PLAIN DEALER: Double Tap - Bringing Back the Infected Zombie Hordes at Alterian, Inc.

North Olmsted’s Tony Gardner gives life to the living dead in ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ with makeup and effects

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Zombie apocalypse movies always seem to start somewhere in rural America. Someone gets infected, someone gets bitten and presto! Global gore.

For Tony Gardner, who created the zombies in the current “Zombieland: Double Tap” and its 2009 predecessor, “Zombieland,” “rural America” was North Olmsted.

“I’ve always been involved in making films,” said Gardner in a call to his special effects company Alterian Studios in Irwindale, California, outside Los Angeles. “A bunch of us in the [North Olmsted] neighborhood would make movies almost every weekend just for fun.

“They were usually effects-type films, with stop-motion or creatures or makeup or something in them,” he said. “Something that was perceived as weird stuff back then. It was not a career choice in Ohio back in the ’80s.”

It is now.

During his career, which began working with seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker during the making of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, he’s done the effects makeup for “Shallow Hal,” “127 Hours,” “Cult of Chucky,” “Bad Grandpa,” “Return of the Living Dead,” “Addams Family Values,” “Hocus Focus” and more, as well as music videos for Daft Punk and the Foo Fighters.

“I’m responsible for the design of the creature or character for a film and the development of the character and testing of it,” Gardner said in explaining the responsibilities he holds as head of a makeup effects department and makeup designer, posts he held on the new “Zombieland” movie.

Tony Gardner

Makeup and effects designer Tony Gardner works on a zombie-to-be in the original “Zombieland,” back in 2009. Gardner reprised his role as head of makeup effects and design in the sequel out this Friday, “Zombieland: Double Tap,” as well as scores of other horror-type films and even a Foo Fighters video.Alterian, Inc.

But he’s one of those hands-on bosses, too. On the set of “Zombieland” and other films, he’s one of the artists applying the makeup and prostheses, the fake blood, the gore, all the fun stuff.

“The highest count on any given day was about 350,” Gardner said, when asked how many zombies he and his crew had to “do.” That volume came during crowd scenes, which featured various zombies and stunt zombies. “We spent two weeks doing all the crowd stuff. We had to bring in an extra dozen makeup artists to get all those scenes. The makeup department grew to 28 people.”

Then there’s the challenge in this film of people either becoming zombies, or seeming to. (Warning: Spoiler alert!)

“With Madison [actress Zoey Deutch’s vacuous blond character], there were very specific points where she changes her look,” Gardner said. “The day was scheduled around them stopping [filming] and giving us an hour to add swollen eye bags and a swollen upper lip.

“But with Flagstaff and Albuquerque [two hilarious doppelganger characters for film stars Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus and Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee], it took two days,” he said. “The stunt doubles had to change as well. It was kind of ‘let’s stop, let’s go’ because they tried to shoot in continuity order as much as possible.”

So, for a guy who loves Halloween and gets paid to create costumes, makeup and effects that scare the pants off the rest of us, what scares Gardner?

“It’s funny because the things that scare us are the weirdest things,” said Gardner, who once was investigated because one of his effects — a bullet traveling through a body in the George Clooney film “Three Kings” — looked so real that authorities feared he’d used the body of a real homeless man.

“We had a body of a character for show and the question has always been storage [at his shop],” he said, which prompted an interesting solution.

“We strapped it to a rolling office chair, so it looks like it’s sitting up, and everybody just moves it out of their way and rolls the chair over to someone else’s table,” he said. “At the end of the night, when you’re getting ready to lock up, you look up and somebody’s sitting in a chair staring at you.

“We have severed heads of different people and use them as actors in shows,” Gardner said. “We’re kind of blase about the whole dismembered body-parts thing.”

You might think that would be a weird environment for kids, and in some ways, you’re probably right. But Gardner’s three children have embraced it, both as occasional performers — eldest daughter Brianna and youngest daughter Kyra were both zombies in this latest movie, and played the same character at different ages in a Daft Punk music video — and in their own career choices.

His son Austin is a medical student and is working toward his doctorate in forensic pathology and forensic anthropology.

