These images are shots I took while working on movies, frame grabs from the movies themselves, or photos others took during the process. Everything on this page I either sculpted and/or ran the crews who made the finished product. Specifics are noted for each item and occasional behind the scenes anecdotes. Unfortunately, not all the photos are of the best quality, but as I find better, I’ll replace them. If anyone out there has photos of anything represented here, please contact me about sharing. Thanks!
For the Chinese films I worked on, please click here: CHINA
Jump to ALIENS or UNIVERSAL SOLDIER or PREDATOR or BEETLEJUICE or BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA or MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE or NIGHTFLYERS or INVADERS FROM MARS or POLTERGEIST 2 or FREEJACK or INDEPENDENCE DAY (ID4) or STAR TREK 5 or VOLUNTEERS or EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES or ELIMINATORS or RUNAWAY RALPH and MOUSE ON A MOTORCYCLE or FILMS WITH NO PHOTOS or TV SHOWS AND COMMERCIALS
I first came to work on the Abyss in the summer of 1988 to sculpt the bodies of two mini-subs. I made the bodies, propeller blades and housings, oxygen tanks, and all the fittings out of 2 lb. urethane foam. I had to work from blueprints from the production designer and spent the first day going over them, much to the dismay of my boss, who was paying me by the hour. The reason I do this is that, more often than not, there are mistakes in the blueprints. I did find some major proportion errors and had I sculpted according to the numbers on the blueprints, major parts of the subs would not have fit together. Keep in mind that this was before the extended use of computer graphics, so we still had to visualize in our heads.
The subs were sculpted and Fiberglassed in an aircraft hangar in Van Nuys Airport, Van Nuys, California. It was incredibly hot and humid the whole time and carving foam creates a fine powder that sticks to you and gets inside your clothes. The technicians who made the fiberglass coatings for what I sculpted did an excellent job and the fake bodies fit perfectly onto the real plexi-bubble portion where the actors sat inside. When finished, the subs really worked.
Six months later, in the dead of winter, I was brought back to work with my friend, Jim Kagel, sculpting the miniature interiors for the alien spaceship. I believe it was the coldest winter on record in LA and even snowed in the Valley, where we were working in an old converted wooden garage. There wasn’t a lot of space with five or six people and all the spaceship parts laid out. It was so cold that gas space heaters were brought in and at one point I backed up to get a better look at what I was working on and my butt went into the flame of the heater, catching my lab coat on fire. It became questionable as to whether I was a clutz or a better heating system should be used.
The spaceship interior was basically fifty feet of tunnels that curved every which way. The upper portion had a removable groove so the camera lens could slip inside and move along the length of the tunnel, so in the film, it looks like you are following the alien as he leads the actor inside the spaceship. The tunnels were actually very beautiful, but you could never see any of that because they lit it with colored lights, so all our intricate sculpting was for nothing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take any photos at that time.
I also made a large miniature of a tunnel intersection that was visually stunning. The scene had the alien with the actor coming out of one tunnel and going across this vast space, then into another tunnel. They shot it but didn’t use it. I asked if I could have the prop since they didn’t use it, but I was told the director thought it best to smash it to pieces instead of letting me have it.
Working at Doug Beswick’s shop was a dream come true. I got work with the best-of-the-best of mechanical artists. When I came on board for Aliens (Alien #2), they were making the working mechanical puppets for the queen alien and the Power Loader. My initial job was to sculpt the Sigourney Weaver puppet to go inside the Power Loader, but when I arrived, they didn’t have anyone to make the Power Loader model, so Doug asked me if I could do it. He had a lot more confidence in me than I did in myself, because I had never made models before. So, here I was, in the position every young model builder has sleepless nights dreaming about, but after a couple of days, it was clear that I didn’t know what I was doing, so I relinquished the job to someone new they found. I felt really bad at this missed opportunity, but the guy who came in and got his chance did an incredible job. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Having flubbed that, I started on the Sigourney puppet. The Power Loader and Sigourney puppet were being made at the same time as the full-scale counterpart in London. There was no Internet then, and I don’t remember anyone having a fax. It took several days for pictures of the life-size Power Loader to reach use, and there were constant changes. I had no reference to sculpt the Sigourney puppet, so I called James Cameron and asked if he had some pictures of Sigourney. He didn’t, but went to her apartment in NYC and took a bunch of Polaroids of her in pajamas posing as if she was in the Power Loader. He sent them to me along with some modeling pictures of a young Sigourney, which I used for sculpting her body, because she had no expression and I couldn’t tell much of her figure since she was wearing pajamas. I ended up using a frame from the original Alien and sculpted her face from that. For some reason, the intense expression I sculpted was lost in the finished product because of the paint job.
