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.

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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....

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