LA TIMES: HERO COMPLEX: "Beastly:" Alex Pettyfer gets his monster on

‘Beastly’: Alex Pettyfer gets his monster on

March 04, 2011 | 10:46 a.m.
 In the new film “Beastly,” opening Friday, Alex Pettyfer plays a cocky high school student who finds himself transformed into an alien-looking outcast after he runs afoul of a young woman dabbling in witchcraft. Taking him from beauty to beast was makeup artist Tony Gardner, the same man who helped James Franco amputate his own arm for his Oscar-nominated turn as Aron Ralston in “127 Hours,” a veteran whose other credits include Michael Jackson’s Thriller” music video and the horror comedy “Zombieland,” in addition to “There’s Something About Mary” and “The Hangover.” Hero Complexcontributor Whitney Friedlander recently caught up with Gardner to find out exactly how he turned model-turned-actor Pettyfer into a creature only costar Vanessa Hudgens could love. It turns out, Alex Flinn’s 2007 novel, on which the movie was based, was just a starting point.
Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens in "Beastly" (CBS Films)

WF: Pettyfer’s Kyle looks very different from most beasts we’ve seen on the screen. For starters, he’s not hairy the way he’s described in the book.  How do you decide to go in this particular direction with his makeup?

TG: One of the main reasons is that there have been so many werewolf projects happening right now and [hairy beasts] seem so inclusive in that realm that we gotta make it stand alone. Daniel Barnez, [UPDATED March 5, 11:30 a.m.: A previous version of this article spelled the director’s last name as Barnes] the director, was the person who said it’s all about this character’s vanity and his hair is a major part of his vanity — it’d be interesting to make him lose that… We got into contact lenses for him and dental veneers. We left his eyes alone because that was where you really connected with the character.

WF: And the tattoos that were incorporated into the character design?

TG: A lot of the tattoos are sayings he’s flung at other people … We wanted some sort of skin texture, like tree bark. The tattoos were like trees. And the piercings couldn’t be something somebody would just take off. He’s really abusive and condescending to people. He’s vain enough to use makeup. We had to go beyond what he could cover up. If he’s hairy, the guy could just shave and put on makeup. There had to be stuff that took it further. It was Daniel Barnez’ idea to include pieces of mirror embedded in as part of a reflection — no pun intended — of the character’s vanity and how hung up you are in looking in the mirror all the time.

Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer in "Beastly" (CBS Films)

WF: This re-telling of the classic fable of “Beauty and the Beast” is set in high school, with teens intended to be its core audience. Was that factored into your research? Did you research what a teen would find frightening or ugly?

TG: My daughter Brianna is 17 and my other daughter Kyra is 13, so I figured I’ve got the teen girl spectrum as a captive audience — especially Brianna. I was really curious as to how she would respond to it. In trying to find the balance between what is attractive and what is scary, there are a lot of stumbling blocks and the character has to hit those altitudes. At some times you’re supposed to be intimidating and the other you’re supposed to be sympathetic. It’s trying to find a style and look for the character that works for the female eye, which is where my kids come into play. They’re both photographers and they’re both artistic and they’re able to articulate the why in certain things.

WF: Did they get credit on the film?

TG: [Laughs] No, but they should have.

LA TIMES | ENTERTAINMENT: Special-effects whiz conjures magic, mayhem

Special-effects whiz conjures magic, mayhem

One of the main characters in "Robot & Frank" looks like a robot, walks like a robot and talks like a robot, but it isn't a robot. It's a suit created by makeup and special effects designer Tony Gardner and his company, Alterian Inc.

The futuristic film stars Frank Langella as a retired jewel thief who makes a new friend who has more servos than scruples. Gardner's robot suit makes a convincing costar, thanks to the voice of actor Peter Sarsgaard and the movements of dancer Rachael Ma.


Robot and Frank 1 - edited new title

LOS ANGELES TIMES | WORKING HOLLYWOOD: Tony Gardner’s Special Effects Get Free Reign in “Robot and Frank”

Tony Gardner's special effects get free rein in 'Robot & Frank'

Working Hollywood: For Tony Gardner, the special effects whiz behind 'Robot & Frank,' taking flights of fancy is all in a day's work.

August 25, 2012|By Cristy Lytal, Los Angeles Times

One of the main characters in "Robot & Frank" looks like a robot, walks like a robot and talks like a robot, but it isn't a robot. It's a suit created by makeup and special effects designer Tony Gardner and his company, Alterian Inc.

