you get into your line of work?
l started work at the local Theater
known as The Hackney Empire, in East London. l
started off training to be a Theater Electrician.
l did this for 5 years until l was 21 years old,
finished with that and got a job at Pinewood Film
Studio`s. Got involved with small special effects
on a couple of movie`s. After this job at Pinewood
l got a start with Gerry Anderson`s puppet series.
What was your
job when working with Gerry Anderson on the science
fiction puppet series "Thunderbirds"?
Special Effects assistant, helping
to build and assemble the sets.
When did you
decide you wanted to make special effects?
When l started with Gerry Anderson
and got a start on "The Battle of Britain".
Who are your
My major influence was Dereck Meddings
from the Gerry Anderson Stable,and Glenn Robinson
When you received
your Academy Awards as mechanical effects supervisor
of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", did it
make any changes in your career?
No to that question. People in England
are not impressed by awards all they want to know
is can you do the job. It just started to make
me a legend in the movie business of special effects.
l have 7 awards together with 4 nominations as
Do you generally
find directors to be easy to work with?
l have been very lucky all the Directors
l have worked with are great. Spielberg is the
you have worked with are especially fun to work
with in terms of special effects in their films?
Steven Spielberg, Philip Noyes,
and Terry Gilliam. Spielberg is well aware that
good special effects are important to the film,
the same goes for Terry Gilliam, and are as interested
in how the effects are going to work and what
the result will be, and like to see tests when
possible. Philip Noyes is just great a real Australian
he is good fun with a great humor and listens
to your idea`s.
Are you able
to front your own ideas and touches?
Yes, l have many idea`s in various
films l dream`t up, "A Fish Called Wanda",
and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" are two
of my greatest films for rewards on screen. Directors
always listen if you write it down first, so they
can think about it. Although Spielberg used to
listen and just say "do it".
Has it ever
happened that a film plot has been changed just
to add a special effect?
Well the answer to that is sometimes
the plot is changed to make the effect work better
and be more believable. On "Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade" we wrote a whole scene
about the reason why the ship sinks. l suggested
that it blows up with explosives on board to make
it more interesting.
How do you
setup a special effect?
Read the script. Make a shot list.
Work out what you need in the way of manpower
to do the work. Work out the materials required.
Set up and test where ever possible. Most of my
effects were one off`s like the Bridge in "Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom", or the Transporter
Plane blowing up in "Air America".
The rope bridge from Temple
of Doom and an effect from Air
How do you
know when a special effect will be needed?
When you read the script you just
know what is an effect and what can be done for
real but even when things are done for real effects
are always required to enhance them or make it
look good on the screen.
of special effect is the most fun and challenging
All special effects are challenging
from squirting ink from a pen, to collapsing bridges.
Whether it is a big effect or small effect it
is always important it is done right. Effects
that are fun to do are like the Road Roller squashing
in "A Fish Called Wanda".
How much planning
goes into an explosion effect?
l could write a book about the planning
that goes into explosions from registration and
law rules to fullers earth. A lot of planning
and thinking about peoples safety.
Tank blowing up truck in the Last Crusade.
When you are
working on a lower budget project, how vastly
does it affect your work?
Lower budget means cutting your
cloth to suite your width. If the producers do
not have the money to do the effect the way it
needs to be done l say write it out of the script.
There is only one way to do an effect that is
the right way.
is someone injured during an effect? If at all.
Considering the amount of effects
filmed and done in the movie business our injury
rate is 99.9% free. To the best of my knowledge
the only people who get hurt are stunt men, fortunately
not the actors, although its not good for any
person involved with film making getting hurt,
the only accidents l know about are when stunt
men get a little too hot or scorched from the
fire type explosions, but this is very unusual.
What was your
most favorite effect in the Indy films?
Preparing the tank.
The bridge cutting and the Mine
Cars in "Temple of Doom", and the Army
Tank we built for "Last Crusade". But
also The Road Roller in "A Fish Called Wander",
Glenn Close in the Slime in the barn in "101
Dalmatians", and the wing blowing off in
Is there a
difference between making special effects for
an Indiana Jones film and other films?
Yes if Spielberg is the Director.
No time wasters or none professionals. Every film
has its own demands and each film requires the
How do the
effects used then compare with what might be done
Effects can be more ambitious today
because of the Computer. In the old days, only
10 years ago may l add, we had to do it for real
in camera. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"
was probably the last animation movie to be done
without the help of a computer.
