Hollywood Flashback: 'Six Feet Under' Finale Won an Emmy for Age Makeup in 2005

HBO/Photofest

Matthew Mungle, makeup artist on the HBO drama series, reveals who posed the biggest challenge as he worked to convincingly age the cast for a six-minute flash-forward montage showing how each of the main characters dies.

The series finale of Game of Thrones inspired much debate over the proper way to end a beloved TV show. Few could argue that an earlier HBO drama, Six Feet Under, didn't stick the landing.

"Everyone's Waiting" first aired Aug. 21, 2005, and was written and directed by Six Feet creator Alan Ball. He opted to break with tradition and open the show not with a death, but a birth — of a baby daughter to Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) and Nate Fisher (Peter Krause), who had died of a brain hemorrhage in the third-to-last episode. And Ball ended it with a six-and-a-half-minute flash-forward montage set to the song "Breathe Me" by a still-under-the-radar Sia.

As Claire (Lauren Ambrose) sets out from L.A. to begin a new life in New York, we learn when and how every member of the extended Fisher clan meets their maker. Matriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy) dies surrounded by loved ones in 2025; Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), husband of David (Michael C. Hall), is shot during a robbery of his armored truck in 2029; David succumbs to a heart attack at a family picnic in 2044; mortician Rico (Freddy Rodríguez) collapses on a cruise ship in 2049; Brenda keels over in 2051 as her chemically imbalanced brother, Billy (Jeremy Sisto), drones on about Claire; and, finally, Claire dies in 2085 in a posh nursing home, surrounded by photographs of her loved ones. The man tasked with convincingly aging the cast was makeup artist Matthew Mungle, who says Claire proposed the biggest challenge.

"She was so young," Mungle recalls. "It's hard to age a young person to look older and believable." Hall, meanwhile, proposed his own challenges: David had to be aged at three stages, with the oldest one requiring a three-and-a-half-hour application. Mungle's handiwork won a 2006 Emmy Award for outstanding prosthetic makeup. 

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.