Tag: interview

The Design, Tech, Execution & Politics of “The Wolfman” Transformation Scenes

Trusty Werewolf News friend ArcLight sent me a link to this fascinating CGSociety feature article about all of the CG work (and politics) that went into the transformation scenes featured in “The Wolfman“. The article includes extensive comments by Rick Baker (who, as you probably know, designed the Wolfman’s look and the practical makeup effects) and Adam Valdez (the Visual Effects Supervisor at Moving Picture Company, the group that did the CG work). Here are some choice excerpts:

Drawing on his years of experience and success to create a character he had loved since he was a boy, Baker requested “a couple of weeks to do some designs, a range between man and wolf. I did a number of Photoshop images and ZBrush sculptures ranging between Del Toro and a wolf. In other words, if man was one and wolf was ten, was the Wolfman a five, or perhaps an eight? Well upon viewing my designs they said it wasn’t anywhere in that range.” Baker was asked to do additional concepts showing steps within that range to narrow down the final design. This happened repeatedly until the point where Baker told them there simply wasn’t an in-between left.

Nothing like design-by-committee to ruin a project!

[Says Baker:] “I had a great time working with the folks at Digital Domain on the CG Benjamin Button character, I would have liked to have contributed the same way on this film.” One scene that he felt could have worked particularly well using animatronics and makeup was the scene where Del Toro is strapped to a chair surrounded by doctors, since the chair offered plenty of space to hide the hardware and it would have been easy to digitally remove any visible mechanics.”

That’s probably my favourite scene in the movie, and it blows my mind to imagine how much better it might have been if Baker had been able to work his magic.

Johnston wanted to see how the transitions would look in action, so animators were given rigs that could do rough deformation and transformation work. [Says Valdez:] “In the middle of that we had to start over, because Joe wasn’t happy with what he was getting. There were a few rounds of discussion about whether or not Benicio Del Toro, who played the Lawrence aka Wolfman, should turn into something else on the way to becoming the Wolfman, so rather than traditional close-ups of bones stretching and hair sprouting he might turn into something resembling an almost fetal orc-like creature.”

I wonder if that “orc-like” concept was used for the creature that appears in some of the movie’s dream / hallucination scenes.

There’s a ton of down-and-dirty CG modeling talk near the end of the article, so if Maya and ZBrush are your thing, you might want to get a napkin ready to mop up the drool. Now stop reading this post and read the article!

“Wolfman” Howl Try-Outs, Featuring Rockers & Opera Singers

Joe Johnston, director of The Wolfman, had some interesting stories to tell in his recent interview with Boxoffice, including an account of how he deliberately modified the script to guarantee an R-rated edit. He also talks about the lengths they went to in order to capture the perfect howl for Lawrence Talbot’s beastly alter-ego. The vocal contributors included Gene Simmons and David Lee Roth!

We had opera singers come in and howl, we had animal impersonators. Gene Simmons and David Lee Roth were pretty near the end of the process. By then we knew what we were looking for, we were homing in on it. And their stuff became the most useful stuff that we did. Like I said, I don’t think they would recognize it after what we’ve done to it because we’ve digitally processed it and added cool overtones and all that stuff. We were basically just looking for a wolf howl you’d never heard before. What we realized is that everybody in the audience knows what a wolfman sounds like. Even if it’s from their imagination, it’s all pretty much the same thing. We just wanted our howl to be the best version of that howl. And I think we’ve come up with something that’s definitely spine-tingling, and at the same time it’s familiar enough that the audience is going to recognize it—it’s what they expect, with enhancements.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this interview, so have a read!

Del Toro Enjoyed Getting His Wolfman On

Despite having to rely on crew to remove his fangs so he could speak and his claws so he could use his hands, Benicio Del Toro enjoyed his time as a werewolf while on the set of The Wolfman. He recently spoke to The Daily Record about the experience, which involved scaring the hell out of unsuspecting crew and the occasional walk through London at 5 AM while still made up.

For more on The Wolfman‘s makeup and effects, check out last week’s issue of Make-Up Magazine (issue 82), which is dedicated to Rick  Baker’s work on the film.