How much high
tech compared to low tech were used in the Indiana
I would say the lndy films were
all low tech.
How has CGI
affected your work, as compared to doing special
effects in the past?
Not effected our work if anything
l would say. It gives us more work because producers
and directors have bigger ambitions for what's
on screen. Then they need us more when they get
the costs of the CGl Budgets.
Is there anything
you always wanted to try but never got the chance
Under Water Movies!
any films you dreamed of doing?
To do the effects on a James Bond
Any film that
every special effects fan must see?
How do you
become a special effects supervisor? Are there
any schools where you can learn it?
Not really. To become an Effects
Supervisor is getting the breaks being in the
right place at the right time, also most important
knowing your job and craft well.
Will you be
back to do the special effects for the fourth
Indiana Jones film?
l have not been approached yet,
but it would be a great opportunity. A nice finnish
off to my career.
are you signed on to do effects for in near future?
Unfortunately l am not signed up
to a film at the moment. This year is starting
off slow. l don't think the stars are too keen
to fly to England since September 11th. Also a
lot of films are going to Australia and New Zealand.
Will you be working on Indy 4?
Hello Aaron. l don't know the answer
to that question. They have been talking about
making lndy 4 for years before Harrison is 60
years old. The latest rumor is that the trio (Lucas,
Spielberg, Ford) have a budget of 100.000.000
dollars for lndy 4, but as of yet no dates are
set, so as of yet l haven't been asked.
are the best classes to take in college for someone
who wants to get into this? Is 41 to old?
Well your never too old to
start a new career. There are no classes as far
as l know for Mechanical effects. There may be
classes in America for Visual effects (computer
digital effects) to learn engineering is a good
way in or model making or electronics. Special
effects men are jack of all trades masters of
tact. The best way to get in this job is to have
a relative or being at the right place at the
right time or best of all who you know is the
quickest way in.
If you should choose a film that can be seen as
a massive breakthrough in the VFX business, what
film would it then be?
Hi Tom. Well the biggest
breakthrough in the movie world was the first
"Star Wars" Film. George Lucas has incredible
visualization and should be credited with his
futuristic ideas... at that time.
Tom Lind asks:
Are there any films with special VFX that you
think should never have been produced? And in
that case, which titles?
There are hundreds of films with
special effects that shouldn't have been made
not only because of the effects but also because
of the Directing. If a film is entertaining with
good Directing and a good story, inferior effects
can be over looked. But you can have a good effects
film with a poor story, and it is all a waste
of time. A good example for me is Spielbergs "A.I."
but that is my opinion.
Tom Lind asks:
Which of these titles (both Academy Award winning
in the category Special VFX) have got the most
impressive work of special VFX: "Jurassic
Park" or "Forrest Gump"? (from
Jurassic Park for sure no mistake
Zoltan Perisec's "Zoptic" process pretty
much been abandoned in today's digital rendered
film market? It was even dropped for "Superman
Hi OM. Zoltan Perisec was
a very lucky man. His equipment was fully developed
and paid for on Superman 1. l don't think it is
used now very much maybe on low budget productions
or TV commercials.
Following all your masterful work in movies over
the years, do you look back at the visual effects
of Superman or Indiana Jones and think they look
dated and unreal considering the technology today?
Hi Celtic Dan. No l don't
look back on the films mentioned and think they
are dated. In fact all the effects we did on those
films were for real in front of the camera. That
gives them good wholesome quality, although l
must confess some of the optical effects in "Temple
of Doom" could have been improved.
there was an ongoing financial tug-of-war between
Terry Gilliam and Universal Studios throughout
Brazil's production, how did this affect the duties
of your profession? Did you have to place more
limits on what you thought could be done, or did
a major concern even exist about the special effects
pushing the movie over budget?
Let me put things straight. There
was no financial tug of war between Gilliam and
Universal. The film was financed by Universal
and 20th Century Fox half and half. It was agreed
that Universal would have the American distribution
and 20th Century would have the rest of the world,
or maybe the other way round, so when the film
was finished (we came in one million pounds GB
under budget) but the studios hated it, didn't
even understand it and refused to distribute it.
So Terry Gilliam smuggled the film into America
from England (where he lives) and exhibited it
without the studios knowing.
At a film press awards show in America (cant think
of the name) it won first prize, so it was agreed
to exhibit the film. The French went crazy about
it. The Spanish went crazy about it. The Germans
went crazy about it. The English well only intellectuals
thought it was good, but it did make money.
