Interview With Makeup Legend, Shane Mahan by Deverill Weekes
I had the chance to sit down and speak with make up legend, Shane Mahan, co-owner of Legacy Effects who has worked on such films as Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Adam, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 and 3. The Shape of Water to name a few. He worked for Stan Winston on such movies as Terminator 1 and 2, Batman Returns doing the Penguin make up. Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park and so many other iconic movies but the film we are talking about is Neil Jordan’s 1994, Interview With The Vampire.
Great to see you. What have you been up to?
It has been a nice time to reboot and of get ready for new things on the horizon. We're in that weird phase where we're working on films that we can't really talk about, coming out soon are Dungeons and Dragons, which we spent time in Belfast shooting, that we're all really proud of! The Mandalorian, has been fantastic. Avatar The Way of Water has come out and seen great success . Everyone worked on that for so long, it's hard to even fathom, and there is more to come for that series.
I know the editor of that film, and he's currently working with James Cameron on Avatar. Every few years I see him, he looks so tired.
Listen, you have to pace yourself. It's a lot of hard work making these films, as you well know. If you don't take time to nurture the basic things like sleep, nutrition, humor, and your family, it will take a toll!
Well, it's also incredible. I mean, the movie crossed 2 billion. I just read today that James Cameron is the only person with three movies that have grossed over $2 billion.
He's absolutely unique in the history of filmmaking, when you think of it that way. I mean, I first worked with him in1982 when I was at Makeup Effects Labs under Alan Apone. He was an art director and special effects producer of some capacity on the Roger Corman film Battle Beyond the Stars, so he has a special effects background: he was making model spaceships and Matte glass paintings, conceiving makeup effects and building sets. He's always had a great knowledge of how special effects are done, or at least how to improve them with each advance of his career. The moment he wrote The Terminator, that was a pretty big step for him, and all involved. The Endo Skeleton action shots were originally meant to be stop-motion animation, for the reveal of the Cyborg. Stan Winston had talked him into, “Let's build a real endoskeleton for as many shots as we can!” and it really worked out well that way. In the end there are a handful of stop motion shots of the Endo. Then that went to Aliens, which, again, elevated the art, which went to The Abyss introducing a CGI water Tentacle. T2 then adds more Digital work and advances the animatronic side of things. So, he truly is a driving force. The Avatar films have catapulted the art of special effects into an entirely new realm.
I love Jim Cameron for that very fact! I consider the first Terminator film my film school. People are probably sick of hearing me say that because I’ve said it many times, but those three months building it, and then the 42 days of shooting it are as fresh in my memory as if they were yesterday. What we learned from Stan and Jim was tremendous. I always remember and recall the lessons of that film, everything. Whatever you can accomplish in camera, please do, and it takes planning. If you need to augment it, great, if it needs to be fully CGI great, that's it. Help tell the story and entertain.
I have to also tell you, the first one is such a good script, isn't it? Yeah, it's actually probably my favorite in terms of script.
Yes, it was an amazing script. At that time, everyone, including Stan, who had done The Whiz, and Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and he had done Dead and Buried, and he had done some effects on The Thing with Rob Bottin, who had hired him to do some effects. He hadn’t really become a household name yet, but he was highly respected in the makeup effects business. Blade Runner had just come out in this era as well as American Werewolf in London, which made a big splash at the box-office were all yearning for that one spark of a film that would kind of push us over the edge, and it shows up as The Terminator. We knew from the script that it was going to be special. Then when you're making it, it was just great. It was a great experience.
You've said before you only wanted to make great movies, right? That that was part of your drive, to make these incredible movies, and that you started out pretty strong with that movie.
Well, you know, I was just a young boy when I had the dream of moving to Hollywood to make Creatures and Monsters. At that time, it was in its infancy to a certain degree. It was mostly prosthetics, and certain animatronics that were coming out like the films I just mentioned. Certainly, there were past films that had the crossover of using many techniques actual physical effects, or stop motion. And stop motion was a huge technical achievement. Phil Tippet and Dennis Muren had done Dragon Slayer with the new “GO MOTION “ But getting back to that that point, I was such a snobby little kid from watching classic films. I wanted that experience of working on films that I could help promote the work into something special. Something that was going to be a film that would last a good long time, like James Whale’s Frankenstein or like Jack Arnold's Creature from a Black Lagoon. Work that people would still enjoy sixty or ninety years later. That was really what I meant by that, where, like, you come up with something that's going to be classic. Honestly, I don’t know where that audacity came from as I hadn’t done a thing before I moved out west, Daydreaming I suppose, trying to manifest a certain reality. In retrospect, my colleagues and I… we've been lucky in our careers to work on many that have qualified for that!
So where did your love of vampires come from?