By the way, Gardner has a bit of an unusual twist on the old “take your daughter to work day”:

“I’ve got Brianna’s [severed] head from the Netflix series ‘The Mist’ mounted on the wall in our sculpting room as a reference tool,” he said.

Have to wonder if Foo Fighters founder and frontman Dave Grohl saw that before signing up for Alterian to do the makeup for the band’s video “Run,” in which all the musicians were made up to look like Methuselah’s ancestors. If so, it probably would have been the deal clincher.

“Doing the Foo Fighters video, Dave Grohl and the others were so excited to be able to play in the prosthetics we did for them that they were disappointed when it was over,” Gardner said.

Grohl directed the video, and did it in character, even.

“Dave wore his old man makeup from early in the morning till the end of the day,” he said, and in an odd way, it apparently made it easier for others to take direction from such a “senior” character.

So that leaves one challenge for Gardner, who lives to do the difficult: Do the makeup for a video for Rock & Roll Hall of Famers the Zombies. Hey, he’s got the resume.

original article:

STAN WINSTON SCHOOL: Double Tap - Bringing Back the Infected Zombie Hordes at Alterian, Inc.


By Michael Martin


It has been ten years since the original Zombieland was released. An irreverent tongue-in-cheek film that took a fresh look at what the survivors of a zombie holocaust (including Bill Murray playing…Bill Murray!) could get up to.

Now the original cast has returned in Zombieland: Double Tap. Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, and Jessie Eisenberg are all there. Plus there are some new characters and a fan favorite. Also returning are original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) along with original director Ruben Fleischer (Venom). What more could you want? How about some more zombies created by original Zombieland makeup and effects artist Tony Gardner and his Alterian, Inc. crew? Check!

 (Alterian, Inc. founder Tony Gardner at work on actress Zoey Deutch for Zombieland: Double Tap. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

With a career that spans from the classic AliensThe Blob, and Darkman to the more recent 127 HoursBad Grandpa, and his ongoing work with Daft Punk, Tony sat down at his Alterian, Inc. studio with SWSCA to speak about Zombieland: Double Tap.


According to Tony, the film looked like a lot of fun from the start. The script was similar to the original, “…it was definitely one of those laugh out loud kind of reads…” The dialogue is sprinkled with what are sure to be new catchphrases, and the film delivers on bizarro doppelgängers, and an explosive finale.


 (Jessie Eisenberg, as Columbus, and Woody Harrelson, as Tallahassee, blast zombies in front of the White House. Image courtesy Columbia Pictures.)

Our favorite zombie hunters, Tallahassee, Wichita, Columbus, and Little Rock, are reintroduced in a hilarious slow-motion orgy of zombie killing outside a dilapidated White House. Tony says the complex scene was accomplished on the first day of the shoot. Three camera units rolled as the four heroes blasted several different groups of zombies that spew blood and vomit everywhere.

 (Emma Stone, as Wichita, and Abigail Breslin, as Little Rock, reload in front of the White House. Image courtesy Columbia Pictures.)

In order to simultaneously handle the different groups of zombies as the filmmakers tried to stay ahead of the moving sunlight, Gardner broke his makeup crew into several small teams. There were groups of zombies interacting with the lead actors, as well as the “second” and “splinter” units. Tony says that it was a schizophrenic way to start a movie but that it was, “…really good ‘cause it kinda set the tone.”


 (A zombie makeup test on Alterian crew member Meghan Reilly with a bloody silicone cheek appliance and mismatched eyes. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

The zombie designs created for the original film were drawn from real life. References used included actual diseases such as hoof-and-mouth and skin conditions like bed sores. “There had to be a genuine horror to the experience,” said Tony. These afflictions reflected an infected, decaying situation where the skin and tissue appeared to be melting and leaking. The zombie wounds would be abscessed, leaking puss with white and yellow colors mixed in.  “A sort of hot, sweaty, drippy mess.”


For the sequel, ten years later, Tony and the artists at Alterian, Inc. would follow a similar approach. At first though, they considered giving the zombies a more desiccated look as an alternative to the wet look developed for the original.

The Alterian team did makeup tests right off the bat, taking the zombie looks from the first film and projecting them out ten years into the future imagining that all of their juices would have leaked out. The dried-out looks would highlight skin pulled back over the teeth, a tighter bone structure underneath the taut skin and sun-dried flesh. The skin tones would feature more reds and browns with a little blistering thrown in, or, as Tony called it, “…not quite barbecue chicken.”

