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It’s not often lately that an independent fright film with a
man-in-a-suit monster makes it into nationwide U.S. release, but CREATURE has
bucked the odds. Conceived by director Fred Andrews as an old-fashioned
terror-in-the-swamp flick with a back-to-basics threat (known as “Lockjaw”)
terrorizing a group of young friends in a Louisiana swamp, CREATURE opens
tomorrow in theaters across America. Fango spoke with Andrews and some of his cast
about the movie; in this first of our two-part story, he and creature actor
Daniel Bernhardt talk about bringing Lockjaw to life, with an exclusive look at
early concept art of the toothy critter.
FANGORIA: What makes your monster and the film’s story unique
in this genre?
FRED ANDREWS: I definitely think the thing that makes it
unique is that the creature is not a mindless killing machine. He’s an integral
part of the story, and very much a central character. He has a personality that
comes out, which Daniel did incredibly well—not just through his physicality,
but his emotional range. In most genre pictures—and I’m a huge fan, and have
worked on a ton of them in many capacities—it’s just a mindless killing
machine. Lockjaw is not; he has a motivation for everything he does or doesn’t
do. And that is something very different from running around killing people
just to kill people. That’s not our film.
FANG: What’s the storyline in a nutshell?
ANDREWS: In a nutshell it’s a creature chasing people around
the swamp, but really, it’s a little more complicated than that. You have this
group of kids in their early 20s, and one of the guys, played by Mehcad Brooks,
is a Navy SEAL just back from the war. Aaron Hill plays the boyfriend of Amanda
Fuller’s character, Beth, and he’s a Marine getting ready to go over to the
war. Then you have Dillon Casey playing Oscar, a friend and also a Marine with
Aaron. They decide they’re going to have a party before Aaron leaves, and they
end up stopping by this tourist trap kind of store where Sid Haig is the
owner/proprietor. They decide to go check out this local legend, and that’s
when everything starts to go wrong. It’s a bit of a typical setup in the
beginning, but once they get there, the film becomes a completely different kind
FANG: What led you to choose Daniel to be your creature, and
who did your FX?
ANDREWS: I’ll answer backwards, because Daniel is the long
story. Jerry Constantine is an amazing effects artist, and we’ve worked
together in the past. When I was first working on this idea as a graphic novel,
I was working with Jerry on these sculptures for it, and the evolution the
creature had, so in my mind it was always going to be Jerry taking my maquettes
and 2-D drawings and bringing those to life. He ended up adding a lot more,
because it was a good three-month process just developing what the creature was
going to look like.
As we were going through that process, we were trying to
decide who was going to be the creature, and how it happened was, I got a call
from Daniel, who wanted to talk to me about the role, and I was like,
“Absolutely.” When Daniel and I met, I think it took less than 15 minutes
before he was going to do it, and I believe I even gave him the out, like,
“Look, you understand you’re going to be in makeup for 14 hours. You’ve got
this really good-looking face; you’re like a model, a big kickboxing star…
BERNHARDT: But the pitch was kind of different when you came
to me. I first got this call from Jon Sheinberg, one of the producers, who said,
“Daniel, would you like to play this part? I want you to meet the director.” So
Freddy and I met for coffee, and for two hours he pitched me the story and I
was so blown away. What I really liked was that his first line was, “How would
you feel about playing a legend? Like King Kong, like Predator? We’re not going
to see your face, but how would you like to play that character?” I was like,
“What? Yeah!” We started to throw ideas around, and I said, “How about if he’s
a half-human crocodile?” and “How about if I study crocodiles and move like
ANDREWS: Because it started as a graphic novel, I had like
160 pages of this creature’s mythology. To try to condense that down to 90
minutes, you know… Daniel really did that. There was no doubt about him doing
the project; it was really like love at first sight that way.
BERNHARDT: You had me at “hello.”
ANDREWS: You had me at, “Do you mind the makeup?” “No.”
FANG: So how was it spending 14 hours in the makeup to play
BERNHARDT: Jerry did such an incredible job. I believe, when
we did the full makeup, it was about a five-hour job to get in and about four
hours to get out. We just created this great friendship and trust and worked so
well together, and I didn’t mind it. Sometimes I would hang around on set—
AMANDA FULLER, co-star: He really liked scaring the girls,
walking around on the set, creeping up behind them…
ANDREWS: Although we had a great set, one of the things
Daniel and I talked about separately, prior to even all the casting being done
with the other actors, was how Daniel was going to be around them. It was a
central part of the character to kind of be watching the whole time. He’s
omnipresent. He’s there all the time.
BERNHARDT: Even though I didn’t really have any lines, I
told Fred, “Listen, I just want to be in the read-through. My character,
through the whole movie, is watching them, so I wanted to be there and watch
them the whole time. And I would just keep watching them during the shoot.
ANDREWS: Without giving away parts of the film, certain
characters end up encountering Lockjaw, and Daniel’s treatment of those actors…
He kept his distance, but he’s such a tall guy, and I think there was a little
bit of physical intimidation going on. It was all very much on purpose, and
once he got in the makeup, too, it was just so good. It was really easy to act
off of, and that was one of the important things with me. In the very early
development stages, we had talked about CGI, and I was very much against that.
Because I get nothing out of that; I get no emotion out of it as a director,
and the character ends up being a flat drawing. That’s more of a graphic-novel
way to go, but taking it into three dimensions, I wanted that character to be
three-dimensional, so the actors could touch it and smell it and feel it, and
they could be scared when they were supposed to be scared, and when they were
running they were actually running away from something. It was a big, big deal.
I had to argue for it, but luckily I won out.
BERNHARDT: You were also very particular about stances, my
physicality, how I walked, and we came up together with this idea. You also
wanted me to read a book—
ANDREWS: GRENDEL by John Gardner. Which is my favorite book.
It’s BEOWULF from the monster’s point of view.
BERNHARDT: He said, “I just want you to read that book to
understand.” And once I read it, I really got what he was talking about,
because Grendel was always misunderstood, and kind of watching everybody. And
when he would kill someone, it was not because he wanted to kill the person,
but just because he had to.
ANDREWS: Except sometimes he wanted to do it because he was
angry. Or reacting.
BERNHARDT: Like if somebody was screaming and he killed
FANG: Did shooting in the suit on the hot locations cause
ANDREWS: When I was doing the scheduling, I tried to take
into consideration how much weight Daniel could lose. He was on a special diet
for this, and with it being 200 percent humidity, 95 to 98 degrees, Daniel was
losing about 10 or 15 pounds a day in water weight, so he constantly had to be
hydrated. But even when he was not on the schedule, he would come in and get in
makeup regardless. I’d be like, “Daniel, what are you doing?” and he would say,
“I’m here for you, just in case.”
And you know what, if he had not done that… We had such a
tight shooting schedule. I’ve got to give credit to my production designer,
Jakub Durkoth, to Chris Faloona, my DP, who was just amazing, and certainly to
Jerry as well; this film does not look anything like the money we had for it.
It looks five to 10 times larger than its budget, and part of that is just
because of the people I had, and everybody, including Daniel, going the extra
mile. Like one day he just showed up and said, “I’m getting in makeup,” which
was great. I was able to shoot scenes I probably wouldn’t have been able to get
on such a tight schedule.
TO BE CONTINUED
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