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How 10 Iconic Movie Monsters Were Created

Movie monsters have been through an evolution as wild and nuanced as Charles Darwin’s. Back in the days of silent film, they were created with paint and fish gills. Studios eventually graduated to puppets and monkey models, before CGI made it impossibly easy to dream up new terrors. Because it’s almost Halloween and you’re likely watching one of those monsters—whether it’s Frankenstein, Dracula, or The Fly—on TV, here are the secrets behind their creation. If you think they’re scary, you should’ve seen Lon Chaney’s nose on The Phantom of the Opera set.

1. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

Lon Chaney, Sr. introduced American moviegoers to Erik, a.k.a. the Phantom of the Opera, in his 1925 silent film. Chaney had previously portrayed Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and was already famous for doing his own make-up. Although he was quite secretive about his methods, most of his Phantom tricks have been revealed. For the exaggerated cheekbones, he used a combination of cotton and collodion. He accentuated his nostrils with black paint, and liberally applied dark eyeliner. Chaney also popped a serrated set of false teeth into his mouth. But the weirdest stuff concerned his nose: To contort it, Chaney attached a strip of fish skin and then poked himself with wires. As you might imagine, this wasn’t a pleasant experience. “Sometimes it would bleed like hell,” cinematographer Charles Van Enger told the Los Angeles Times. “We never stopped shooting. He would suffer for it.”

2. DRACULA (1931)

Prior to playing Count Dracula in the 1931 classic, Bela Lugosi starred in a 1927 Broadway play about the famous bloodsucker. The show was such a success that Hollywood decided to adapt it for the silver screen, and although producers were hesitant to cast an unknown Hungarian actor in the title role, Lugosi supporters successfully lobbied on his behalf.

Lugosi reportedly insisted on applying his own make-up for the film, as he did on the stage. He refused to wear the fangs Universal wanted, but agreed to a hairpiece that would add a widow’s peak to his “somewhat thinning hairline.” Some also speculate that the medallion Dracula wears was Lugosi’s own personal possession. It was clearly important to him; he was allegedly buried in a version of it when he died in 1956.

3. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

Jack Pierce is something of a legend in monster movie lore. The make-up artist was responsible for fixing the faces of the Mummy and Wolf Man, but one of his earliest hits was the 1931 horror flick Frankenstein. Pierce made Boris Karloff into the mutant by smearing green greasepaint all over his face. Karloff’s fingernails were painted black, and his eyelids were stiffened. Pierce gave him a flattop head with a combination of cotton and gum. Then the costume department got to work making the 5’11” Karloff into a looming terror. Karloff was given platform boots, each one weighing about 13 pounds, as well as a jacket that was too short and a doubled set of pants. The camera crew went the extra mile by filming Karloff at a low angle, so he looked all the more intimidating.

4. THE MUMMY (1932)

Karloff and Pierce quickly re-teamed for 1932’s The Mummy. In this outing, Pierce had a painstaking process for layering on Karloff’s bandages: As Pierce explained, “The complete makeup, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, took eight hours. The bandages on his body had to be put on. Then I had to seal them with tape so they wouldn't unravel. Then after that, I had to put the burned bandages on. After that I put the clay on. It was an hour and a half to take it off.”

Pierce also had to pin back Karloff’s ears and eyes, smash clay into his hair, and affix a decaying nose to his face. No wonder the actor called it “the most trying ordeal I have ever endured.”

5. KING KONG (1933)

The two men behind King Kong were Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, a pair with a taste for adventure. Prior to Kong, the friends had crossed frozen mountains to film a nomadic tribe and shot in the jungles of (then) Siam. They wanted to make a documentary about gorillas next, but producer David O. Selznick asked them to do a fictional ape feature instead.