Yet in the end, it was Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer who insisted on bringing back the juice. Though he agreed that the dried-out look made logical sense, he noted that there was a signature Zombieland look, “…and these things need to be true to that look.” That ‘Zombieland look’ consisted of open wounds, discolored and caved-in skin, plus mismatched eyes with brown and black fluids leaking from every hole.

 (Makeup test bust of a ‘T-800’ zombie played by Ari Loeb. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)


The Alterian crew created a wide array of zombies. Including one variety who our heroes, in a delightful reference to the Terminator films, call the ‘T-800s’. These zombies are fast-moving and can take a lot of damage. They may be missing limbs or part of their heads, but they just keep on coming.

(Ari Loeb as a ‘T-800’ zombie in the makeup trailer with Thom Floutz and Tony Gardner. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

Other zombies included the heavy-set, slow-witted ‘Homer,’ a cleaner-looking, smarter zombie called ‘The Hawking,’ and the super-fast, nearly impossible to see ‘Ninjas.’

(John Dixon as one of the ‘Homer’ zombies on-set.  Note the comb over and ‘exploding cornea’ contact lenses. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)


Though many shows have stuck to the tried and true foam latex for their zombies, the prosthetics in Zombieland: Double Tap were primarily run in silicone. This choice made it easier to achieve the depth to the skin that they were looking for and to give it, “a sick sort of translucency,” said Tony. The zombie appliances ran the gamut from little blister appliances to big jagged wounds, many of them layered all together. A minimal number of Pros-Aide appliances were also used for some of the zombie makeups.

(Zombies! Images courtesy Columbia Pictures and Alterian, Inc.)

Playing one of the primary ‘T-800’ zombies, performer Ari Loeb would have more than twenty appliances applied, including little blisters on his ears, inside his ears, and even inside his nose.

(Ari Loeb made up as a ‘T-800’ zombie with over 20 appliances. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

To add depth, so that they didn’t just look like Halloween makeups, several of the performers playing zombies had sections of their beards or hair shaved off. Wounds would then be applied to these open areas.

(A nice look at the details on a ‘T-800’ zombie makeup on Tony Gardner’s daughter Kyra. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

The main exceptions to the silicone rule were the exploding heads. These were made from rigid foam with a foam latex skin.  As Tony explained, the positions in which the heads were required to be supported, with the skin and skull underneath, would have been too heavy if constructed from silicone.

(‘T-800’ zombie Ari Loeb sandwiched between foam latex copies of his head built for smashing. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

(Sequential shots of Ari Loeb’s head getting stomped on. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)


What would a zombie movie be without a bunch of blood and goo?  Tony revealed that there were some cold and sticky nights on the set for the fluid-soaked actors portraying zombies so heated tents were provided, with the lead actor zombies provided with showers.

(Makeup artist Bart Mixon touches up a zombified Robert Shavers in one of the large tents used to keep cast and crew warm. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

The makeup crew used Skin Illustrator for the foundation colors, sometimes applying the airbrush colors with a brush so that the drips running down the performers’ faces, arms and legs would stay in place. Hair gel was used to keep the zombies’ hair looking wet and spray bottles filled with watered-down Methocel were kept on hand for slimy touch-ups.

(Bill Corso and Thom Floutz apply a zombie makeup to Kevin King. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

The blood and goo covering the Zombieland: Double Tap zombies came in all types of colors, viscosities, and flavors.  For blood, there were several combinations including coffee, chocolate sauce and Karo syrup in different proportions. Each concoction would be used for specific shots and effects. Makeup artists applied the blood and slime in layers, with the darker stuff leaking from the nose, mouth, and ears while lighter colors were used around the eyes to avoid a ‘raccoon’ look.

(Andre Freitas details the eye area of a shredded zombie makeup on William Greenfield. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

Working with the wardrobe team, Alterian artists smeared and splattered their blood and goo concoctions all over the zombies’ clothing to create the illusion of bodily fluids leaking out everywhere, making them as gross as possible. The performers had “no way out,” Tony laughs. “If you were going to be a zombie, there was no way not to be gooey.”

