Let’s talk a little more on the special effects. How different do the effects have to be from real life to be effective?
Well, I was a combat photographer in Vietnam, so I saw a lot of shit. I saw a lot of dead bodies. I saw a lot of mutilated stuff, you know. So, when I create my effects, if it doesn’t give me the same feelings as when I saw the real stuff, to me it’s not real enough. But, if you’re looking at a forensic book of the real stuff, it looks fake. If you saw that in a movie you wouldn’t believe it. So, it’s your personal thing you put in to make it more real to you. Now, when we teach this at my school, the first thing the students are told is what the mindset should be when you’re doing special makeup effects. And that is, “what do I need to see to make me believe that what I’m seeing is really happening?” Then you make the pieces. Anything that comes out of that, even if it looks brilliant or it’s that genius kind of a thing, it only comes out of that mindset.
Here’s a prime example. We had to make a severed head of Piper Laurie for “Trauma.” She wouldn’t let us cast her head. She’s claustrophobic. What do you do? We have to have her head come off her body, roll across the floor, and as it’s rolling it has to say the word, “Nicholas… Nicholas,” as the head’s rolling. And then lay there in the corner and be a severed head. But she wouldn’t let us cast her head so we couldn’t make a fake head. So, what do we do? We go back to this mindset. What do I need to see to make me believe that what I see is really happening?
So, they put an appliance on her real head to make her own head look severed and painted it black from the appliance below. We put her on a stool that would spin, we built the floor up behind her on wheels then we turn the camera upside down. So, now here’s the real Piper Laurie with the floor moving behind her and we’re spinning her on this stool and so her own head is rolling along on the floor that we’ve built up behind her. Now that’s a prime example of limitations that make you more creative. But it all comes out of that mindset, “What do I need to see to make me believe I’m really seeing it?” Create the pieces. Okay we need a piece of her head rolling across the floor. I need to see the head come off the body. Somebody else’s head just rolls across the floor. You just can’t see it.
Also, when we spun her, she’s going, “Nicholas… Nicholas.” So we overcranked it and we undercranked it. So it’ll be in slow motion and in fast motion. We covered all the bases. And having the camera upside down, which made her upside down. Made the head look like it was unattached. Cause you’re used to looking at people standing straight up like this. The camera upside down with her head upside down with an appliance on that was her. Plus, you get the reaction. I don’t care how good the severed heads are in movies; look at them longer than 3 seconds – they’re fake. Schwarzenegger’s head in “The Terminator.” The guy in the mirror in “Poltergeist.”
The exception might be Kevin Yeager’s heads in “Sleepy Hollow.” Those were fabulous. You could stare at those all day. They were like real heads. So you use the real actor as much as possible, ‘cause the real actor can react and stuff. You can stare at my face all day, well maybe not MY face, HER face (points to attractive girl next to him), and know it’s real. So, the mindset and limitations make you more creative.
How do you, Tom Savini, want to be remembered?
How do I want to be remembered? What do I want on my epitaph? Is this like “Inside the Actor’s Studio?” “When you die, what do you want God to say when you’re at the gates?” I want God to say, “Nice try, do it again!” It doesn’t matter how I want to be remembered. What’s going to happen is, “Tom Savini! Oh yeah, the ‘Godfather of Gore,’ the ‘King of Splatter.’ He was ‘Sex Machine’ in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’” You know what’s really gonna happen? I did a hair commercial, a hair transplant commercial. I swear to God, I’m walking down the street and a car pulls up. “Aren’t you the hair guy?” Of all the stuff I’ve done! Twenty-seven movies! “Aren’t you the hair guy?? That’s how I’ll be remembered. I’ll be remembered as the transplant guy.
: How does it differ coming to Ohio to do an independent film versus doing some of the early low budget stuff in Pennsylvania?
There’s no difference. It’s the location with great crews and actors. It doesn’t matter where you are.
What’s the difference between doing a low budget film or a high budget film in L.A.?
High budget, of course there’s more benefits. There are more luxuries. You have more time. I’m going to do the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” on Monday, I’m playing a cameo in that, and that’s going to be a big budget Universal movie. You should call me after that and I can tell you the difference between this and that. For some people it’s a big difference, and they get an attitude. You know, I don’t give a shit. It’s just fun. Have fun anywhere you go. Live for the moment.
Do you enjoy the directing?
Yeah. That’s the most intoxicating thing. Cause the directors head up every department. Especially if you’ve written the damn thing. You’re creating a puzzle that you’re going to put together later. That’s a lot of fun. And suddenly, I don’t know where it comes from. The depths of the fiery core of the earth? But suddenly you have all this energy. And you can’t sleep. It’s impossible to sleep because you’re always thinking about the movie because you’re on a schedule. I’d rather sit in my basement and take my time on a painting. There are no deadlines, you know. That’s the most intoxicating thing, being the director. Still I think I’d rather just be an actor. Less responsibility. But, you do what you have to do.
Get the rest of the interview in part four of TOM SAVINI: A REAL SEX MACHINE>>>
Posted on July 29, 2003 in Interviews by Kevin Carr
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