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DREAD CENTRAL: Exclusive: Tony Gardner on The Dollhouse, the Horror Family, and Happy Death Day

Exclusive: Tony Gardner on The Dollhouse, the Horror Family, and Happy Death Day

Tony Gardner is the man behind the doll – sometimes literally, as he puppeteers Chucky! Of course, he has a great team of folks to do most of the heavy lifting (and heavy stabbing), but Gardner is the mastermind and certainly one of the most talented effects guys in the biz. You can see his handiwork in the brand-new horror flick Cult of Chucky(review) – we caught up with him in his studio to talk to him about working on that movie specifically, but there’s a lot more to the tale so we delved in a bit deeper, looking into the past (Michael Jackson’s Thriller) and the future (Kyra Elise Gardner’s “The Dollhouse”). Read on!

Dread Central: How did you get into this awesome world? I mean, you have a dream job, for sure! Where did you get your start?

Tony Gardner: My first professional job was for the music video, “Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” working for Rick Baker. I was eighteen. So my first professional job was essentially a horror film, where I even had the opportunity to build a zombie character on myself and be in the video. John Landis knew that I was interested in filmmaking and during post production he invited me to come into editorial and watch them working on the video, which was incredibly cool. So I was in the shop during all of the zombie and werewolf construction, had a hand in a little bit of everything there, including fabricating a character of my own, then be on set for the full week of filming, act in front of the cameras for a couple of shots – and then watch editorial in progress, with George Folsey, Jr., the editor, explained how they were structuring the behind the scenes footage to help explain things to an audience, visually and through the audio as well. I felt I was able to be involved in the entire process, and it was this life changing experience for me. I was a student at USC at the time, and I dropped out of school. I tried to do both for a while, school and the music video, but I realized, “I can’t do both, I can only do one of these and I know what I want to do – I want to make movies.”

DC: And being in the horror genre every now and again – you do lots of sci-fi and comedy, too – you must be showered with lots of love. The horror community really is just that, a community, wouldn’t you agree?

TG: They’re so open and so friendly. You go to a genre convention and everyone is so nice. I went to Maskfest, and this guy came up to me, a big, scary intimidating guy with his head painted like an evil skull, and he was so polite: “Hi, so nice to meet you, and I really enjoy your films.” Everybody is so nice and so genuine. It’s really a great genre to be in, everybody we meet on the periphery of it and within the studio system, is great, and sometimes it’s funny because everybody’s so normal.

We’re all eccentric in our own different ways, but everybody within this horror world seems to be a really genuine human being. Everybody’s always been super nice. I think a lot of it comes from the people on top and their attitude trickles down on set. It’s camaraderie and support for one another. Everybody’s in the trenches together. Everybody actually has a lot of passion for the subject matter and I think that makes a difference. It definitely impacts the attitude on set which just makes it easier to work.

DC: You’ve got your genre family, and your actual family. I’m kind of curious about whether you let your own kids watch horror movies when they were young, because, as you said, guys painted like skulls come up to you at conventions, and I’ve seen lots of families at those cons too.

TG: We tried to wait until they were a bit older – around ten seemed a good age, but even the ‘age appropriate’ stuff had things in it that were scary. They didn’t watch horror films at a young age, but they all have liked scary stories ever since they were little. And there’s things that we showed our kids that we didn’t think were scary, that impacted them completely differently than expected.

We were cautious, we had some friends whose kids were watching stuff at far to early an age to comprehend a lot of what they were watching, and we really paid attention to that. My wife Cindy was really aware of how this industry skews your perspective on things and how you really need to look at it through the child’s eye and make the right decisions. Now she’s the President of the School Board in our community, and is really into child development and education, so I’d say she’s the one with the healthiest perspective all around.

But all of our kids really love horror and when their friends come over to our house it seems they all enjoy watching something scary. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good horror film or a bad film – there’s fun in both of those – but it seems like horror is quite often the ‘go to’ in our house. And we didn’t push it.