At this time in cinema history, they were just starting to use branded products in films. Siqourney was going to wear these state-of-the-art futuristic Reeboks, so the company officials came to the shop and had me sign a non-disclosure statement before they would let me see the advance copies of the shoe. The funny thing was, sculpting the shoes turned out to be the most fun because they really were cool shoes, after all.
When the sculpture was finished, she was made into a urethane gel-like nude puppet, then clothed by a professional doll clothes designer. Along the way, someone had applied her make-up, but put her eyebrows way up on her forehead like a Chinese Opera singer. I came in on my day off and spent a number of hours removing the make-up so it could be done correctly. To my dismay, the powers-that-be resented me trying to fix the situation and for some unknown reason, reapplied the make-up in exactly the same, wrong, place.
Flash forward several months to London while they are shooting the scene with the puppet on the sound stage. Something malfunctions with the model Power Loader so they have to cut the arm joints on my puppet to get her to work properly. To do this they have to undress her. I get a call at home from someone, that what I did was very uncool and James Cameron is pissed off at me. It seems that after I sculpted the puppet, someone had carved a happy face right on her private area and then cast the figure. Although this could be considered funny, some people didn’t think so, and those responsible thought it best to remain silent.
I was brought in on Universal Soldier to transpose the conceptual painting and the blueprints of the military laboratory on wheels into a workable sculpture, then organize, hire, and construct two identical big rig trucks, one as the actual working prop, the other as the stunt truck. I spent a considerable amount of time breaking down the blueprints and painting so I could make all the pieces which would be attached to real trucks come together like a giant model kit. I hired finish carpenters to make forms for all the side and rear panels, while I sculpted the top of the cab and all the little attachments from 2 lb. urethane foam.
Next a crew of on-site fiberglass experts was brought in to cover all the parts I sculpted, then dig out the foam leaving just a fiberglass shell. I had an outside company make all the panels.
The two trucks had to have 2 inch square steel tubing welded around it, like a cage, to hold the fiberglass panels. The actual working prop truck had to have both sides expand outwards in three, twelve foot sections on each side. They had to be able to open and close without breaking the fiberglass and seal perfectly every time. To do this, every measurement had to be exactly on mark. Unfortunately, the first truck ran into some problems when the frame sections were welded into place and each section was a quarter to half in off over every four foot span, so at the end of the truck, the frame was sticking out six or eight inches. It drove the welders crazy getting everything lined up, but eventually they managed it and all the mechanical features and fiberglass fit and worked perfectly.
Boss Film, run by Richard Edlund, one-third of the Star Wars triumvirate (George Lucas, John Dykstra), was THE place everyone wanted to work. I had met Steve Johnson, the head of the sculpture effects department and he invited me to join the crew if I could get into the Sculptor’s Union. Now, this union was the smallest union in America, with only forty plus sculptors. It was attached to the mold-maker’s union, which was attached to the cafeteria workers union, which was attached to the Teamsters. Because there were a lot of films going on at that time and all the sculptors were working, I was allowed to join.
The first thing I was put on was sculpting a huge wild boar for a scene where it attacks the soldiers in the jungle. I was told to make it about eight feet long out of water clay. When I was half-way through, it became obvious that it was way too large, so I was told to start again and make it only three feet long. This turned out to be too short, so I did it again at about five feet. When it was just about finished, Steve came to me and said the project had been cancelled because they were going to use a real taxidermy specimen. The shop had a second floor, which was really just a hand-built wooden loft, and where I sculpted said beast. Now, fully disgusted with sculpting wild boars, with the help of some other artists, we pushed the table the beast was on to the edge of the loft, and with video cameras rolling, we upended the table and watched as the clay monster slid off to its final resting place on the cement floor below. From there, it was readily scooped back into the clay container.
