Director Joe Johnston and makeup special effects wizard Rick Baker had a big project to tackle with Universal's new The Wolfman movie, especially since Johnston came on two weeks after the film had started rolling as a new director. That meant he had to work fast, while simultaneously trying to give others the information they needed to get their work done at a similar pace. Probably no one felt that as much as Rick Baker, who had to complete his creature designs while cameras were rolling.
We spoke to both Johnston and Baker recently about the movie, and you can read what they had to say after the break. Here's to hoping Universal has the nards (like Wolfman) to bring back their entire classic movie monsters line with the respect it deserves. Personally, I'm looking forward to The Invisible Man, sans Chevy Chase.
Joe Johnston: Director
- Was there ever going to be a PG-13 version? "No. It was always an R rating. At one point, the head of the studio called me and said, 'Do you think we could re-cut this into a PG-13?' And I said, "Yes, but nobody would want to see it." So it was always going to be an R. It deserves to be an R."
- On what we'll see on the DVD/Blu-ray: "There is an extended cut that will be the DVD that is basically what we cut out of the beginning. It's about 17 minutes longer, and it is what we cut out of our third cut in order to reduce the time between the beginning of the film and when Benicio transforms into the Wolfman, because we knew that that was the moment that the audience was waiting for. They knew it was going to happen, and they were, perhaps, less patient than I was with getting to that point. The restored footage puts those 17 minutes back into the first 40 minutes of the film."
- On the changes he made when he came aboard after Mark Romanek: "I think that, originally, Lawrence was a little bit of a hell raiser to begin with. He was this actor who went out and he partied all night and he went to bed with three women at once. And he hung out in opium dens and places like that. And it was a different take on the character, but I felt that in order to increase the contrast between who this guy was and what he was going to become, both sides of the character, the hero and the villain, I just felt like he should be slightly more noble, although I don't remember using that word."
- On having a lot of CGI in the transformations: "As far as the transformation goes, I know that Rick originally thought that he would do the transformations with mechanisms and prosthetics and rubber, like the way that he had done with An American Werewolf in London. And nobody does that kind of stuff better than Rick, obviously. But the problem I had was that I was coming in starting three weeks from principle photography, and in order to have Rick do the transformation, I would have to decide almost immediately exactly what the stages of the transformation were. And by letting them be CG, I could make those decisions deep into post."
- On new horror vs. old horror: "Well, I think it is because they are used to vastly different horror films that I wanted to go back to something that I remembered from a long time ago. I think that we have seen so many examples of CG characters running around and doing things that subconsciously we know they can't do. I think that it takes you out of the picture sometimes. I wanted you to always feel that whatever this beast was, he was not breaking any laws of physics. He had a strength and a power that you could understand."
- On Captain America: "We are definitely going to shoot it in a different way than any of the other Marvel pictures that we have shot. What I am trying to do is to look at the comics, most of the new ones, like the Brubaker series, and interpret that sort of visual style into a film in a way that I think has been tried before, but it has never ... it always looks like ... it is a little too on the nose. It looks like, "Oh, they are shooting a comic book movie." I want to try something a little bit different.
Rick Baker: Special Makeup Effects
- On using practical makeup: "Benicio and I kind of came from that same place, that we are fans of the original movie. If it was totally up to Benny, he wanted to look like Lon Chaney Jr. That was it. I kind of was on the same page with him, but I just thought it needed to be amped up a little bit. But I was just so excited to hear that they really wanted to, in this day and age, use an actor in makeup. I was so afraid it was just going to be an entirely CG wolfman running around. And I think you really get benefit from an actor with some hair glued on his face."
- On CGI: "You know, it is the digital age, isn't it? I knew that there would be a certain amount of CG stuff in the film and thought there should be. And if it was totally up to me and how I do the transformation, I would have used a lot of CG. I think it would be crazy not to. I would have really liked to have mixed it up a bit, though. I would have liked to have had more makeup in it and some change out stuff like we did in American Werewolf. And, you know, do things like compositing those parts with real bodies or compositing real eyes on a fake head. But, I mean, it just wasn't to be in this film. I thought they did some terrific stuff, actually. I quite like what they did with it. And they did things that we couldn't have done with just rubber stuff."
- On his own work in An American Werewolf in London: "I said to the producers of The Wolfman that with American Werewolf, you had naked man turning into a four-legged hound from hell. Here we have Benicio Del Toro, who is practically a fucking wolfman already, and Benicio Del Toro with some hair on his face. We really don't have the range. You know, there is not as far to go."
- On using computers: "People always try to pit the rubber guys against the digital guys. It is another tool. It is another trick in your bag of tricks. I mean I have been using ... my computer is one of my favorite things. I have been doing my designs on the computer for 22 years, I think, now. I had Photoshop when it was 1.0, and I fell in love with it instantly. And I have been doing ZBrush stuff for years. I call it no fear painting. When I use to paint traditionally a design, it may not be exactly what I had in my head, but it would be a decent painting. And it is like do I risk screwing up a good painting to try to make it more like what I am thinking, or do I do another one? With a computer, the biggest problem is you have too many choices."
- On working with Dave and Lou Elsey: "I've known Dave for a really long time and always liked his work, and I think we have a very similar design sense and though we would be a good team. He is English, but he moved to Australia to do Farscape, and was living there. I asked him if he would move back and head up the shop so that I could fly back and forth, which worked out really well, and it is great today with the Internet. I would do designs and send them to them, and then some people would work on stuff and he would send me pictures. I'd change them and send them back, and then I'd go over there and re-sculpt it. It worked out really well, and I was really thankful with him. It was a really great team."
- On "New Horror": "I have been quoted numerous times saying, "Just because you can make 40,000 werewolves climb up the wall doesn't mean that you should." You know what I mean? But the more I thought about it, I thought, "This could be brand new. Kids haven't seen stuff like this." They see computer games and that computer stuff. So I was a little worried about they were going to accept it. People seem to be and I am really glad. I am really glad to see a movie called The Wolfman being made in a classic gothic horror film instead of the slasher movie. This is what I like as far as horror films go, and I hope it makes a whole bunch more people start to like these kind of movies."
For more with Baker, check out Moviefone's interview below ...