My love of vampires came from very early on. When you grow up in the Midwest, and you're just a young child in the early 70s, there just wasn't the kind of access to things that we have today. There was no Internet, there was no streaming from your phone. There was just none of that. You were very isolated, and you had to stay up late and watch films on the television, and kind of scour through, and see what was going to play. At that time, they were running on television, all the old Universal films. So, you would see Lugosi's Dracula all the time because it was probably fairly inexpensive for them to run. Then the books that I would find on horror films, which certainly had all of these lavish color photographs of the Hammer Horror films, really intrigued me. And finally seeing The Horror of Dracula was a stunning moment for me. In England it was just called Dracula as you know, but legend has that Universal needed the title changed for American release. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing! That film just absolutely lit my brain on fire because it was unlike the Lugosi film, which was just beautiful, really quiet and dreamy, and it is a product of its time, and also the stage play that it's sort of based on. What the writers and producers did out of Bray Studios in 1958 or ‘59, is like, unbelievable. The colors, the little details of just having the brows connected comes straight out of folklore, and it was really a great use of the colorful contact lenses. It was the first time you really see blood, and it was shocking and fun. Today it doesn't seem as shocking, but it's still very visceral. Jack Asher's cinematography is just unbelievably great on the music, and I revere those as sort of like religious artifacts to me, you know what I mean?
What's really funny is the blood is so vivid, it's crazy. Have you ever done that blood yourself? Have you ever created that blood?
Yeah, I still insist upon it if I can. If you really see somebody have an accident and cut the top of their head or something. I've witnessed a couple of people having an accident, like something happening when the blood first erupts. It's shockingly bright. It dilutes down in a matter of minutes and darkens, but it's pretty frightening how bright the blood can be. A lot of films, for ratings purposes, have to tone it down. There was a period where a lot of movies were being made, and the blood looked like motor oil. I was like, “that's just not what blood looks like!” So be so bold with the blood color, I'm always going to kind of push it a little bit and use that because there's a shock value there. Seeing blood, human beings react in a very visceral way because it's the life force, and it's all contained. We don't see it unless you have some trauma, and you don't want to see yourself bleeding like that. You just don't.
The blood is the life.
The blood is the life.
How did you meet Stan, and how did you get to work for him?
I met Stan in ‘82, or ‘83. I met him through other makeup artists at the time, and other people that were working with him. A makeup artist named Michael Mills was a collaborator with Stan, and he knew that Stan was looking for a sculptor. I had trained and worked on things at makeup effects labs as I mentioned, and also at Michael Westmore's studio. Again, these were the very early years. Very, very early years, and he, Mike Mills, helped set up the interview for them, and that's how it happened. I’m forever indebted to Mike for that.
Wow. Was it where you wanted to work the minute you walked in? A place where you're like, yeah, I absolutely have to work here!
Yes. Maybe a year before, Makeup Effects Labs had sent me to Stan's studio to pick up a sculpture he had done that they were going to mold and make a makeup for Friday the 13th. I couldn't believe the professional atmosphere and the artistic atmosphere of Stan's studio. It was what I had always envisioned Makeup studios like Jack’s Pearce’s, that must surely be what Jack Pearce’s studio must have been like in the 20’s and 30’s. Or John Chambers labs during Planet of the Apes! Stans studio then was almost like a doctor's office. It was very well organized and well lit, and each section performed a different function. I knew this was an amazing place. You could just sense it.
You wanted to do Bram Stoker's Dracula, right? You took it, but he said, No. Can you tell that story?
This is many years later now, cast your minds into the future now children, after Terminator, and from ‘82, or ‘83 to now ‘92 or ‘93. Around there, because we had done Jurassic Park. So fast forward now from Terminator to all the way to Jurassic Park, and after Jurassic Park, which was one of the biggest feature films and largest projects that Stan had ever tackled in his life, and for all of us involved. At wrap that production shut down, and the well of work went dry. That’s just how it goes in this business. It ebbs and flows with its peaks and valleys.
There was not a significant project after Jurassic Park for about six months that could sustain his studio and all the artist like that. My colleague, John Rosengrant ,who is also an avid reader of the classics, and I had read in the trades that Coppola was going to do Dracula, and we were extraordinarily excited- and ran up to Stan’s office and said,” Listen, look, Francis is going to do Dracula, and we should make a phone call and try to get involved. I think Stan was concerned about the lack of effects that had been in the past films like the Lugosi film, or even thinking of the Hammer films. He felt that there's just not enough work in that story to sustain 30 or 40 artists.
So he didn't really pursue it, and you know, rightfully so. So, it ended up going to Greg Canom. The rest is history for that film. Greg and his team did an amazing job on that film.. truly iconic work.
Have you heard the stories that Greg Canon told me? There was a lot of downtime where Gary Oldman wasn't working, so they would just keep making things and trying things out on him, and then take it to and be like, can we film this?
