‘Fright Night’ Set Visit Interviews: Blood, 3-D, and Deep Throats With Howard Berger and Alison Rosenzweil

I visited the set of the new Fright Night movie last September and wrote (perhaps a bit too honestly) about the experience here. That post covers my thoughts on the whole process, but it’s not all I have to report. No siree, while I was there several members of the cast and crew took time out of their clearly busy schedule to chat with the press.

Unheard of you say? It’s true! And here are some words to prove it from the likes of special effects guru Howard Berger and producer Alison Rosenzweig. [These are excerpts from group interviews conducted during the set visit.] Be sure to check out all of our Fright Night coverage here.

HOWARD BERGER, makeup effects

The first thing about Fright Night that really attracted me was that I love the original movie, and always have. I thought it was super-cool when I saw it when I was younger, and I still think it’s super-cool. So when I heard this movie was coming up I called Dreamworks and said, “I have to be on this movie, end of discussion.” And they said “OK.”

I’d done all the research on Craig Gillespie and realized that he had no prior history of killing or murder or bloodage, but he’s a really excellent filmmaker who could definitely bring a different feel to the movie. There was no cast signed, so we were kind of designing blindly. Once Craig was brought on, it was interesting when talking to execs at Dreamworks. They were thinking that this was not a big makeup movie. More like, you know, “maybe we’ll do lenses and fangs and pale them down.” And I said, “I don’t think that’s a Fright Night movie, but OK, we’ll entertain that thought for a minute.” Then when Craig came on, and Mike De Luca, one of our exec producers who’s probably a bigger Fright Night fanboy than myself, he said, “no, there’s tons of makeup and monsters in this movie.”

So we started doing preliminary design work for Jerry Dandridge, and we originally had ten stages of makeup. We pared that down a little bit, got it to about six stages of makeup on Colin Farrell. We started designing on generic faces, and we’d have weekly presentations for Craig. We started to work on concepts for Evil Ed and for Jerry, and as things went along we started to narrow it down. This is how the teeth work, we like this look for the eyes. Nowadays moviemaking is pretty much a giant committee. There are a hundred people that have to make decisions, but what was nice about this was, at the beginning, Craig really was the guy. All art went to Craig, he picked the stuff he loved and then we presented it to the studio, Steven Spielberg and all the other guys and finally everybody gave a thumbs-up in the direction we were going in.

So behind you are five of the concepts that we had done for Colin. [Points to five stages of head/face appliances that start human and slowly become very grotesque and cool.] That’s pretty faithful to what we ended up with. Once we got hold of Colin’s cast we knew what direction we wanted to go in, and we wanted to start subtle, and build and build and build on that until we got into a full-scale creature, which is that fifth stage with the big crazy ears and veins and all that stuff. Craig’s thought was that it was all adrenaline-based. Jerry flares up, it’s an anger and adrenaline that forces him into these different stages.

Colin Farrell, has become one of my all-time fave actors to work on now. Hes just a fantastic guy, he’s really into it, there’s never any issue, he hops into the chair and feels like it’s Halloween every day. He comes in and plays with stuff. There was one night where I grabbed the teeth case, opened it up and the teeth were gone. I thought, “oh, no, I lost the teeth somewhere! Shit. Grab the backup pair.” I get to set and tell Colin, “I think I lost your teeth.” and he says, “no, I’m wearing them! I came into the trailer and took ’em and put them in.”

It’s the first film where Craig has ever had blood on set. So the first blood gag we did we said, “I think there needs to be more,” and he was saying, “it’s too much, it’s too much!” And now he’s kind of getting into the ‘blood’ of it all and we’re able to do bigger. We did a gag a couple weeks ago where we brought out the big fire extinguisher full of blood and charged it up to about 100psi, put five gallons of blood in there, and we used it all up. There was blood everywhere, blood up Colin’s nose, in everything. “This is what we’re talking about!” So whenever blood comes up, Douglas [Noe, key makeup artist] always says “go big or go home.” Craig will say he just wants a trickle of blood and… I don’t think that’s possible! We did a blood gag the other day on the Doris character [played by Emily Montague], tons of blood! Craig’s like, “it’s a little bloody! Maybe just a trickle?” And we just… we kinda made a trickle, but everybody was still pretty covered in blood.