A lot of the films that we were doing when they were little were more comedy based actually. So it wasn’t like we were bringing home work that was horror related. Once we moved into our house and were starting a family, we made a conscious decision to keep the work stuff at work. If I ever had to bring stuff home to work on or finish off, like a severed head or whatever, it stayed in the car until everybody was in bed, and then I’d work on it late at night.

Although, in referencing a severed head, I remember when we were working on ‘Seed of Chucky,’ I had taken the head of myself home to work on. I have to admit, there was a moment where I did wonder, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I pretended to trip upstairs and roll this head down the stairs?” Followed immediately by, “I don’t think I’ll have enough money for that kind of therapy for the rest of these kids’ lives.” The practical joker side of you thinks, this would be a funny joke and then the parent side cancels it out immediately – not a good idea! But I did tell them about it when they were older and the response was basically, “Yeah, that probably would have ruined me but it would have been funny.”

DG: At least one of your kids, Kyra, is following in your footsteps in that she’s making horror movies too. Her short documentary “The Dollhouse” is a special feature on the Cult of Chucky Blu-ray. How awesome is that? Can you give us a little backstory on that?

TG: Sure. So my daughter Kyra is a film student in Florida State. And part of the curriculum for the first year of film school is a short form documentary. The film has to be seven minutes long and you have to pitch your ideas to the faculty. So my daughter went into her meeting with a lot of different ideas to discuss: we had just done makeup effects for Ana Lily Amirpour on ‘The Bad Batch,’ which Kyra had been involved with, taking photos for Lily, and one of her ideas was to interview Lily on the gender bias in this industry among other things.

During Kyra’s pitch meeting, one of the professors heard that her dad works on Chucky and said – in trying to help each student find their own unique voice: “If you do seven minutes on Chucky, I’d watch that.” I think it was an offhand comment but at the same time they keep telling the students: Look what’s in your own backyard. Talk about what you know. What sort of resources do you have? So she took a few steps back and realized that she’s had this family, this sort of extension of our own family through work that’s been connected to us for over fifteen years.

She’s nineteen so she’s heard David Kirschner and Don Mancini’s names for most of her life, heard all about them, and had only ever really known these people from a distance. To make a film about this group was a chance to kind of get to know everyone face to face – to sit them down and interview them. So she decided to make her documentary just as much about the process of meeting them as well as the shared experience that we all have, this community, this extended family. And she really wanted to talk to Fiona because Fiona’s dad is the killer doll and I’m the guy who builds the doll. And then Fiona’s dad kills her own dad – and there’s all these layers to it that made it kind of funny. She ended up with a ton of material actually.

She asked Brad and Fiona to sit down together, talk father/daughter, and then she and I sat down the same way, and then she also sat down separately with David Kirschner and Don Mancini – interviewing everyone in their own homes – it was very casual, none of us were really ‘at work.’ There was a bit of a debate at Florida State Film School about the structure of a documentary and should the documentarian be in the film themselves in the context of a student film, but she finally put together something she liked that was true to her original idea after debating the different options, and was really happy.

She sent a link to the finished film to all of us who had been interviewed, an e-mail that thanked everyone for being in it, basically saying ‘here’s a link, I hope you like it.’ Well, David Kirschner watched it and got on the phone with Universal and told them that he felt that this documentary should be on the ‘Cult of Chucky’ DVD, and that he thought the fans would really like it. And Don Mancini had the same opinion and did the same. So there ended up being around six or seven weeks of paperwork and legal hell for Kyra because her film wasn’t put together with the intent of being anything other than a student film. She had already gone through a lot of paperwork to get the rights to some of the music and clips from the Chucky films to use on a student film level, and now all of a sudden Universal wanted to use her film as part of their own product. So it turned into another whole series of contracts and negotiations that went on literally down to the wire. I think she learned a lot about film-making and learned a lot about working with a major film studio above and beyond what she expected. She had to deal with the merchandising department and the legal department and the home video department – it was so great that Florida State’s Film School is so supportive of their students, I don’t know how it would have happened without them. So this one little experience gave her such a great opportunity to learn and to grow.