Sure, that was true. I've heard that where there were things that were not in the script, that they were just experimenting with and showing it, because I think I'd read that Mr. Coppola wanted to make the film like an opera. He wanted it to be very dark, and the costumes were the only things well-lit, and that it would be like a stage play. Then, of course, it turned into more, and more, and more, and more, and the makeups went from being kind of subtle to really outrageous. Half-werewolves, half-vampires. There's a lot of really big work in that film. Glen Hanz contributed a great deal to that .
Cut to you reading about Interview going into production, and can you talk about talking to Stan about doing Interview with the Vampire?
Yes, because when the film Dracula came out, of course, it was a critical darling. I think Greg won an Oscar for the work, and there's a lot of it in the film! It's very artistic. So, I had read the novel Interview with the Vampire. My cousin John Trumley ( also a horror fan) had given me the book back in, like, 1976, I think, and said, “This is really like an American Dracula. You’ve got to read this!” So I'd known about the story for a long time. When John Rosengrant and I read that Neil Jordan was going to produce and direct this film, again we burst into Stan's office and said, “Listen, we didn't do Dracula, and that's okay. It all turned out fine. But here is another story that's very unique to the American lore and the European lore, written by Anne Rice and Neil Jordan,” (who's just come off The Crying Game,) “is going to direct it, and we could make an impact with this one, this can be our Dracula and the book is full of interesting work, we are certain!” So, Stan took that to heart, and immediately got the book and went home and read it entirely that weekend. He came back Monday morning and had notes of ideas of what he was thinking, and he loved it, and he contacted Neil. They got along very well, so Neil invited Stan to Ireland for a long weekend of story ideas, and concepts for what the makeups could be. They wrote those into the script. He came back to the States, and we pretty much accomplished what we had hoped, which was to hypnotize everybody into allowing us to work on this movie!
Can I ask you, though, because Neil Jordan and Stephen Woolley had never done anything of that magnitude war there a learning curve although I think Neil Jordan did Company of Wolves?
He did The Company of Wolves. He was very well-versed with effects, and makeups, and there's some really interesting things in The Company of Wolves. I would say he was fairly confident with what was possible. Neil came well armed with story ideas that were visual in nature. What we were proposing now, in the year 1994, was including some digital effects. Subtle things like the skin changing color on camera and veins showing up, or their eyes changing color in camera. Stuff that's standard fare today, but that hadn’t back employed all that much back then. You must understand, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 really created the worldwide use of CGI or at least pushed it into the light, and Stan had Digital Domain with Rob Legato at the helm of Visual Effects Supervisor on Interview, so it was hand in hand.
The approach was to go subtle but incredible with this film. We wanted to do something different to what Francis had done in Dracula, which was broad, big, and theatrical, and so on. We took the approach of “What if vampires really existed, and what would they really look like and how would they react?” It really sort of changed the palette of what we were creating down to a more extensive, but minimalist arena.
In terms of design, you've said before that you look at the script as a cookbook, I'm working with the written page. Can you talk about that? Can you talk about what you took from the book and the script?
Well, I'm a bit of a purist of what's written in the novels, and I make extensive notes of how they're described by the author or what they do. Because there's amazing ideas in novels that sometimes don't make it to film. Sometimes they're just touched upon, and sometimes they're changed entirely. Planet of the Apes is a great example. Pierre Boulle’s novel doesn't really reflect the final film in any capacity, but the kernel of the idea is in there, and sometimes it's the opposite way, where there's really great ideas. The novel of Dracula being one of them. I don't think there's one film that has ever really put everything to film that's in the book. There's usually a piece of this, or a couple of pieces of that, from different films. There's a mountain of details in the Ann Rice novel, so it was very apparent to me that the details that were important were to be fought for. Like the fact that Lestat was blonde and blue-eyed, right? The fans of the book would want that. Also that once you're a vampire, you always have fangs visible. They don't retract. We thought that here and gone idea of teeth should be abolished. We all did.
These were just notes that John and I gave to the collective team. Stan came up with the idea of veins under very porcelain skin, which was described from the book. And the eyes, of course, being brighter or more lustrous. So, we really took Anne Rice's descriptions and tried to incorporate those the best we can. Those are the ingredients of the “ Cook book “ that’s what I mean by that, and that is a Steven Spielberg quote so I can’t take credit for it, but I agree with him. It took some convincing on our part to have Tom be blonde and blue eyed. I think he was sort of shocked by that idea, and he wanted it to be dark, and Louis was going to be blonde. I said, and other people said, “Listen, we implore you! We beg you! We beseech you! You must try. Let's do some camera tests and just see what it's like.” He agreed to it, and so his eyebrows were bleached, and his hairline was colored. Some lovely wigs by Renata were made, contact lenses and some teeth were done, and we did some well lit camera tests, and he had lost between 13 and 15 pounds, so he really looked great in this coloration! The character was in place.
