“The Last Crusade” saw Harrison Ford’s protagonist and his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), traveling the globe and getting into all sorts of perilous hijinks in the process, leading to plenty of downright cool moments.
For example, when Julian Glover’s deceitful Walter Donovan drinks from the wrong cup during the climax of “The Last Crusade,” he rapidly ages and disintegrates before our very eyes, in a moment that recalls the Nazi face-melting greatness from the finale of “Raiders.” To create what is arguably one of the coolest moments in Indiana Jones history, the crew at legendary FX studio Industrial Light and Magic had to create some unprecedented practical effects in order to capture the moment in one shot, as per Spielberg’s request. That included using two latex heads placed atop a motion controlled rig. But, as a making-of article on TheRaider.net notes, it was the third fake head where things got really interesting.
For this third iteration, makeup effects supervisor Stephan Dupuis recalled how the team used a gray skull as the basis for the fully decayed version of the film’s villain. He went on:
“Over [the skull] I needed material that would shrivel up under heat like saran wrap. I looked at different materials and finally just took styrofoam cups and melted them in a solvent until I got liquid. Then I painted this liquid on the inside of the mold for the third head. When that dried I had a very thin plastic skin that served as the outside skin on the face.”
The makeshift styrofoam skin made for the perfect effect when heated, shriveling perfectly as planned and creating the effect of Donovan aging into nothingness. But that wasn’t the only time styrofoam came in handy on “The Last Crusade.”