(Sculptor at Boss Film FX Creature Shop)
did you get involved in PREDATOR?
- I was hired by Steve Johnson.
- Do you
remember when and how long you worked on this project?
- About 3 to 4 months. I think it was sometime in 1985.
was your task, exactly, on this show?
- I was a sculptor. I sculpted the first man in the group to get killed and hung from a tree (not the group of guys first seen hanging in the trees: those were made by Steve Johnson, from bodies that were in POLTERGEIST). I actually refined a body cast of the actor, to make it look all narly, and another sculptor did the gutted interior you never get to see in the film. It also made it into the second film, as every dead body you see, from the hanging corpse in the beginning to the one in the train station having its spine ripped out. We actually made that effect for the first film to be shown up close, but they thought it was too gross to show on screen. It looked really realistic, even in the live test. Mark Siegel and I made the effect of a hole that gets bored through the chest of Governor Wrestlermania [Jesse Ventura]. At first, we started to sculpt all the bones, but then got this brainy idea to go out for a lunch of the best beef ribs in Marina del Rey, and use those bones. What a feast at company expense! We boiled all the leftover meat off the bones (which wasn't much by the time we were through), broke them in half and affixed them to the mechanical rig inside of the dummy we made from the real one (real governor, not dummy!). It worked perfectly, but again, it looked so real, they didn't show it actually work in the movie, only after the fact.
the bodies from POLTERGEIST... Is this common practice to recycle things like
this, from one film to another?
- Not really a common practice, as usually each movie is made with completely different production companies, but if an effects house had something they can reuse, they just charge full price and make a boatload of extra profit!
all the dead bodies featured in PREDATOR 2 were from the first PREDATOR?!!
- From what I remember, that is correct. There may have been some others that I don't remember, but as the film was so bad, I will probably never see it again.
actor you refined the body cast, the first man killed, was Shane Black, wasn't
he? He wrote the first LETHAL WEAPON and I always thought producer Joel Silver
brought him on PREDATOR, in case there would be re-writings to do on the original
- It was Shane, but I don't know anything about who or why he was brought on board. LETHAL WEAPON came out while we were making the props and I think I remember he was a pretty happy guy. But this was a long time ago, and I may be wrong...
you elaborate on the "dead wild boar" you worked on? Were there
two of them, or was the "dead" one the same than the one who jumps
onto Bill Duke in the movie?
- I sculpted three dead wild boars, all of different sizes. The first one was seven feet long and it was tooooo big, so Steve had me do another one three feet long and it was toooo small, so Steve had me do another one at five feet long, and it was just right. It was the running joke of the whole show. There were epic poems written about the "never-ending boar story," and people began pinning hemp tails on each other when they weren't looking, then video taping them. The biggest joke of all was because after all was said and done, they ended up using a real stuffed boar! So, one day I just got fed-up and pushed my sculpting table to the edge of the second floor loft, picked up one end of the table and let the whole massive sculpture swan dive onto the concrete floor below! Somewhere, there is a great video of this. I may have it, I'm not sure.
mentioned some "alien trophy head" on your resume. In the original
screenplay, there is a scene wich is taking place inside the Predator's spaceship,
in some "trophy room"... Was the head you worked on supposed to
appear in that scene?
- Yes. An art director made a simple sketch on a napkin or something, and I fleshed it out from there. It was really cool. It looked like an insect, but so did the original alien. The original finished casting was lost, but I think I still have the original clay somewhere...
yours, were other alien heads built?
- There may have been one or two other heads made, but I really can't remember.
was actually a trophy room scene in PREDATOR 2, and some private joke with
an "Alien" (from the 20th Century Fox movies) skull featured amongst
others... Allegedly, from that originated the "Aliens vs. Predator"
concept (comics, videogame, etc.). Do you know if this idea was already envisaged
at Boss Film, at the time of the first PREDATOR movie?
- It wasn't, although we all thought about it. The trophy room was originally made-up of decapitated heads, still looking like heads. There may have been skulls of some type, too. But they never shot that trophy room scene. What they did in the second movie, using just the skulls, was much better in concept.
they first consider to use stop-motion before finally choosing the costume
way for the Predator?
- I don't know about using stop-motion, but we were making a lot of mechanical parts for close-ups, like the head and mouth and arms, etc.
said on your resume you "worked on (the) main alien construction",
so I assumed you worked on the (unused) Predator costume... Do you know who
designed the look of the costume you worked on? Didn't William Stout sketch
some preliminary designs? I have also read that the backward-bent satyr-like
leg was Steve Johnson's idea...
- Yes, it was the original unused costume, but I don't know who designed it. I don't know what Bill did on the film. The whole problem with the original design was that we all knew it would never work, but nobody would tell the producers, because they were scared of losing their jobs. As far as I know, Steve had nothing to do with that design, but was responsible for getting it made. It was a joke. First of all, the bug-like construction required an exoskeleton and, once a real human was wearing it, he could not bend from the waist. Second, the creature was supposed to be very tall and very thin, so who do they hire, but Jean Claude Van Damme, short and muscular (short for an alien)! He was an unknown then, having just finished his first Karate film. His ego was the same, though. But, I have to give him credit. He achieved everything he bored us with week after week.
you precisely describe the costume you worked on? I must say that I have never
seen pictures of it but I have read that it looked like a cross between reptile
- It looked more like a cross between an insect and Speed Racer, or pick any Japanese cartoon hero. Or, maybe, one of those man-things that fight Godzilla. The production drawings were very good, but as a design for a new scary thing, it wasn't. I think it was multi-bug-colored. It had satyr-like legs which were mechanical, so the actor would have to be suspended by wires. The arms were also mechanical extensions, as was the head rising above the real actor's head. From the neck to the hips was this bony exoskeleton we cast in some sort of plastic, but I forgot which kind. We had never used it before, but under the brilliant leadership of Mark Siegel, it came out perfect the first time.