That test set what he was, and I think it really worked. Some people, even Anne Rice, didn't want Tom Cruise to play Lestat when it was announced. Daniel Day Lewis had been talked about, but never really approached. I'm sure he would have done a fine job. But he never was even given the script, I don't believe. Certain others actors wanted to play it. Al Pacino wanted to play it!
But Lestat was described as being 24 years old in the novels when he's turned into a vampire. So we're thinking, “Well, it really should be somebody who's closer to that age.” I think Tom at the time was 30 when he played it. Brad was just coming off of a couple of movies, and he was yet to become who he is today. Still, the cast was tremendous. It were those kinds of details coming from the novel and coming from the script that drove the look. It is a cookbook remember. All the ingredients are in the script. You just have to figure out how to pull them together. Whether the descriptions of what the home looks like, or what the tone and the mood of the setting is like. That's really important to me and all of us.
Every vampire is a very unique character. They really pop out. I mean, it must have taken a lot of work to go through all those characters because it looks amazing. Especially the Theatre Vampires! You almost wish there could be more time with each of those characters because they're so fantastic.
The essence of the thing was that we were at Stans doing sketch designs, pencil designs. All of us would kind of create what we thought was interesting about these characters, and then talk with Neil. The actors, of course, would have their own ideas, but Santiago is really our version of London After Midnight. It's as close as we could get. We couldn't do all the jagged teeth because that wasn't really the language of the film. But the top hat, that look, that color hair, it's a nod to that. Antonio Banderas is supposed to be the oldest of the Vampires. So we thought, well, his eyes should really reflect an owl's eyes. They're golden, they're bright, and he's an Owl. He's a wise creature. Then all the other characters kind of fall into place at that point. So the Theater of the Vampires, the makeups, have been well established at this point , and that just comes down to casting the actors like Stephen Rea. And he was as memorable a villain as they come.
But all the other vampires were actors from all parts of Europe at the time, and then they're just following the makeup guidelines that were created. There was a formula that Stan had created, step one , step two and so on,, Also, Michelle Burke was really instrumental in working with what we made, and she was tasked with doing the on-set applications and management of the set crew ,, She was department head. , Watching what was going on from country to country . It was a huge collaboration. When film-making, one person can never take credit for all of it. But when you have the right team, and they're all of the same mindset, it all comes together. But, yes, the Theater of the Vampires was a fascinating thing. I loved it. I loved every minute of that.
You know what? Talking about the teeth, it was a brilliant idea. I think Gary Archer still has one pair of the Brad Pitt teeth. They're so beautiful. They're so thin. Can you talk about what made you guys bring in Gary Archer and what you think he brought to it?
I don't know exactly how we reached Gary. I don't remember that. I do know that Stan thought using dentists was a smarter way to go than coming up with a makeup facility. The best people in makeup that make teeth and makeup effects are still not dentists. They're not going to make the thin, perfectly-colored veneers that a trained dentist will do in most cases, especially back then. And The Archers, they were a father and son team, as I recall.
I don't honestly remember how the connection was made. I don't. But they came in and we're doing light veneers that were very nicely done, and they were beautiful. We had small pairs for normal conversation. They had designed a double fang, almost a triple fang, because, again, vampires have been done so many times. What do you do with the fangs? Is it just the two? Is it the Nosferatu rat teeth in the center? You don't want to do that because it has a certain look to it. You can't do all the teeth going across, like, London after Midnight, because it's just not really conducive to speech, and it's not really conducive to a creature hiding amongst mortal people. If you've got these piranha teeth, it kind of gives it away. So Mark “Crash” McCreery had designed, three teeth on each side, which is what we landed on. So there was a smaller pair, but if they got angrier or they were attacking, we would switch them to a larger pair, and we would switch their contact lenses to be slightly larger, and it just gave sort of a subliminal hint of a more ferocious look. It was a simple little thing, but those guys did really, really lovely, very successful teeth.
Do you know how many pairs got made?
Oh, geez. I'm guessing Kirsten Dunst and the main cast had at least six pairs made. There's always one or two that are the favorites, you know, and they break from time to time.
Teeth will break.
You can break them while you're clenching your teeth , or when you're in an action scene. They're delicate. They're very thin, those teeth. They're like egg-shell thin, but they've got a little band on the back that kind of keeps them together. Everyone was very delicate about working with them, but they could absolutely break.
Also, on the topic of one of the things that you mentioned is something my wife talked about. She was on a show called Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and she said that you had to learn to speak in the teeth. But the thing about those teeth is it didn't have the same problem, I would think, looking at the way they were designed, that you guys actually looked like you could talk in them.
That was a huge consideration, and why we were using a dentist, because dentists are trained to do veneers so that people don't sound like they're lisping or that they've got something in their mouth when they're speaking. And that's important for the actors because they don't want to go back and dub their performances. Takes a lot out of a person to come up with that.
