You have never heard of Hellboy?
Oh come on now, even if you haven't read this fantastic comic by
Mike Mignola, you at least heard of the name. Regardless
whether or not you live under a rock, Guillermo Del Toro is working
on the movie slated for a 2004 release and it's going to be big.
Del Toro jumped into the spotlight on the critically acclaimed 'The
Devil's Backbone' and followed it up with knockout punch by
directing 'Blade II'. Del Toro called 'Blade II' a warmup for
what you will see in Hellboy. "[Hellboy] is the film I want to
make most, I would literally do it for no money up front, I would
bet my entire salary on the back end. Not a dollar for my
services". As he told the Austin Chronicle in an interview.
So, with all this
excitement and hype, we had to find out just how big this is going
to be. I talked with Mike Elizalde, whose company Spectral
Motion is handling the lion's share of the FX work on this film.
Mike is an outstanding artist and very humble with all the success
he has had. He worked on Blade II heading up the mechanical
department and stepped into the big shoes to head the FX work for Hellboy.
LMC: So, Del Toro
called Blade II a warmup for this movie.
ME: [laughs] I
think that's pretty accurate. We have a build list
considerably larger than Blade II. It's very demanding.
You are going to see stuff you have never seen before. All new
stuff and alot more of it. Very fresh. I have to admit,
this is probably the hardest job I've ever done, but I've had the
LMC: How did your
company land the job?
ME: While working on
Blade II, I spent a good deal of time getting to know Guillermo and
his creative slant on the whole process. We just hit it off
while working in Prague. He asked me if I wanted to do a
breakdown of Hellboy and that started it all.
LMC: It seems Guillermo
is very hands on in all aspects of the movie, especially FX.
ME: Oh yes, Guillermo
is very involved. He doesn't leave anything to chance.
Which is great. You don't want to show up on set with
something you can't shoot or he's just not happy with. He came
by the shop at least once a week throughout the whole build process
and he would give us feedback right away. He's also very open
to our opinion and advice on a character or effect. Definitely
a 2 way street.
LMC: Blade II received
alot of acclaim for it's great ability to blend real world FX with
the digital world. Is that trend continuing?
ME: For sure, that is a
trend seen across the board. Gollum in LOTR may be a notable
exception where he was fully digital and it came out fantastic, but
extremely expensive. We want to blend the tactile world and
augment it with digital FX. So you really get the best of
both. It's difficult to take a fully digital thing and
fool the audience, and it's difficult to achieve some FX with just
mechanical work, so blending the two has been a really great way to
bridge that gap.
LMC: Is Spectral Motion
doing the whole enchilada of FX?
ME: We are doing
everything with the exception of Hellboy himself. Rick Baker's
shop is doing the suit and prosthetics for him. We are tasked
with bringing all the peripheral characters and villians to life.
[Editor note: Ron
Perlman, from BladeII will be playing the
lead role of Hellboy.]
LMC: So give me a run
down of the FX you are doing.
ME: [laughs] Well, it
would be wise for me to keep my trap shut to an extent. I can
tell you we are doing an Abe Sapien character. We are
also doing Hellboy's nemesis named Sammael. To get into too
many details would be unwise [laughs]
LMC: Do you think the
script is staying true to the comic?
ME: Yeah, it has always
been Guillermo's vision to put on the screen what Mike Mignola put
on the page. To that end, he has gone out of his way to see
that is the case. Mike Mignola has had alot of input from the
beginning and Guillermo has worked closely with him. Guillermo
was also a fan of the comic before thoughts of a movie, so he has a
deeper understanding right off the bat. I think it's going to
happen as planned and it's going to be an amazing thing when it hits
With the team that is
assembled in all aspects of this film in each echelon. I can't
see how this won't be an amazing movie. People will really be
introduced to a special character.
LMC: So, does that mean
there will be a part 2?
ME: [laughs] I can't
tell you that, you will just have to wait.
LMC: Let's hear how you
got where you are today.
ME: Oh boy, where do I
start? Let's see, I was born in Mexico and immigrated to L.A.
when I was 5. I joined the Navy and spent 8
years there, but at that time I didn't have alot of background in
FX. I was just trying to survive. It
to me I wanted to do something more with my life. I was in a
library one day and picked up the book 'Techniques of 3-Dimensional
Lee Baygan. I was completely absorbed in this book. The
process of turning someone into something totally different.
LMC: Before this event,
you had no experience with makeup, even as a hobby?
ME: Not really.
My upbringing was very limited in resources, so we didn't have alot
of extra money for such things. The desire was always there,
but just never did much more than improvise with what I had. I
learned alot of technical and skills in the navy like machining.
I was able to translate that to animatronics in the industry.
LMC: So animatronics
and mechanics are your strength?
ME: Yes, I am an artist
too, but I have to be realistic and seek out those with strengths in
these areas to augment and create a team. Mechanical design is
my forte which is a very challenging way to make a living.
LMC: How did you get
your foot in the door?
ME: I made
a few makeups and stuck them on myself and my girlfriend and sent
them around to different FX shops. John Buechler was the first
to hire me. It was incredible. I went to the shop and
Steve Wang, Screaming Mad George were there. I mean the list
of guys walking around this shop was incredible and here I am my
first job working with guys who yesterday I was reading about.
The opportunity to be with these guys and to learn was an
unbelievable experience. That got me started and I just went
from there and finally got a chance to work at Rick Baker's shop
which was a goal of mine. It took me a long time to get to the
point where I own my own studio. I started about 16 years ago.
LMC: Talk about
ME: I started Spectral
Motion back in '94 with my wife Mary and started that out of my
garage as my own business on some smaller projects and Hellboy is
the best and biggest opportunity to date.
LMC: So, you are
ranking right up there with Rick Baker then?
ME: [laugh] I wouldn't
go that far! If you are listening Rick, It's gonna take me a
LMC: Who do you have
working with you?
ME: Steve Wang is our
lead art director. He's heading up several projects, burning
the candle at both ends. The stuff he is turning in is
phenomenal. Norman Cabrera who is out of this world.
Mark Setrakian is a brilliant mechanical designer. It's a
great environment and we all work well together.
LMC: How does it feel
to run the show instead of earlier in your career when you were one
of the crew members?
ME: Good question, one
thing I noticed very different is how much time you spend behind the
desk keeping things in order. Brian Walsh, who is my producer,
is handling alot of the budgeting and schedules and makes my job
alot easier. I do get to be creative by channeling Guillermo's
ideas into what our team is doing. I have to keep a larger
view of it all for that. I can walk through the shop and
direct various projects based on what I know Guillermo is looking
LMC: Did you get a
chance to work on a pet project?
ME: Not really.
One thing I did was to document everything. Take a camera and
go through the shop and keep chronological order of the Effect.
LMC: Ah, like Steve
Johnson did on Blade II in the extras segment?
ME: Right. I've
been putting together an edited progress reel for the DVD.
It's alot of fun to see the behind the scenes. Like I would
videotape the initial laying of the clay up until the final piece,
so you can see the progress. It also gives you an idea of the
LMC: When is the movie
slated for release?
ME: I believe the
summer of '04
LMC: When do you finish
ME: We wrap shooting in
July of this year. I'm traveling to Prague for the shooting
for the duration of the FX. It's a great experience. I
take my kids with me for a real eye opening experience.
LMC: Well thanks alot
Mike. It sounds like it's going to be one helluva movie.
ME: Thank you!
Here's some of Mikes
past work for movies and model kits. Note: These won't be
appearing in the Hellboy ;-)