As all of the Universal paperwork was wrapping up, FSU had also started sending her documentary out to different film festivals. Meanwhile Fright Fest contacted Don Mancini and asked if he would like to premiere ‘Cult’ in London like he had done with ‘Curse’ five years ago, which thrilled Don and all of us to no end. Not long after that Don received another e-mail from Fright Fest stating basically ‘hey, we received this fab documentary about your films through our regular channels and we think you’ll really like it. You’re in it and it’s called ‘The Dollhouse,’ by Kyra Gardner. We’re thinking it would be really cool to screen it before the world premiere Cult of Chucky because it would give the audience a taste for who you are before they watch the film.’ Don responded back, ‘of course,’ and then I got to tell Kyra.

It was really kind of overwhelming because she had been a bit hesitant to talk about this stuff and then the film and even the process opened up all these doors for her, resulting in her student film world premiering in London before the ‘Cult of Chucky’ world premiere. She went for the screening, and the festival organizers invited her to go up and speak before the film. She went up in front of over a thousand people and literally winged it, and did an amazing job, thanking her mom and the crew and everybody that had been in it. And then it premiered.

Fiona, Jennifer and I had gone to England with Don for the premiere. And Adam Hertig – who is in the film – was there from Canada as well. We realized then that our little film family has started to like, stretch out a bit, with Adam being in the last two Chucky films and Jennifer being in the last three.

The Dollhouse has gone on to screen at a lot more film festivals, and will be showing at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival next month before they screen Cult of Chucky. Kyra’s going to go. Florida State’s going to let her disappear for a couple of days. So she’ll get to meet the rest of the Canadian side of the family.

The Chucky connection keeps on going, though. FSU was evacuated due to Hurricane Irma, so Kyra ended up back home with us for a week. The Monday of that week we shot Chucky for an “Entertainment Weekly” spread for their Halloween issue, so we had Kyra onboard as a Chucky puppeteer on that. Friday of that week was the opening of Halloween Horror Nights, and Kyra had helped puppeteer Chucky on the footage that we shot for that a month ago, so she went to the opening and finally met Jennifer Tilly. And Jennifer was willing to come early and sit down with Kyra and do an interview with her. That very next day Don, Fjona, and I were on a ‘Cult of Chucky’ panel at Son of Monsterpalooza [a horror con], and Fiona sat down with Kyra after and spoke with her some more about her own experiences as opposed to her shared experiences with her father. Now Kyra’s wondering if she should interview Adam Hertig when they’re both in Toronto. It’s just really cool to see Jennifer and everybody be so supportive of her. And, it is real is kind of a family. They’re all kind of protective. It’s just really sweet. I didn’t realize until recently, how rare that is in general, but in this industry how extremely rare it is, so it’s nice to have my family get pulled into it.

DC: Are your other kids in the industry, too?

TG: All three of them have been involved in different ways through the years. My oldest daughter Brianna was in the movie “Shallow Hal” when she was seven, and both she and Kyra played the same character at different ages for a Daft Punk music video a long while back. My son Austin gets involved occasionally as well. When we were filming Chucky here at Alterian recently for a lot of the online promo and the footage for the Terror Tram ride at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Austin was one of the puppeteers. He’s a med student in Irvine now, so we can’t involve him as often anymore. Brianna was home for a week from England – she’s at grad school in England – and she helped puppeteered on another promo shoot while she was home. And Brianna also actually worked on the film itself. She painted in our shop for all of pre-production before we shipped off to Canada. So, there’s definitely a whole family dynamic thing – and it keeps extending out. It’s a really solid group of people and it’s really nice. There’s no drama and there’s a lot of support.

DC: Happy Death Day is coming out soon. What did you do on that film?