The second project I got was to sculpt a severed alien head that would be discovered with other dead species, within the alien spaceship at the end of the movie. I was given a tiny pencil sketch with the hint of an idea. This was the first time I was allowed to make something from beginning to end through all the processes, except for the molds because they had a very strong union that oversaw my union. The alien head was made in urethane and painted with urethane paints. It came out great in every way and everyone was happy with it. But, they changed the ending to the film (using it instead in Predator 2), so my creature wasn’t used.
The next project was the dead body of the first of the soldiers to die by the Predator. A body cast was made of the actor (who at that time was Shane Black, but a few weeks later became THE Shane Black when his script for Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon sold for a million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a script.) Basically, I re-sculpted his body so it looked like he had been hanging upside down for a while. Another sculptor created the interior cavity, but they never shot it. I also sculpted all the internal organs, which was sort of ghastly to do because I had to use this newly published medical book as reference and it used young dead people who looked like teenage models. In the movie, all those perfectly sculpted guts look like a pile of red rags on the ground.
My friend Mark Siegal asked me to help him come up with an idea for an effect he was working on where one of the soldiers (then wrestling champ, Jesse Ventura, who later became Minnesota Governor). The effect was that this alien weapon shoots this whirling thing that bores a hole through Jesse’s back and comes out his front, so the mechanical guys made this contraption that exploded his chest outwards (in a dummy, of course.) I suggested that Mark and I should go to lunch at this famous Ribs joint nearby in Marina del Rey, eat all we could, then boil off the excess meat from the bones, break then in half, and presto, instant chest carnage. It worked, but the resulting shot was so horrific, they cut the part where the weapon flies through his chest, and only show the results, which just looks like a bloody mess with no detail. They did the same thing with the scene where the skull and spine get ripped out. It worked perfectly in the tests and was very gruesome, but they cut it out. They did use it in Predator 2, but shot from far away in the subway tunnel.
After that, Mark and I were assigned to the costume department. Mark had sculpted the exoskeleton for the original creature and I helped cast it into some kind of urethane. After construction, we fit it onto Jean Claude Van Dam, the original Predator creature. It was his first American movie, and Blood Sport, for which he became famous, hadn’t come out yet. Yes, even at the beginning, Jean Clause was a super-confident, cocky, knows what he wants, flirt (with the women in the shop), kind of guy. He told me exactly what he planned to do over the next ten years and he pretty much did it. He didn’t like the idea of being the creature at all since he was sewed up in a costume where no one could see his face, and he didn’t get to do any martial arts. At one point he was sewn into a red suit (a spandex full body suit, including the head), for a film test. This is how you make a predator invisible on film. The first thing he does is an over-the-head Karate kick and rips out the crotch. I have this on tape, but of course, you can’t see his face. Still, it is the only known footage of him as the original predator.
One day, the big boss comes in and says the whole production is shutting down. The producers didn’t like the alien design, even though they had approved it. We all knew at the beginning that it was never going to work, but they went ahead with it anyway. Why wouldn’t it work? Because the original drawing was of a tall extremely thin humanoid-insect-like being with an exoskeleton that wouldn’t allow a man in a suit to bend over, much less, jump from tree-to-tree. Plus the alien head was a heavy (although really cool-looking) contraption that fit above the real person’s head and would have been a huge strain on the neck muscles. Lastly, Jean Claude was anything but skinny.
The last I heard was that most everything ended up in the dumpster and is now part of a landfill somewhere. Stan Winston’s company was hired and two of the sculptor from our crew, Matt Rose and Steve Wang went to work for them, where at 19-years-old, they created and sculpted the now famous predator we all love so much.
I have to say that working at Boss Films during that time was the high point of working on films. Everyone was the best in the business with huge credits and we all got along really well. I still have many cherished friends from that period.
For Predator 2, they used the body I made for Predator 1 for every dead body in the movie.
