Wednesday, August 1, 2012

X-Men Master: Gordon Smith exhibition announced

Free exhibition celebrates Canadian special effects master Gordon Smith with a behind the scenes look at his groundbreaking work on X-Men and X2.

Toronto – While over 80,000 comic and sci-fi fans prepare to gather in Toronto this summer for Fan Expo Canada, TIFF today announced the latest free exhibition opening this month at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Launching on August 17, 2012 and running through March 2013X-Men Master: Gordon Smith explores and celebrates Ontario native Gordon Smith’s 30-year career in special effects and makeup design, focusing on his exceptional work for the major box office hits X-Men and its sequel X2. Curated by Sylvia Frank, Director of the Film Reference Library and Special Collections at TIFF Bell Lightbox, X-Men Master: Gordon Smith showcases some of Smith’s most important contributions to the industry — including his innovative use of silicone prosthetics which gave audiences spectacular film interpretations of the original Marvel comic characters such as the blade-knuckled Wolverine, the feral strongman Sabretooth, the long-tailed Nightcrawler, and most memorably, the blue-skinned, distinctly underdressed shapeshifter Mystique.

“Gordon Smith is a Canadian special effects icon who is known for his quest for perfection and for testing the boundaries of the imagination. The contributions he’s made throughout his decades-long career, namely through the development of silicone prosthetic technology for the purposes of special effects, cannot be overstated,” said Frank. “Through props, photos, original castings, moulds, video clips and prosthetics, X-Men Master: Gordon Smith provides visitors with a close-up view of the special effects work of a true industry pioneer and artist.”

Smith worked on such films as David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder and Oliver Stone’s JFK, before finding widespread acclaim for his work on the first two X-Men films.

“I am humbled that TIFF is exhibiting my work on Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, shining a spotlight on the importance of special effects and prosthetic makeup in filmmaking,” said Smith. “Some of the proudest moments of my career were on the X-Men sets, which gave me and my crew the unique opportunity to showcase the significance of our revolutionary silicone prosthetic technologies. Whether it’s producing realistic wounds, mythical creatures or action heroes, special makeup effects are vital to the art of film illusion and the quality of the audience experience. I am delighted visitors can explore and learn through this exhibition.”

X-Men Master: Gordon Smith features artifacts of seven well-known X-Men characters, as well as pieces from Gordon Smith’s studio — including video accompaniments, sketches and photographs. Highlights include a full-size replica of Mystique, the blades utilized to create Wolverine’s retractable claws and a collapsible Senator Kelly dummy head used to create special effects. The characters of Nightcrawler, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Toad will also be presented.

For the first time, TIFF will be offering complimentary guided public tours of the exhibition found on the fourth floor of TIFF Bell Lightbox. Starting on September 20, 2012, these 30-minute tours of X-Men Master: Gordon Smith will run weekly on Thursdays at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. (for group bookings of 10 or more, please contact:

In celebration of the new exhibition, TIFF presents screenings of the first two X-Men films, featuring Smith’s groundbreaking work.

Dir. Bryan Singer, USA, 2000
Marvel Comics' mutant superheroes came to the big screen in spectacular fashion in this blockbuster that launched the second wave of cinematic comic-book adaptations.
Thursday, August 16 at 9:30 p.m. *Gordon Smith in attendance
Saturday, August 18 at 12 p.m.

Dir. Bryan Singer, USA, 2003
Upping the ante on its predecessor in budget, spectacle and smarts — and nicely balancing seriousness and sly wit— X2 stands as one of the best comic-book movies ever made.
Saturday, August 18 at 2:30 p.m.

Beginning this October, TIFF Bell Lightbox also offers learning opportunities and educational resources tied to the exhibition, allowing elementary and secondary students to explore the world through film and for teachers to enrich the curriculum.

Half-Day: In-Cinema Presentation “The Portrayal of Good vs. Evil” In this half-day in-cinema presentation, students will tour the exhibition and learn about character education and media literacy by comparing the characteristics assigned to superheroes and villains in film and popular culture. Following a discussion on archetype, the interactive presentation will draw parallels between fictional characters and how the concepts of good and evil are portrayed in the media. ($8 per student, grades 7–12, for groups of 12–32 students).

Full Day: Exhibition Tour and Prosthetics and Special Effects Makeup Workshop This day-long programme includes a tour of the exhibition and a hands-on workshop in which classes experience the science behind special effects makeup and prosthetics. Students will experiment with various makeup techniques and learn how the art of prosthetics can extend to applications in science and medicine. ($12 per student, grades 7–12, for groups of 12–32 students).·

Ticket sales and booking information for school programming is available at

About TIFF
TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $170 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more information, visit

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