After abandoning their initial plan—to get a gorilla and Komodo dragons and just roll—the pair tapped stop-motion expert Willis O’Brien. He’d created the dinosaurs in 1925’s The Lost World, so he was just the man for the job. O’Brien applied his movie magic to an 18-inch model of Kong sculpted by Marcel Delgado. He also built a full-sized monkey hand and a full-sized head to complete the illusion. Along with those cinematic sleights of hand, the movie featured ground-breaking use of miniature rear projection.

6. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

In this case, the details of the creature’s costume aren’t the most compelling angle. Yes, it sprang from a Citizen Kane dinner party conversation about half-reptilian men in the Amazon. And yes, the Oscar served as the earliest model for the Gill-Man. But the fight between Millicent Patrick and Bud Westmore for ownership is way more interesting.

Patrick was a rising star in the Universal movie monster machine. Previously, she had worked on It Came from Outer Space and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a sketch artist and mask maker, respectively. She was tapped next for Creature for the Black Lagoon and once the movie was released, she was sent on tour to publicize it. This pissed off Westmore. He was part of the famed Westmore family of make-up artists and also part of the Creature from the Black Lagoon make-up team. He was not happy that Patrick was being billed as “the Beauty Who Created the Beast,” and said so in several formal complaints to the Universal execs. Those execs thought he was being a big baby, but Westmore made good on his threat to never employ her again and effectively ended her career. He also told everyone he’d made the Gill-Man costume Patrick designed for years. What a monster.

7. GODZILLA (1954)

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Godzilla has appeared in a whopping 30 movies, but the first was the 1954 Japanese film Gojira—and it came from a horrible, true-life incident. In March of 1954, the crew of the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru (or Lucky Dragon 5) was exposed to radiation, thanks to the secret hydrogen bomb tests America was conducting on Bikini Atoll. The Japanese were outraged and terrified. So producer Tomoyuki Tanaka tapped into those fears with his opening Gojira sequence, in which a peaceful boat crew is besieged.

Only they were being attacked by Godzilla, the stand-in for nuclear threats. Tanaka wanted to create a monster movie in the vein of King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. To execute this vision, he assembled director Ishirō Honda and special effects wiz Eiji Tsuburaya. Tsuburaya outfitted one of his technicians with a latex dinosaur suit featuring bamboo spars. In order to convey the monster’s forceful stomps, he shot the Godzilla scenes at double the speed and then slowed them down. Although this technique became mocked later down the line, Tsuburaya’s work (in conjunction with Honda, Tanaka, and all the rest) terrified Japanese moviegoers. "In producing Gojira, [they] accomplished a feat unequaled at the time,” Godzilla expert John Rocco Roberto wrote. “In the guise of a typical Hollywood-style ‘monster movie,’ they made Japan, and ultimately the world, experience the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki all over again."

8. ALIEN (1979)

The alien that terrorizes Ellen Ripley came from the designs of H.R. Giger. The surrealist was chosen to design the movie’s ETs after working with screenwriter Dan O’Bannon on a failed adaptation of Dune. His haunting art came to life with the help of condoms (used on the creature’s lips) and bones—Giger even fit a real human skull into the tip of the monster’s head. Once the final product was complete, Ridley Scott hired a 6’10” Nigerian art student named Bolaji Badejo to play the alien. Because his tail was so ungainly, Badejo had to sit on a custom swing between takes.

9. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

Legendary makeup artist Rick Baker got his first Academy Award for transforming actor David Naughton into a hairy hound. Baker and director John Landis had very specific ideas about the werewolf transformation: they didn’t want to do the gradual dissolves used in old monster movies; they wanted to show the pain and movement of a body in metamorphosis. While shooting the big scene, Baker applied the full wolf fur to Naughton first, let the crew film it, and then trimmed it back to shoot earlier stages of the transformation. He also came up with “change-o-heads” and “change-o-hands,” which were fake hands and heads with mechanisms inside that stretched and distorted the props to fit the transformation. Clearly Baker had a lot of creative freedom on the set, but he did lose at least one argument: he wasn’t allowed to make the wolf two-legged.