So, you have Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt, burgeoning superstars, and then you have a young girl, Kirsten Dunst. My wife actually just did another vampire film recently, and she worked with a young girl, and the young girl had to have fangs, and her mouth started to bleed, because her gums aren’t set, and she was still growing. How did you deal with all of those three people? How was that dealt with and how was the main process in general, on those guys?
I think, as I recall, there might have been an adapted set of teeth made because she was changing. Her face was still growing, and I think she missed a couple of teeth. We had to put some false little piece where her baby teeth were coming out. I do seem to recall that a few months in, we had to do it again and adapt to her mouth, because it was changing. But all the other makeups, like the stuff on her skin, her wigs, and her contacts were the same as everybody else's. She was very cooperative and very professional for her age at the time!
Did you feel like Neil and his people thought more like independent filmmakers than studio? Because this is a studio, and a big studio. This is the “biggest” film he ever made, isn't it?
Well, what happened was, I think when Tom Cruise came on board, everything elevated. It was a Geffen picture. It had a certain budget to it, but when Tom came on board, everything went up and became a lot grander. They had location work in Paris, we had location work in New Orleans. Sets had to be made that were really quite extensive, and it was a pretty big picture for Neil and Steven Woolley. It became a larger creature of its own. The budget and expectations went up.
You know, what's funny is I don't know if you know this, but my wife was friends with Anne Rice, and I got a copy from Miles Tevis of his drawing of Tom Cruise, the one that you have at the studio. And we sent it to her, and she had it in the center of her shrine to Lestat.
Rightfully so! I think that Miles did a beautiful drawing of Tom in that one. Crash had great drawings, and Miles made great drawings, and then there were the sculptures that John and I and others on the team were doing of the prosthetics on Tom's face. Brad doesn't get any special prosthetics throughout the whole film except a bleeding neck bite he receives from Lestat. It had tooth bite holes that matched up to Toms teeth and they bled from under the skin, He doesn't change other than his teeth, eyes and color. But Lestat goes through a good deal of punishment -getting his throat cut, which was an elaborate effect animatronic and CGI effect, and almost too subtle for its own good at the time. There was this robotic device that's shrinking down. That’s, again, under the tutelage of Stan's ideas and Rob Legato’s on set shooting, and the various sculptures that were done to pull it in, which also were done by Miles for the particular effect we were employing and coming up with things that were cinema magic to the best of our ability. Really, how do you see a vampire shrivel up from bleeding out, and aging and dying in a very real way in one take? Or the makeups made when he comes back from the swamp in a prosthetic makeup. Then he's burned! There was a really nice burn makeup that Bill Basso did that was beautifully done, but that scene got cut tragically. I had done the makeup where it was supposed to be after the burn makeup that Bill Basso had done. He'd been many years healing up from that burn at the end of the movie in the house now in Modern New Orleans, but it didn't work anymore because they cut the burn makeup out. So I had to re-sculpt everything for the ending with cheekbones, and a forehead with the orbital bones and temperal bones protruding very subtle, and then the very dry lips and the color, and it's just a very simple makeup. But it served Neil’s vision so that’s ok.
Did you apply that or did Michelle apply that?
I applied it. But Michelle was there in the trailer,
Was that the first time he had done that much extensive makeup effects?
He had done Legend, surely, before that, which I don't think he wore those. He had done Born on the Fourth of July, which might have been before Interview, where he's in age makeup and things like that. But I don't know, I'd have to look at a timeline to see if that was it.
The slashed throat is online and that's you getting your throat slashed, right. Is that you?
Yeah, it certainly is.
How long did that take? Did you do that on set? On that set with those superstars? That's got to be quite a stressful day or evening, right?
I try not to think about it. That's why I put myself through these tests, because I know what it's going to feel like, and how it's going to work, and what is going to happen. Of course, on the day we're now at Pinewood, rather than in the back lot at Stan's shop, and it's not summertime. It's on a really beautiful set. We're about to ruin the wood, everything. We're going to ruin costumes. Tom is going to be super charged up for the performance. So who knows what's going to happen when he's doing it. We now have Kirsten Dunst, who has to take a fake knife blade and pretend to cut his throat. There's a lot of elements that are going on. Silicone makeups were in their infancy back then. So today we would do that piece with a very dense, very beautifully-sculpted silicone piece. We were experimenting with encapsulated silicone, but it hadn't been perfected. So that piece is foam rubber, so it's going to absorb blood. It might even be digital blood today. That you can do take after take after take, and just have a slice with no real blood.
That conversation happens all the time with directors and producers that don't want to deal with the rug being ruined, or the costume being ruined, or the turnaround time of doing it again. I understand those as well. Now, some directors, like James Gunn are like, “No, it's going to be blood. I can wait.” And they really embrace and want to have the effect. That was what that was at that time. There were blood tubes, and there's protective pieces on the neck and it's kind of a reveal. When he tips his head down, and she puts her hand over it, and kind of hides it and as she slaps the cross and he pulls it open, it looks as though it's coming open. You could have gone back in with a little CGI and just even kind of unzipped it a little bit. But it kind of starts going. It starts to work. It's been a while since I've seen that, so I don't know.
