TOM SULLIVAN AND “THE BOOK OF THE DEAD”

In our film society, with success comes sequels, and The Evil Dead was followed a few years later by EVIL DEAD 2. Funded by Dino DeLaurentiis, Evil Dead 2 had a bigger budget, longer set pieces, and a script that is only fifty-percent horror, the other half comprised of black comedy. Of the leads, only Bruce Campbell was brought back, as the hapless protagonist, Ash. Sullivan returned to do some of the effects work, but was only part of the many make-up cogs in this machine. “I had my own team (for Evil Dead 2). I created the new Book of the Dead. The dagger hilt was re-cast by a prop guy. And the new blade was sculpted by Mike Trcic and Brian Rae. Mike Trcic went on to sculpt the T-Rex for “Jurassic Park.” Yeah, he was my assistant. And I was not worthy. He’s an astounding artists. And Brian Rae was chief mold-maker for KNB and has gone onto other shops.”

After Evil Dead 2, Sullivan tried his hand in Hollywood. “I worked for six months on “The Fly II” (directed by veteran effects artist Chris Walas). I did some sculpting and a lot of mold-making and little bit of design work. Not that any of it was used, but I finally got into my college-level experience. At the same time I was realizing that I wanted to be an artist where people look at my stuff and go ‘Oh, here’s Tom Sullivan’s thing’. Rather than, there goes my name on the credits. I found that the bigger the film you worked on, the smaller cog you got to be. It just wasn’t fulfilling. So I went back to illustration and worked for a company called Chaosium for about seventeen years. Doing covers and artwork for role-playing games. Lovecraft and I just can’t seem to separate. I love his books. All that came from “Cry of Cthulhu,” which was never made. It was in Cinefantastique, as a matter of fact. Years ago. I illustrated The Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters. A guide to 27 of the most commonly seen monsters. I did those; they set me up with some of the excerpts from the books. Some of his descriptions are so precise they’re almost medical. Forensic descriptions. And others are ‘If I should describe this thing I should go mad’. ‘Cool, Tom, draw that one.’ It just ran the gamut, but what a fun book!”

Since leaving Chaosium, Sullivan has formed Darkage Productions, through which he publishes prints of his artwork and replicas of his Evil Dead props. Tom’s old friend Pat Reese provides valuable craft and technical skill on projects from the “Book of the Dead” replicas to the Anchor Bay Evil Dead DVD. The ultimate goal of this, however, is to raise funds for his own productions. “I’ve got a couple of things, I think what would get me in the door of course are horror films. But I love action films, so I’m trying to combine the two. I have some really cool, action-packed ideas, with enough production value that they would be really cool. I’d like to try, as much as I love what’s being done with digital effects, there’s room for more stop-motion, if used correctly. I’d love to do some stop motion for some Lovecraftian piece. I’ve got a network of friends and people that I’ve met through these conventions. They are amazingly talented and diversified folks. I want to meet them, they want to meet me and we all want to make movies. My plan is to get my own digital camera and some really great software, a DV burner and design them like that. Distribute them as much myself as I can. Just to get started and break in like that.”

Sullivan’s wonder for the art of filmmaking has never waned. The renewed interest in his work at conventions has only increased his desire to return to the field. “I saw the original ‘King Kong’ when I was five years old, and the energy I got from Willis O’Brien and his people and all that has stuck with me. It made me want to do those things as an adult. It’s turned out that’s happened, and that’s so neat.”

Visit Tom at his Darkage Productions website.




Posted on October 6, 2003 in Interviews by
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