The futuristic film stars Frank Langella as a retired jewel thief who makes a new friend who has more servos than scruples. Gardner's robot suit makes a convincing costar, thanks to the voice of actor Peter Sarsgaard and the movements of dancer Rachael Ma.

Gardner developed his talent for creating believable illusions as a child growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland.

"I was 5 or 6, and I remember my grandmother bought me a magic set for Christmas," said Gardner, 48. "It had this card box in it. You put a card in it, and you close it and open it, and the card's gone. It was one of those defining moments for me where I just had this adrenaline rush that maybe I've spent my whole life trying to re-create. That's the part of it that I really enjoy: making people invest in stuff and believe that it's real."

At age 18, a chance meeting with special makeup effects legend Rick Baker led to a job sweeping floors on the set of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Soon after, Gardner dropped out of USC to work for Baker full-time.

Since then, Gardner has built the killer Chucky doll for the "Child's Play" movies, the fat suit for John Travolta in 2007's "Hairspray" and the severed arm for 2010's "127 Hours." His specialty is creating super-realistic body parts — and his work on 1999's "Three Kings" actually caught the attention of the FBI and the Arizona police.

"For whatever reason, they were convinced that we had taken a homeless person off the street in Arizona, shot him up with bullets and filmed with a high speed camera," he said. "It's a backhanded compliment, really, to have the FBI investigate you on what you did with a fake body. It validates that what you did was very realistic and that people believed it."

The medical community also finds his work convincing, and Gardner has a side company that supplies silicone dummies to train doctors, nurses and other professionals.

But Gardner enjoys embarking on flights of fancy as much as replicating reality.

"With something like the robot for 'Robot & Frank,' it's pretty much free rein," he said. "You're presenting it as its own identity, its own character. So those are fun to do."

The need for speed: Alterian had just over a month to create the white, humanoid robot suit. "The nice thing with something that's robotic is there's a lot of symmetry in parts, so your left thigh can be your right thigh," said Gardner. "Taking a design approach where you're trying to duplicate pieces on both sides really helped save us time. We went through our boxes of spare parts to see if there were additional pieces that we could use from other projects or even just ideas to use. And we had a couple elements that we were able to pull, just to save a few days here or there."

Woodworking: Creating the robot involved some very old-fashioned techniques. "Aaron Romero, who's one of our designers and effects technicians at Alterian, does woodworking and cabinetry," said Gardner. "He actually built all these pieces [of the robot suit] out of wood. We pulled white plastic with a vacuum pump over top of that to create plastic shells that are a duplicate of his wooden forms. So we ended up with all these pieces that were hollow and super-lightweight that we then needed to assemble into some format that a person could wear."

The shape of things: Gardner didn't want what he built to look like a person in a robot suit. "You try to do things design-wise where you're eliminating the concept of the height of a neck to make it look more compact and kill the human silhouette," he explained. "We were also trying to come up with different ideas to make it look non-human in some of its functions. There's a scene where the robot is safecracking and spinning a dial really fast. We attached the hand to the dial and spun it really fast on a motor, so that the hand was spinning faster than something a person inside a suit could be doing. So we were always looking for little things like that."

Robot sitter: Alterian's job didn't end once filming started. "You have to realize that the person inside this suit is dependent at a certain point on someone else for their well-being on the most basic level," said Gardner. "Because once your arms are locked in position, and you're thirsty or you need your head off, you really are requiring someone else to assist you. So you're the artist, and you're the parent, and you're the effects guy all that same time."

LOS ANGELES TIMES | ENTERTAINMENT: “Addams Family Values,” How did they do that? Featuring Tony Gardner and Alterian Inc.

The Sleight of Hand in 'Addams' : Movies: How did they do that? Tony Gardner's Alterian Studios was responsible for much of the special effects in 'Values.' It's all a matter of 'illusion,' he says.


Wednesday Addams is standing against the wall at Alterian Studios. As soon as her wig comes back from the production company, Wednesday will join Darkman, the Tommyknocker and a life-size hippo on permanent display of Alterian's most beloved children.

Much of the special-effects work that Tony Gardner's Alterian Studios did for "Addams Family Values" ended up as "blink and you'll miss it" moments in the film, but if you don't blink, you'll go home wondering, "How did they do that?"