I have to tell you, though, the thing is, it goes back to what you said right at the beginning of this conversation. When you see blood,,, I'm sure that on the set, even though everyone knows it's fake, it gets pretty intense. Even if only because it's so visceral, and it's so violent. Did you have any reference to that? Was that just something you figured out or was it taken from something you've seen?
Well, it's very weird because I really don't like watching real things like that. I don't like watching animals or people suffer. Listen, there's all sorts of things you can find of that sort of moment if you look. But I don't like it. I can create it or we can be a part of something that's a fantasy and it doesn't bother me at all. It's a very weird thing where if I know it's fake or artificial, it doesn't affect me. If I I'm watching a medical operation say , I just get really super queasy because I know it's real. I know someone's really getting hurt. In fact, it's “funny”, like in John Carpenter's The Thing, the one shot that really makes me jump out of my skin is a close up of a thumb being cut for the blood to go into the Petrie dish. Of all the crazy things going on in that movie, it's the one shot that makes me squirm the most. So having done the effect out in the parking lot and knowing how much blood is going to come out, we all wanted it to just be as effective a moment because she's just killed Lestat, right? She's drugged him with two dead boys who overdosed on laudanum, and now she's cutting his throat. It's pretty rough, you know? It's like it's almost like a Godfather moment,
Yeah, it is. That's a brilliant analogy.
It's almost in that world of realism, but also still fantasy because these are vampires. What really happens when that much blood comes out of a vampire? This is gothic horror remember.
The death of Claudia and Madeleine is a beautiful thing. Can you talk about creating the ash statue and how that works? Because that effect is amazing.
Neil had suggested and wanted it to be like a log that had been in a fireplace all night, and just burned out but still retained the shape. But it was ash, so when you touch it, it just falls apart silently. It took a long time to figure out how to do that exactly. Cyber scans were pretty crude back then, but we scanned the actress that played Madeline, and Kirsten hugging each other and had a piece milled out. And then Joey Orosco from a Crash drawing sculpted the log effect of their likenesses with a burnt log feeling to it. Then we molded that and then cast up rigid foam, hollow, rigid foams and worked with Rob Legato on a system. Honestly, it was like the big clock where it's just like clockwork pieces that would pull, you know, controlled by radio control and a computer. But you could pull from underneath the set. You could pull pins out and the thing would fall apart. So you could put it all back together. The pins would come up. We'd fill them with ash. We'd fill it. We'd put it all and hide everything and then time it again. We’d decide to have it start falling in different places each time. Her arm will start, her head will start, etc, and then it would just be pulled from underneath the set, the pieces would come down and it would fall to the ground. And that's how that was done. The Seams were then filled and animated to crack via CGI.
Do you know how many times you had to do it, because it really looks like it would be a one and done ?
Six, seven different times, probably. Perhaps more. Rob is very particular and will shoot until it’s to his liking. Which is why he is so good at what he does.
You read it as a young person, and then you made the movie. I feel like it honors Anne, right. It's the only film of her projects that she's ever liked and has said she has liked. Was that something special to you? To know that ultimately, she ended up loving this film?
We were all really happy because she ended up changing her mind about the project. I think she saw how Tom really worked. He's a hard-working guy and he's a real devoted actor. I thought he brought as much as he could to that. In fact, when I watched the movie, when he's absent from the screen, you kind of can't wait for him to come back. Like, as soon as Lestat comes back, the movie kind of picks up again and takes off. She really had a change of heart about being dismissive of him at one point and then was very complimentary. I think she had come to visit Stan, or he went to visit her at her home and he had shown her I'm not quite sure how the story goes, but she liked the film that Stan directed, which was called Pumpkinhead. She loved it as a myth and as the whole collective thing. She'd written a really lovely poem and had it made it into large a plaque about Pumpkinhead. So everyone was really happy that she liked it because this is her work. She put in the work, the years of writing ,, the thoughts..the love of the process,,
Do you know what you guys also really captured in that film? Anne has descriptive pages about curtains, and wardrobe, and their hair. That attention to detail is in that movie. There's so much that I think that’s why it's hard to do her stuff on TV, because you do have to do these curtains in a way they've never been done. It has that richness and that beauty. I think that's what that film captured.
I love Fellini films. So when I heard that Neil and Steven had hired Dante Ferretti to do the production design, I was so excited. Dante made many of Fellini’s films. This is going to be great thinks! And you're right! You have to bring all of that! It's the colors. The colors are very vivid. Like, the sumptuous parlor has a lot of greens in it. And New Orleans has got those red walls, and It's a very well thought out color filled with the color script. And then when you go to France, it has a different look. Then the catacombs have a different look. It's very well thought out. I drove Dante crazy asking him about Federico, he would hide from me !