10. THE FLY (1986)

David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly arrived just five years after An American Werewolf in London. But Baker’s pioneering techniques were by that point so well-known that The Fly creature effects artist Chris Walas was determined to do something different. For the early stages of scientist Seth Brundle’s transformation, Walas applied elaborate prosthetics and make-up to Jeff Goldblum’s face and body. Each application could take up to five hours, and Goldblum was apparently not an easy canvas. For the later stages of the metamorphosis, Walas oversaw a fleet of puppets, rigs, and dollies that constituted the “fly.” Plates and springs inside the creature’s head facilitated the moment when Veronica accidentally tears its jaw. It was all pretty intricate stuff, but in the end, the work paid off. Walas took home the gold for his grotesque puppetry at the 1987 Academy Awards.

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11 Single Facts About Bridget Jones’s Diary
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While it's not officially a holiday movie, so much of the action in Bridget Jones's Diary happens around the most wonderful time of the year that the rom-com has become essential wintertime viewing for many movie fans. Based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a very single, and hopelessly romantic, working professional named Bridget (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to improve her love life. Enter two strapping gentlemen (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) to vie for her heart. Get to know more about the timeless dramedy that’s been delighting audiences since 2001. Just as it is.

1. THE SOURCE NOVEL CAME ABOUT FROM AN ANONYMOUS COLUMN ABOUT SINGLE LIFE.

In the foreword of Bridget Jones’s Diary, author Helen Fielding wrote about how she came to conjure up the story: “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”

2. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON PEOPLE IN HELEN FIELDING’S LIFE.


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These include Jude (Tracey MacLeod) and Shazzer (Sharon Maguire, also the film’s director). In a column for the Evening Standard, MacLeod described how she didn’t even realize she inspired part of her best friend’s story until Fielding’s book launch party. “At the launch party for the first Bridget book, I was cornered by a smug married friend, ‘So ... what's it like being Jude?’ she asked,” MacLeod writes. “I was outraged. Of course I wasn't Jude, with her self-help books and horrible boyfriend. My boyfriend wasn't anything like Vile Richard ... But as more people began to believe that Jude and Shazzer were thinly-veiled portraits of myself and Sharon, I secretly got to like the idea.”

3. TONI COLLETTE DECLINED THE LEAD, AND KATE WINSLET WAS CONSIDERED FOR IT.

Before Zellweger stole the show, Aussie Toni Collette and Brit Kate Winslet were up for the part. According to AMC, “Toni Collette declined the role because she was on Broadway starring in The Wild Party at the time, and Kate Winslet was considered but the producers decided she was too young.”

4. HUGH GRANT ONLY SIGNED ON WHEN RICHARD CURTIS WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE WRITER. 


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“The only reason [I was a hard sell] was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time,” Firth told Cinema.com. “And I kept saying, ‘It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it.’ Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.”

5. RENÉE ZELLWEGER GAINED 17 POUNDS FOR THE PART.

Zellweger’s weight gain for the role had the media abuzz for a while. According to The Guardian, “In order to play the eponymous heroine in the film adaptation of Fielding's bestseller, the actress gained 17 pounds, consulting a dietitian and endocrinologist who devised a regime of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.”

6. ZELLWEGER WORKED AT PICADOR FOR THREE WEEKS.

Zellweger went full Method for her iconic role, and became a temporary employee of the Picador publishing house. “We came up with a plan: she would be Bridget Cavendish, Bridget for obvious reasons and Cavendish as she was to be passed off as the sister of Jonathan Cavendish, a friend of one of our company chairmen,” Picador publicist Camilla Elworthy told The Guardian. “That last bit at least is true, and no one was to know that Jonathan Cavendish was one of the film's producers.”