And that's just the reaction Gardner hopes for.

"I think it all goes back to starting as a magician," Gardner said. "The whole thing was the illusion and being able to fool somebody."

Gardner, now 30, got his start apprenticing with three Academy Award-winning special effects artists--Rick Baker, Stan Winston and Greg Cannon (who won for his work on "Bram Stoker's Dracula"). Two particular illusions Gardner created with his studio stand out in "Addams Family Values": Wednesday's blending into the woodwork--literally--and Baby What, Cousin Itt's new offspring.

For the scene in which Wednesday (Christina Ricci) camouflages herself as part of a wall to spy on the sinister new nanny, Debbie (Joan Cusack), Gardner and his crew had to make a full body cast of Ricci and manufacture a stand-in dummy. Instead of needing two hours to be put into full makeup, Ricci could simply lean into the dummy's fake neck, leaving only her face needing to be made up.

Gardner didn't have to worry about dealing with a potentially prickly actor with Baby What: the tyke is entirely mechanical. There were other challenges, though. The guidelines he received from director Barry Sonnenfeld and visual effects supervisor Alan Munro: "Here's a ball of fur: make it cute, make it happy, make kids want to relate to it, make adults think it's precious and want to hold it, and . . . good luck."

The resulting Baby What gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie, but more rewarding to Gardner was the reaction of the film's crew. "I think the reward," he says, "really comes from going on set and taking something that's a bunch of motors and foam wrapped over fiberglass, creating something that's alive and watching a film crew--probably your most jaded audience in existence, because they've seen it all--get excited about it, whether there's a person in it or not."

Gardner's studios also built the miniatures that stand in for the Addams house and Uncle Fester's new house ("We called it Debbie's Dream House" for the nanny character played by Cusack, who plots to wed Fester). The Addams house is in many shots, but Debbie's Dream House was built for one main purpose--to blow up.

"It was designed to explode and obliterate itself instantaneously, like a Looney Tunes cartoon," Gardner said.

Though called a miniature, the exploding house was actually 16 feet tall and 28 feet long, taking up a large chunk of the warehouse where Alterian is situated, in Irwindale.

"Everyone had to work around it and walk around it," Gardner said. "(Then) all this stuff drives out to the set one day on a Friday and they come back on Monday with two milk crates"--all that was left of Debbie's Dream House. Even the tables the house was built on were destroyed.

The house wasn't hard to build, Gardner says, because "we'd done a lot of exploding bodies in the past and we were able to use a lot of the existing technologies for it," and there was a certain amount of professional satisfaction in those two milk crates.

As a child, Gardner might have had a premonition about the line of work he would eventually end up in. He was fascinated by the magic set his grandparents bought him when he was 6.

"I picked up this box where you put a card in and it's got a fake bottom and (the card) falls. Well, I picked it up without reading the instructions, put a card in it, closed it and opened it and the card was gone. . . . Then I turned it over and I shook it and the card fell out from the fake bottom. Then I got it. I was like, 'It's fake! It's not real!'--and I was hooked."

LOS ANGELES TIMES | ENTERTAINMENT: “Born to Be Wild,” movie review featuring Alterian Inc.

MOVIE REVIEW : The Gorilla's the Prize in 'Born to Be Wild'

It's a shame that the makers of "Born to Be Wild" went to such great lengths to create an absolutely convincing gorilla via technical wizardry only to waste their efforts on such a trite, predictable comedy-adventure. Both Katie the Gorilla--the creation of special animatronics effects expert Tony Gardner--and young Wil Horneff, who are the film's endearing stars, and its serious animal-rights theme, deserve much better....

Original Article


LOS ANGELES TIMES | ENTERTAINMENT: “A Dirty Shame,” featuring Alterian, Inc. & Tony Gardner

One of the tops in the trade

For Tony Gardner, a 21-year veteran of movie makeup and special effects prosthetics, the request was hardly unusual. "We want you to put some massive fake breasts on Selma Blair," he recalls John Waters telling him by phone. "Boobs that toe the line of decency and physical plausibility."

When Gardner stopped laughing, he took the job on "A Dirty Shame," the raunch-friendly director's NC-17-rated sex farce that came out on Friday. The prosthetic designer's primary directive: Transform the gamine Blair into an exhibitionistic exotic dancer whose stage name, Ursula Udders, bespeaks her monumental physique. "John said he wanted to get these as large as we can -- but not just be boobs on legs," Gardner says.

