I’m a fan of those old horror movies, especially the Universal horror movies from the 30s, so that’s where it all started in a way. When I was a kid those movies ran on TV and my cousins liked them and as a kid I grew up looking at those movies.
Do you have a favourite wolfman/werewolf?
Like them all, even Michael Landon, I Was A Teenage Werewolf. That was a cool werewolf, too. Oliver Reed, Curse of The Werewolf is fantastic. I’m a fan of all of them. I think they all have their cool stuff, the actors are great, I couldn’t pick one necessarily. Of course you’d go with the Lon Chaney Jr one because it’s the first one, like really the first one, and the makeup was amazing. So I go with that one because it’s the original one but that doesn’t take away from Curse Of The Werewolf which is a Hammer Film. I’m a fan of those Hammer Films, Christopher Lee, I like all those horror movies, I don’t know why, I was introduced to them when I was a kid and they always have an element of being completely misunderstood, all those monsters.
Did any of those monsters inspire you? Did you take anything from them and put it into your performance?
I think yeah… not so much premeditated. It wasn’t like I’m going to do the Boris Karloff thing now. But unconsciously I think I borrow from all of them, from Bela Lugosi to Lon Chaney father, to Oliver Reed, Lon Chaney Jr, even from the Creature From The Black Lagoon I’m sure I borrowed something.
Tell me how your involvement with The Wolfman started.
I have this poster in my house, it’s an old poster of the Lon Chaney Wolf Man, in a room in the house, and [my manager Rick Yorn] came in and saw it and we were going, Let’s propose this to Universal. And we took it to Universal, I had a beard, my hair was long, I don’t think they immediately tyecast it. It worked for me, I guess.
Had they been trying to remake this already?
I don’t think so, because there was no script, we started from scratch basically. It’s a remake of the original using that one as a frame but I don’t think they were working on a remake of The Wolf Man per se. I know that they’ve been trying to do the Creature and there’s been talks about Frankenstein. I’d love to see what they come up with.
Was it always your intention to remake it as a period film?
The original was set in some weird time, you don’t know if it’s Victorian England or turn of the century or is it in the 30s, you don’t know really, because at the beginning there is a car, after that you never see the car again, so I thought it would be complicated to do a werewolf and cars around, or telephones, if you wanted to update it. It’s been done anyways with Wolf in a way, the Jack Nicholson film, Mike Nichols, which is great for what it is. But I thought we wanted to stick to the fantasy more, the fantasy original feeling of those horror movies from the 30s, like turn of the century, before the era of the machine. I thought it would make it more… easier to make believe in some ways. But I think it was [screenwriter] Andrew Kevin Walker who took it down to Victorian England.
Let’s talk about you becoming The Wolfman and the choice of Rick Baker to do the makeup.
He’s the big monster guy, he knows all that stuff, he knows those movies back and forth, he knows the makeup artists that did those classic Universal movies. I think the Frankenstein face is one of the most recognised images in the world, the Boris Karloff head, kids that have never seen the movie might even know that’s Frankenstein.
Rick said you knew your stuff, and you’d bring copies of Famous Monsters into the makeup trailer.
What happens in the trailer stays in the trailer [laughs]. Rick is an encyclopedia man. I’m the magazine version. He’s an artist, he’s a true artist of makeup, he’s incredible. He’s at the level of the guys back in the day who were doing like the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolfman. He’s at that level. Jack Pearce work as a makeup artist created some of the most iconic images in the world, they’ve been around for 70 years and still holding strong, up there with Mickey Mouse. That was the makeup. I’m sure the actor and the director were involved in some of these decisions, it was amazing work and Rick Baker is at that level, amazing work, he’s got all his hardware he’s earned over the years, he’s truly fantastic, and a pleasure to work with. I became his canvas, so he went around with his team, he had a great team, and they just painted on my face. That was fun, sitting in that chair for three and a half hours, sometimes four, and seeing this thing develop as they put it together. That was fun. The hard part was taking it off. Oh man. Everybody’s going home. Even Rick sometimes went home and I was just sitting there and they’re peeling stuff from my face for a good two hours, scraping it out, it can get like annoying and you’ve got to meditate like a little bit.
You were insistent your Wolfman look like the Jack Pearce makeup?
Rick and I, when we met, it was like we were thinking on the same page and I think that established a camaraderie that we kept that we had in that makeup trailer. I just felt like it would be cool to go that way. Much respect to those actors back in the day because the actual instruments that they use were very different, now its probably nothing compared to what Boris Karloff went through or Lon Chaney Jr went through or Bela Lugosi went through. But our idea was to keep it in that old school mode, that was going to be fun to go that way.