7. ZELLWEGER KEPT A PHOTO OF JIM CARREY ON HER DESK.


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While working at Picador, Zellweger kept a picture of Jim Carrey on her desk—which made her alter ego Bridget Cavendish seem like some sort of obsessed fan. “Under the name Bridget Cavendish, she answered phones, served coffee, and made photocopies—without being recognized by any of her co-workers, who offered career advice and wondered privately why she kept a photo of Jim Carrey (her then-boyfriend) on her desk,” noted Hollywood.com.

8. ZELLWEGER INVITED HER BOSS AT PICADOR TO BE AN EXTRA ON SET.

In Camilla Elworthy’s write-up for The Guardian, she noted how she became a part of the production. “Renée sent me a thank you letter and gift after she'd gone and I have seen her a few times since then," Elworthy wrote. "She invited me on to the film set one day. She informed me that I had to stick around and be an extra and made sure that I was put somewhere that I would be seen ... As a result, half my head can be seen for half a nano-second in the launch party scene.”

9. THE EPIC FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN GRANT AND COLIN FIRTH WASN’T CHOREOGRAPHED.

You can thank the two actors for the hilarity of the iconic scene. In a Vulture article about the greatest fight scenes in movie history, writer Denise Martin recalled the improvised spar, writing, “No stunt coordinators. No elaborate choreography. Just a perfectly realized wimp brawl between two upper-middle-class Englishmen coming to awkward fisticuffs in front of a Greek restaurant.”

10. FIELDING ASKED FRIEND SALMAN RUSHDIE TO CAMEO IN THE FILM.

Recalling how he came to be part of the film, famed novelist Salman Rushdie told Texas Monthly, “Helen Fielding, the author of the book, is an old pal of mine, and she asked if I’d come along and make a fool of myself, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

11. GRANT DIDN’T HEAR ZELLWEGER SPEAK IN HER AMERICAN ACCENT UNTIL THE FILM’S WRAP PARTY.

Zellweger was so engrossed with Bridget Jones that one of her leading love interests didn’t meet the real actress until the end of the shoot. “Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” Grant told Cinema.com, “when suddenly this weird ... Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the f*ck she was!”

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15 Surprising Facts About Scarface
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Say hello to our little list. Here are a few facts to break out at your next screening of Scarface, Brian De Palma’s gangsters-and-cocaine classic, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1983.

1. IT WASN'T THE FIRST SCARFACE.

Brian De Palma's Scarface is a loose remake of the 1932 movie of the same name, which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster. The producer of the 1983 version, Martin Bregman, saw the original on late night TV and thought the idea could be modernized—though it still pays respect to the original film. De Palma's flick is dedicated to the original film’s director, Howard Hawks, and screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIDNEY LUMET FILM.

At one point in the film's production, Sidney Lumet—the socially conscious director of such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men—was brought on as its director. "Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Oliver Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."

3. OLIVER STONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN WRITING THE SCRIPT, UNTIL LUMET GOT INVOLVED.


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Producer Bregman offered relative newcomer Oliver Stone a chance to overhaul the screenplay, but Stone—who was still reeling from the box office disappointment of his film, The Hand—wasn't interested. "I didn’t like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn’t really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it. The origin of it, according to Marty Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long time mentor/partner that he’d like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece."

But when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. "Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we’re prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There’s a prohibition against drugs that’s created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."

4. UNFORTUNATELY, ACCORDING TO STONE, LUMET HATED HIS SCRIPT.

While the chance to work with Lumet was part of what lured Stone to the project, it was his script that ultimately led to the director's departure from the film. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don’t know if he’d say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I’d rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."

5. STONE HAD FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER.

In order to create the most accurate picture possible, Stone spent time in Florida and the Caribbean interviewing people on both sides of the law for research. "It got hairy," Stone admitted of the research process. "It gave me all this color. I wanted to do a sun-drenched, tropical Third World gangster, cigar, sexy Miami movie."

Unfortunately, while penning the screenplay, Stone was also dealing with his own cocaine habit, which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. Stone actually tried to kick his habit by leaving the country to complete the script so he could be far away from his access to the drug.