After experimenting with the size and shape of her appendages -- initially, kickballs were used as stand-ins -- he faced the difficulty of his appointed task. "We figured out the plane in between the boobs , as well as the mass and angle they would lie at," he says. "Plus, I learned the relationship between the fullness, circumference and cup size.

"All of a sudden, there were all of these technical aspects. That's when the fear factor set in."

But it wasn't the first time he had been enlisted to grossly distort female anatomy. The designer's more notable professional achievements include the shriveled geriatric breasts shown to hilarious effect in "There's Something About Mary" and Gwyneth Paltrow's "fat suit," which simulated her appearance as a 375-pound woman in "Shallow Hal." More of his work will be featured later this year in "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie" and "Seed of Chucky."

To help facilitate Gardner's work on "Shame," Waters' office faxed him pages from breast fetish magazines and e-mailed him websites where he could research the sex performer Zena Fulsom. "She's this English porn star with breasts bigger than her head," explains Waters.


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BOND STREET: An Altered State of Reality

An Altered State of Reality

In updating "The Blob" from Steve McQueen's 1958 version, probably the most important element was bringing the cult classic into the world of modern special effects.

So naturally, one might assume, the producers turned to one of the top contemporary makeup-effects men, such as Rick Baker ("An American

There are those talented few among us who can make dreams come true, who can download the contents of a creative mind and bring a figment of the imagination to life. Tony Gardner, and his team at Alterian, are precisely those people. The Los Angeles studio, which specializes in reality-defying makeup effects, animatronics, costuming, and creature FX, has been a go-to for the entertainment industry for decades. Their behind-the-scenes work is an integral part of the cultural landscape, perhaps a name not as immediately known as those fixtures of the red carpet, but one that has impacted millions of viewers time and time again.

Long before the days of CGI, Gardner was building the otherworldly by hand, including the project that helped catapult Alterian into existence back in 1984, The Return of the Living Dead. Prosthetics, bodysuits, decomposing anatomy: these were the things Alterian quickly became known for. Following the success of Living Dead, Gardner and Alterian went on to provide services for dozens of films and countless episodes of television. They did the arm in 127 Hours, transformed Bill Murray in Zombieland, aged Johnny Knoxville 40 years in Bad Grandpa. And that’s not even scratching the surface. Alterian has worked with some of the biggest directors in Hollywood, from Spike Jonze to Michel Gondry, Robert Zemeckis to the Farrelly brothers. Gardner and Alterian have been equally impactful in the music space, arguably most indelibly with the creation of those famous Daft Punk helmets, a now-iconic look that has been as instrumental to the band’s identity as its sound.

As the technology available has changed, Alterian’s work has only gotten better, more precise. Still, even seen through the hypercritical HD lens of today, Alterian’s older magic retains a believable quality to it. The conjoined twins in The Addams Family—you don’t doubt it. The beached sharks in The Craft—you buy in. Anything that seems comparatively campy at present was surely far ahead of its time, and serves as evidence of how viewers have been happily fooled and transported throughout decades of modern entertainment. Alterian’s work serves almost as a visual timestamp: the physical manifestation of technology and cultural zeitgeist. There’s a reason why Gardner and Alterian continue to be an imperative part of that dialogue, and the reason is that they are very good at what they do.

Below, we talk to Gardner about the importance of early foibles, making a difference outside of entertainment, and being in a business where hearing “If the arm doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work” becomes the norm.



What were you doing before starting Alterian? Were you freelancing in effects space?


I bounced around working for other makeup and effects companies for about seven years, learning the plusses and minuses of each different shop along the way, all the time saying to myself, “I am so glad I don’t own a business; the last thing I would want is that responsibility.”  And here I am.


And what pushed you into biting the bullet and starting your own shop, Alterian?


I actually had a film studio believe in me and support me on my first solo film project; they sort of put together a shop for me and helped me run a show, and I realized that it wasn’t so difficult. I basically got my start with a safety net in place, running a business for myself, but underneath a larger corporation at the same time. I realized how much fun it was and what a challenge it was to figure out how to fit all these pieces into the overall puzzle. You walk into a show with a list of all these effects that you have to design and manufacture within a specific timeframe. The challenge becomes: how do I plug in these artist’s talent and skills over the course of this manufacturing calendar, stay on budget, and hit my shooting deadlines? Once I realized how much fun it was, I just wanted to do it again. In this business, you start off on your own and there is no name recognition for you as a newcomer, but fortunately you can say “I worked on Aliens or I worked on Thriller, as part of someone else’s crew,” and you are sort of associated with the quality, or lack thereof, of that project.


