Creature Effects Makeup: An Interview with Matt Rose and Chad Waters

Material Men

A poster for the movie "When Zombies Attack!!"
A poster for the movie "When Zombies Attack!!"
Photo courtesy Grimm Grotto Goods

HSW: What types of materials and mediums are you into/ using a lot right now? What are some interesting or innovative techniques?

Matt Rose: What's funny is foam latex- it's old as old as makeup in fact ... a time when you couldn't rely on the foam latex -- you cross your fingers because it'll rot or break very easily but then there'd be a person -- again it's innovation -- this guy Roland Blancaflor who reinvented making foam latex basically -- the best you've ever worked with. So it's kinda funny it's -- innovation but it's the oldest [material]. So if you're on location and you open a box and your pieces for that day are no good, you're sunk. And to have something like that -- consistent every day for 90 days, it's great. And then there's also mechanical technologies too ... this guy Jurgen Heimann you know Ron's [Ron Perlman as Hellboy] stone arm. It's crazy- it's an amazing development. People like that are really clever coming up with things.

HSW: Do you have materials that are your favorite to use?

Matt Rose: It actually kind of hops around -- Chad and I also did Mikey's [alien character played by John Alexander] suit for the first "Men In Black" and we wanted to come up with a new way for an eyeball to move so we used hot melt [also known as hotpour; poly vinyl chloride] for this mechanical eye. It's like that old ... that toy -- it's like really stretchy vinyl.

Chad Waters: Yeah, you get 'em in gumball machines sometimes and there's like a little hand -- you can throw it and it'll stretch.

HSW: Like the "Wacky Wall Crawlers"?

Chad Waters: Yeah, exactly!

Matt Rose: We used those for his eye. If you watch the movie, you'll see how that works. We saw a squid or something with those crazy moving eyes and we said, "We want to do that! How do we do it?" Not with foam latex but for the rest of the body it's poly-foam, foam latex, and hot melt for his eye -- it's really crazy. So, stuff like that happens a lot.

Zombies from "When Zombies Attack!!" Zombies from "When Zombies Attack!!"
Zombies from "When Zombies Attack!!"
Photo courtesy Grimm Grotto Goods

HSW: Did you ever use a material that had a really weird side effect ... that didn't come out ... where you had to start over from scratch?

Matt Rose: Well, for the same vinyl -- we love that stuff so much -- when we did "Mighty Joe Young" we wanted to make his faces out of that because it's so stretchy and (laughing) that did not work. It weighed too much and if you don't control it, it would just start sagging all over the place. So, we went back to foam latex. But we did end up using the hot melt for his chest. If you watch the movie, you can see his chest moves a little more like skin and muscle because we used hot melt there.

Chad Waters: This gives you another example of the technology though, too. The reason why we wanted to use the real stretchy material for the gorilla's face was that we could, in one mechanical head, go from a neutral expression of the gorilla to a full roar. When typically, you'd have to switch heads. You can only go so far with foam latex before it would actually rip the mouth corners. So the idea was if we have the stretchy material, we might be able to do that all in one head. But again, like Matt was saying, the downside to it was the weight. It was just too loose, too sloppy -- we just couldn't do it. But what happened in the meantime was ... the mechanical designer came up with this new way of designing the head or the mechanics of the lips so that we could actually use foam latex and go from a neutral expression to a roar.

Nowadays, no one would even care about that because [of] computer stuff - you can do it all the time. But back then, it was just a huge deal- we were ecstatic that we could actually get this thing to happen in one head. It sounds probably really silly right now but you have to imagine being on a set where you've got a gorilla suit ... [and to] change the regular head to the roar head, you have to take everything off, do the roar shot, and then change it back to the other head -- it takes a lot of time ... in "Mighty Joe Young," especially, we were shooting to have so much character in the gorilla's face, we had to have that option and it turned out with the foam and the mechanics and everything and John Alexander's [actor playing Mighty Joe] performance that it really came across. And that was big enough that it's one of our things that we're proud of. The movie didn't do too well. But, the work in it was really kind of a breakthrough thing at that time.