 (Sue LaPrelle adds depth to a forehead wound on a zombie security guard played by Troy Butler. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

Because of the large number of zombies required for the film, many of those in the background were created with the help of tattoo transfers derived from flat artwork. According to Tony, “drawing all of the blistering, especially on the ‘T-800’ zombies, would’ve just been horrendous.”

(Alterian crew member Meghan Reilly in one of the zombie makeup tests. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)


According to Tony, all the returning Zombieland: Double Tap stars had script approval. But actor Woody Harrelson also had vomit approval! In the scene where Zoey Deutch gets sick, Harrelson requested a chunkier spew. The Alterian crew happily obliged by mixing up a delicious blend of vanilla pudding, a little honey, some almond milk, and hunks of granola for bulk.


(Actors Thomas Middleditch and Luke Wilson stir things up with our favorite zombie hunters. Image courtesy Columbia Pictures.)

When two new characters, doppelgängers of Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg played by actors Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, succumb to the infection, director Fleischer wanted them to transform from human to zombie right in front of our eyes. Both actors were made up with prosthetics and had, as Tony says, “all of this stuff leaking out of them.” With each cut, the characters move further along in their zombification. Stunt doubles were also made up to match the two actors as they changed, sometimes switching out as the camera moved past during a take. “The good part,” says Tony, “is that we had two actors (Wilson and Middleditch) that were really gung-ho about doing all of it and wearing the lenses and just spitting up junk and having no problems doing it.”


(A few of the Alterian, Inc. crew assemble between takes on set, from left to right: Lens Tech Sean Kinney, Matt Sprunger, Kaylee Kehne-Swisher, Barney Burman, Ralis Kahn, Mark Nieman, Sue LaPrelle, Bart Mixon, Tony Gardner, Andre Freitas, Thom Floutz. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

Zombieland: Double Tap would require an army of artists both in L.A. and in Atlanta where the film was shot. There were trailers full of people and for the big finale, Tony was able to bring in even more makeup artists from Los Angeles for the last two weeks of the shoot.

(Left to Right: Barney Burman applies “infected” makeup to Katie Eischen, Bill Corso gives Jordan Salmon an undead makeover, Laura Dandridge and Barney Burman zombify Tony Gardner’s daughter Brianna.  Images courtesy Alterian, Inc.)

(Alterian, Inc. makeup artists applying zombie makeups for Zombieland: Double Tap. Images courtesy Alterian, Inc.)


Tony Gardner clearly loves what he does. Reuniting with many of the cast and crew from the original Zombieland created a real comfort zone. “We had the same writers, the same director, same producer, same visual effects, same makeup effects,” said Tony. “You know everybody’s name.”

Thinking about the future of makeup effects, Tony has noticed a return to practical effects and makeup effects live on-set, both in film and television. “It’s refreshing to have something that could have been done digitally go the practical route,” said Tony. “Having live makeup on-set for the actors to interact with lets the actors go nuts and express how great it is to actually work with a creature.”

As to prospects for another return to Zombieland in the future? Tony told us that Emma Stone suggested that they make a new Zombieland movie every ten years to see where these people are every decade. Tony agrees with her, “I think that’s a pretty great idea.”

(Zombieland: Double Tap‘s head zombie maker, Tony Gardner. Image courtesy Alterian, Inc.)





  • Lilo Tauvao
  • David Smith
  • Barney Burman
  • Andre Freitas
  • Vance Hartwell
  • Ken Banks
  • J. Michael O’Brien
  • Denise Baer
  • Justin Stafford
  • Aaron Romero
  • James Issacson
  • Meghan Riley
  • EYES:
  • Cristina Patterson
  • Jessica Nelson
  • Alison Kellerman
  • Brianna Gardner
  • Austin McCormack