TG: Well, it’s a Canadian production, so we couldn’t really be on set for any of it, but Chris [director, Christopher Landon] wanted us to design the mask for the killer. He wanted some sort of iconic face. We had created a mask here at Alterian that became the Scream mask, way back when. We did the Ghost-Maker kits and other Halloween masks in the past, then more recently the masks – or helmets – for Daft Punk. Chris said that he liked our sense of design aesthetic, and that it would be interesting to see what our take on his character would be. Production had two different ideas. Two extremely different ideas. We actually ended up just sculpting both designs full size for them. You can talk and sketch ideas to death but you actually have to see it in 3D to think about how you’re going to light it and how it’s going to move. So we just did two sculptures on a head and shoulders bust so he could see the proportions of the head in relationship to the neck length and shoulder height. And as soon as he saw it he was very decisive: “I want that design, and if you could move this tooth over there. Done.” We were taking photos of the sculptures on their busts, wrapping them in black fabric to represent a hood – figuring the classic grim reaper look. In the end, the final look decided on was actually a black hoodie. So the design process was fun. We really wished we could have gone on set but it being a non-local film – that’s part of the understanding going into it – didn’t make that possible. I’m really looking forward to seeing it because it was a really fun script.

Happy Death Day is directed by Christopher Landon, who co-wrote the film with Scott Lobdell. Jessica Rothe headlines the film, which comes out Friday, October 13th.

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.


WICKED HORROR: FX Maestro Tony Gardner Talks Cult of Chucky

Exclusive Interview: FX Maestro Tony Gardner Talks Cult of Chucky!

Tony Gardner is one of the premiere FX artists in horror. His career stretches from operating the cat Binx in the seasonal favorite Hocus Pocus, to building the equally iconic half-corpse in Return of the Living Dead, to Lost Boys, to Aliens and more. Since Seed of Chucky, he’s been at the center of the Child’s Play franchise, creating the dolls for that film as well as Curse of Chucky and now Cult of Chucky. Gardner has even stepped in as a producer for the new sequel.

We talked with Gardner recently about the process of creating the great—and varied—new looks for Chucky in the film, as well as what fans can expect and so much more.

Cult of Chucky is now available. Be warned. The interview will go into some mild spoilers.

Wicked Horror: One of my favorite things about this franchise is that each movie feels completely different from the one before it. Cult definitely continues this trend. When did Don Mancini first approach you with the idea and what was your initial reaction?

Tony Gardner: He actually had a couple of idea right while we were finishing Curse. And this was one of them. They were all equally cool, they were all standalone films that were almost completely different genre homages, in a way. They were all so exciting, but the idea of an insane asylum just opened so many doors to what’s really happening and what’s going on in people’s minds. So I was very excited and hoping he would go down that road and obviously I’m glad that he did.

WH: What was the experience like stepping into a producer role for this one?

Gardner: You know, I kind of feel like I’ve been part of financial management on the last two films. Just making sure things happen on time & on budget, and making sure all the time on set is maximized. It’s just a larger extension of what we do with the animatronic character himself. It was just sort of an expansion of a job that already existed for me. It’s nice being there from the beginning when things are being scripted. Just planning out what’s possible and what’s not, what’s not too time consuming, what’s financially possible and if there are ways to go around some of the financial restrictions.

Offering up alternate options, whether it be digital or otherwise, to pull of a sequence that we had in mind, like the finale with the three characters. It’s really just being part of the organization of everything from the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WH: This definitely feels like one of the most FX-heavy Chucky movies to date.

Gardner: A fair bit. I think that’s why I got pulled in right off the bat, because we had to figure out how to make it work with a limited number of shoot days. This was a very complicated story that Don wanted to tell with a lot of different characters and what could essentially have been its own 2nd unit. How do you integrate that into 1st unit as much as possible so that it’s cohesive? I think any time someone comes in with that much of a large-scope idea and that much drive and enthusiasm, you have to support that.

WH: And Chucky himself in this one, well…

Gardner: Himselves?

WH: Yeah, I was gonna say. He looks very similar to the first few movies in terms of that overall look, going back to the early days of the franchise. How hard did you work on that?