Werewolf News Interviews “13Hrs” Cinematographer Jordan Cushing

Tom Felton and Gemma Atkinson are set to star in Jonathan Glendening‘s forthcoming horror film “13Hrs“, but beyond the cast, the presence of werewolves and what can be gleaned from a teaser trailer that came out half a year ago, no one seems to know much about it. So when cinematographer Jordan Cushing posted a comment here on Werewolf News confirming a mid-to-late 2010 release (I don’t know about you but I’m thinking Halloween), it was my duty as a werewolf nerd to follow up with some questions about his work on 13Hrs. Read on for Jordan’s gracious responses, which expound upon the challenges of the shoot, the “Jaws” approach to revealing the film’s monster, John Schoonraad’s creature effects, and the pleasure of working with Tom Felton and Gemma Atkinson. He even mentions a sequel! (more…)

The Last Werewolves of October

Champions Online - Blood Moon werewolfHere’s an assortment of items that have hit my inbox over the course of October, but that I’ve been too busy or distracted to post.

  • The Yorkshire Post has an interview with Jenny Agutter, who played nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London. She discusses her role in AWIL and talks about how the audience reacted to the initial screening of the film.
  • The Grosse Pointe Farms Department of Public Works in Michigan is home to a boulder that bears the footprint of Le Loup Garou, the werewolf of Grosse Pointe. Hooray for urban legends!
  • Here’s a printable 3D werewolf paper craft, in case you’re locked in a room with a colour printer and 15 minutes to kill. I may have crafted one of these for my office desk.
  • pjstar.com has an interview with Professor Leslie Sconduto, author of “Metamorphoses of the Werewolf: A Literary Study from Antiquity through the Renaissance”. Choice quote: “There’s a werewolf for everyone. Each to its own. One to suit each taste.”
  • Champions Online is running a game event called “Blood Moon“, wherein the game’s world is overrun with werewolves, vampires and other monstrous creatures. Players can battle (and become) these monsters, and of course there’s a number of werewolf-related items to be had. There’s a free trial available for anyone who wants to try the game out, but it expires at 10 AM Pacific on November 2nd. That’s in, like, 10 hours. Hurry! HURRY!
  • The BSC Beat has an interview with Mark Chadbourn, author of the recently-released Hellboy novel Hellboy: The Ice Wolves. You can read a preview of The Ice Wolves at the Dark Horse web site.
  • Scribblenauts is an interesting game that’s just come out for the Nintendo DS. The idea is to solve puzzles by typing in the name of virtually any object you can think of that might help. That object then appears in the game and does its thing, whether it’s a ball, a chainsaw or a platypus. You can probably guess where I’m going with this… yes, you can summon werewolves. Here’s a Youtube video of two garlic and stake-infused werewolves scaring a vampire to death. I want this game just so I can do that, over and over.
  • Cinematical explains why it’s worth it to replace your DVD copy of An American Werewolf in London with the recently released Full Moon Edition on Blu-ray. Apparently the new bonus content alone is worth the cost! I wish I had a Blu-ray player.
  • I also wish I had an Xbox 360. The LIVE Marketplace has got werewolf costumes for your Xbox 360 Avatar.

Many thanks to people who submitted these items!

Fangoria Interview: Wolfman‘s Hugo Weaving Wishes Film Press Would “Get Their Shit Together”


In a recent interview with Fangoria, Hugo Weaving talks about his experiences playing Scotland Yard detective Aberline in the new Wolfman movie. Weaving has consistently been one of my favourite actors (come on, the guy has played a drag queen, a murderous computer program and an ageless elf king). In this exclusive interview he talks about bringing life to a character that wasn’t in the original 1940’s Wolfman, his enthusiasm for a well-written script, and what it was like to work with (and be a subject of) special effects artist Rick Baker. He also comments on the negative effect that press and distribution delays can have on the public’s enthusiasm for a film– something we’ve all seen with the repeated delays The Wolfman has been subject to. But with the recent trailer generating a lot of excitement, The Wolfman is starting to generate some positive buzz again– hopefully that will only increase as the February release date approaches. Thanks for the link, ArcLight!

Life-Size Lycan Display by Tom Spina

Tom Spina Underworld Lycan

Tom Spina spends a lot of time around werewolves. Last year he did some major restoration on “Oscar” from An American Werewolf in London, and now he’s just completed a custom mannequin to display an original Underworld: Rise of the Lycans werewolf costume (scroll down a bit for the link) for a private collector. Tom contacted me to let me know about this project, thinking that readers of Werewolf News might find it interesting, and he also kindly took the time to answer a few questions I had for him about the project.

Werewolf News: In what condition was the costume when you first received it from the client? Had it seen production use, and been banged up at all?