For reasons I can't remember now, the construction unit of the creature formed a bond and we secluded ourselves away in a tiny side room where we all worked together. The red suit, used for filming the transparent scenes, was made in there, so that's where Mr. Damme came for his fittings. Again, somewhere, I have the only video of him in this suit, as he does one of his (now famous) kicks, immediately ripping out the crotch. Unfortunately, he's covered from head to foot, so you can't see who it is, but you can tell from his build.
I assume this will not be featured amongst the extras on the PREDATOR Special
Edition DVD which will be released this summer... Too bad!
- If I had known about that Special Edition, I would have sold it them!
Damme reportedly said he worked on the show during the first three weeks of
shooting... Other sources say he quit after two days...
- I have no idea how long he worked on the production, but it seems to me that it only took a few days for them to realize it wasn't going to work and they had to bring everyone home.
must have thought of many variations of looks for the Predator during pre-production.
Do you remember unused designs or ideas?
- I never saw any other design. The design that was finally used was created solely by Steve Wang, who, at that time was just another sculptor working on the creature. He was making the arms with Laurie Marems (she sculpted the original E.T.). Steve was a brilliant sculptor, and though only about twenty at the time, had been sculpting since he was five. There were a huge amount of talented people at Boss in those days.
McTiernan has said in some interview that an attempt was made to get shots
of the Predator swinging from tree to tree using a monkey in this red suit,
but that the monkey kept removing the suit so the idea was abandoned. Do you
remember such a thing?
- (laughs) Never heard that one! The whole production was way behind schedule. After they finally realized the man in the bug suit was never going to work, they blamed it on everyone at Boss and fired the company and hired Stan Winston. Most of the same crew went there. They scrapped just about everything and started from scratch. They had to rewrite the ending and pay a ton-o-bucks to Arnold not to walk. Maybe this was why.
to rumors I have heard, Schwarzenegger actually walked, shot RUNNING MAN,
and was brought back with some big bucks, then they reshot the ending, eight
months after principal photography ended...
- I never heard this rumor and don't know if it's true or not. I don't believe Arnold was called back, but paid just to stay and finish. He was in almost every scene!
there is two versions within this rumor: according to the first one, the movie
was entirely completed when they decided to reshoot the ending...
- That is wrong.
to the second version, the movie was only HALF-WAY completed, the crew had
already filmed all the parts that did not involve the alien, and ONLY a few
scenes had been shot with the original Boss Film costume...
- That is partially wrong. They never shot any scenes with the original creature, because it was never finished and didn't work in the tests!
first cut allegedly lasted 167 minutes...
- All movies are originally under cut, so this is nothing new.
Kevin Peter Hall wear the Boss Film costume, or was he brought afterwards,
when Stan Winston was hired?
- He was hired after Steve Wang designed the costume we all know and love today. Steve designed it and he and Matt Rose sculpted it.
- Do you
know what went wrong in the jungle locations? I have heard about harness and
wires problems... McTiernan allegedly said "The design was poorly
executed. We only had a few weeks of preproduction, and they did a terrible
job of creating the monster in that short a period of time. It's that simple!"
- What design was he talking about? If he was talking about the original design, then yes, it was poorly designed, but not poorly executed! We worked on it for four months, not a few weeks. Anyway, I don't believe it was ever finished, but I may be wrong about that, as I went off to another job. I don't know how long it took Stan's crew to make the creature, but I'm sure it wasn't just a few weeks, and I'm sure it was very well done.
- He was
definitely talking about the first design!
- What he meant, if he isn't an idiot, is that the original design was terribly bad, but the execution was as perfect as anyone could make.
- I have
read that they actually shot 7 scenes with the Boss Film costume but that
none of them made it into the final cut... Yet, seems to me that it is not
the Stan Winston costume which is seen in some shots of the movie...
- Don't know, but doubt it.
about that red suit used for the transparent scenes, the one made for Van
Damme matched the design of the unused Boss suit, right? So, when the Predator's
look was redefined, did they build another red suit that matched the new design,
or did they used the first one? Because (and that were these scenes I was
talking about), in the movie, the design of the Predator, in all the scenes
where he is transparent, seems not to match the Winston's design (e.g. we
don't see "dreadlocks" coming out of the helmet)...
- That's interesting. You know, I can't really remember about the suit matching the costume exactly. I know the arms and legs didn't, and I don't think the head did either. It was pretty much the shape of a man. But I'd have to look at my video to be sure. For sure, it wasn't the same shape as the costume exactly. So, I don't know if they made another suit, or not.
but not least, what did you think of the movie?
- The first movie was great. It was pretty much like the original script, except for the very end, so instead of blowing up the spaceship, he just blows up the alien. Except for all the scenes in which you can clearly see my dead body, the second movie sucked. Of course, all the effects and props were great.
how did you feel about the Stan Winston costume, as opposed to the Boss Film
- A million times better!
you would want to add about your experience on this show?
- Working at Boss, at that time, was an adventure. Although it was hot and dirty and polluted, it was great fun because of all the people that worked there. I still know many of them today.
© 2002 - The John McTiernan Central