How intense is the pressure to make sure that product is as perfect as it can be, since that product is always your calling card?


They say you are only as good as your last film, so I think the pressure is always there.  As an artist though, your name is literally on the work. It’s not like you are taking someone else’s words and adapting them; you are taking a sometimes abstract concept and it’s your responsibility to sort of breathe life into that, to turn someone’s idea into something real. The success of that—from the design to the manufacturing to the end result—it’s all on you.


Unfortunately, I am one of those people that when someone says “This is impossible” or “That will never work,” I’ll be the first guy in line for that job. I like the challenge offered, and I want to prove to everybody that there might be a way to pull it off—to achieve something new, even. I am always taking the jobs that add a little bit of extra stress. There’s a lot of pressure involved with making sure every aspect of an effect looks great, does what it’s supposed to, is filmed correctly, and the end result looks good on screen. So the pressure goes from concept design all the way through to the finished film.


Obviously that means you have to tweak a lot of things as you go.


Yes, certain things will come to light as you go. We try and test everything out in advance so we can make sure that everything is doing what it needs to do, that it photographs properly, and does what it’s designed to do accurately. We always have to think one step ahead as far as what sort of problems could arise or what factors are going to come into play when this effect goes on set. Like: this is going to be in a wet environment, so this machinery needs to be able to get wet and still work, or be sealed off; or this same character can’t be skinned with foam latex because the skin will soak water up like a sponge and his skin will delaminate and fall off. You are thinking in regards to how the effect is going to be used as well as the overall aesthetics of the makeup or effect.


When you are working with an actor, so much of the success of what you do is contingent on the performer that is wearing or working with your product. It’s a shared job, it’s a shared responsibility. If you are going to make up Johnny Knoxville as an 89-year-old man, he’s got to literally walk the walk. If we are going to create a realistic fake arm for James Franco to perform surgery on for 127 Hours, you have to buy that he believes it’s his arm; he’s got to sell it to the audience just as much as we do.


So during production you are involved with the director and the cinematographer as well as the actors. Then after the effect has been filmed, you are involved with editing and color correction to make sure that everything is presented the way that it was designed and intended to be seen up on screen.


How do collaborations work? Do people come to you with an idea or vice versa?


It’s always different, and that is kind of what makes it interesting. For example, we’re responsible for Chucky in the more recent Child’s Play movies, and it’s pretty specific as to what he is supposed to look like, and how he’s supposed to perform. The question becomes: how do we improve upon technology and performance to make him be all that he can be?


With a film like Bad Grandpa, the overall concept is that I need to disguise Johnny Knoxville so that he doesn’t look like Johnny Knoxville—that’s the whole point. There are a lot of different directions you could take a character like that in, so I will do a test makeup or a prototype or a Photoshop design, or something to illustrate what is in my head, and I take that design to the actor and producers for approval. Once you start constructing the prosthetics, the manufacturing process is very gradual, so you can still change direction as you go to a certain degree, so there’s still the ongoing opportunity for people to get involved, like producers or writers or directors.


We did a film called Zombieland and the big debate during the design phase was “What do these zombies look like? Are they traditional zombies?” Long dead or recently dead? Are these people suffering from a specific disease? We went through literally five different design options. We did designs in Photoshop, we sculpted designs on headcasts of actors,  and we did test makeups on crew members. Something would sound really interesting in the script, and then you would execute that same idea and realize that to do this interpretation of the makeup effect every day for 30 days might not be so cost-effective for the production, because this particular approach might take a lot of time to achieve, and might not come across to the degree that makes it worthwhile visually. So how do we incorporate the business side of this and make this practical and effective?


Is that something that you learn pretty early on—to incorporate the business end into the creative?


Definitely. I think one of the things that really helps is experience. Originally, I was just practicing makeup [effects] on myself. Being the subject, you realize that somebody will have to sit still for three hours or whatever amount of time this makeup takes to apply. As you gain experience, you realize that someone has to pay for this time in the makeup trailer. So you’re seeing the situation from both sides. You quickly ascertain that you are there to support the actors as much as the actors are there to support your makeup. And the producers are asking for things to be better, faster, cheaper. All those factors come into play as well as the aesthetic.