And Imogen [Poots], who plays Amy, Mike De Luca wanted it to be very faithful to the original Amy makeup, the big ‘Dr. Sardonicus’ thing, so we’ve got a new concept using that original thought process and concept. We’re trying to also do very little digital on this movie. I think there are only 100 digital shots. That’s unheard-of. That number will probably grow, as well all know, but right now we’re trying to do everything as practical as possible, or do a mix. For instance, on Amy, it will be a mix. You can see a design for Amy right there, that big mouth, it’s a full appliance piece — everything on the show is silicone appliances — and her whole interior mouth will be digital. It won’t be like the original film where there was kind of teeth glued to the outside of her face… although that was still super-cool and she could do a lot of things with it. This time, Craig really wants that mouth to open up wide, and she can really open tht appliance up wide, and we want rows and rows of teeth, all in her mouth, going down her throat, all that stuff. So that will all be done digitally, and will be one of the few things where there is digital augmentation.

And also, going back to Colin in the fifth stage, the whole mouth is digital as well. We left the teeth sculpted in there, as a point of reference for the digital guys, but the entire interior of Colin’s mouth and face will all be painted green on the inside, and that will all be digitally augmented, a whole throat and mouth. We’re also talking about spreading his eyes apart a little bit, and maybe in the fourth stage as well, doing a little spreading and widening in the eyes and mouth, that’s how we designed it. That’s going to be a decision when they get into post, maybe a budgetary issue, we’ll see. [Points out Evil Ed design with no eyebrows.] This is an early concept design on Chris; we wanted to add eyebrows, to pull it closer to Chris. That’s the big thing about all these makeups, even though they get broad at some point, we always want to maintain the essence of the actor, be it Colin or Christopher or Imogen, it’s really, really important.

And again, all the pieces on this show are silicone appliances. The thing we learned about silicone is: instead of doing a lot of little pieces that overlap, we cast it that way and found we had movement problems and it inhibited some expression. So we ended up doing big, giant pieces, which was kind of ballsy. Like, for this fourth stage makeup which is just really huge, it’s one big giant piece. When we sculped that at KNB some thought “we’re going to break that down, right?” I’m like, no, we’re going to do all one piece and see how it works. and it did work out really well. It was really easy to apply. Our makeups are averaging about an hour and a half to two hours, as far as the prosthetics go, and there are also hands, finger extensions, they’re all silicone as well. And we have these 3D transfers, they’re a bit like 2D tattoo transfers, but they’re sculpted, we have all these veins and stuff. We have these boxes of these veins, it’s really easy, and we colored that material so there’s very little paint work that has to happen and they’re still maintaining this level of translucency. That was a big thing, too, that the studio wanted. On the first design pass they kept saying they wanted them to be translucent and they didn’t want to have to go the route from I Am Legend and end up having huge digital augmentation, basically replacing everything. Since we were using silicone and found that barely coloring the silicone and doing a lot of under painting and things like that and being subtle with the paint work we were able to achieve that level of translucency. I think this is one of the first times where vampire veins have been done that are pretty out there and have that translucency and organic feeling the studio really wanted.

It’s a giant makeup show, which is lovely. There are very few gags, meaning we don’t have a lot of people getting ripped to shreds, chopped up, body parts and blood spraying. There is enough of that to make the audience happy and little enough to make me happy that I’m not getting drenched in blood every day. There are monsters and creatures in it, but Craig is really keeping this reality-based. That’s part of the unnerving aspect of it, I think, is that everything is very real and feels really real. I think if we went into the giant monsters it would move out of that universe, and pull you out…it would be a different movie.


What made Fright Night so appealing to you?

That’s a great question. For us it’s the perfect kind of movie to remake, because we felt like we could use the new technology to sort of exploit what was done in the ‘80s and modernize it. And I think hopefully…we’re accomplishing that.

How did you see the balance of horror and comedy?

I mean, I’ve always seen it as a horror/comedy. We were so fortunate to get Marti Noxon, who as you all know is a Buffy person. So she really got that tone right. I mean, I wonder if the original – I’ve never talked to anybody involved in the original – but I’ve always wondered, were they aware of the tongue-in-cheek aspects or not? But to me, you know, that’s what it was.

