Consider this a follow-up to recent stories about how ‘Robin Hood’ went from a great high-concept idea to a tepid ‘Gladiator’ clone, and Shia LaBeouf speaking out about the failings of two of his biggest box office hits. This week, ostensibly to promote the new DVD and Blu-ray editions of ‘The Wolfman‘, Hollywood’s legendary monster-maker Rick Baker gave an interview to Horror Squad in which he’s surprisingly candid about the troubled production.
When the ‘Wolfman’ remake was first announced, the casting of Benicio Del Toro (an avid fan of the old Universal classic) and the recruitment of Baker (the man who created the ‘American Werewolf in London‘ creature effects) gave monster movie aficionados hope that this would be a return to old-school horror filmmaking. Unfortunately, studio interference demanded that the picture be watered down to teen-safe PG-13 levels. A host of directors rotated in and out until eventually settling with Joe Johnston (the journeyman hack behind such non-classics as ‘Jumanji’ and ‘Jurassic Park III’). By the time it was released, the film was poorly received by critics and floundered at the box office.
As Baker tells it, an overall lack of creative vision often left him scrambling to complete FX work that he would normally require much more time to properly design and build. Among his comments:
“With me, I only have the preproduction time to try and get the stuff made. I couldn’t get answers out of anybody. The first thing I said was, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do transformations in this movie.’ People were expecting what we did in American Werewolf 30-years ago and they want 30-years of advancements.”
“They used some of my suggestions and they scanned some sculptures that we did, but I was pretty much aced out of their whole thing, which was disappointing.”
“I ended up sculpting the appliances for Benicio two weeks before filming, and that’s one of the things that pissed me off. I could have had a room full of appliances by then and everything done the way it should be done and prepared. I wouldn’t have had to hope that it worked.”
Although the creature effects wound up being one of the movie’s stronger elements, and were just about the last thing that viewers complained about, this lack of direction affected many other aspects of the production and showed through in the final product.
As I said about Shia LaBeouf’s recent comments, it’s a rare event indeed to hear people in the industry ever speak so frankly about films they’ve worked on. Most of these sort of interviews are usually spent hyping the movie and praising everyone involved.
Despite his disappointments, Baker says that he’s glad he had the opportunity, and is pleased with most of his work. In addition to these remarks, he also has some interesting things to say about Hollywood’s (and his own) transition from practical effects to CGI. It’s a worthwhile read.