Gardner: That was sort of my obsession, to be honest with you. You go back to the beginning and have the chance to start over, literally. The focus was really Child’s Play 2 more than the first one, because of some of the design and aesthetic changes. He’s gone through such a transformation starting with Bride in particular. When we got into Curse, I was really taking Don’s concept of “Chucky has a Good Guy face stretched over his own.” I took that literally and I think trying to do that weird plastic surgery look didn’t really thrill people. Lesson learned on my end, obviously. So I really, really wanted to make sure that the Good Guy doll was back to its original proportions of the first few films. Size of the hands, everything.

 

There were some concessions made due to the aesthetics of the set, with everything being so white and washed out. Don really wanted the hair to pop more on camera in a more contrasted way. So it’s a little more orange as opposed to orange-brown than it was in the first film. There was no luxury of him going from a Good Guy doll to a more human doll, where he’s becoming more of a human being and his eyebrows are getting hairy. This one had to go back and forth from a Good Guy doll to a fully animated one, but one who is capable of conveying extremely evil expressions. There’s a bit of a bag under the eye to give him a look that’s a little more like Brad Dourif. It gives a little more of that evil character and at the same time helps us mechanically as well.

WH: It really does look great in the film.

Gardner: Oh, thank you.

WH: In general, with this being such a rapidly changing industry, how would you say the effects have evolved over time in this franchise?

Gardner: I think the best advancement has been everyone willing to be open to digital enhancement. We can do rod puppeting on certain scenes and eliminate a rod or a puppeteer out of the frame, as opposed to limiting how he’s framed, so that you can cut somebody out of the shot. We’re able to do that now and it really opens up the door for more articulation and faster shooting time. It takes so much less time to set up a shot. People’s willingness to embrace that technology is a help for us and it has really made a difference in the last two films.

We used it very sparingly in Curse of Chucky, just things like when his head pops off and his body stands up. A couple of things where you’re seeing him full-frame in the shot. We were on a practical floor, so we couldn’t be underneath it or do anything other than rods or marrionetting. Doing that to a minor degree on that film really opened up everybody’s eyes to how it could be used on this one. And when we get to the scene at the end where we have three characters going and we have green suits or green rods, it’s really been a huge asset for us.

WH: You kind of touched on this a little bit in terms of being a producer, but with there being so much FX work in Cult of Chucky, was there ever anything you didn’t think that you’d be able to pull off?

Gardner: I think what made it nice for me on Cult is that we had Adrien Morot on makeup effects and then we had Doug Morrow doing the applications in the FX shop, so we had people that we knew were solid and easy to work with handling most of the blood and guts. Sometimes there’s a real overlap. We knew we’d have our hands full with all the multiple versions of him, shooting out of continuity, and then that whole finale sequence in the office. We had a lot on our plate with just the dolls alone, so having those people on the makeup effects was a huge peace of mind for me.

WH: Going back a little bit, how familiar were you with the franchise before you came on board with Seed?  

Gardner: Oh, I was super familiar with it. When the first one had come out, I remember thinking “A killer doll, I don’t know…” But I remembered the Karen Black movie called Trilogy of Terror, with the little doll with the knife, and that was a really great idea. I was excited to see how suspenseful it was and how much of a story there was in the first one. I’ve watched all of them since. And then when David Kirshner was going to Universal to pitch Bride of Chucky, we had just worked with him on Hocus Pocus. He asked if we could do a display that he could take in to pitch them the idea for the movie. He brought in all these sketches he had done of Tiffany and asked us to build a Chucky doll holding Tiffany, sort of standing on a threshold for a wedding, a display to put in the room while he pitched the film to the producers.

So that was my first experience with who these characters were and what they were about. I really enjoyed that short experience, so when Seed came about and they asked me if I would be interested in manufacturing the dolls—even though they came to me three months before it had to ship—I was excited. I don’t know what I was thinking, but yeah. I really loved the franchise and admired what David and Don and Kevin Yagher had been able to achieve. I think going in blind was really good too, because I didn’t have any idea how complicated it would be to have three characters talking, having conversations and arguments and throwing things at each other.

WH: Yeah, I mean, that’s the one movie in the franchise where they’re in it more than the human characters.