There was never any problems with money on the
film in fact many of the model effects were filmed
again and again until they were right and looked
good. Terry Gilliam is a real perfectionist. There
was never any concerns during filming, and we
all won awards for our work.
On a side
note, how did you get all those newspapers to
cling on to Robert De Niro? That sequence mystifies
me every time I watch it, and nowadays I can't
imagine anybody having the cajones to shoot that
without CGI. Fantastic work!
We built a large Air Staightener,
they are made for Air Conditioning in Buildings.
If you could imagine a piece of ducting about
5 feet square and 10 feet long cut it in half
then cut two 45 degree angles at the end of each
piece put them together to make a right angle
then have 5 feet long x 3 ins wide pieces of metal
rolled to form a shape like a rain gully or gutter
then fix these vertical along the joins of the
45 degree join like a louse blind with curved
We then have a wind machine pushing air in one
end and the air goes in turbulent but the third
round strips act like a curved louse blind in
the open position. When the turbulent air hits
these they straighten the wind enabling us to
hold a news paper in front of the ducting and
the smooth air blows the paper perfectly flat
like a sail, and it lands flat on to the actor.
After the first piece lands we substituted Robert
De Niro for anther guy.
In "Alien 3" were you responsible for
the explosion and fire sequence while trying to
trap the Alien? If so I heard it set a record
for longest time a stunt man was on fire. Is this
Hi Scott. l don't know about
any records but we sure had as many people on
fire as in "Towering Inferno".
Were you disappointed when a lot of the sequence
was ultimately cut from the final "Alien
l never get disappointed
when effects are cut out of a film. It is to be
expected that some times good scenes end up on
the cutting room floor, for actors also. l was
really disappointed with "The Saint".
We had such incredible effects in that movie we
filmed in Moscow and England they were so good
the studios in America wrote me a letter to say
how they couldn't believe all the explosions and
fire we filmed with stunt men were not computer
generated, but would you believe they re-cut the
movie turned it into a love story instead of a
spy thriller came back to England re-shot the
ending spent another two million Dollars US...
and it flopped after that the producers actually
said they wish they had left it alone.
I would like to ask what was the problem on "Alien
3" I heard stories that the fx company totally
stuffed up a few of the fx shots were OK but a
lot were very average was this due to the usual
studio interference it was a good story it just
seemed to get lost along the way were you disappointed
with the final film? Would CGI have helped?
Hello Craige. Well l think the
film got lost. It was David Finchers first real
movie, his big break. l don't know about the politics.
l know there was a lot of bad vibe's on that film.
l don't think CGI would have made any difference.
In my opinion it was a bad story from the beginning
they changed the Director at the last minute,
two weeks before filming... Yes l was disappointed
with the film.
I am currently working on a site based around
the Alien movies and would like to ask how you
felt about so much special effects footage being
cut from "Alien 3". Also do you know
how much of the footage still exists and if it
will ever see the light of day, in DVD format
Hi Dave. Well "Alien
3" was a long time ago. David Fincher shot
for so many hours that was the first film l worked
till 10 o'clock at night. So l don't know what
happened to the cutting room floor out takes.
It never upsets me what is left out of a film
that's the nature of the business. On "Last
Crusade" there was a great scene involving
one of Steven Spielberg's favorite actors cut
from the movie. The actor still got a good credit
but he was really upset when he came out of the
crew showing because nobody warned him. Steven
was so apologetic to him.
You are credited with "additional model effects"
for "Superman". What did you do exactly
on that picture, and who was the f/x cameraman?
Chez, The Cameraman on the models
was Paul Wilson and later Harry Oaks. l worked
with Harry and Dereck Meddings worked with Paul.
l re-shot some of Derecks work because Dick Donner
was an absolute perfectionist. Also Dereck left
"Superman" to start on a James Bond
film so l took over on his recommendation. l shot
Superman flying up to the Golden Gate Bridge to
stop the school bus falling off and saving the
children, also the falling helicopter with a tiny
little model Superman catching the helicopter
and carrying it back up to the top of the Daily
Planet Building also Louis Lane (Margo Kidder).
You are currently
working on "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"
with Sean Connery. It sounds like many people
are looking forward to it although we don't know
that much about it. What can you tell us about
this film project?
Well l can't say too much about
"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"
because l have to sign a confidential contract,
but it is on a theme with the original "The
League of Gentlemen" film made in 1959, but
with lots of amazing surprises.
Thank you very much for this
interview and good luck with your future projects.