- How did you get involved in THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- By chance. I took my portfolio to the production office and the Art
Director (Wolf Kroeger) just happened to come in and see it.
- When hired, weren't you surprised by the association of Disney
with such a movie (formerly known as EATERS OF THE DEAD)?
- No. Disney does a lot of movies that are far removed from SNOW WHITE!
- When exactly and how long did you work on this project?
- From near the beginning until almost the end of the Canadian shoot.
- You are credited as "set costumer" at the end of the
movie, then you are credited for "costume effects (hero Wendol
bear heads)" on the Internet Movie Database, and your resume
reads "costume effects (bear heads for stunt artists and jewellery)".
So what was your task on THE 13TH WARRIOR, exactly?
- When I started on the movie, it was in the sculpting department. After
a few weeks, I was sent to the costume department, to make the hero bear
heads and some of the jewellery (breakdown on some viking pieces and making
the bones for the Wendols). After making things, I was then sent to the
set, to work with the Wendols and, in particular, the maintenance of their
heads and costumes.
- Working with McTiernan, how was it? Did he make suggestions? Were there
specific films whose looks he wanted to recreate, or avoid?
- He is a man with incredible vision. I was lucky enough to talk to him
before and during filming and, yes, of course, he has opinions and suggestions.
I have no knowledge which would answer the last part of your question,
but I would gladly work for him again!
- Did you do any research for this show?
- Yes, of course. I research any subject that I am involved in. In this
case, it was the anatomy of bears, their mouth parts, the materials I
wanted to use and the heath and safety of the artists who would be wearing
- Did you read the original Michael Crichton novel?
- Yes. I read it when I started working on the movie and it seemed very
close to the story. As for (them), I have no knowledge.
- What were your relationships with the department head?
- Teamwork is everything and the department head is also a part of the
team. This movie was extremely hard work but also a lot of fun. I've always
had good relationships with any department head and that is how it was
- Shooting in remote areas, on location, out in the mud and dirt and the
miserable weather: was it a logistical nightmare?
- Locations such as we worked in are always a logistical nightmare and
that is why we have a crew of very organised and talented people to smooth
the way before we even get to day one of filming. Any problems of making
it work for the film crew were solved before we got there.
- I have heard that all the bear suits and heads featured in THE 13TH
WARRIOR were from real bears, hundreds of them, belonging to Disney and
that the bears had originally come from the US fish and game department,
confiscated hides from years ago, from poachers and illegal hunters. Any
truth in that?
- No, not true: a lot of fake fur was used. As for hides, I do not know
where they came from...
- Do you know how many bear heads (and suits) they used on this show?
- When all our stunt artists and supporting artists were on set for the
big attack scenes, I think there were about 300.
- Were some of the bear heads more elaborated than the others? (like the
ones shown in close-up, as opposed to the ones featured in the background?)
- Yes, very much so. It is more economical to be less elaborate for background
characters. The further from camera they became, the less elaborate by
- Were all the bear heads fitted with jaws and fangs? (real jaws and fangs,
by the way?)
- There was not a single real tooth or jaw anywhere to be seen. Remember,
actors and stunt artists had to wear these and it is always important
not to compromise the safety of anyone wearing anything that is made for
them to wear. Everything you saw was soft.... I know: I made them!
- How distinctive is it to work on suits intended for stuntmen (rather
than actors)? I suppose they have to be more hard-wearing, and things
like that, right?
- No. In fact, everything is made to the same degree of safety, durability,
etc. It would not do for a lead actor's suit to fall apart either! There
is no point in making anything that has a self destruct date. You always
have to be very aware of what the costume for a stuntman has to do, though.
Is it going in the water? You don't want it to cause an artist to be dragged
under. Is it near fire? Is it fireproofed? Will it survive the rough and
tumble? Will it be safe? Will it look as good on take #4 as it does on
the 1st take?