Gardner: Yeah, and having conversations! Having to figure out the eye lines of a puppet, and we did that all through the floor. All of it. All the controllers, the sets were all six feet off the ground, and we were all underneath it looking at monitors. It was a very new experience and very stressful, but very enjoyable.

WH: In general, you’ve had an insane, insane career. From Aliens to Return of the Living Dead and Lost Boys and so many more. Do you think you’d even be able to single out an effect you would say you’re most proud of?

Gardner: Boy. A lot of times, in those films from the eighties and nineties, they were the first times for me doing those things. Darkman was the first time I did an overlying prosthetic appliance makeup. It was exciting because it was new and it was challenging. I think that holds true for all of them in general, especially in regards to the ones I like the most. I think I would probably go back to Return of the Living Dead and the half-corpse. That’s something that I’m super proud of. I’d been hired fresh out of college to work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller for Rick Baker.

 

Through happenstance, within a few months of that, I was asked to build this animatronic half-body. And I’d never done anything animatronic before in my life, ever. I had Bill Sturgeon over at Rick’s, who was an amazing mechanical designer, help with the hands. I did the head myself and I took it on set and was able to operate and puppeteer it on set. It’s a really exciting experience to be able to follow something all the way through and have it succeed as well as it did.

WH: That effect is still incredible. It still looks so lively. And Cult of Chucky is incredible work too. You really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Gardner: Thank you, I stressed about it. I really wanted to be true to the whole canon and the fans. I really reached out to the fan base for feedback and tried to incorporate them in what we were doing. We had Garrett Zima as our historian for what we were doing. He had an original doll from the second or third installment, access to great reference material for us. He was also helpful for feedback.

We put it out to different Facebook pages and groups and people would be in contact with us a lot, asking questions or whatever. So we started asking them questions about things and getting that feedback and a sense of right and wrong within this world. And I hope we did it justice for the fan base because that’s what this one is really all about.

Original Article


HAIRSPRAY: Special Thanks

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


FANGORIA MAGAZINE: Zombieland

 Fangoria Featuring Zombieland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Three Rounds with Chucky

Three Rounds with Chucky:

Everyone's favorite devil-doll joins EW for a killer night out

The star of ‘Child’s Play,’ the scariest killer-doll franchise of all-time, downs some brew (and takes a stab at some questions) in our filthiest and most fatal interview ever

With his distinctive blue overalls, ginger hair, and maniacal stare, Chucky is hard to miss as he walks through the door of Los Angeles’ Black bar to hoist three rounds with EW — at least, he’s hard to miss once you remember to look down. Not that the only-needs-one-name movie megastar has any regrets about his lack of stature preventing him from, say, fully enjoying amusement parks. “I don’t like roller coasters,” he says. “It’s hard to flee the scene of the crime when you’re strapped into it.” Chucky’s not joking. In 1988’s Child’s Play, the “Good Guys” doll was possessed by the spirit of a serial killer and embarked on a murder spree. That cavalcade of carnage has continued through six sequels, including 1998’s Katherine Heigl-costarring Bride of Chucky and the just-released, Don Mancini-directed Cult of Chucky (now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital platforms), which features franchise veterans Fiona Dourif, her father Brad, Alex Vincent, and actress-turned-poker-tournament regular Jennifer Tilly. In person, Chucky is doll — sorry, droll — company, but rumors of a short fuse prove true. The star becomes increasingly irritated by the presence of photographer Jeff Minton (apparently, Chucky’s publicist neglected to mention a snapper would be present) and turns positively terrifying after EW asks what it is like to work with Tilly. “The woman’s a genius,” says Chucky. “But she doesn’t want it getting out. For poker. Crap, now I’m gonna have to kill you. Seriously.” Oof, let’s hope he’s a good drunk.

ROUND 1: Pabst Blue Ribbon

JEFF MINTON FOR EW

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:  Cult of Chucky is set in a mental institution. Do you think you might benefit from therapy?
CHUCKY: I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done that would make me need therapy.

How do you explain the longevity of the Child’s Play franchise? What’s the special sauce?
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s on account of me. What can I say? Chicks dig me.

