“It is very important to find our own voice as long as we have goals and make it in life. That is the point of living life.”
Kazu Hiro is defined as a contemporary hyperrealist sculptor, also known as a special makeup effects artist for the Hollywood film industry. Kazu Hiro (formerly known as Kazuhiro Tsuji) is a Japanese-born American (b. 1969). His interest in art was embedded since childhood and being an avid admirer of American special makeup effects artist Dick Smith, Kazu found his postal address and began communicating with Smith resulting in a student/mentor relationship. This mentoring further resulted in Smith traveling to Japan to work on Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Sweet Home where he invited Kazu to work on this film, launching him into a career in the film industry. Kazu eventually moved to Los Angeles, California and for 25 years he devoted full time to his work as a special effects makeup artist in Hollywood.
Working in Hollywood brought about an array of opportunities in different films where his talent was very much highlighted. Kazu’s involvement in the film industry has consisted of different roles such as: special makeup effects artist, art supervisor, sculptor, makeup designer, prosthetic makeup supervisor, and prosthetic makeup and hair designer. He has an extensive repertoire of films within the Hollywood scene, not to mention a wealth of films and TV shows in Japan. Following, one can see the amount of films where Kazu has held such positions that have definitely accented his talent. In reverse chronological order, we can admire his work in Bombshell, Mindhunter Season 2 (Netflix), Darkest Hour, Hemingway and Gellhorn, Looper, Killing Them Softly, Total Recall, Rise of The planet of the Apes, Tron Legacy, SALT, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Angels & Demons, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Tropic Thunder, Enchanted, Norbit, Click, Ring 2, Cursed, Hellboy, The Haunted Mansion, The Ring, Men in Black II, Planet of the Apes, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Nutty Professor II, Wild Wild West, Life, Mighty Joe Young, The Devil’s Advocate, A Thousand Acres, Men in Black, Batman & Robin, Critical Care – and not even mentioning films and TV shows that he worked in while in Japan.
In 2012, Kazu decided to retire from the film industry and began focusing on a more liberating type of art. Instead of working under stress and the high demands of the Hollywood film industry, Kazu found refuge in creating giant realistic portrait sculptures of renowned figures. Such figures included Lincoln, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Jimi Hendrix, among others. This allowed Kazu the freedom to work on projects he chose and to exhibit at major art fairs and museums. He was adamant about returning to the Hollywood industry; however, this changed when he was approached by Gary Oldman to create Winston Churchill’s prosthetics for the film Darkest Hour. This return to the film industry landed Kazu Hiro with a 2018 Academy Awards Oscar, 2018 Local 706 Union Award, 2018 BAFTA Award, 2018 Critic’s Choice Award, 2018 Gold Derby Award, 2018 Online Film & Television Association Award, 2017 Awards Circuit Community Award, and 2017 Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle Awards Nominee -all for the Darkest Hour film. Following the Darkest Hour, Kazu worked on the Bombshell film and this earned him a 2020 Academy Awards Oscar, along with 2020 Local 706 Union Award, 2020 BAFTA Award, 2020 Critic’s Choice Award, 2020 Gold Derby Award, 2020 Online Film & Television Association Award, 2020 Awards Circuit Community Award, and 2020 Chicago Independent Film Critics Award. It is important to note that Kazu’s awards are not limited only to the Darkest Hour and Bombshell, he has received numerous awards throughout the years.