  • MAKEUP EFFECTS ARTISTS (alphabetical order):
  • Barney Burman
  • Bill Corso
  • Jessica Gambradella
  • Eric Garcia
  • Tim Hays
  • Ralis Kahn
  • Kaylee Kehne-Swisher
  • Sue LaPrelle
  • Bill McCoy
  • Bart Mixon
  • Devin Morales
  • Mark Nieman
  • Mark Ross
  • Duane Saylor
  • Greg Solomon
  • Matt Sprunger
  • Adam Walls
  • Kyle Yaklin
  • Stephanie Anderson
  • Heather Benson
  • Tara Dipetillo
  • Andy Fowler
  • Jason Hodges
  • Brie Puneky
  • Kate Marlette
  • Missy Nyberg
  • Jan Rooney
  • Isabella Scuffle
  • Andrew Valentine
  • Deryk Wehrley
  • Roy Wooley
  • Darla Wigley

original article:

ROLLING STONE: Johnny Knoxville on 'Bad Grandpa' Oscar Nomination

Johnny Knoxville on 'Bad Grandpa' Oscar Nomination: 'What an Honor'

Jokes he's 'stunned' it didn't get a Best Picture nod too

Johnny Knoxville Brad Hunter/Newspix/Getty Images

Amid the many surprising Oscar nominations this morning – U2, Karen O and Christian Bale – one stood above the rest: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa could win an Academy Award in March, as lead makeup effects artist Stephen Prouty was nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. In the category, the elderly transformation he and his team gave Johnny Knoxville is up against the teams behind Dallas Buyers Club and The Lone Ranger.

"What an honor that Stephen Prouty got nominated for best makeup and hairstyling for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," Knoxville said in a statement.  "Am I as stunned as everyone else we didn't get the nod for Best Picture? Well, of course, duh. But I won't let that take away from my happiness for Steve, Tony Gardner and our whole makeup team. Wahoo!"

When Bad Grandpa came out in October, it knocked Gravity out of the top spot on the box office, raking in an estimated $32 million in its first week. Since the movie's release, Bad Grandpa director Jeff Tremaine has moved onto another project: Mötley Crüe's biopic The Dirt. "I've been careful to make this a natural progression," Tremaine said at the time. "I've been offered a lot of scripts, but Dirt is something I pursued with everything I had. I've wanted to make this going back to 2001, when we were just planning the first Jackass movie and I found out that David Gale at MTV Films had just optioned the book."

Knoxville and the gang will find out if the movie wins an Academy Award at the ceremony on March 2nd. The show will be broadcast on ABC beginning at 7 p.m. EST.

Original Article

MOVIE MAKER: How They Did It: Designing the Amputee Protagonist of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Dystopian Desert Trip, The Bad Batch

How They Did It: Designing the Amputee Protagonist of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Dystopian Desert Trip, The Bad Batch

There were quite a few visual effects challenges I had to tackle in making my second feature, The Bad Batch: multiple matte paintings, a massive wall made out of shipping containers, a simulated LSD trip, sand storms, trained crows.

Once I’d written the script, though, it was clear that the first, most important question was: “How am I going to have my main character, Arlen—played by Suki Waterhouse and in pretty much every scene of the movie—lose an arm and a leg in the first 10 minutes of the film?”

Given the CG tools available, creating the effect isn’t actually that difficult—but I’m a practical-FX girl. A lot of the big-budget, FX-driven studio films we get right now have this chemical synthetic look—they’re two-hour long video games. I like the real world to be mixed organically with CG. I’m excited by filmmakers who use a mix of practical and digital FX, like Guillermo Del Toro, Darren Aronofsky, J. J. Abrams, Ridley Scott. They harness the beauty of the real world first and foremost, and then use the CG to amplify that beauty. I wanted that living, organic feeling in the frame. I wanted the tactile, tangible sense of light hitting the sets and objects and flesh. I want it to feel real. I’m a magician, after all.

The first person I talked to about the challenge of getting rid of limbs was Tony Gardner, who with his company, Alterian, Inc., is the mastermind behind things like the Chucky doll from Child’s Play, the iconic Daft Punk helmets, Darkman and the Oscar-nominated makeup (including the old-man balls) of Bad Grandpa. He is one of the greats in practical FX. Spike Jonze mentioned my film to him (they had worked together on Adaptation) and suggested we meet. Normally, Tony would be out of my reach, given my budget of only approximate $5 million, but he loved the story and world I was building, and he vibed on the fact that I was trying to get the effect without digital tools—not an approach most people take nowadays.

