Legendary make-up artist, Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London") appeared in front of a packed crowd on Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk about his work on the new film "The Wolf Man."
"I don’t pursue films, I like people to come to me, but when I heard Universal was doing a remake of ‘The Wolf Man’, I went to someone and said, ‘I have to do this movie,’" said the Oscar-winning make-up wizard.
"I was glad that they wanted this to be a man in make-up rather than CGI," continued Baker. "There’s a real magic that happens when you get a really good actor in really good make-up. He looks at himself and he is a Wolf Man."
"It’s pretty old school, and I think that’s what is going to make this movie cool. It’s a classic, gothic horror movie," explained Baker about the new film.
Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, Baker introduced the stars of the film, Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada") and Benicio Del Toro ("Traffic"). The packed audience went wild for the stunning actress and the Oscar-wining actor as neither were scheduled to appear at Comic-Con.
Del Toro announced that he had brought the never before shown trailer to the film with him, and that even he had not seen it yet.
From the trailer you can tell that the film will be a close interpretation of the original, but set in the late 1800s. The audience was given glimpses of a man making silver bullets and Del Toro covered in blood. We also saw Del Toro as the Wolf Man howling at a full moon. The final shot was of the actor saying, "Maybe I am what they say I am…a monster," right before we see the werewolf biting someone.
The make-up and effects come off very nicely, and the audience seemed to like the period setting and classic feel to the movie. It was very dark and scary, yet even from the short clip, you feel sympathetic towards Del Toro’s character. The film also stars Anthony Hopkins ("Silence Of The Lambs") and Hugo Weaving ("The Matrix") and will be out in 2009.
Del Toro who is a long time fan of monster movies explained how the project came together. "My manager saw that I had a poster of the original ‘The Wolf Man’ in my house, and he said he was going to go to Universal and talk to them about the project and it started rolling from there."
"What’s cool about Benny is that he’s a monster fan," said Baker. "Every time we would do the make-up, he would come in with a different monster magazine to show me, and I knew them all by heart already so I think we just sort of bonded."
Blunt explained why she chose the project. "I heard Benicio and Anthony were involved and I thought, I could run, I could scream, I could do that! And the script was great, it was like a vintage horror movie."
Del Toro, who would spend four to five hours having the make-up put on, said that it wasn’t so bad because he was working with the best make-up artist in the world.
"The tough part is taking it off. When you’re putting it on, it’s building, it’s happening, so it’s exciting. Taking it off is when it gets a little bit desperate. Because everyone’s gone home and you’re there for another hour or two ripping it off," explained the actor.
Del Toro spoke about the differences and similarities between this film and the original. "One of the first things we did was take it back to the late 1800s. The original ‘The Wolf Man’ had a car in the picture. It didn’t really have a period. You don’t know if it’s the ’20s or the ’30s, so we took it back and kept it a period piece. We stayed true with the conventions of ‘The Wolf Man’ according to the original."
Del Toro mentioned that he watched the original "The Wolf Man" as well as other Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr. films while shooting this movie. He also reminded the audience that this is the first remake of a film that he has ever been in.
Baker was asked about using practical special effects as opposed to CGI. "I think it’s nice when they can actually work hand in hand, and it’s right when either one is used appropriately," answered Baker.
Baker went on to say, to his disappointment that the werewolf transformation scenes would probably be mostly CGI. "We basically haven’t filmed anything yet with the practical stuff. I’m hoping that they’ll let us get in there and do some more ‘American Werewolf in London’ type of stuff."
Finally, Baker was asked about the recent passing of his competitor and friend Stan Winston. "It was so sad to lose Stan,’ said Baker. "It was really nice to have someone else who cares about what they do, and we always tried to outdo each other. In the ’80s when make-up effects started taking off, and both of our careers started taking off, we didn’t just have to top our selves but we had to top each other and it really elevated the state of the art and brought it to what it became."
Baker continued to reflect on the industry he loves. "Stan’s death really is like the end of an era. With Stan being gone, that was the other big make-up shop, and I’m not getting any younger. It just seems like that whole time of make-up effects has come and it’s going now and it’s really sad."
"Stan was far too young and too talented to die," said Baker in closing.