How did you figure out where to put the veins? And how did you match them?
So, again, Stan had a gym in our studio, his studio. And he was on a slant board one day. Or someone was on a slant board. Or maybe he thought of it himself. But he noticed that he used to have an idea of doing an age makeup, or a transformation where the camera would be locked on the guy or woman's face during a certain age. Then the whole thing would tip upside down and you would let gravity run, and then maybe you start upside down where all the fluids and blood are in your head upside down, and the veins are bulging out because you're upside down. Then when you turn back around in one shot, but you don't notice it, that all recedes, and everything changes and in your face physically changes and it does something to you. I always thought that would be a really great experiment, which we never did. What we did do is put people on a slant board, and realize that after about two or three minutes, all of your temporal veins in your forehead and in your neck will inflate with blood. That produces a pattern which the makeup artists can then airbrush trace ever so slightly where they are. In the course of filming, if you get angry and then your blood pumps up again, right where it's painted is where the veins will expand. And it was a pretty clever trick.
That all Stan's idea.
Yeah, it's funny. Do you think that thinking outside the box has really affected your life and how you think about makeup? Because your company is known for that, right? For doing these interesting effects?
Well, I think it goes back to what I said earlier on Terminator One where we had to be clever, because we couldn't just rely on it being CGI, because that didn't exist Yet. So if you think, “What can we do?” First and foremost, whether it's a reverse shot or it’s like David Dastmalchian's polka dot man makeup we did for Suicide Squad, which actually has real lights under the skin. That's a physical makeup with lit skin. If someone generally says, “It can't be done!” that's when I accept the challenge, and try to figure out a way to do it with our amazing team of artist at Legacy.
What were some of your favorite vampire books and stories?
I've had so many! There's a great collection of short stories that are, you know, historically from the past. Some of them are newer crtainly , but most of the stories I like are from antiquity. The ones that predate Dracula are fantastic! There's Sheridan Le Fanu, the Irish Dark Prince because he only wrote it at night. Carmilla is great. There's a short story called The Tomb of Sarah that is just fantastic. The Mysterious Stranger etc etc. There's so many really great setups of stories where they generally always start the same. There's an outing, someone's driving through the countryside. They stop at a manor house because they're broken down. They're going to put them up in the room upstairs and lo and behold, there's a painting in that room. They don't feel good in the morning when they wake up but the painting looks a little better. Haunted paintings and haunted rooms. There's so much great lore in vampire mythology.
It's actually interesting. Sheridan Le Fanu, that's one of my favorites too. It's so interesting, you know, that he and Bram Stoker lived like three or four streets away from each other which is very interesting.
When I was in Dublin, I saw where Bram Stoker lived, and it's just such a lovely town, but it's just a common house. Le Fanu lived close by there. Then, when I saw Anne Rice's house, I was looking at this street and it's just a very typical American lovely New Orleans neighborhood, and I'm looking at her house and I'm thinking, from this house, and that back Veranda, in this area, this amazing story was created. That's really the remarkable thing about people who write novels or short stories. It's just a very low-key sort of event to write a book.
The thing about writing is there's no budget. It's just as big as you want it to be, right?
That's the thing. That's the thing. And there's a great story written by Tolstoy, The Family of the Vourdalak. I'm convinced that’s where they took the “Wurdulack” from in Black Sabbath, the Mario Bravo picture with Boris Karloff. it's the Vourdalak! But when you find the actual stories and you read them, it's great. Of course, then you have Carmilla, and The Good Lady Ducayne, and The Mysterious Stranger. Of course, Varney, the Vampire, which is just amazing. Count Magnus is amazing. The Room in the Tower is the one I said that's EF Benson. The Room in the Tower is very scary. The Tomb of Sarah .. many.. all great reads.
Here are some just my last two questions. What are some of your favorite Vampire Characters? I mean, obviously you're a Dracula fan. Is Christopher Lee your Dracula? Or is it Bella?
I love Lee the most .. But I like them all. Jack Palance is great. In fact, I like Louis Jourdan an awful lot.. Years ago, I was very lucky to have met Christopher Lee, a couple of times, and we had a small conversation. Once was in London at the Stuntman's Ball. It's a traditional charity event, the Stuntman. I don't know if they still do it. I'm sure they still do, but it's a black tie event, and Christopher Lee was there, and I couldn't believe it. This is during the era of Alien, so this is 1986, right? ‘85, or ‘86. So Lee was in really good shape in ‘86, right. And we had done a television show called Manimal, at Stans and an English actor named Simon MacCorkindale was in it. And I don't know if you remember him or not.