Can you talk about bringing Craig in to direct? This is kind of his first time working in the horror genre. What was it about him? Obviously it had something to do with Lars and the Real Girl.

For me, that was one of my favorite movies of that year, in fact possibly in the last five years. You know what, ultimately this is a character-driven movie. I realize it’s also a drama movie. But you know, we’ve made a great effort to really work on the characters and make it a coming-of-age movie. And Craig has a real sensitivity with characters and with actors and it became immediately apparent when he came in to interview with all of us that he was the guy.

I’ve heard this is a bit more violent and vicious than the Twilight type stuff. Is this definitely gonna be ‘R’-rated?

I mean, I wouldn’t say anything is definite. But it’s going to be fairly bloody, I would say. I mean, we’ll have the option of not going completely that way, but I think we’re all thinking ‘edgy’ for sure.

Looking back on it, the original is fairly bold in that it explored some things you didn’t typically find in the mid-‘80s…there’s a gay subtext, for example. You talk about edgy. Can you talk about how this film might take it to the next level, or maintain an edginess for the 21st century?

I don’t recall the original as being particularly violent, but more sort of implied, if you will. You know, we’re definitely modernizing it in that way. I mean, you know, we’re all pretty desensitized, I think these days. And you know, we’re aware of that as filmmakers and we’re taking it to the next level in that regard. The first film also had the advantage in that vampire movies weren’t that big yet. The Lost Boys was a couple years away. They had the market to themselves. I do think that this is sort of the next iteration, if you will. I mean, it’s definitely the anti-Twilight. I mean, Jerry the vampire is…I mean, he’s certainly sexy, but he’s not a romantic…anybody’s romantic ideal.  You know, he’s a violent predator. So…also, the fact that it’s a horror-comedy. Again…it’s not Twilight. It’s a scary, very frightening movie that happens to also be funny, I think.

Did you consider bringing in any of the old cast at all?

Um…we had talked about it.

Can you elaborate?

No. [Laughter]

Talk about the cast that you have assembled.

I mean, Colin was always our first choice. He’s amazing as an actor, he looks incredible in the movie, he’s definitely Jerry the vampire. And you know, Anton too…I mean, we just, we’ve gotten very fortunate. I think one of the wonderful things about having Craig is that he, in addition to having a wonderful script, he attracts great actors. So we were able to get these wonderful actors that you wouldn’t normally see in a genre movie. So hopefully, if we’re lucky, that’ll elevate it. We did cast a wide net for the Amy role, and we were lucky enough to find Imogen. She and Anton have a great chemistry together. And Chris Mintz-Plasse was just like…wow. I mean, we just got lucky that he wanted to do this.

How closely do the characters stick to the originals? Obviously there’s quite a reinvention of Peter Vincent. So is there some of that with the other characters, or are they a little more close to the original thing?

I mean, we’ve definitely been aware that it needed to be modernized, so I think that this, for instance, Peter Vincent character makes it feel more modern and much more youthful. I loved Roddy in the original, but there was definitely sort old-fashioned kind of feeling to his character. So I think all the characters, we’re just trying to make them, in terms of the Anton character, relatable and sort of current.

Can you talk about David Tennant’s casting? Because he’s not at all like the character of Dr. Who. Was there some question as to whether or not he was right for this role? Because he really looks like he’s going against type, or at least his public persona.

His audition was unbelievable. He’s an incredibly good actor. And again, he brings sort of a zeitgeist feeling to it. So the combination was irresistible.

The original had a lot of practical effects in it. How much in this one is practical and how much is CG?

I mean, I think we’re doing a decent amount of both. But you know, again, please forgive me for repeating myself – why not exploit the amazing technology that we have right now? And that’s sort of…it’s irresistible.

Was there a specific reason it was decided to shoot the film in 3-D?

Um, it was Steven Spielberg’s idea. I think it’s a great idea. We’re shooting it in 3-D. So I think hopefully it’s going to be better than what the audience has perhaps come to expect. Everything’s looking incredible, and I think it’s going to give it that sense of ‘you’re there’ and immediacy that’s hopefully going to make it a really visceral ride for everybody.

Do you think there’s a potential film franchise here?

I mean, as a producer I’m always thinking that. [Laughter] And as my mother would say, I should be so lucky. [Laughs]”

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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