Doug Jones, special effects actor extraordinaire, having his SFX makeup pieces applied to play Edith’s mother/Lady Sharpe for the movie Crimson Peak, 2014. He is the Man of Many Faces for the modern age, (title originally given to Lon Chaney back in the early days of film. This is a new installment in my series about cool behind the scenes stuff. This one is pretty still-shot heavy, the opposite of the last one that was super gif heavy. Rabbit hole, if you feel like falling down:


This giant old monstrosity of a mobile film rig is pretty amazing, used to shoot the car scenes from Smokey and the Bandit, 1977. RIP Burt.
Effects artist Greg Nicotero manipulates the head of Henrietta, rehearsing a scene for Evil Dead 2, 1987.
Verne Troyer (RIP) testing out the gorilla suit he would be wearing for Instinct, 1999. The film required 7 full gorillas, all designed and created by Stan Winston Studios. 6 “suits” included a silverback male, a younger black-back male, three females, and this “toddler” gorilla that was performed by Verne, as well as one infant gorilla which was a puppet. The suits were physically operated by the person wearing them, with fully animatronic heads (hence the giant cable sticking out of the back of the neck in the clip above).  Verne had a lot of training to learn how to walk and behave accurately, and in the full video this gif is from, it starts with him walking in the hallway sans suit just testing the actions. It’s really cool, worth a watch at less than a minute long: https://youtu.be/KM8BwUzs4FY
Bolaji Badejo, a Nigerian design student who wore the eponymous Alien suit in his only film role, sits down for a rest during a break in filming of the original Alien, 1979. It was a long, difficult fitting process on filming days, and the suit was made from latex which was sweltering and didn’t breathe much. The head would regularly suffocate him if he didn’t remove it every 15 minutes, and he couldn’t see much out of it. It was physically very taxing. Plus, the tail was controlled separately and meant that he could only sit as you see above. In the suit, the six foot 10 actor was fully seven feet tall. Side salad: He was basically cast by accident; Ridley Scott had already held tons of auditions but had still not found “the one.” Agent Peter Ardram ran across Badejo in a pub in London and thought huh, 6’10”, super skinny….this is the dude. He arranged for Ridley to meet him and the rest is history.
Wide shot filming the Empire Strikes Back, 1980. SAFETY INTENSIFIES: That’s a lotta matresses. I especially like the two tiny Princess-and-the-pea guys observing on either side.
Puppeteers Richard Hunt, Jim Henson and Frank Oz bring Ernie and Bert to life on the set of Sesame Street. Since the principal puppeteer often has their right arm in the puppet’s head, they will use their left hand to manipulate the puppet’s left arm so a second puppeteer is needed to perform the puppet’s right hand. Many Muppet performers got their start “right-handing” characters, since it’s difficult work. Because most Muppets only have four fingers, the puppeteer places their pinky and ring finger into the puppet’s pinky finger. In some cases, where both hands need to work in more complex coordination the primary performer will puppeteer the head while the assisting performer will perform both hands (cases of this include The Swedish Chef or characters such as Rowlf the Dog or Dr. Teeth playing the piano).
The SFX team at Studio ADI does a test run with the puppet Alien Queen for AVP, 2004. AVP combined both practical and CGI effects for the scene in the Queen Alien’s egg laying chamber, using a a cable articulated 1/3 scale puppet Queen and a hand puppeted Ovipositor, then adding digital warriors swarming to set her free.
A scene from the trailer of The Gate, 1987. (Full trailer if you feel like a walk down memory lane or want to go make fun of your parents: https://youtu.be/2EtfZocT0Fo ) I clipped this because had always assumed it was stop motion and split screened…
…but it was actually created entirely with forced perspective. This shot is slightly off angle, so you can see the extreme foreground (from left to right the top of the dresser, the doorway, the sweatshirt, down to the right hand wall and the small bit of floor that the actors end up standing on). The extreme background is where the full-sized actors in demon suits along with the director and set dressers. Since the monster part of the set is actually way oversized and far from the camera, the added distance cancels out the added scale, making the monsters appear smaller than the human actors.
District 9, 2009, before and after CGI.
Filming among the giant props on the set of Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957. Still holds up! They really look like tiny people shrunk down.
Animatronic Teddy Puppet testing for the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence, 2001. The video is only about a minute long, but demonstrates amazing skill showing natural movements toward the end (and listening to all the servos working is pretty cool too): https://youtu.be/mT9aZiQqQ84 (this is one of the many times when I miss the old max gif length of 30 seconds v the 15 it is today. boo)
Ingmar Bergman directing The Devil’s Eye, 1960. The device on the left creates the illusion of speed by moving shadows of foliage across the actors faces while the rockerboard mounted below the vehicle body creates the illusion of movement.
