Take us back to the beginning and outline what the definitive moments were in your early years. What got you started in the world of film and special effects?
I had quite a few of those “moments”. My father was always into art. In fact I don’t remember a time where I didn’t have pencil and paper at my disposal. He encouraged me through his passion to explore different mediums. He is also an avid film buff and I can remember being taken to see many movies as a child.
I am of the “Star Wars” generation and although it did have a great impact on me, it was not the film that made me want to travel towards what ultimately became my dreams. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Gremlins” were the films that made me realize I wanted to do this. I loved CEotTK from the stand point of special effects and Gremlins for the insane animatronics. Gremlins was the first film in which I saw an animatronic character come to life. Gizmo was real! That had a profound effect on how I perceived the universe from that point on. I just had to know how they did it.
That path of discovery led me to Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Steve Johnson, Chris Walas and a whole slew of other amazing artists that would then and still do provide the basis for who my artistic heroes are. Looking back now on my journey I can truly appreciate how fortunate I really am. On a side note, I now own one of the aliens from Close Encounters as well as a Gizmo.
In what ways did you find it a challenge trying to break into Hollywood after growing up in Toronto, Ontario Canada?
Toronto is far away from Hollywood, and that was especially true during the early 80’s. There was a fledgling film community but it certainly wasn’t what it is now. Today we’re labeled the “Hollywood of the North”. Times have changed and there are now more productions and qualified staff as a whole in the business.
I’ve always considered myself blessed to have grown up at the time I did in Toronto. After all, the scene was just starting and I was young. For some reason this meant people gravitated towards me and more importantly, helped me out. I mean I was short, fat, pimply-faced, full of energy but most importantly: innocent. My ignorance to the inner workings of the business and a wide eyed optimism served me well.
Makeup came instinctively to me. While I did not have a glorious makeup career, working mainly on TV shows and commercials, I do look back fondly on those days because they served as an incredible teaching platform for what was ahead. This is true both from a professional standpoint as well as in the realm of personal relationship building. I am a firm believer that you must retain both qualities as an artist. The proverbial team player; never were there truer words on the CG side of the business. So my transition into the film industry wasn’t bad.
However, my transition into the CG side of the business... well that’s a whole other story.
In those days Toronto had a bustling comic book industry with some major shops in the global spotlight. What characters inspired you most?
I’m a Batman guy and in particular Neal Adams’ envisioning of him. Neal was the first guy in my mind’s eye that took Bats and gave him street credibility. Not that the Adam West version was bad; I loved that show. But it was tongue in cheek humor. Neal made him ultra-cool and more importantly set the ground work for Dark Knight. I don’t think you could have had Dark Knight without Neal’s version.
I did for a blip get into Spawn but at that point it all just became too commercial for me. While I loved the early designs, that wasn’t enough to keep me around. I remember Frank Miller making a huge impact on me with “Ronin” and “Elektra”, both amazing graphic novels. Those really made me rethink the whole spectrum. Later of course came “300” and I would eventually get to supervise the modeling at Meteor Studios for the movie. Talk about full circle!