The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller
When the 14-minute long short film known simply as Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out back in 1983, it forever revolutionized the music video industry. And, while you’ve likely seen it dozens of times in the 28 years since its release, you may never have seen what went into making it. Luckily, the web contains a number of videos detailing the production of the King of Pop’s crowning achievement.
This video contains rare footage of legendary producer Quincy Jones discussing the making of the video on the phone with Jackson – as well as the odd delight of watching Jackson casually interacting in full zombie makeup.
This video shows director John Landis calling the shots on set and details Jackson’s transformation into a werewolf in the film – a process that included taking a full facial cast, affixing inflatable foam latex balloons to his face, and applying extensive makeup, false teeth and gigantic yellow contacts.
If you're interested in what became of some of the other people involved in the creation of Thriller over the years, here is a quick rundown:
After Thriller, Michael’s video girlfriend went on to make appearances on popular TV series like Cheers and Gimme A Break!, and play a small role in 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II, but has been largely absent from show business since. After several publically-voiced complaints (and one subsequent retraction) about unpaid Thriller royalties, Ray sued Jackson a few months before his June 2009 death saying “I got the fame Thriller, but I didn’t get the fortune.”
At the point Landis began working on Thriller, he was already one of the most well-known directors in Hollywood, responsible for Animal House, Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers. He was also known at the time for having been in charge of the ill-fated production of Twilight Zone: The Movie that led to the tragic death of three actors on set. In the years immediately following Thriller, Landis directed Spies Like Us, Three Amigos and Coming to America. More recently he directed several episodes of the show Psych and the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.
The 1950s and 60s horror film great was in the latter stages of his career when he delivered Thriller’s pitch-perfect creepy narration. In the years that followed, Price would make appearances in a number of other projects, including lending his iconic voice to the 1986 Disney film The Great Mouse Detective and appearing as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands.
The makeup and visual effects genius responsible for turning Jackson and a group of dancers into "grisly ghouls from every tomb" has won a total of seven Academy Awards for Makeup (An American Werewolf in London, Harry and the Hendersons, Ed Wood, The Nutty Professor, Men in Black, Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Wolfman) and been nominated five other times. In fact, he is responsible for the fact that the creators of Norbit can honestly refer to the film as an Oscar-nominated piece of cinema.