Rotate this picture slightly, and you get six degrees of Kevin Bacon, you know

With a whole list of much-loved films on his CV, Paul Verhoeven hopes for another in the shape of invisibility thriller Hollow Man. Simon Bacal went to see him.

Plus: The talented special effects crew on Hollow Man had a tough job ahead of them. Supervisor Scott Anderson tells Judy Sloane how to make someone disappear.

Excerpts selected from Xposé #47

Can't find this Xposé? Order it from VI Direct

Director Paul Verhoeven believes there are very definite similarities between the writings of Plato, the Ancient Greek philosopher, and Hollow Man, his upcoming movie. “If you could become invisible, you would enter every house, kill everyone and behave like a god – that’s what Plato says about invisibility,” says Verhoeven. “He claims that the restraints of society are the only things which prevent Man from killing and committing other acts of mayhem.”

In Verhoeven’s new film, scheduled to be released in late August, a high-ranking scientist achieves complete invisibility and becomes more and more evil. “I felt that the script was extremely entertaining and clever,” says Verhoeven. “Initially, our lead character is merely an arrogant scientist, but as the story unfolds he becomes a lethal force which must be stopped.”

Verhoeven’s offering – filmed in Los Angeles and Washington, DC last summer – concerns Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), a brilliant scientist who develops a serum that enables him to become completely invisible. When he discovers that the procedure cannot be reversed, Caine and his colleagues Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) and Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin) attempt to find a serum to combat the formula.

Trapped in an invisible state, Caine, who turns to murder as his newfound power of invisibility grows, places a latex mask over his head to enable his colleagues to see him. The mask’s cut-away eyes and mouth reflect an eerie emptiness, and create the hollow man of the title.

“This movie required a lot of special effects,” says Verhoeven. “It’s extremely difficult for actors to imagine something that won’t be added into the shot until post-production – so we wanted to make things easier for the cast of Hollow Man.”

In order for the cast members to better visualize the desired vision, Verhoeven and special effects coordinators Scott Anderson (see right) and Phil Tippet wanted Bacon on set performing Sebastian’s physical actions – even though his character would be partially or completely invisible in the final cut.

As a result, the actor spent extensive amounts of time painted green, blue or black, and wore colored wigs and leotards – elements which would ultimately enable the visual effects division to partially or completely remove Bacon from shots during post-production.

“Obviously we didn’t want Kevin to feel like a fool,” continues Verhoeven, “so we convinced him that this strategy was completely essential to the project...”

Constructing the Hollow Man

The last time Scott Anderson worked with director Paul Verhoeven, as spaceship visual effects supervisor on Starship Troopers, he earned an Oscar nomination.

Now senior visual effects supervisor and second unit director on the thriller Hollow Man, Anderson, during a break in the filming, evaluates both movies. “I compare the work on Starship Troopers and Hollow Man to marching an army and building a Swiss watch. There are just as many moving parts, but in a more compacted space.”

Anderson knew from the moment he read Andrew W Marlowe’s screenplay that his creative team would be challenged by every single effect.

“I looked at it and said, ‘Right now, I have no clue how we’re going to do this.’ So much of this work hadn’t been done before. But, theoretically, I knew it was all possible. That’s what was interesting about it.”

For example, scientist Sebastian Caine dissolves into invisibility layer by layer, with mind-boggling digital effects that would have been impossible even a year ago. First his skin disappears, then his muscles, blood vessels, major organs and finally the skeleton evaporates into nothingness.

"We see much more of the human body than in other invisible man movies" says Anderson. "Most of my crew deserves honorary medical degrees for this!"

Judy Sloane

Get Xposé #47 for the full version of these interviews, plus actress Kim Dickens - who plays a scientist stalked by Caine – also talks to Xposé

Photos © Sony Pictures 2000
Fetaure © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction