Most can only dream of working on the movie sets of Star Wars, Harry Potter and Captain America, bringing some of their key characters to life.
But now the man behind the make-up of Potter’s nemesis Lord Voldemort is passing on his 25 years of experience to Hollywood hopefuls across the North West.
Shaune Harrison is now recruiting students for his own prosthetics school, which is opening its doors in Salford Quays for the very first time.
And coming back to the North West after spending most of his career in London feels like coming home for the make-up master- who reveals he had to say ‘no’ to work on Game of Thrones to launch the academy.
“There isn’t really a prosthetics place in the North West, so it’s quite exciting to be here,” he said.
“The idea is that I can pass on 25 years of experience to somebody.”
Shaune discovered he enjoyed teaching on the set of Harry Potter, when he realised that he was educating others on the job.
Having been asked several times to go into teaching, the 45-year-old cited the long days as one of the motivations behind his career switch.
“For me personally it’s more of a younger person’s job doing prosthetics,” he said.
“I could carry on and carry on until I hit my 50s, but this felt like the right time to take a break.”
Shaune, who has worked with dozens of stars on dozens of different movie sets, turned down a year’s work on the new Game of Thrones series to launch the Shaune Harrison Academy.
He also had to finish work early on the set of two blockbuster movies.
One of these was Marvel’s second Avengers instalment, Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is due for release in April next year.
Shaune said he was happy to have finished his work as a full-time practicing prosthetician on ‘a big one’.
“It was an amazing thing to be on set and see all the actors,” he admitted, grinning like a gleeful schoolboy,” he said.
“It was quite surreal seeing Captain America and Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk, Black Widow – and a whole bunch of new characters. It was a cool project to do!”
Despite his long stint in the industry, Shaune came across as a truly unjaded sci-fi fan as he talked about the numerous movies he’d worked on.
His passion was particularly evident as he discussed the franchise he was appearing at The Printworks to support – during the Star Wars Galactic Gala earlier this month.
He said: “I love Star Wars. I’ve always been a Star Wars fan. So to come to these things is brilliant, and to see all the fans that love it – because I’m one of them, I’m a fan too!
“I still get giddy. I love seeing Stormtroopers around and people in costume.
“It’s nice when you see people make the effort, because I know how hard it is to do that – and it’s nice if someone tries to recreate something that you’ve done.”
Shaune said he planned to spend the Star Wars Galactic Gala exploring the stalls and enjoying the atmosphere, and said he had lots of stories from the Star Wars set to tell fans.
“I kind of want to get photos with all the Stormtroopers as well,” he added, laughing.
“I was nine when the first Star Wars came out in ‘77,” he said, “and as a kid growing up Star Wars kind of changed my life.
“It was an amazing thing to do, because for me it was my childhood dream growing up to work on Star Wars.”
Shaune was brought onto the Star Wars team by Nick Dudman who he’d already worked with on several films previously, such as sci-fi cult classic The Fifth Element.
“When Nick mentioned he’d got Star Wars, I was like ‘that’s insane!’” Shaune said.
“It was an amazing thing to do, because for me it was my childhood dream growing up to work on Star Wars.
“And to meet George Lucas! It was a bit weird when he came in the workshop for the first time!”
As well as being a childhood favourite, Star Wars had a massive influence on Shaune’s career long before he got the call to work on The Phantom Menace.
He explained: “I was from a normal background, and I didn’t know how to get into prosthetics. I had no-one to help me, so I just started making stuff.
“And it was Return of the Jedi when I was about 14 that made me really want to make monsters. It catapulted me through from making spaceships to ‘I want to make cool creatures!’”
Nick Dudman, who later became Shaune’s boss, had worked on Return of the Jedi, and Shaune said he found it surreal to recreate some of Nick’s original characters – like the tentacled Bib Fortuna.
“It was quite surreal – for both me and Nick,” he said, “because Nick was seeing it after 20 years, and I was recreating his makeup.”
When asked about the new upcoming Star Wars movie, Shaune was quick to praise J. J. Abrams as a fantastic director.
“I think he’s going to do an amazing job,” Shaune said. “I think he has to.
“There’s no way he can fail something like that. It’s going to be really cool – fingers crossed!
“I just hope they keep it in the same style.”
Shaune also admitted he was offered a position on the new Star Wars set, but had other work commitments.
“I turned it down!” he cried, as though still in disbelief.
“I was already on another movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and just a couple of weeks in I got a call for Star Wars – but you can’t jump ship.
“But I thought, ‘You know, I’ve don’t Star Wars. I’ve done the one with George Lucas.’ So it wasn’t as upsetting.”
Shaune plans to focus all his energy over the next few years on expanding his new school.
He hopes to pass on his knowledge of the latest techniques to the next generation of makeup artists and prostheticians.
But Shaune, who in recent years has started to explore the world of directing, said: “I would never say I’m going to leave films forever.
“You never know – in a couple of years’ time…”
For more information on the Shaune Harrison Academy and how to apply, visit http://shauneharrisonacademy.com/
You can view MM’s full exclusive interview with Shaune, in which he discusses his passion for Star Wars, sci-fi and all things monstrous, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rRV9FZCNHU