Where the Wild Things Are

Greg Solomon shares more secrets of making monsters for Buffy.

More pictures and a fuller interview in the issue!
Read Part 1 of this feature from issue #88

Todd McIntosh making up Adam, photo by Greg Solomon

A Shivers interview by Joe Nazzaro

Selected from Shivers #89

Big is not necessarily best. Just ask Greg Solomon who has worked in some of Hollywood’s biggest make-up FX shops only to find that his talents were more suited to the more intimate atmosphere of Optic Nerve Studios.

Greg Solomon (photo by Joe Nazzaro)As a supervisor on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Solomon quickly discovered that building monsters on a shoestring required a mastery of many different skills. “I think Optic Nerve is very good about that,” he notes. “In a smaller shop like that, you get more opportunities to branch out and do other things. Those are the kind of people I really need to have on the crew, especially if we’re going on set. If something goes down or we have a problem, you need somebody who can take care of it without having to call in somebody else, whether it’s a cosmetic touch-up or mechanical repairs or whatever has to be done.”

The monsters that caused some of the most excitement during season four were the cadaverous Gentlemen from Hush, described by writer/director Joss Whedon as ‘Nosferatu meets Hellraiser by way of the Joker’. “They were a real challenge to do,” recalls Solomon. “The look we ended up with is very simplistic, these gaunt, deep-set-eyed smiling people, but they were really creepy. The main Gentleman was played by Doug Jones who I’ve worked with many times before and he’s a wonderful character actor. Doug is also a mime, so he’s very good with movement, and everyone fell in love with him.

“The make-up itself was actually very simple; basically, they were little wrinkled, gaunt men with fixed smiles. It was very work-intensive, and we had some very late nights, but the actual application and overall look was simple; just recessed eyes with this scary-looking smile. They also had hand appliances, which we’d built for another character in Season Three. They made the fingers look bonier and skinny, which is very difficult to do. It’s easy to add to the face or the hand, but something else again to make it look thinner, but those pieces were really well done.”

One of the most elaborately designed characters of the season was Adam (played by George Hertzberg), a patchwork monster created by the Initiative. “I really loved the body we created for it,” recalls Solomon. “It looked like he was severed right down the middle of his chest, and that part of it looked really nice. Basically they wanted a Frankenstein type of look, and he was a cyborg, so this thing was all thrown together but with metal pieces on him as well. I felt it could have been a lot more demonic on the demon side – I saw too much of George – but that’s what Joss wanted and [Optic Nerve chief] John Vulich approved. I think John actually wanted it to be a bit more as well, but they wanted it to be thin enough so George could act through it.

“We wanted to see more of an extreme change, where the colour changed across his face, but sometimes you have to let go of those ideas because in the long run, it’s their baby and they’re the ones writing the checks. We can put in as much as we can in terms of our concepts and ideas and designs, but ultimately it’s Joss who decides if it’s too much or not enough. For the most part, we were pretty happy with what we were able to pump out in a short amount of time...”

Everyone at Shivers offers their thanks to Greg Solomon for his help with this article! • Full version of interview in Shivers #88 and Shivers #89

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