Are there any rookie mistakes that you look back on that you appreciate for what they taught you?


Yes, definitely. One of the very first creature suits that we designed for an actor was a leathery, naked creature for Stephen King’s Tommyknockers. It was this tall, thin, spidery creature that required an actress named Karyn Malchus to hang from a wire harness while wearing a full body suit with leg extensions. We had Karyn sealed into the suit, on the wires and leg extensions, with this mechanical creature head on, and suddenly had a moment where we realized, “Oh, my god. There’s no way for her to go to the bathroom.” There’s literally no way for her to go to the bathroom. So we split the back of the suit and pulled her out and started over again.


But you never made that mistake again I’m sure.


No. After that, we learned. We were more aware that we needed to design wrinkles around the spine so that we can hide a zipper, and maybe do a removable “cover” over that area on a suit. Or create two different suits, one that you see from the front—with a zipper down the back—and one with a zipper down the front, that the camera only sees from the back.” You figure out the specifics of your approach based on the design of the character.  But yeah, that is the kind of stuff that you learn as you go. When you start, you are involved in the design and the chance to create something new, but quite often, some of the parameters that are also involved kind of get pushed to the side and you get focused on the aesthetics without taking all of the elements into consideration. People have to breathe, people have to go to the bathroom, people get hungry.


All the human things.


Yes! It’s funny, the longer you work in the profession, it seems you become almost parental to the actors you’re working with. Once you are more aware of what you’re putting them through or the makeup you are putting on them, and how that affects them, you have a greater sense of responsibility for your actor above and beyond the maintenance of the makeup they’re wearing. You become responsible for them as people too, making sure that they are eating properly, getting rest, taking breaks, getting air, getting their protein and electrolytes and so on.


I imagine that it becomes not just about your reputation with the directors and the producers, but also the actors.


For sure. Attitude is super important. I am very well aware that I am not curing cancer with my rubber whatever-it-is; it’s purely entertainment. I enjoy doing good work and it’s a thrill to have people respond to it. But, at the same time, in the world perspective, I am very aware that what I do is entertainment.


The downside to that awareness is the knowledge that I am not really doing anything to help people out ‘in the real world.’ As a result of wanting to do something positive, we started designing and creating medical training aids. We had done all the babies for the TV show ER way back when, and every time we did something medical or anatomical, like the bodies and body parts for Three Kings or 127 Hours, I’d get involved with all these medical consultants just to make sure that everything was 100 percent medically accurate. On each project they would comment, “You should make stuff for medical students and nurses to learn from.” So eventually we started a side business manufacturing neonatal training aids for schools and hospitals, which has been very rewarding. I am also teaching a makeup effects class at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts now. USC is where I started, and it feels good that I can give back. It’s more about trying to mentor artists and creative people and give to individuals if you can’t give to communities.


Are there things that have changed in the business since you started?


I think technology has made a big difference in how much easier it is to work with people now and how much faster people can pre-visualize an end result and understand it. I feel like comprehension is vastly improved now because of it and the whole process now can move faster.


So before cellphones and technology, would there have to be studio visits to see how an effect was progressing?


Yeah, you would send photos or use the almighty fax machines. It’s fun to have seen all that technology come to be. There’s so many more tools available to all of us now. It makes it more fun and more interesting and we can do better work as a result of it. It’s exciting to see what is around the bend in regards to what we get to play with next.


It becomes like limitless in a way.


The access to information and materials inspires you to try new things. And even then, we will be working on a show and some material will collapse or do something wrong and you go, “Oh, my god. That’s a failure.” And it’s not, because three years from now, Alterian might need to make a miniature building collapse, and this year’s failure becomes that project’s amazing new material.  Everything is of value. It’s just about trying to remember the big picture. Thankfully it’s easier to share knowledge and techniques now.


How has HD changed your business?


It’s sort of a huge motivator when you can see every single pore on somebody’s face up on screen—there’s really no margin for error. Bad edges or coloring are visible even in low light or diffusion with HD; all the minutia is up there on screen in extreme detail all the time. You need to rise to the challenge.


You have worked on so many incredible projects. Is there one that stands out to you?