Without further ado, let us share his numerous awards and achievements: 2018 Japan Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Award, 2018 GQ Men of the Year Winner, 2018 Wired Audi Innovation Award, 2018 Burbank International Film Festival Winner, 2018 Los Angeles Film Forum Award for “The Human Face,” 2017 Rome Film Award for “The Human Face,” 2012 Online Film & Television Association Nominee for “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” 2009 Online Film & Television Association Winner for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” 2009 Online Film & Television Association Nominee for “Planet of the Apes,” 2009 Online Film & Television Association Nominee for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 2008 Academy Awards Nominee for “Norbit,” 2007 Academy Awards Nominee for “Click,” 2005 Online Film & Television Association Nominee for “Hellboy,” 2002 Local 706 Union Award for “Planet of the Apes,” 2002 BAFTA Nominee for “Planet of the Apes,” 2001 BAFTA Award Winner for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and 2001 Local 706 Union Award for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Besides awards, Kazu has also participated in many art exhibitions and art shows. In 2019, Conjoined 9 -Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Jimi Hendrix," LA Art Show -Copro Gallery booth, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Jimi Hendrix." In 2018, Charity for Earth Quake Victims Group Show in Japan, Conjoined 8 -Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Mark Ryden," LA Art Show -Copro Gallery booth, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Mark Ryden." In 2017, Heavy Metal Magazine -40th Anniversary Group Art Show , Los Angeles, California, "Portrait of Robert Crumb," "Portrait of Andy Warhol," Juxtapozed -Fort Wayne Museum of Art "Portrait of Robert Crumb," Essential Effects - Cologne Germany "Portrait of Lincoln," Conjoined 7 -Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Salvador Dali Old Study." In 2016, The Late Drawings of Andy Warhol - Fullerton Museum Center California, LA Art Show -Copro Gallery booth, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Frida Kahlo." In 2015, Scope Art Show Miami -Copro Gallery booth, Miami, Florida "Portrait of Frida Kahlo," Inaugural Celebration -The Gregorio Escalante Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Lincoln," Rough with the Smooth -DAX Gallery Costa Mesa, California "Portrait of Lincoln," Andy Warhol LIVE -Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) Seoul, South Korea "Portrait of Andy Warhol," 20 Years Under the Influence of Juxtapoz -Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Andy Warhol" "Portrait of Salvador Dali," Conjoined V -Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Salvador Dali," LA Art Show - Copro Gallery booth, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Salvador Dali." In 2014, Scope Art Show Miami -Copro Gallery booth, Miami, Florida "Portrait of Salvador Dali," Conjoined IV -Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Andy Warhol." In 2013, Scope Art Show Miami -Copro Gallery booth, Miami, Florida "Portrait of Andy Warhol," Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln -Simi Valley CA "Portrait of Lincoln," Conjoined III -Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Lincoln," International Make up Artist Trade Show -London, United Kingdom "Portrait of Lincoln," International Make up Artist Trade Show -New York, New York "Portrait of Lincoln," International Make up Artist Trade Show -Los Angeles, California "Portrait of Lincoln," Dream Out Loud -"Portrait of Lincoln -documentary short film. As can be observed, Kazu’s achievements are not just a handful. He has surpassed expectations, and he only knows how to offer his very best.
Simply put, Kazu Hiro is a genius. His detailed work goes beyond perfection. Whether it’s special makeup effects, prosthetic makeup or his giant realistic portrait sculptures – the result is just breathtaking. He brings about a level of detail that it is even difficult for the human mind to comprehend alone. To view his art, one must observe with an open heart. His sculptures’ magnitude, yet so realistic, bring about a moment so intimate that one feels connected with such figures. More so, one not only feels part of that particular moment, but somehow becomes enthralled in that individual’s life. Kazu offers us works of art that defy normality. He gives us entrance to an imagination without limits, to a world where perfection reigns. And all we can do is just allow our senses to be mesmerized.
Q. When one looks carefully at the sculptures, one perceives the yearning of the inner manifestation, be it of human or animal anatomy, how do you manage to touch upon something so spiritual and transfer it to our material world?
A. Love and respect to living and life. That’s all I need.
Q. It is often said, we tend to have a desire that drives us to be better with ourselves, what was the drive for you to excel in such a way?
A. Appreciation for nature and living. When I realized how amazing nature is and what we are made of.
I feel that we should do our best to make the best out of our life.
Q. Tell us the feeling that projects on you when you surrender completely to details in each of your projects?
A. I don’t think that I surrender to details.
Q. When was the turning point in your life that suddenly you understood you carried within you the soul of an artist and decided to walk away from years of special effects makeup?
A. When I noticed that I felt like I was not living the time I was given.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Curiosity and insecurity.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. Don’t take life too seriously. This needs to be contemplated by each individual.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. Rick Baker. One time, I asked him if he can show me how he does makeup so I can learn. He said, “You are better, you do it yourself.” I’m not better than him. It is very important to find our own voice as long as we have goals and make it in life. That is the point of living life.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Don’t kill your possibility and find your answer.
Q. How would you like to be remembered?
A. This is up to each person.