Ana Lily Amirpour on the set of The Bad Batch, which won the special jury prize at the 2016 Venice Film Festival. Photograph by Merrick Morton

The film that Tony had worked on that was most relevant to what I wanted to do was Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. I was really impressed with how natural the arm prosthetics on James Franco, trapped under that rock, were. With hardly any digital FX, Tony created a prosthetic arm which Franco wore (his own arm was tucked behind him). That seemed like a strategy that could work for us. Tony would design a prosthetic shoulder nub for Arlen, molded from Suki’s body, that she would wear throughout the shoot, so that there would always be a real-life element on her of what she was supposed to look like. That meant that nothing was 100-percent created in CG; it was always a mix of practical and visual FX.

Which is not to say we didn’t still require extensive digital VFX work to sell that effect. We would still need to remove Suki’s actual arm from every single shot. No matter how I approached it, there would be a considerable amount of CG work. Anything we built would then need to be cleaned up and accentuated. So the next critical partner I had to find was a VFX supervisor who would come in and bring to life whatever Tony had started with his prosthetics. He would help me come up with a shooting strategy on set, for every scene, to make sure we were shooting to facilitate the ideal results in post-production.

One of the great resources for moviemakers is DVD bonus features of other films. I was checking out other directors who had removed limbs in movies. Two films in particular were my references: Rust and Bone and Soul Surfer. The bonus features of Rust and Bone—a film about a girl missing her legs—revealed what director Jacques Audiard had done with handheld camera work, elaborate CG work and a much bigger budget. In Soul Surfer, director Sean McNamara got rid of AnnaSophia Robb’s arm by creating a prosthetic nub that she wore for most of the movie—the way we wanted to go. Dan Schmit was one of the VFX supervisors on that film, so we got in touch with him and his company Engine Room. Since he’d already done the arm-removal effect before, hiring him made us ahead of the curve.

Keep in mind, Soul Surfer too was made on a bigger budget, with more than 700 VFX shots. I had to get the same effect with around 150 shots on my budget. Dan pointed out that we would also need Tony to build one complete prosthetic arm and bust of Arlen, just for shooting photos for 3-D rebuilding. This would serve as a model of what she was supposed to look like and Dan’s team could use this to recreate her body from side angles, when the viewer would see everything.

The Bad Batch was shot around Bombay Beach and the Salton Sea in California. Photograph by Merrick Morton

So we began, building one prosthetic nub for Suki’s front-facing shots and a different one when I was shooting her from the back, and sometimes a “double nub” with prosthetics on both sides. Her own arm was always somewhere behind or in front of her, painted green. Dan would remove that real arm for all of the shots, and sometimes animate the nub to give it life. And when there was not enough information for Dan to recreate the CG, he could use the bust of her body to fill in those gaps.

With just 150 shots, I had to figure out when it was essential for you to see Arlen as an amputee. I had to decide when I wanted to put the camera wider, in angles that really showed her body, and create shots that would require more elaborate CG work to sell the effect. Dan and I went through the script and figured out the scenes where we really wanted to do some fancier CG work, like animate the nub, really show it, and see it interacting with her and her environment. In the story of The Bad Batch, the fact that Arlen’s an amputee is almost a side-note—I just needed to show her physicality a few key times and get you to believe in who this character is, and then move on to so many other things. Any time we shot her nub, we were creating a CG shot, and even if it was an easy one, it costs money. My rule: Don’t shoot the nub if the scene doesn’t benefit from showing it. Most scenes in movies are anchored on close-ups of actors’ faces, so that’s where you invest your emotion. I’m not selling a freak show; I’m telling a story about human emotion. And that lives in the actor’s eyes.

That said, a big part of Suki’s job were the physical challenges all the FX required. This role wasn’t just hard on her as an actress; it was hard on her as a stunt person. She would have to wear heavy plastic prosthetics in a hot desert for the entire shoot and learn how to move and react with them in a way that felt natural. It was an exhausting role for an actress. She jumped right into the technical work, over many weeks of prep, casting molds of her body and testing them for camera. The tests were critical—you always wish you had more time, but any time you get is incredibly valuable. I spent many afternoons with Suki, her crawling around on the floor using only one arm and leg, trying to understand how to use her body the way this character would. I take my hat off to her and the gladiator work she put in, because she makes it look easy, and that’s why she’s remarkable.