There are a couple. I think being a part of the whole process [developing the helmets] with Daft Punk was just something to be really proud of. And to be involved with them creatively through so many music videos and even a feature film was a really amazing, collaborative experience. And with Bad Grandpa, to see this old age prosthetic makeup go from a super no-budget concept on a TV show through so many films, and be able to grow in technique, materials, and professionalism was a great experience. Having the work nominated for an Academy Award and then winning an award from the Makeup & Hairstylists Guild was pretty exciting to experience as well.


But I don’t know, I am kind of more drawn to the odd stuff. I am really proud of Billy Butcherson, the zombie character from Hocus Pocus, because of the challenges. At the start I was told, “We want to knock this zombie’s head off, chop off his fingers, sew his mouth shut…and let’s run over the cat with a bus too. Oh…and this is a Disney film, so let’s make sure all of this stuff is kid friendly.” Those are the sort of things that don’t go together in the same sentence…but we pulled it off. And then with 127 Hours, James Franco had to saw his arm off. Danny Boyle (the director) kept saying ‘if the arm doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work,’ which was a ton of pressure.


The employees you hire are integral to the product you create. How do you find your artists?


We have a core group of seven employees that I would consider permanent. We bring on additional artists as the workload expands, or when we take on multiple shows. Creating a team comes down to that same mindset that you find on set: you find people that you can work with and communicate well with, and work well with as a team. It’s all about finding a group that is healthy, where everybody’s artistic skills or business skills complement each other’s, and everyone works well together. I am not really a big fan of ego. The group dynamic in a shop is really important because you are, as a group, presented with a challenge and you have to solve it and then take it to set and execute it or perform it as a collective. You are responsible as a team from start to finish.


What has your relationship with Bond Street enabled your company to do?


For Alterian, it has allowed us to be able to branch out and try some things beyond what we are hired for to do for films; we want to do things beyond what we are being paid to do for other people. There are things we want to do internally, like the PSA spot we recently produced with Katy Perry, but without a resource like Bond Street, Alterian wouldn’t have had the ability to even have a conversation about doing something like that. I don’t have the personal resources to get projects like that off the ground on my own, so it’s nice to have the ability to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, thanks to resources like Bond Street.


What is the most satisfying part of the creative process to you?


The most satisfying part for me is when people believe what we have created is genuinely real, when the end result of all of this hard work actually makes people suspend belief and they buy this character or makeup as the real thing. I ended up in this business thanks to a magic set my grandmother bought for me when I was about six years old. I didn’t read the instructions, and was just looking at what came in the set. There was a simple little plastic box that you put a card in, you close the lid, and when you open it back up, the card is gone. I knew what the box was for, so I did just that, and when I opened this little box, the card was gone. I just remember my six-year-old brain was blown, completely blown. I went running to show my grandma in the next room and I dropped the box on the way. When it hit the ground, the fake bottom fell out and the card flew out. I was crushed. My stomach literally sank. But that moment—that one moment where I thought it was real—that is still what drives me. If I can make somebody else believe, even for a minute, that something is real, I kind of live for that.



Book every small business owner should read:


Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go.


Material Alterian uses the most of:


Clay and silicone.


3 favorite independent businesses in LA (brick and mortar) and why?


  1. Mountain High Market in Twin Peaks: Great service—and always with a smile. They’ll stock what you ask for, you feel welcomed, and you make new friends.
  2. The Oak Trunk in Lake Gregory: Great service, great atmosphere, a creative place to walk through. They’ll stock what you ask for, and you make new friends.
  3. The Grill At The Antler’s Inn in Twin Peaks: Great service, amazing food, ambiance, and prices. The owners and chefs know everyone, and are so genuinely warm. You could spend the day there because it feels like you’re simply hanging out with friends.


Why is it important to support independent business?


Shopping at independent businesses is like putting money back into your own local community. A lot of the small businesses support other local causes as well, so your entire community wins. The personal connection can’t be beat, either.




THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The 23-year-old Man Behind The Biggest Piece Of Slime In Hollywood

The 23-year-old Man Behind The Biggest Piece Of Slime In Hollywood

In updating "The Blob" from Steve McQueen's 1958 version, probably the most important element was bringing the cult classic into the world of modern special effects.

So naturally, one might assume, the producers turned to one of the top contemporary makeup-effects men, such as Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London") or Tom Savini ("Dawn of the Dead").

Not quite. They turned to 23-year-old Tony Gardner.

