Wizards of Hollywood

May 24, 2012 | 9:46 a.m.

‘Avengers’ deconstructed: Helicarrier, Stark Tower design secrets

The Littoral Combat Ship program influenced "The Avengers" production designer. (United States Navy)
“The Avengers” is closing in on $1.2 billion in worldwide box office and has passed “The Dark Knight” to become the biggest superhero film in Hollywood history. The scale of the movie feels as big as those numbers, and one major reason for that is the work of James Chinlund, the production designer whose credits include Darren Aronofsky films “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream.” The New York native has a fine arts background and studied at Cal Arts but also learned a lot in the pages of Marvel Comics. We caught up with him to talk about making a universe big enough for a cosmic team of box-office heroes. HC: What did you see as the biggest hurdle when you first took on the movie? JC: In May of 2010, when I was first approached by Marvel about the […]
May 24, 2012 | 8:53 a.m.

‘Men in Black 3’: Rick Baker’s ongoing search for alien life

Rick Baker (featured image)
Once you saw past the stage smoke and secret curtain, the great and powerful Oz seemed like a pretty lonely guy whose citadel had too many hallways and not enough heartbeats. It’s hard not to wonder if the same applies to Hollywood wizard Rick Baker, but maybe that’s just because of the giant hourglass and the flying monkeys that decorate his shadowy office. “It’s quiet around here until the next job,” said the seven-time Oscar winner. Baker is the most celebrated creature creator in movie history, but he now has reached a career chapter where he only will take on projects that possess a special challenge or sentimental appeal. This summer Baker is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the business of makeup, visual effects and monster construction — he was an apprentice to makeup master Dick Smith on “The Exorcist.” […]
May 20, 2012 | 12:16 p.m.

Rick Baker’s ‘magic scissors’ made monster movie history

Special makeup effects artist Rick Baker shows off an alien mask his studio created for "Men in Black III" at the Hero Complex Film Festival Saturday. (Alan Heitz / Los Angeles Times handout)
Special makeup effects wizard Rick Baker surprised Hero Complex Film Festival attendees Saturday afternoon, dropping by to answer questions about his prolific career, and carrying an alien head in a garbage bag. Baker, 61, is a seven-time Oscar winner whose credits include “Planet of the Apes,” “Hellboy,” “Ed Wood,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and dozens more. The Q&A — at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles — followed a screening of a featurette about Baker’s work for “Men in Black III,” which hits theaters next weekend. The audience oohed appreciatively as Baker pulled an alien mask from the bag he was toting — one of 127 alien creations for “Men in Black III,” he said. “The aliens are just kind of glimpsed in the background many times, so rather than putting people through the makeup process, a lot of […]
March 09, 2012 | 11:55 a.m.

‘John Carter': Creating Woola, lizard-dog Lassie of Mars

'John Carter' (Disney)
Never work with children or animals, the Hollywood adage goes, because they steal every scene. A fantastical addendum for the Martian action-adventure epic “John Carter” might be: Never work with a 10-legged, giant lizard dog either. Woola, the homely, Martian canine creature called a Calot in director Andrew Stanton’s new Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, was little-seen in the promotion or marketing for the film, but has emerged as an early fan favorite. “It’s sort a boy and his dog,” Stanton said, explaining Woola’s appeal. “Who wouldn’t want a dog that could run like the Roadrunner in the Warner Bros. cartoons and go that fast?” A kind of Barsoomian man’s best friend, Woola quickly cottons to Taylor Kitsch’s flinty Confederate Civil War veteran, following him loyally across the Red Planet’s sandy dunes. Like his master, Woola travels with unearthly speed. The […]
Jan. 23, 2012 | 12:49 p.m.

‘The Hobbit': Andy Serkis says Gollum is ‘printed into my DNA’

With Academy Award nominations looming Tuesday morning, there’s been a lot of buzz about a possible supporting actor Oscar nod for Andy Serkis, the performance-capture pioneer who played the resistance fighter chimpanzee Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Serkis, who helped put motion-capture technology on the map a decade ago with his portrayal of Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” films, received a Critics’ Choice Movie Award nomination for his Caesar performance, and “Apes” co-star James Franco has been campaigning on his behalf for awards recognition. Hero Complex sat down with Serkis earlier this month in a video chat with readers to talk about “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and his other projects — including Peter Jackson’s upcoming two-part adaptation of “The Hobbit” and Steven Spielberg’s current release, “The Adventures of Tintin” — and what […]
Jan. 06, 2012 | 6:24 a.m.