How do you think you’ve evolved as a performer over the course of the franchise? Do you feel like you’ve grown? (No pun intended.)
I’ve gotten really into improv. Comedians come up with the funniest s— when you pull out a knife on stage. But yes, I’ve evolved. I’d like to take on King Learone day. And Newsies.

What did you spend your first big movie-star paycheck on?
Bail. And a fitted tuxedo. In that order.

How do you relax?
A little light stalking. Maybe a simple strangulation. And some weed. Notnecessarily in that order.

Are you a good cook? What’s your go-to dish for entertaining?
Hamburger Helper, but instead of hamburger, I use people. No, seriously. I rarely entertain.

What’s the best and worst thing about being famous?
The best thing? Meeting the fans. The worst thing? Getting rid of their corpses.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done while drunk?
Hooking up with Katherine Heigl.

What do people say to you when they recognize you in the street?
“Hey, Chucky, what ever happened to Katherine Heigl?”

ROUND 2: Bloody Mary

JEFF MINTON FOR EW

As you don’t have a birth certificate, are you ever worried about being deported?
Not really. It would give me a chance to experiment. I’ve always wanted to kill on an international scale. I’m so famous here in the States. Sometimes I miss the anonymity, you know? The simple things, like being able to roll out of bed and kill someone on the way to Starbucks.

While we’re on that subject: How old are you exactly? (My editor made me ask.)
Let me put it this way… I take a baby aspirin every day. Gotta stay smart about heart health, you know?

Do you ever wish you were a different doll? 
Sometimes I wish I was a Ken doll. Only because I wouldn’t have to wear these f—in’ overalls anymore.

Who would win in a fight between you and Annabelle?
Annabelle’s a showboat — all sizzle and no steak. She can make the lights flicker. Big deal.

How do you feel about the Babadook becoming a gay icon?
Hey, I did it before it was cool.

How come we never see you and Brad Dourif in the same room?
Contractual reasons. We don’t get along.

What’s the first thing you would do as president?
I would encourage the Senate to bring me a plan to boost infrastructure over the next 10 years that would result in government-subsidized training, job growth, and bipartisan support. I’d also make murder legal.

ROUND 3: “Fireball and a knife”

(This turns out to be a request for Fireball whisky and an actual knife, which Chucky uses to fatally stab EW’s photographer.)

JEFF MINTON FOR EW

Uh, I guess you’re ready for this interview to be over. Just a few more questions before the police arrive: What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Scrub the blood from my fingernails. Start the day fresh, you know?

Have you ever met Chuckie from Rugrats?
No. I don’t hang out with babies as a rule. And cartoon babies? Forget it.

Which celebrity do you most want to meet? And why?
The Biebs. So I can finally put an end to our long national nightmare.

How come you’ve never been a pitchman for Chuck E. Cheese’s?
Because those animatronics freak me the f— out.

Whose posters did you have on your wall when you were growing up?
Bundy, Dahmer, the Coreys. You know, all the greats.

Do you ever worry that you’re giving ginger-haired people a bad name?
Do you ever worry that you’re giving journalists a bad name?

How are things between yourself and your girlfriend Tiffany these days?
None of your damn business. We’re just good friends. Next question.

What’s your favorite sexual position?
The Reverse Chucky. It’s my own design. The Dirty Puppet is a close second.

What are you packing “downstairs”?
I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.

Which superhero do you most identify with, and why?
Loki. Take a f—ing guess.

Editor’s note: Senior writer Clark Collis disappeared two days after filing this interview.

JEFF MINTON FOR EW

Original Article


DREAD CENTRAL: Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – Exclusive Interview from the Set: Tony Gardner

Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – Exclusive Interview from the Set: Tony Gardner


PR NEWS WIRE: All-American Rejects' Tyson Ritter Ages at the Hands of Makeup Effects Artist Tony Gardner

All-American Rejects' Tyson Ritter Ages at the Hands of Makeup Effects Artist Tony Gardner

Tony Gardner Creates Several Different Age Makeups for Catherine Hardwick's Heartbreaking Music Video for the Song "There's A Place," from her Toni Collette / Drew Barrymore film "Miss You Already."