"I lied and said I was 25," Gardner said. "That seems to be the magic age where people say, 'He's young, but maybe he's old enough that we can trust him with that half-a-million dollars.' "

Actually, Gardner didn't do much of the blob itself. That was done by a crew with credits that ranged from "Little Shop of Horrors" to

"Ghostbusters." Gardner did all the really nasty things, such as half-dissolved bodies floating in the blob. Directing a crew of 33 people, many of them much older than he, he built a total of 41 effects in seven months, a breakneck pace in the meticulous world of special effects.

For those who don't know, "The Blob" tells the story of a protoplasmic goo that falls to Earth and starts eating people. As it gains strength and size, the townspeople fight back, only to discover that guns and other conventional weapons are useless against it.

Because modern special effects have gotten extremely complicated, Gardner found himself resorting to some Space Age techniques. For instance, to get the scene where a football hero, played by Donovan Leitch, gets swallowed by the blob, Gardner went to a Woodland Hills company called Image Masters to have Leitch programmed into a computer.

"We had Donovan get scanned from the collarbone up," Gardner said.

"The information was fed into a computer, which operates a lathe, which puts those coordinates back into 3-dimensionality on carving wax, so we ended up with a 6-inch version of Donovan's bust." This was put into the blob to get the effect of a body half-consumed.

At that and several other points in the film, Gardner took over the blob effects as well. "We had to redesign the concept for the blob, because at that point it was still young and mobile. We had to get a sense of it pouring out the window with (Leitch) inside it."

The blob material was made of a fruit additive called methocil (used to thicken gravy), 100 gallons of hexoplasm (sold to kids under the name

"Slime"), as well as vinyl, urethane foam, latex foam and a lot of lycra and silk fabrics.

Despite the sound of relish in his voice as he describes his work, Gardner said he has "tried to keep away from blood-and-guts stuff." His initial concepts for "The Blob" were less bloody than what ended up on screen.

"The way I saw it, the blob was an acidic type of creature, and things like skin and organic fabrics would start to dissolve and slide off immediately, and things like the skeletal structure and fingernails and hair- dead cells that the blob would have no interest in-it would bleach those out. So in my original concept everything was going to go very pearlescent, almost like crystal sculpture."

But director Chuck Russell had different ideas. They compromised.

More blood "makes sense at the beginning," Gardner conceded. "When the bum dies (the first, most gory death), the blob is still a baby organism-it hasn't eaten its whole meal. When it gets Donovan, it's stronger, it's able to consume more, so there's still a little bit of blood. Later, it's hitting them and draining them instantly, so you've got a scale over the course of the film-a blood scale."

Gardner got interested in this peculiar line of work at 14. "I was a weird kid in Ohio who was interested in theater," he said. He made short films and did magic tricks.

In college he got more serious. After a year at Ohio University, he transferred to the USC fine-arts department, doing sculpture and paintings and makeup for student film productions. At that point he met makeup superstar Rick Baker ("a great guy"), who promptly offered him an assistant's job.

The project: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. Gardner was only 19. He even appeared in a documentary on the making of the video.

Soon he quit school and started working as an assistant makeup artist on a string of films, such as "Aliens," "The Lost Boys" and the forthcoming "Gorillas in the Mist." At the ripe old age of 20, he did his first solo job for "Return of the Living Dead." Gardner had only two weeks to finish a job left by someone who had been fired. And the film's producers heaped a little more pressure on.

"They told me, 'If you (mess) this up, this is a small town, and we'll make sure everyone knows.' "

Not only that, he was working days on "Cocoon." He worked around the clock to "make them eat their words." When it was done, they were so happy they gave him a screen credit.

Gardner has just formed his own makeup-effects company and married one of his assistants on "The Blob." Someday he would like to return to sculpture and painting, but right now he's happy.


NEW YORK POST | ENTERTAINMENT: “Marion Cotillard shows you her boobs"

Marion Cotillard shows you her boobs

Whether it's her classy role in "La Vie en Rose," her elegant role in "Nine" or her perfectly put together image on the red carpet, we've always admired how refined Marion Cotillard seems. Yet, we can't deny how much joy it gave us to learn that she's got a funny side as big as the boobs on her forehead.

Yes, you heard us right -- "Forehead Boobs." That's the latest video from the fellas at Funny Or Die, who Tweeted this picture of the Oscar winner on set with Taraji P. Henson and Lesley Ann Warren (who will always be Miss. Scarlett to us!)