And I had to get a tuxedo for this event, and I was living in Windsor England with a couple of the guys from the Aliens crew , and I was thinking , “Where do I find a tux? So I went to an antique store, and I bought this old tuxedo. It smelled like it was 300 years old. It was some old man’s long since dead, tuxedo. I got it. I kind of pinned it together. But I didn't care because it was cool looking I thought, so here I am at the stuntmans ball , and I saw that Christopher Lee was there talking amongst some men. He knew stunt people very well. He was an honorary stuntman, as you know, because he did a lot of his own sword play and stunts. And Simon MacCorkindale happened to be there and I ran into him, he remembered us from the TV show. And he says, “What? It's astonishing that you're here. How is it that you came to be here?” And he says, “And where did you get this ridiculous outfit?” “ I don't care about tha”t says I. Let's not worry about that. I said, “Christopher Lee is here. And Simon MacCorkindale was like, “you're kidding me.” I go, “No, he's right over there! And you are going to take us over there, and we're going to talk to him!” And he did,! So I'm with Manimal himself talking with Christopher Lee, and it was just one of those great moments where you get to kind of meet your hero in a normal dinner setting where it was astonishing. Then, years later, I saw Louis Jourdan, who I think pulled off a great performance in that BBC production.
It's wonderful, isn't it? He actually did that. He went for the hair on the palms, and he just really went for it. He took it seriously!
It was made in 1977, I remember it very well. It was a two-part special. I think it's close to 4 hours, but it's one of the most faithful adaptations to the book because they had a lot of time to put it all in there, crawling out the window, crawling down the wall. What happens in the chapel down below when Harker takes the shovel and hits his Dracula’s face as he looks up at him ‘bloated like a filthy Leach!’ There's a lot of the novel in that Louis Jourdan piece. Later I was once on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles on a Saturday evening . There was a French restaurant, and I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I couldn't help it, but I walked by and I saw through the window, I saw Louis Jourdan with his family, eating. And I was torn. It's so taboo to go in and talk to a celebrity while they're eating dinner. But I stopped and I said, I have to go do this. I have to.if I don’t I'll never forgive myself. So I walked into the restaurant and his family is there, and it's a lovely place, and I found the right moment. So I walked up and I said, “Mr. Jourdan, I'm so sorry to bother you at dinner. I know I'm not supposed to do this, but your Dracula was one of the finest performances I've ever seen of that character.” And he was so taken aback. I remember him saying, “No one has ever said that about my Dracula! Thank you !” He was so touched by it I think., So I continued ” I didn't mean to bother you, but I had to tell you that because I'll never see you again.” It's great to meet these mythic figures and at least say something like that. I don't make it a point to do that. I really don't. But sometimes you must.
No, there's moments, though. Would you like to do your own version of Dracula? Do you have a take on it? Do you think there's anything that's not been done that you could see?
That's really difficult to say. Of course, when I was in high school, I wrote and directed a play of Dracula myself with the help of my friends John Finch and Phil Tower ,because I just had to do it. I had to do it ! It was a great learning experience. That show turned out great. They gave us $150 and it made $976 in two nights. I was thrilled , this is fun! But that was then,,,, But I don't know about today , I think it's other avenues that need to be tapped, or it needs a few years to do Dracula again. I think audiences, or certainly fans are so inundated with so much that's been done with Dracula that I find it perhaps difficult. I think it lives best in the novel. I think there are great readings of audiobook readings, or even the one that, again, Christopher Lee did a few years ago. It's 4 hours or so. It's abridged, but it's very good. And I like just returning to it like that. I love to read, so I actually love if it only exists in book form, I'm okay with them.
Yeah. I actually think when you're young, you want to see everything on film and as you get older, you're like, yeah, maybe not so much. I'm okay with it either way.
The movie that plays in my head that I create myself when I'm reading it is pretty good.
Yeah, I love that. My final question, would you choose Eternal Life?
That would be great, actually, because there's just so much to do and see. I think, last month or so was the seven year anniversary of Bowie's death,? And speaking of The Hunger itself is a great vampire film. It's a great novel, but, you know, Dick Smith's makeup and Bowie's performance… You know, Bowie was instrumental to us all from that generation. We were always listening to his music while we were making these creatures. And he said about aging… What was the quote? It's something like, “There is no age. You're either alive or you're dead.”
You could be twelve or you could be 80. It doesn't matter because you're either alive or you're dead. So you just get this one life, that we know of, to do whatever it is that you can do, right? Right about the time when you get everything the way you like it, something bad happens and that's the end, you know
I think now, , I know that I'm going to have a lot to do, places to go, people to see, and paintings to paint. Music to learn, scripts to write ,, shows to do ,,, I have a lot of hobbies, so it just bums me out that one day… ( ZAP) done..
Oh, I'm sure. Anne Rice wrote. What would you do with 400 years of life? What could you possibly do? You could do a lot. And it's rather a shame that human beings don't get that long to live.
Leave a comment