Jason Momoa and Suki Waterhouse enter an unconventional romance as part of The Bad Batch’s wasteland community. Courtesy of Neon

The next important element for me was storyboards. I like to do them myself because I have specific ideas for framing and camera angles, and I like to over-prepare, especially for scenes that require elaborate camera movements, lighting or stunts. I often deviate from the storyboards, but with prosthetics and CG, you need everyone to have a clear plan. These blueprints were also important for my costume designer, Natalie O’Brien, who was working closely with Tony on designing Arlen’s outfits to work with the prosthetics.

I went through those storyboards with my camera team—a trifecta made up of me, my DP Lyle Vincent (who also shot my first feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) and our Steadicam operator, Scotty Dropkin, who also did a few scenes on Girl Walks. We three already have a shorthand, and we found a way to stay efficient and avoid creating more post work than I could afford. We also shot camera tests in all the locations so they knew the lay of the land in the extreme desert conditions. All of this preparation is so useful for showing up relaxed and ready.

Suddenly it was the first day of production, and we showed up on set. Even as prepared as you might be, your true approach reveals itself when you start shooting. We had the rare privilege of shooting this film almost in chronological order, and that helped enormously. Shooting was insane, the schedule was impossibly tight, with lots of surprises, changes, action sequences and fight scenes every other day. We had a kid and animals on set, and the desert is wild and unpredictable. All of the tricks we had devised played out in different ways depending on the scene: Sometimes we buried Suki’s leg in the sand, sometimes we cut a hole in a mattress, sometimes her real arm was in the back, sometimes in the front, and sometimes we just shot it not knowing how we were going to get rid of an arm or leg but we had to finish the scene so we had no choice. During her escape scene in the beginning, she’s in bandages, so that was an easier time in some ways. But bandages turned out to be more difficult to recreate and modify realistically in CG. That’s something we discovered months later when I was in post—cloth, it turns out, is trickier to animate. Things change on the day, the sun is hot, the latex is melting, the clock is ticking, and that’s the nature of this beast.

A few weeks in, we found our rhythm. It was a wonderful feeling: when everyone knew exactly how we were making this movie; everyone was suddenly an expert at how to shoot a girl missing an arm and leg. At the end of finishing any movie you become an expert at that particular movie. I’m now an expert on limb removal.

Amirpour with her crew on the set of The Bad Batch. Photograph by Merrick Morton

I like creating fairy tales. I like fantasy, and surrealism, and world-building, which always involved technical craftsmanship. For me, making a movie is creating a world of problems I then have to solve. And each project is a set of completely new problems, mediums, tricks, genres and techniques, but I know I’ll find a solution. It’s part of the high for me. I once did a stop-motion film called “A Little Suicide,” about a cockroach who is depressed because everyone hates him and he goes out and decides to kill himself. It was funded by the Berlinale, so I shot it in Berlin. It was six weeks of prep and a 21-day shoot to make a 10-minute-long film that was a mix of live action and stop motion. I had no actual stop motion experience before that (though I did have an arts background in sculpture and illustration). So I had to figure out how to animate. And I did.

What matters is that you have smart, solution-oriented collaborators and problem-solvers sitting next to you, helping you get where you’re going. It’s a lot like Apollo 13: that scene where they have to figure out how to get the carbon dioxide levels down in the spaceship, and there are only a certain number of tools to do it with. That was Tony and Dan and their teams: Here’s what they have available on the spaceship, and we have to figure out some way to make this happen with just those tools, and get home safely. MM

The Bad Batch opens in theaters June 23, 2017, courtesy of Neon.


Original Article

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: "127 HOURS," What James Franco's Severed Arm Taught Me

What James Franco’s Severed Arm Taught Me

Tony Gardner, special effects artist, on how his “127 Hours” handiwork is saving sick babies.

I thought some of the stories were hyped about people fainting during 127 Hours. Then one producer called me and said, “I went to the movies last night to check out your work, and it was quite an experience.” It turned out that somebody had passed out. I felt proud and then really guilty.