Tom Spina: The costume saw extensive use in the film (and we verified that with someone on-set who could ID this particular costume) and the condition was actually very good.

Beneath the fur, there’s a lot of skin exposed, and not a lot of places to hide seams. How many pieces did the costume break down to, and did you have to do anything out of the ordinary to create such a seamless result?

Some minor cracks and rubs but still supple and flexible.  It breaks down into 4 pieces: The bodysuit with attached arms, the stilt feet (seem hidden by fur) and the head.  Our responsibility was to find a means of displaying an otherwise awkward and difficult costume to display.  The nature of the costume required some careful planning when creating the support structure, as a “normal” mannequin would never be able to navigate its way inside the bodysuit.

What level of creative freedom did you have when it came to determining the pose and the details of the base? Were there any other aspects of the project that allowed you to add some creative, personal touches?

As always, we worked closely with the client to determine the pose.  That process is always a balance between the look desired and the needs of the wardrobe.  In this case, dealing with foam and such, you don’t want anything overly extreme, as you can cause unnatural wrinkles in the suit.  We settled on something with “quiet menace” rather than dynamic action.  There’s a bit of attitude in the torso and some more in the head positioning, with the legs and arms at interesting angles, but relatively neutral to keep the costume’s skin properly aligned and supported. The base was the client’s idea and something we actually consider temporary. Eventually, we’ll likely do a dark stone block look for the base.

Is it tough to say goodbye to a piece when it’s finished and the client ships it out?

YES, it’s always tough to say goodbye to these pieces!

As always, incredible work, Tom! Thanks for sharing your time and work with us werewolf fans.

Rick Baker on “The Wolfman”

Crave Online has a two-page interview with Rick Baker, whose special effects genius brought us pretty much every fantastic silverscreen werewolf of the past 30 years. A lot of the interview is similar to ones conducted by MTV and ShockTilYouDrop back in August– Baker talks about how The Wolfman star Benicio del Toro already sort of looks like a werewolf, his rocky relationship with CG effects and his reasons for continuing to develop “old school” makeup and prosthetic techniques despite CG’s capabilites (hint: he says “I like making the sh*t.”).

What’s interesting are Baker’s comments on the challenges of making a dramatic transformation sequence out of a werewolf that’s relatively low-key compared to the ones in AWIL and The Howling.

I kind of said, “To be honest with you, I don’t know how we do this transformation. I don’t know how we make an American Werewolf in London kind of a thing out of this slight change.” His nose is only this much longer. His teeth grow and some things… he’s not a four-legged thing. His feet do get a little more doglike and the hands grow claws and stuff. There’s things we can do but also how do you do it and try to make it original. After Werewolf and the Howling movies, how many times can we see these stretchy faces and claws busting through and all that stuff.

Rick, I think I speak for werewolf fans everywhere when I say that the stretchy faces and claws busting through are exactly what we want… but if anyone can some up with something better, it’s you.

Michael Sheen Defends Werewolf Role

Frank Lovece of Newsday.com recently conducted a brief interview with Underworld: Rise of the Lycans star Michael Sheen. Sheen, who recently played David Frost in Frost/Nixon and who has also been tapped to play the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton’s upcoming vision of Alice in Wonderland, has appeared in each of the three Underworld films as Lucian, embattled leader of the Lycans. In his interview, Lovece is mystified as to why Sheen is willing to reprise his werewolf role:

Lovece: After all these rich roles in prestige movies and a storied career on the stage, you’re reprising your role as the werewolf Lucian in “Underworld 3: The Rise of the Lycans.” Umm … why?

Sheen: Wow. (Taken aback) That’s a (chuckles) – now, there’s a huge amount of snobbishness about a film, isn’t there? What’s so awful about those films? The only thing that matters is whether [a character] connects to people, whether it speaks to them about something that has to do with their experience of what it’s like to be a human being. Y’know, there is an audience that these stories speak to, and for one person to say that what speaks to one person is less valid that what speaks to them is the height of ignorance and snobbishness and arrogance, I suppose.

If I’m playing a werewolf and I play it in such a way that it has resonance and it has richness and complexity, then it has as much validity as playing [British ex-Prime Minister Tony] Blair or whomever.

Now, I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the Underworld films are high cinema, but I admire Sheen’s tact and evident pride in the role of Lucian.

Rick Baker Talks About Wolfman Makeup & Effects

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.