"I moved to Paris and got out of the cocaine world too because that was another problem for me," he said. "I was doing coke at the time, and I really regretted it. I got into a habit of it and I was an addictive personality. I did it, not to an extreme or to a place where I was as destructive as some people, but certainly to where I was going stale mentally. I moved out of L.A. with my wife at the time and moved back to France to try and get into another world and see the world differently. And I wrote the script totally f***ing cold sober."

6. BRIAN DE PALMA DIDN'T WANT TO AUDITION MICHELLE PFEIFFER.


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De Palma was hesitant to audition the relatively untested Pfeiffer because at the time she was best known for the box office bomb Grease 2. Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Kelly McGillis, Sharon Stone and Sigourney Weaver were all considered for the role of Elvira, but Bregman pushed for Pfeiffer to audition and she got the part.

7. YES, THERE IS A LOT OF SWEARING.

According to the Family Media Guide, which monitors profanity, sexual content, and violence in movies, Scarface features 207 uses of the “F” word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute. In 2014, Martin Scorsese more than doubled that with a record-setting 506 F-bombs thrown in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. TONY MONTANA WAS NAMED FOR A FOOTBALL STAR.

Stone, who was a San Francisco 49ers fan, named the character of Tony Montana after Joe Montana, his favorite football player.

9. TONY IS ONLY REFERRED TO AS "SCARFACE" ONCE, AND IT'S IN SPANISH.

Hector, the Colombian gangster who threatens Tony with the chainsaw, refers to Tony as “cara cicatriz,” meaning “scar face” in Spanish.

That chainsaw scene, by the way, was based on a real incident. To research the movie, Stone embedded himself with Miami law enforcement and based the infamous chainsaw sequence on a gangland story he heard from the Miami-Dade County police.

10. VERY LITTLE OF THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN MIAMI.

The film was originally going to be shot entirely on location in Miami, but protests by the local Cuban-American community forced the movie to leave Miami two weeks into production. Besides footage from those two weeks, the rest of the movie was shot in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara.

11. ALL THAT "COCAINE" LED TO PROBLEMS WITH PACINO'S NASAL PASSAGES.

Though there has long been a myth that Pacino snorted real cocaine on camera for Scarface, the "cocaine" used in the movie was supposedly powdered milk (even if De Palma has never officially stated what the crew used as a drug stand-in). But just because it wasn't real doesn't mean that it didn't create problems for Pacino's nasal passages. "For years after, I have had things up in there," Pacino said in 2015. "I don't know what happened to my nose, but it's changed."

12. PACINO'S NOSE WASN'T HIS ONLY BODY PART TO SUFFER DAMAGE.

Still of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface' (1983)
Universal Home Video

In the film's very bloody conclusion, Montana famously asks the assailants who've invaded his home to "say hello to my little friend," which happens to be a very large gun. That gun took a beating from all the blanks it had to fire, so much so that Pacino ended up burning his hand on its barrel. "My hand stuck to that sucker," he said. Ultimately, the actor—and his bandaged hands—had to sit out some of the action in the last few weeks of production.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTED A SINGLE SHOT.

De Palma and Spielberg had been friends since the two began making studio movies in the mid-1970s, and they made a habit of visiting each other’s sets. Spielberg was on hand for one of the days of shooting the Colombians’ initial attack on Tony Montana’s house at the end of the movie, so De Palma let Spielberg direct the low-angle shot where the attackers first enter the house.

14. SOME COOL TECHNOLOGY WENT INTO THE GUN MUZZLE FLASHES.

In order to heighten the severity of the gunfire, De Palma and the special effects coordinators created a mechanism to synchronize the gunfire with the open shutter on the movie camera to show the huge muzzle flash coming from the guns in the final shootout.

15. SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

The trust fund the former Iraqi dictator set up to launder money was called “Montana Management,” a nod to the company Tony uses to launder money in the movie.

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