These were the days when everyone was working all the time. I was referred to Ted Ray and Tim Larwence’s studio by a mutual friend, Carl Surges (one of the best sculptors, ever). I sculpted the snake face of Beetlejuice as a puppet about four inches high. The snake body was maybe three feet with the rattlesnake tail. I was shown videos of Michael Keaton without make-up doing the Beetlejuice impression over and over again until he lost his voice. He was really remarkable in that his face took on that of Beetlejuice even without make-up. Of course I had pictures of him in make-up to go by, as well. The snake was sculpted in Roma Plastilina. I made several different sizes of snake scale stamps out of brass tubing, so the complete body was textured like a real snake. If anyone has pictures, please send them along.
For reasons unknown to me, the project kept stopping and starting, meaning I had to leave, then come back several times. The last time it stopped, I had completed the entire sculpture but for the skin texture on the face. When they got around to calling me back, I was already on another job. My friend Carl Surges went in and did the finale texture. Unknown to Carl, Ted and Jim were kind enough to give him credit for sculpting the snake, although they did mention me in the Cinefex issue that has my Beetlejuice head on the cover.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
Castle Dracula was sculpted in an old cabin on the side of a hill surrounded by redwood trees in downtown San Anselmo, California. I carved the master structure out of 4 lb. urethane foam from some very bad blueprints. They were bad because they was blurry and unclear and had no measurements that I can remember. The castle was six feet tall with a 2 ft x 6 ft mountain cliff base. Jack Haye, who hired me for Matte World, made all the nurnies (those cool looking model pieces hanging all over the castle), plus gave it the stone texture using a secret process, and painted it.
The idea was that the castle would by shot from only one direction, so it was sculpted in forced perspective, which means that it looks good from only one perspective. Well, the higher-ups liked it so much, they decided they wanted to do a fly-around, approaching from one side with the camera, move up the wall, fly above the castle, then circle around and come back down the front. No problem they said, just sculpt another castle, only this time we lost the blueprints, so you have to make it all by memory, plus it has to look perfect from every side. So, I did sculpt another castle and it looked great from all sides. We pulled it off. They did shoot the new castle from the front and top, but never did the fly-around. You’ll have to ask the director about that.
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Once again I found myself at Boss Films working on Masters of the Universe. This may have been the first of the comic book movies. My first and most important project was to sculpt the Staff of Skeletor. I really enjoyed making this even though I had to sculpt parts of it several times over because of ordered changes. It was sculpted from Roma Plastilina, but I used too soft a clay because the original design didn’t need a harder clay, but after the changes, it became very difficult to sculpt because the entire back portion had to be so precise. Being really hot inside the shop didn’t help matters. Upon completion, it was molded, then two cast in fiberglass, and painted, one gold, and one silver for the evil staff.
Next, I sculpted some sword sheaths for the main actors and made them out of vacuform plastics. Unfortunately, by this time in history, the comradery was pretty much gone, as people had left for various reasons and others had taken their places. Now, the shop seemed more like a factory.
I first worked on Nightflyers when I went in to interview at an FX lab and they had me make the Flying Laser Pen right there on the spot. I was working on Poltergeist 2 at the time, so designed it sort of Giegeresque.
I was called again to work on Nightflyers at pretty much the last minute. They were in the final throws of building the interior spaceship set on the sound stage and they still didn’t have a bed or other furniture for a major scene. I came in the morning, read the script before lunch, then made a little maquette of the bed, again making it Giegeresque. The director and art director loved it and let me loose.
I had some 2 lb. urethane foam delivered and after lunch I started sculpting the bed from scratch. The carpenters had built a bed platform to hold the mattress, so I attached the foam to that and carved it free-style. I’m not sure, but I think it took a few days. They liked it so much they had me free-style the dressing table, also. Even while I was still sculpting they began shooting, so I would have to stop every time a scene started. When finished they were supposed to spray a hard urethane shell over both pieces, but they said they didn’t have the money, so just painted the foam. This turned out to be a mess because every time someone touched or rubbed it, the paint and part of the sculpture would rub away. Catherine Mary Stewart, the lead actress, asked me if she could buy it, but it belonged to the production company. They threw it in the dumpster at the end of the shoot. More forward thinking from Hollywood.
