

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