Action Movie FX: Bad Robot app delivers big bangs for your buck

bad robot
The week before Christmas was a big one for J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, with the wide release of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” which quickly gave Bad Robot the bragging rights to the biggest hit of the holiday season. But the week was also notable for another landmark: Bad Robot is now in the iPhone app business. The app is called Action Movie FX and it gives users the ability to insert special effects into any video they take with Apple’s smartphone. The two effects included with the app are a missile attack and car smash, allowing anyone to get all Michael Bay on unsuspecting family members, sleeping pets or the guy who cut them off on the 405 Freeway. In an e-mail interview, Abrams called Action Movie FX the first of a “slew” of “cool projects” that his […]
Dec. 14, 2011 | 8:09 a.m.

‘Tintin': Jamie Bell and Nick Frost get ‘loaded into the Matrix’

Tintin (featured image)
Two stars of  “The Adventures of Tintin,” Jamie Bell (who plays the title role) and Nick Frost (who plays Thomson, the daft policeman), joined us Monday night for a free screening of the film in Burbank and talked about working within “the volume,” the performance-capture space that was used by director Steven Spielberg and his crew to create the world of the young adventure hero. Here’s the first video installment of the on-stage interview. Check back for more from Bell and Frost. – Geoff Boucher RECENT AND RELATED ‘Tintin’: A beginner’s guide to the European classic Hergé: An animated (and complicated) life The hopes (and fears) of one longtime ‘Tintin’ fan ‘Tintin’: Spielberg on the Indiana Jones connection ‘Tintin’: Catching up with a globetrotter ‘Tintin’: Spielberg felt ‘more like a painter than ever’ Andy Serkis’ Haddock is ‘shipwreck of a human’ Spielberg touts ‘Tintin’ […]
Dec. 03, 2011 | 8:03 a.m.

Terry Gilliam on ‘Dark Knight,’ ‘Tintin’ and ‘Transformers’

Terry Gilliam
We’re still hearing a lot of response to our biggest article this week, “Terry Gilliam: The heir of Fellini and the enemy of God?,” but the story isn’t quite done yet. Gilliam, the director of “Brazil” and “Twelve Monkeys,” is a man of fiery opinions and during our two interviews (covering three hours and spread over two days) he lobbed a few Molotov cocktails in different directions. So, with quotes that didn’t make it into that first article, we bring you the World According to Gilliam: * On “Transformers: Dark of the Moon“: “The latest ‘Transformers’ movie was on the plane coming over to Los Angeles. It’s horrible and there’s all these phallic things going on. I just couldn’t even deal with it. C’mon, leave some room for me, as the audience. The audience is totally excluded, you just sit there and watch the explosions. […]
Dec. 02, 2011 | 12:00 p.m.

‘Tintin': Steven Spielberg says ‘the medium isn’t the message’

spielberg (featured image)
Is there a better way to start a Hollywood friendship than handing someone an Oscar as you shake their hand for the first time? That’s what happened when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won the Academy Award for best picture and Spielberg was the presenter as producer-director Jackson came forward to pick up the most coveted trophy in town. The two filmmaking titans are now collaborators with “The Adventures of Tintin,” a movie that takes Europe’s beloved boy adventurer and introduces him to an American audience through a cutting-edge cinematic creation that, to most observers, pushes the envelope for animation and, for some skeptics, tests the Academy’s definitions of what it is and what isn’t animated. Geoff Boucher sat down with Spielberg and Jackson together backstage at last summer’s Comic-Con International to talk about the project’s spirit […]
Oct. 24, 2011 | 3:53 p.m.

‘Jurassic Park’ effects wizard: ‘We were copying Mother Nature’

Jurassic Park (featured image)
More than 18 years after the trademark Tyrannosaurus rex first roared onto the big screen in “Jurassic Park,” the film and its sequels are getting the Blu-ray treatment. On Tuesday, the “Jurassic Park” trilogy boxed set is being released on Blu-ray and DVD, and its bonus features include interviews with cast and crew. Among them is the Industrial Light & Magic visual effects wizard behind the full-motion dinosaurs in the first two “Jurassic Park” films, Dennis Muren. Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark recently chatted with Muren — whose other visual effects credits include “Star Wars,” “Ghostbusters” and “Indiana Jones” titles — about the dinosaur franchise, based on the book by Michael Crichton. NC: Something surprising about “Jurassic Park” is how well it has aged. The story and the effects still hold up really well. Why is that? DM: I wondered […]
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