John Rosengrant, the man behind one of the raptors in Jurassic Park III, 2001, checks his visuals while in the rig designed to create the right posture and movement. I also like the hands taking a casual break over to the left.
Joss Wedon giving blocking direction to the Hulk while filming The Avengers. HULK THOUGHTFUL.
Shooting POV footage of Michael Myers dragging a victim while filming Halloween. Even with the minimal help of an extra guy and a pad to reduce friction, this is not an easy drag for the actor who is not aided by a cable. The camera rig alone can weigh up to 50 pounds, plus the weight of the camera man himself.
A before-and-after CGI shot of Mad Max Fury Road, 2015.
Testing the axe in the chest for The Shining, 1980. Top pic is of Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann demoing the axe-in-the-chest effect prior to shooting, the bottom pic is testing the blocking and bleed out. Obviously this wasn’t the first take.
Scale model of the Venetian Palace on the Pinewood Studios paddock tank for CasinoRoyale. The houses weighed 90 tons and were controlled with hydrolics and electronics, and sank a full 16 feet. The sinking took three weeks to film shooting 9 hours a day.
Creating a full scale reproduction of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator for Terminator Genisys, 2015. It’s disturbingly realistic, right down to the individually placed eyebrow hair and cuticles on the toenails.
Testing the animatronic Spider Mohawk puppet/robot from Gremlins 2: the New Batch, 1990.
Shooting the chase scene through the London Underground for Skyfall, 2012. Everyone looks so casual.
Stan Winston, Lance Anderson and Michiko Tagawa creating the initial sculpt of the dog creature for The Thing, 1982.
This second shot is farther into the production process, after paint and adding in electronics and servos to create movement.
The break-out scene from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011.
The children who portrayed the aliens at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977, resting and goofing off between takes.
Naomi Watts and King Kong shooting together, 2005. Obviously the green pillows are just standing in for the big hairy beast, who had previous committments that day.
The real magic at the Hogwarts Library is…less magical. Behind the scenes of Harry Potter.
The Timberline Lodge set being constructed for The Shining, 1980. The shots in the intro of them approaching the hotel property are of the actual Timberline Lodge on top of Mt. Hood in Oregon. This set was created to shoot the winter scenes (I believe had a picture of the riddonk snow in a previous Sausage). The driving shots through the winding mountain roads was filmed in Colorado.
Testing the Scavenger scenes for Constantine, 2005. Amazing cable controlled puppet animatronics combined with manually manipulated hands and arms inside the car, created by the awesome SFX team at Stan Winston Studio. (Eventually I’m going to do a whole post just about Stan Winston studios because they’re amazing over there.) I honestly thought this was a green-screen-half headed human, it was so realistic in the movie.
ILM filming explosions for the Death Star attack in Star Wars in 1977.
Caroll Spinney, puppeteer for Big Bird, revealing the mechanics of operating the full size puppet. My neck and shoulders hurt just looking at it. Thanks for creating all the magic for us.
It takes a lot of manpower and machines to make Superman fly. 4 folks with air tubes, 2 creating movement left and right, 2 puppeteers in the back manning the cape, and the dude on the ladder blowing air into his face.
Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Burt Ward and Adam West get ready to film a building-scaling scene on the set of the 1960’s Batman TV series. Low tech but highly effective and full of fun.
Building the Lothlorien bigature for Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Ring, 2001. From the pre-production of the films, Peter Jackson had decided to create small-size models of structures to the last detail and then add some digital work, instead of creating these locations fully digital, to help ground the films with a bit more realism.
Greg Nicotero, mentioned above in the Evil Dead 2 shot, designed and animated the Shiva puppet head for Walking Dead. It was animatronic, but the eye movements and body were created with CGI.
Directing this famous scene from 1964’s Goldfinger. To create the illusion that the laser was cutting through the table, they actually DID cut through the table. The uncomfortable nervous look on Connery’s face in this scene is real.  Special effects man Albert J. Luxford was under the table with an acetylene torch, cutting through the table from beneath to make it look like the laser was cutting it from above. “The center of the table, through which I was cutting, was lead and I just worked my way along it, on my back, once I was given the word. However, as I couldn’t really see how far up the table I was, I had to be told when to stop. As I got nearer and nearer to his crotch, Sean was sweating a bit. I hate the thought of ever injuring an actor, but ‘there’ would have been awful! I followed my cues exactly and was listening to Gert and Sean’s dialogue carefully, too, as I knew it would end, and laser switch off, after Sean mentioned ‘Operation Grandslam.’ I was about three inches from his crotch when I stopped.” Yikes.
Henry Cavill and Ezra Miller blocking and filming a fight scene for Justice League, 2017. The green screen people really earned their keep that day, and that amazing weightless rig on Ezra is so great. (I didn’t make this gif, sorry for the weird cutting.)
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