No sooner had I finished carving, then they began the shoot with Bianca Jaeger (Mick’s X) and Michael des Barres (famed British rocker and actor). You couldn’t find two more opposing types of personalities. Bianca swirls in with an entourage and doesn’t speak to anyone, nor do they let anyone near her. Michael, on the other hand, is open to everyone and hangs out talking with the crew. For three hours they tried to get one shot in the can where Bianca was supposed to slap Michael. She was like a little girl the first time in front of a camera and no matter how many times she tried, she couldn’t bring herself to actually slap him across the face, even as Michael tried his best to be supportive and told her to just haul off and let him have it. Basically, she just couldn’t act. They tried some shots in bed (of which one is one this page, but not in the movie), but that was no better as she couldn’t get into character. By the afternoon, she was gone. The papers said she left over artistic differences. When I took photos of my work, she just happened to be in the way.
INVADERS FROM MARS
Invaders was my first big break in the movie Biz. I had worked for some smaller FX shops around town and went out every day with my portfolio making the rounds of every FX shop, production facility, and movie studio I could get into. One day I got a call from someone at a production office that they wanted to “take a meeting with me.” I don’t know where they got my name. I met with Les Dilley, the production designer, who was well-known as an art director for movies like Alien and Star Wars. At that time I found out the movie was Invaders from Mars, my favorite movie when I was a child. Les and I got along well because he like the sculptures of women in my portfolio, and the one alien figure I did to show Stan Winston. He invited me to lunch the next day in Hollywood. I couldn’t believe it, a real Hollywood lunch meeting.
When I arrived, it wasn’t just me and him, but the whole production crew including Toby Hooper, the director, the producers, and two of the best FX people in the business, John Dykstra and Stan Winston. I had tried to get on Stan’s crew for the show and he kept putting me off for some reason. They had, at that point, decided on everything except for three props. Mostly, I sat listening until Toby turned to me and asked what I had in mind for the spaceship design. Yikes! This was the first I heard of this. He drew a peanut shape on a napkin and asked me if I could turn that shape into a spaceship. As it happened, I had a three inch ball of lint-covered clay in my pocket, so while everyone went on with their meeting, I used some silverware and sculpted an organic spaceship maquette with bones, tendons, meteor craters, windows, and other nifty stuff. They passed it around, then Toby looked up at me and smiled He told me to report the next day to Apogee FX, John Dykstra’s company, George Lucas’s former partner, and the second most famous FX shop in the world, next to Lucas’s newly-formed Industrial Light & Magic (AKA ILM). Les hired me to work directly under him as designer and sculptor, and I was given free reign to sculpt the model spaceship anyway I wanted.
When I showed up at work, everyone was very nice to me and accepted me as one of their own. The ship came out great and everyone was happy.
Later the first day, someone from the studio came in and gave me the alien raygun (blaster) to sculpt, as well. Since I came from a fine arts background, I was winging it making alien bits and pieces of things, but it was a lot of fun being allowed to be totally creative.
No sooner had I finished sculpting those items, when I was told to report to location in an aircraft hanger on San Pedro Island in Long Beach. They had built the entire interior of the alien spaceship inside this hanger, along with a couple hundred feet of underground tunnels and caves. My job was to design and build the major prop for the movie, the giant needle machine, which drills and implants a controlling chip into the base of the skull of unlucky captives, which turned out to be pretty much the whole cast.
Usually, production designers and art directors have months to design stuff for movies, but for each item I was presented with, I had minutes or at the most half a day. The production assigned me one assistant to help me. Larry Carr had been running his own movies way before I came along, including some the best selling slasher films of all time. He was invaluable. I felt really weird being his boss. It turned out that the producer didn’t like any of the designs from Stan Winston’s shop or from the art director, so went with my designs. During that first day on set, I had to come up with a design and start on it. I was plenty scared because I had never made anything this big before. Unknown to me, this put me smack in the middle of a political Hollywood maelstrom. None of the other crews would help me, or even talk to me for the three months I worked on that movie. The production coordinator was so rude to me, I threatened to walk off the set.
