Rick Baker Talks About Wolfman Makeup & Effects

A. Quinton — Aug. 4th 2008

Now that the SDCC Wolfman panel frenzy has tapered off a bit, I think it’s safe to talk about the recent interviews with Rick Baker. Baker, if you didn’t know, is the special effects guru who brought on the fur and claws in An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Werewolf (the TV series), Wolf, Cursed, and most recently, the forthcoming Wolfman remake. Basically, if you need a werewolf designed for the screen, Baker’s your man. MTV Movies and the always-awesome shocktillyoudrop.com both recently spoke with Baker regarding his werewolf work on The Wolfman.

Baker talks about how they went “old school” on the werewolf makeup: “It’s yak hair glued onto his face and a rubber nose, it was even foam rubber… acrylic teeth and yak hair.” It seems he wasn’t willing to subject Benicio Del Toro to anything he hadn’t already tried on himself first:

…on this film and almost everything I do, usually do a version to fit me first. Try the stuff out on myself first, because that’s how I learned makeup. I like it. [laughs] I’m going to be the Wolfman before Benicio! I did a makeup on myself and shot some stuff.

On the subject of the werewolf transformation scenes, though, he’s rather ticked off. It seems the producers aren’t involving him in any of the transformation scenes, and have opted to do everything with CG effects. That seems crazy to me– I mean, you have a guy on staff who won an Academy Award for bringing off what I think we can all agree is still the finest werewolf transformation ever put on film, and you decide to snub him in favour of polygons and texture maps. What gives? Baker isn’t taking it laying down, though.

So, I’m lobbying to be part of that; I’ve been talking to the producers and saying ‘It’s my creation in the end, there’s a certain logic in the design of it. I know it’s different between Benicio’s face and the wolf face, because I sculpted that face. I know how the anatomy changes; I should at least be giving some guidance to the guys who are doing [the transformation in CGI].

If I quote anything more I’m going to end up posting all of the interview text here, so I recommend checking them out for yourself. The MTV interview has some interesting details regarding the number of teeth a werewolf should have, and the shocktillyoudrop.com interview has some great info about the werewolf’s design, and how easy it is to make the already-lupine Del Toro look like a werewolf.

  • Roukas

    What?! Who are those corporate mucky-mucks to nudge Baker out of his due share of transformational artistry / bad-assity?

    Do they have some sort of shake-and-bake Hollywood criteria for success that they’re adhering to? Who knows. Maybe people like Baker have fought their creations away from more corny influences than we know. Perhaps those mucky-mucks originally wanted Nicholas Cage to be the werewolf, who would likely say totally awesome gen-x things after changing back to his human form, like “Woah. That was x-treme!” right as the latest Linkin Park abomination starts playing. Hell, why not just go ahead and cast Meghan Fox as his lead female role, and have her drop facepalm-inducing lines like “…so I heard you were a real ‘animal’ in bed!”, after which Cage will raise his eyebrows, turn the key in his Corvette’s ignition, and whisper huskily, “Yeah, I’ve been told that,” with Rage Against the Machine cued to drop “Killing in the name of…” right after the engine roars to life. Also, the camera then zooms up to his eyes, which are glowing yellow. And while the mere thought of a werewolf making out with Meghan Fox should be enough to stop me from my regular visits to that Mobile Suit Gundam Commander Chick’s apartment in Neo Tokyo, I get the sinking feeling that the corporate Hollywood bastards could actually manage to screw THAT up.

    Damn it. Is movie-making getting more retarded by the minute, or is it just me? And as stupid as Ebert & Roper’s “Two thumbs up!” criteria of aesthetic judgment is, I can’t help but feel grateful for Ebert’s cynically deft wielding of Occam’s Razor as he romps and stomps his way through such idiocy as I’ve defined in the paragraph above (NOT including my gunbot schoolgirl fantasy). We need people like him to hyper-combo-finish corporate bastards who think that CGI is the second coming of Christ, who would likely side with me in my cause! Sounds like someone needs to drive some proverbial money-changers out of the proverbial temple again!

    Seriously, if the corporate goat-turds have their computerized way, we could be looking at a great revival in werewolf movies hamstringed by a renewed Van Helsing-ism! You don’t need me to tell you what a special-ed-prom-night of a movie THAT turned out to be, but in case you do, here’s all I have to say: Frankenstein’s monster swinging from wires like Tarzan against the backdrop of Castlevania and some retards who are also swinging around trying to “cure” Van Helsing from being the most awesome black-furred bad-ass that has ever been. And while I’m on that note, hey Hollywood: nice job stopping werewolf Van Helsing from ferally and passionately making out with Kate Beckinsale. I’m sure he totally appreciated it when you made him howl like a guilt-stricken conflicted being instead! So original!

    So anyway, if the corporate Stalin-esque empire does manage to fight off Baker, then they should AT LEAST make up for that by letting their werewolf savagely make-out with the lead female role instead of running away from her in shame or chasing her down because he wants to crunch her bones. After all the crap I’ve put up with from Hollywood, I think they owe me at least that much.

    As for me, I’ve just come down from a most glorious sake-induced creative high, it’s 2AM, and I’m one tired mo-fo. I don’t know what I just wrote, but you should probably take it all with a grain of salt. Good night.