- During the second battle scene, all the Wendols are using torches. Was
fireproofing a concern when working on the bear suits?
- Yes, absolutely, and full measures were taken to be safe.
- Also, many of the stuntmen wearing bear heads are riding horses. Again,
was it taken into account? (visibility concern?)
- Absolutely, all the heads had to 'work' on every level. Periferal vision
- How did the horses react to the bear heads?
- The horses were introduced to the 'bears' weeks before filming, to make
sure they were unafraid.
- Did you see conceptual designs for the look of the Wendols? Do you know
if they went through different versions before picking the final version?
- We had many sketches of Wendols, all based on the theme of what you
saw. I don't know if there were many before that.
- In the story, the bear heads are supposed to hide the human faces of
the Wendols (so that the Vikings believe they are demons...). Were they
also concerned with hiding the stuntmen faces during shooting, and making
them sort of nondescript?
- The stunt artists were seen and were wearing prosthetic pieces for authenticity.
No one needed to 'hide' in their bear head. Any questions regarding them
would be better directed to the make-up department, though.
- On average, how did the stuntmen deal with their bear suits and heads?
Were there any complaint?
- They were hot to wear, and we were filming in summer! We designed them
to be easy to take off and put on, so that, in between takes, they could
easily remove them if they wanted to.
- Seems to me it really was an ambitious picture...
- Not as ambitious as a lot of other movies.
- But they obviously spent a lot of money on the main set, didn't they?
There were lots of rumours about the inflating budget in the trades...
- Movies cost money. But I was not party to any financial dealings and
rumours are rumours.
- Did the production wrap on schedule?
- I did not work to the very end, so I don't know.
- The 13TH WARRIOR set was a closed set. What were the rules for the production
crew? Was the local press intrusive?
- I saw no one from local press. Production crew worked to our normal
- Back in early 1997, there were also rumours circulating about Arnold
Schwarzenegger doing some cameo appearance in the movie. Did you hear
about this on the set?
- Like you, rumours.
- They used a lot of horses on this film. You must have heard anecdotes
about them... Some of them belonged to the director himself, didn't they?
- I don't have that information, sorry, but we got to know the horses
pretty well, if not by name at least by working in close proximity to
- Apparently, a lot of footage was edited out. Did you work on pieces
(or shots, or scenes) that never made it in the final cut, or were barely
seen? Sometimes, people work really hard on things that are not included
in any significantly visible way in the film...
- There is always film left out in editing. And, yes, some things never
make it in the finished version. You make it sound soul destroying to
someone who has worked hard on something and it never makes it to the
end... This is not the case. The end product is the celluloid and what
is on it. That is the satisfaction of the job well done, whether your
own personal stuff got there or not.
- They allegedely shot some "mass suicide scene of the Wendols",
not seen in the final cut, where all the Wendols killed themselves by
slitting their own throats with knives. Do you remember such a thing from
the original shooting?
- No, none of this.
- According to another source: "In the Wendol attack scenes, they
cut bit of what I had seen. They had us up on cliffs hiding and then coming
out screaming. It was awesome to see so many bear headed warriors pop
up and suddenly disappear as quickly as they appeared." (Strangely,
this scene reminds me the opening scene of GLADIATOR, when the German
barbarians are doing the same thing in front of the Roman legions led
by Russell Crowe...) Again, does this sequence sounds familiar to you?
- Again, there were many sequences which are edited out. I don't remember
this one though, but when you are not right next to camera you cannot
always see what the shot looks like...
- Have you heard about additional photography on this movie?
- As I finished before the end of the Canada shoot, I cannot say.
- What about the professional dispute between Michael Crichton and John
- I neither heard of nor know of any dispute.
- Finally, what was your biggest challenge on this show?
- To get whatever extra sleep I could on the journey to and from the set!
- Anything you would want to add about your work on THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- I was lucky enough to work with some pretty amazing people and have
a great time doing it.
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