When Director Catherine Hardwicke was dreaming up the concept for her music video for the song "There's A Place," a very moving song from her Drew Barrymore/Toni Collette film "Miss You Already," one of the biggest challenges was how best to illustrate the passing of time and love lost.

The song was written and performed by Tyson Ritter, the front man of the band All-American Rejects, and was written specifically for the film; Tyson is in the film as a love interest of Toni Collette's character.

As Tyson would be singing the song on camera within the music video, it was decided that he would in essence represent his film persona within the video, and gradually age from his thirties into his nineties during the course of the performance. A great way to illustrate the passing of time, but how to achieve all of this within one night of guerilla style film-making?

The answer: Makeup Effects Designer Tony Gardner, whose past prosthetic makeup challenges have included turning John Travolta into a buxom housewife for the film "Hairspray," and unleashing an elderly Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) on the unsuspecting public for Spike Jonze's "Jackass" films and the Oscar-nominated "Bad Grandpa." (Nominated for Special Effects Makeup, of course.)

Gardner and his team of artists at Alterian (www.alterianinc.com) had less than two weeks to create the prosthetics required for the three different stages of Tyson's prosthetic age makeup. "Having very little prep time seems to be the name of the game these days," says Gardner, "so you just have to ride the adrenalin wave and pull all the elements together as fast as you can before the clock runs out. Fortunately I had (fellow makeup effects artist) Hugo Villasenor with me on location to help make it all happen."

Tony Gardner is no stranger to projects with high demands. Director Danny Boyle came to Gardner to realize sequences from the film "127 HOURS," asking Gardner to design and create the prosthetic effects pieces that would allow James Franco to cut through and sever his arm on camera and in real time, and with complete medical accuracy. He's also had his share of odd requests, from creating robotic helmets for Daft Punk, to creating movie characters with a high list of demands.

"The weirdest meeting I can recall was for "Hocus Pocus," and went essentially like this: 'Can you design a 300 year old zombie who has his mouth stitched shut with leather cord, gets his fingers sliced off on camera, and his head knocked off and reattached a couple times? And while you’re at it, we also want to run over a cat with a bus and then have it reinflate on camera. ...and please make this all “kid friendly” of course, ….this is a Disney film.'"

Gardner continues, "Of course I said yes! Challenges like those are what I find exciting, and the more 'impossible' someone says the project might be, the more I seem to be attracted to it. For this music video, four stages of progressive age makeup filmed outdoors, and all within one single evening, definitely qualified as one of those projects."

Time was definitely the major challenge, as was the complexity of the final stage of prosthetic makeup. To solve the issue of the three hour application time for the 90-year-old version of Tyson, it was decided that Tony and Hugo would start that makeup while the sun was still up, and time the completion of the makeup to sunset, so filming could start literally the moment the sun went down.

"Working in reverse order was the only way to make this work," said Gardner, "Subtracting prosthetics from Tyson to make him younger was faster than adding prosthetics to make him older. The biggest challenge was peeling of the 90-year-old neck and replacing it with the 75-year-old neck while also swapping out all of the hairpieces for what we called his 'Neil Diamond look," all within the two hour timeframe alloted."

Gardner added, "We had until 5:00am or so to get everything on camera, that's when sunrise would end our day. Thankfully we had (Producer) Jamie Holt on this to help manage our time wisely, and keep things moving at a fast pace - she was a godsend."

"The entire process was a great experience, and actually very emotional to film... something I wasn't expecting, really, and very rarely experience. The shoot was a labor of love from the entire crew, and I think that it really shows on screen. Tyson was amazing to work with, and made it look effortless to pull of everything he had to do: hours in the makeup chair, lip syncing to playback only he was wired to hear, and pulling off an emotional performance all at the same time. And Catherine was pretty brilliant in regards to how she used what little light there was and even the local residents to add richness and life to what's onscreen, and never made anyone feel rushed or stressed. The 'impossible project' really turned out to be quite the dream job."