The Needle Machine was indeed huge. It was 30 feet long when fully extended, and hung twenty feet in the air. We had to build scaffolding and use ten foot ladders to work thirty feet in the air. There was a huge amount of surface area to cover. My design was part mechanical and electronic, and part organic, so I visited a lot of electronic scrap yards for parts. All the organic shapes we sculpted in clay or foam, then molded and cast in a soft, pliable foam so we could bend them to fit around the cylinders and glue or screw them in place to the six foot diameter aluminium tubes. They had to contract within each other, then slide out again, so all the added parts could only be six inches thick.
There was never enough materials and every morning some other group had stolen our ladders, and we had to steal them back. For a few days near the end, I hired one of the set painters who had lost her job to help out gluing parts onto the cylinders. I think it took a couple of months to finish the needle machine.
The day after it was finished, I came back on set to puppeteer the working of the Martian Blasters. For certain shots, they had to look all slimy, so I went into the little town and bought out the supply of KY Jelly. That brought more than a few snickers, I can tell you.
This went along fairly smoothly until we set up a shoot with all the actors and all the aliens standing there, and me with a bundle of wires coming out the back of the blaster so I could mechanically open them on cue and ramp up the installed special European high-intensity lights. Toby freaked out because the Martian blasters didn’t work like real Martian blasters, what with the wires and cables coming out of it. I reminded him that he had approved everything weeks before. In a huff, he shut down the set and went back to his trailer to rewrite the scene. I rewired everything to make it less obvious that we didn’t actually have alien technology. Shooting from a different angle, combined with my enhanced, less cable-obvious Martian blaster, the scene worked.
Since this was the first major production and live set I had worked on, I had no idea what to expect. I had never seen so much animosity shown between fellow artists before, but at the same time, I met many exceptional people that remained my friends over the years. When the movie was released, the painter I hired got the lead sculptor credit and my name was nowhere to be found.
This was time when a lot of big special effects movies were being made. Computers hadn’t caught on yet, so most everything was practical effects, meaning they were real. I was at Boss Film, run by Richard Edlund, the 3rd in the Star Wars triumvirate alumni. There was a lot of camaraderie. Everyone was exceptionally talented, from all backgrounds, nationalities, and ages. For this movie I sculpted the body of the Great Beast out of water clay. All the monsters, as I recall, were designs from Giger, the artist who brought us THE Alien. We were supervised by his assistant to get his vision just right. As you can see in the rather crappy photo I have of the original clay (about 8 feet long), how they dressed it and shot it for the movie bears little resemblance.
I came onto this project to save it. The original sculpture of the limo was botched, and I had to resculpt the whole thing. Since the person before me used an entirely different technique than I employed, it took a while to figure out how to save it. Urethane foam blocks are expensive, so starting from scratch wasn’t cost effective. Plus, make a realistic car, which has to be perfectly mirror imaged without using a computer or a giant panto-graph machine was extremely challenging. Unfortunately, I had to fire the entire crew and bring in one other sculptor. After the limo was complete, they gave me the trike police car to build. They had already built the chassis, so making the body fit so perfectly for the anchor bolts was difficult. Usually, it’s done the other way around.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (ID4)
The production designer, Patrick Tatopoulos, my friend since he first came from Greece, and we worked together at the same SFX company, invited me to sculpt the puppet version of the alien combat suit while the full-size 8 foot version was being sculpted at the same time. Someone else had tried their hand at it but, all the measurements were off, so I had to start again. This was extremely difficult because the large sculpture was being made free-form from a painting and none of the detail was symmetrical, so I had to follow whatever the other sculptor was doing. That meant I had to meticulously measure everything he made, then transpose it to 1/4 scale. This took a long time. It was a hot summer working in an open garage in North Hollywood. I never got to do the finale detailing because I was told they had to cut their budget, which meant they had to cut me, and apparently, my promised credit. Up to that point, the movie was biggest money-maker of all time.
