After a stroll across the multiple floors of the newly opened Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center, a visitor might leave the building with an extra eye for detail on the stars.
From the eyelashes on Salma Hayek to the faint freckles on Nicole Kidman’s right arm, to simply the stern stare in Vin Diesel’s eyes, these seemingly little accuracies in replication make the biggest difference to the whole body in its presentation.
This site, at 21st Avenue North and U.S. Bypass in Myrtle Beach, which also includes an “Outbreak: Dread the Undead” hall and Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors that guests may opt to explore, shows celebrities in various genres. One musical corner honors Beyonce Knowles, who might come across as taller than she looks in concert, standing next to Lady Gaga, with the singer Pink, in a bent-over pose, and Katy Perry, clad in red, white and blue, nearby.
Monday afternoon, Paul Barnes, the wax museum’s curator, walked through all the galleries, hewing to his routine of spending several hours a day double checking each of the stars portrayed to ensure they look what he called “right on the money.”
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With about 30 years spent in the movie business in California in props and the like, Barnes said building one wax figure could easily consume “a couple of months,” as he spent with the Johnny Depp reproduction, because more than a dozen components that go into such a whole artwork, going way beyond sculpture, hair color, and wardrobe.
Pausing by the Julia Roberts figure, Barnes said finding the right hair style, in this case, lighter brown and straight, clinched her look. He said with women, the options expand because of the variety of choices with clothing, jewelry, and coiffe (think Jennifer Aniston’s changes during and since the “Friends” sitcom on NBC), but “with men, there’s only so much you can do.”
‘Research’ for every figure
Each of the 112 figures is presented with a setting, and sometimes, music, as whistling emanates from the area by Clint Eastwood shown in a “Fistful of Dollars” moment. Barnes said heavy “research” goes into presenting each figure, and for Eastwood, being choosey factored for the hat, poncho, belt, spurs and other parts, “down to the snakes on the gun handle” equipment look-alike in the holster.
This museum also stands its figures to encourage photo-friendly moments for guests, who can tower over petite Dolly Parton, or give George Clooney some company in a wing with wedding music playing. In the horror chamber, feel dwarfed next to Frankenstein or sidle up to a totally redone Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” for which the blade on the chain-saw in the museum was made smooth and safe with a rubber lining, among various safety steps taken with such specialty displays, Barnes said.
Having so much room gives the museum staff to update, tweak and change exhibits – just as art museums, often with limited space, change their inventory on display for variety and incentives for the public to return – Barnes said plans are underway to bring in figures for Charlie Chaplin, Tim Curry in his role in “Legend,” and Daniel Craig, an acclaimed actor even before his becoming the sixth man to play James Bond.
To re-create real-life experiences, the museum shows Jim Carrey wearing pretend giant feet with which he once graced the red carpet, Martha Stewart at home in the kitchen, and sprawled on a bed, Playboy magazine patriarch Hugh Hefner, complete with white, combed hair and facial wrinkles, all gleaned from a “seven-second” digital head scan that Barnes said “Hef” allowed to help in preparation for an artist to create the figure.
To tip a hat to classics, look for Audrey Hepburn sitting at a cocktail table, and Marilyn Monroe, beaming in her trademark white dress.
Sports score in their own right here, too, with Tiger Woods standing alone by a golf course backdrop, with room to add other pros, Barnes said, and space for any visitor to stand between two NASCAR champions, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr.
The transformation in this former NASCAR Cafe building that closed a few years ago began in January, said Tim Ruedy, general manager of the wax museum center, while standing in the “Outbreak” area as a zombie figure banged repeatedly and loudly on a door, ready to burst out.
Moving through the mirror maze – where Ruedy laid out the goal: “Can you find your way out?” – one detour casts its own spin, a tunnel with rotating colors. Step inside and wonder how in the world when crossing this circular cavity it appears to pull the walker to the right so strongly to such a dizzying degree.
Also, when checking out the wax figures, don’t miss a display on each person, with “fluky facts” and famous quotes, such as with the late Lucille Ball, as the “I Love Lucy” TV show theme fills the speakers overhead. Married 20 years to co-star Desi Arnaz, she was born with the middle name Desiree.