What did you do on Underworld
was in charge of creature design, the werewolves, vampires and
mummies. We designed and built the FX.
Did you opt for primarily physical FX or CGI.
stepped onto this project with a director, Len Wiseman who didnít
want to use too much CGI. That doesnít mean we didnít use it for
some scenes that required it, but primarily we did as much physical
stunts and suits as we could. A lot of rigs were built for werewolf
type stunts that could have been done in CGI, but we went with a
physical design. We built 2 hero werewolves and sometimes you might
need to see a few more background wolves, so those were done in CGI.
suits were built for the wolves, was anything done to them.
Well, we wanted to do something new and unique. We didnít want to
do a type of wolf you see in every movie. The wolf suits had
mechanical leg extensions and animatronic extensions for snarls and
whatnot. I wanted to go something more catlike for the wolf.
Obviously, werewolves are doglike, but I was going for something in
between. Adding catlike qualities to a wolf for a more sleek look
and a more agile animal. Iíll tell you my inspiration. When I saw
Rick Bakerís American Werewolf in London, I felt the best look to
the werewolf was during the transformation stage. Not the beginning
or end, but the wolf somewhere in the middle. There was the wolf,
somewhat scary and grotesque and thatís what inspired me.
your team had creative freedom to design the look?
early on in the process it was me and Len and a few producers and I
was sketching designs. This is the first stage before you bring in
a full team to create the FX. Just fleshing out the design.
this phase I brought on the team. The team joins when the work is
there, you canít afford to keep a full team when you arenít
working. The first one is my supervisor Guy Himber and then Steve
Wang. Steve is my hero. I should probably stop saying that, but
itís true. Steve has a great, great sense of this work and suit
building and heís done so many suits. Heís done it on big movies
and small movies and thatís what I like, he has found ways on very
small budgets to make great suits. The budget on Underworld wasnít
huge, maybe 30 million at the end. So we had to find ways to get
the most for the money.
How did you meet Steve Wang.
was looking at magazines back in Europe and had no clue how
Hollywood really worked. I remember seeing pictures of Steve when
he was doing Predator. Sculpting this monster and I was like this
guy is amazing. I was working on Godzilla and one of the people
that came for a job was Steve. In my mind, he had directed and
worked on such big things, I didnít think I could get Steve. But he
came and his work was outstanding. He also came back to help us
with ĎTheyí which didnít do too well, but the FX were great. I told
my shop supervisor I wanted Steve on every show and if he wasnít
busy everywhere, to tell you the truth, I would try and hire him
every time. I mean, his work is outstanding, heís done it many many
times and heís a creative genius.
How did the suit building work out?
Bartalos was in charge of casting and molding the actors and
creating the core for the suits. We body cast one actor and we were
able to extend that cast to fit the other actor, so we didnít have
to cast both actors for the chief wolf suits. Steve had a great
idea that we shave down the body cast so that when we sculpt the
suit on top of it, it will fit the actor very tight. Normally, you
sculpt onto the lifecast and the suit fits loose, wrinkles and
buckles in some places. Steve kept saying to sculpt smaller, sculpt
smaller and as small as we did the suit, it still buckled around the
waist, so Steve tailored the suit to fix these problems and I donít
know how he did it, but he did it very, very well.
LMC: Besides running the shop, do you take on other roles?
as both a creature designer and a production designer. On 'Dark
City', I worked as the production designer. Now Iím working on 'I,
Robot' as both the production designer and creature designer, which
I also did on 'Independence Day'. On 'Underworld', I only worked as
the creature designer. It helps to be the person designing the sets
and the creatures as you can blend them together and they fit.
is your opinion of CGI
beginning we put together a few packages of wolves that were CGI and
physical FX so we could look at the two. Iím not hardcore either
way really. I look to use what works, so if CGI is the answer then
thatís what I go with. I donít consider myself a creature guy as
much as I do a designer, so whatever tool looks the best. In 'I,
Robot' a lot of the robots are going to be CG. If you were to put a
man in a suit, you would never be able to get the proper
proportions. I think CG is great and it will only improve. When we
looked at the differences, we realized the best werewolf look was
going to be a physical wolf, one you could see and touch and believe
moreso than something fantastic like CG could give you.
What about 5 Ė 10 years down the road. How do you see CG advancing?
you can see the trend now. Less and less work for the physical FX.
Some of the bigger names are seeing less work. I came to the states
like 12-15 years ago and it was a dream place. So much work, and
now a lot have disappeared. One positive thing Iím seeing is all
the young directors. You would think they would be into CGI moreso
coming from a video world, but thatís not the trend. A lot of them
are going back to physical FX to achieve the realism you get from
it. Itís encouraging to me to see them not just choose CG because
itís neat, but looking at the best option. I think there will be
less work, but there will still be work.
did you come to Hollywood from Europe?
funky story. About 15 years ago I was in Greece just being goofy,
surfing, painting and just having a great time. A friend of mine
came to me and showed me an FX magazine. It hit me that people were
doing all this cool stuff for the movies and I was like, man I have
to do that. I went out and bought ceramic clay, which is totally
inappropriate. I did like 10 creatures and after a few weeks they
all cracked and broke. But I did get pictures and put it in a
portfolio and went to L.A. to find Rick Baker and Stan Winston and
all those guys. I didnít have any appointments, so I was taking a
big chance. I landed in LA and my portfolio was stuck in
Amsterdam. I was in the states for 4 weeks, but I had no book,
spoke little English. I called and visited and most everyone was
like call us back when you get your book. I got my book the day
before I was supposed to leave, but I had no appointments and no one
could see me. The only people that opened their door to me was
MakeupFX Labs. I was blown away by their stuff. They said my stuff
looked good, but I needed to work on my sculpting. I went back to
Greece thinking that was it. A month later they called me back and
said they had a small gig. I went back and they helped me get my
green card. I tip my hat to those guys for giving me a chance and
helping me get started. I stayed with them 2-3 years and they
allowed me to go off on my own and start learning Production
you had any big breakout movies?
I think 'Stargate' was my big movie at the time. It wasnít
huge, but it really got me going. It was funny, people were like
who is this guy that got 'Stargate' and now he is doing
'Independence Day'. I was unknown for the most part at that time.
I think itís a bit of luck. You meet someone and they like your
work and give you a chance. Winston and Cameron for example. Then
you do a few movies with a director and after that you think you are
established, but nope. They just say, you must be this directors
protťgť or something like that, so you have to go out and keep
proving yourself. I think I got a few movies after that ĎPitch
Blackí, ĎSuperNovaí because of my past shows, but after that I was a
little slow and just got some TV work.
I fell short and had the great idea to work on
ĎBattleField Earthí which killed me completely. I realized I should
not have done that, what am I stupid? After that I had nothing,
finally a TV show 'Special Unit' came to me and without that I
probably would have collapsed. Those guys were fantastic. I had
that for a year or so and it helped me get back into it. I think
thatís the way it is, right? You get somewhere, think you are grown
and just like that you are back to
square one. Now we are back on track and 'I, Robot' is a huge deal
for me, the biggest movie Iíve done with a huge budget, so Iím
excited about that. Same director that
did ĎDark Cityí. Iím really excited about
this. I also think 'Underworld' is going to be really great. Len
is a very talented director.
I'd like to thank Patrick for taking time out of his very busy
schedule to talk Hollywood with us. Now enjoy the rest of his