STAR TREK 5
I worked on Star Trek V at MEL (Make-Up & Effects Lab). I designed and sculpted this outfit in Roma Plastilina on a nude plaster casting of the actress. I was a little concerned in that I made the costume “see through” so her nipples, all three, could be clearly seen. Luckily, the director, William Shatner (the original James T. Kirk of the original Star Trek series) liked it. In the film, the action is so fast, hardly anything can be seen. Incidentally, my three-breasted bar girl was made before the one in Total Recall that came out a year later.
This wild fish was also made at Make-Up & Effects Lab (MEL) for the movie with Tom Hanks. It was supposed to be a running sight gag throughout the movie where every time someone goes by the aquarium, they throw food into it, so in the beginning there is a little fish, but at the end it is a huge fish. They ran out of time or money and only the big fish was made. I designed and sculpted it in Roma Plastilina. The teeth were made in dental acrylic. I also made two sets of long Chinese-style killer fingernails for the wicked princess, or whatever she was. One set was acrylic and was very light and glued to her fingernails. I tested them myself because they were supposed to be able to tear through a fake paper wall, and also jab into an apple. However, the actress was afraid to actually do any jabbing, believing that her real nails would rip off. I don’t blame her, actually. Unfortunately, the shot in the movie looks hokey because she doesn’t pierce the wall. The other set of mails I made in very low melting point pot metal. This gag involved the wicked lady to stir a cup of steaming coffee with her nail and it melting off. It worked when I tried it, but either she wouldn’t do it, or they didn’t shoot it.
EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES
I got a call from a production company in Portland, Oregon, about creating an embryo for the Uma Thurman character in Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. I sculpted the baby several times life size, out of Roma Plastilina, in the comfort of my own living room in Sausalito. I think I made molds for it and shipped everything to Portland, but I may be wrong about the molds. Ultimately, they dropped the scene from the movie, but maybe they put in back in on the DVD. The movie was supposed to end with the camera shot entering Uma’s pregnant stomach and seeing the unborn baby hitchhiking with those huge thumbs.
Eliminator was my very first feature movie that I worked on in Hollywood, although it was really ina garage shop in Van Nuys, CA. This was the FX shop for Charles Band Pictures, famous in his own right as Ed Wood. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the absolute lowest you could start in the FX business. Later, of course, he gained sort of a cult status because the movies was so bad. He had already made 26 films before I came along. Since then he’s made over 200 more.
The head of the shop, and master sculptor, John Carl Buechler, had a creed he lived by, so we lived by it also: never sculpt anything that takes more than four hours. John was a great guy in every way. He was scrupulously honest, and went out-of-his-way to see everyone got a fair deal. There were times when paychecks failed to materialize, so he would go off to the powers-that-be and get them himself. He was always kind to me and gave me my first break.
From what I can remember, I sculpted the chest and arm armor for the Mandroid. For many years I thought I had worked on Mandroid because that’s what everyone called it, but found out only recently that it was Eliminator. I also did a few small things for Ghoulies, but I can’t remember what they were. Although the working conditions were atrocious, it was unbearably hot, we worked 70 hours a week, and I got my first case of chemical poisoning, I’ll always remember that experience as a good time.
RUNAWAY RALPH and MOUSE ON A MOTORCYCLE
Both Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse were done for Churchhill Films in a small production facility in downtown Los Angeles run by John Matthews, a brilliant all-round film artist. The first project I did was to sculpt the baby kitten, Mertin, over the stop-motion armature made by my friend, Justin Kohn. After that, I sculpted all the little mice and hamster, except Ralph, who had already been sculpted by someone else. All were made in Roma Plastilina. About this time I was becoming allergic to plastilina clay and the fumes and oils in it would give me a rash on my face. Soon after, I started using Chevant Red Clay, which was only marginally better for my skin. The only sculpting mediums that didn’t seem to effect me were wax and Super Sculpy.
A few days after I finished the little critters, I was given the job of sculpting the fireplace and front of the desk for the live-action set. I made these in 2 lb. urethane foam in my dirty old garage in Venice, CA. I gave them a few coats of resin and they were painted by the crew at the production office.
FILMS WITH NO PHOTOS
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