We designed about 10 different arms, each one worth about $10,000. We also designed bloodshot contact lenses and dental “plumpers” for James Franco’s face because he had lost all the weight before filming — we had to do something so his face could change. Before anything, we did a body cast and then built a couple different harnesses and could attach any of the multitude of arms to the shoulder depending on the scene. He actually had on a three-sleeve shirt because the fake arm had to come out in front of his real arm.

The main surgery arm [for the amputation scene] was loose-jointed and the one that had all the blood in it — different muscle groups and everything. It was made of aluminum and steel, then there’s foam, latex and silicone muscles. It had fibers embedded in the silicone so it would cut like muscle tissue, instead of cutting into other stuff that looks like Jell-O. It’s an arm, so you know where the veins and arteries are and where the blood will come through. Aron Ralston was so dehydrated, his blood was thicker — so it was a fairly clean process.

I got a lot of great feedback from doctors about my work in the film. So I started a business making neonatal training aids for intensive care doctors. Some kids are born with their intestines inside of their umbilical cord … and all other sorts of issues. We made a kit where you can put these prosthetic pieces on medical dummies, so doctors in training can practice in a real-life scenario. It feels good to be doing something helpful other than just entertainment.

HAIRSPRAY: Special Thanks

Alterian Inc. thanking all of the talented artists responsible for bringing Edna to life.

DICKHOUSE.TV: Tony Gardner and The Bust of Irving Zisman

In the final lap to the Oscars, in which a little ol' movie called Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is nominated in the "Best Makeup & Hairstyling" category, here's a look at the man who has been behind the prosthetic design of Irving Zisman since 2001: Tony Gardner of Alterian, Inc. Tony, still riding high on the Alterian crew's win at the recent Hollywood Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards, stopped by the office yesterday to present Johnny Knoxville with this eerily lifelike sculpt of Irving. Who knows, maybe if we take the Oscar (fingers crossed!) he'll come by with a full-body life-size nude of Gloria for Tremaine. Perchance to dream!

(Photo by Sean Cliver; 2014)

THE PLAIN DEALER | "Hairspray" effects man from North Olmsted transforms Travolta

North Olmsted native Tony Gardner creates John Travolta's fat suit for 'Hairspray'

Plain Dealer Reporter
If John Travolta were a plus-size, middle-age woman, what size bra would he wear?
The answer is lost to history. The man in a position to know -- "Hairspray" makeup-effects designer Tony Gardner -- didn't jot it down. "Once we were into triple letters, I kinda lost track," he said.
Gardner created the fat suit that transformed Travolta into Edna Turnblad, the overprotective, foodaholic mom of Tracy Turnblad in "Hairspray." The movie adaptation of the musical opened Friday.
Gardner is co-owner and lead designer for Alterian Inc., an Irwindale, Calif., company specializing in makeup and animatronic effects. Alterian worked on movies such as "Shallow Hal," "Three Kings" and "Adaptation." It is also behind the Geico cavemen commercials and upcoming television series.
But "Hairspray" is Gardner's biggest movie job so far. When Gardner, 42, was hired, the producers told him if Edna didn't work, they didn't have a film. "The pressure was on in the very, very beginning," said Gardner, who grew up in North Olmsted.
Travolta said he wanted to look like a curvy girl who grew up to be a mom. Gardner frequently e-mailed rough drafts of possible looks to the actor. "He's the one who has to wear it," Gardner said. "Everything he said was great."
The effects staff started work about three months before filming began. In early 2006, Gardner and his crew flew to Travolta's home near Orlando to do a life cast. Travolta stood on a tarp in his garage, which houses his extensive car collection, while effects specialists wrapped his body with plaster bandages to make a cast. He sat to have his head and shoulders covered with a masklike substance.
Later, fiberglass duplicates made from the plaster bandage mold and mask were formed into a full-standing duplicate body.
Gardner designed a body suit filled with a lightweight synthetic material, with pads overlaid like shingles to add heft. Silicone was used from the chest up; it had the added bonus of covering Travolta's beard. "I didn't want the guy growing through makeup in the middle of the day," Gardner said.
The first suit made Travolta look like "a dumpy, Alfred Hitchcock version of Edna," Gardner said. Validation came when Travolta, in character and makeup, greeted his fellow actors during a rehearsal in Toronto. No one recognized him. Then the actors broke into applause.
"It was what I needed as an artist and what John needed as a performer," Gardner said.