Howard Berger talks making Fright Night remake with vampiric Colin Farrell.
Updated: 08-21-2011


Staci Layne Wilson reporting
HOWARD BERGER: My name is Howard Berger, and I’m with KNB VFX Group, which is located in Los Angeles, Ca. And what my department is here to do is we’re doing all of the special make-up effects, which are all the creature stuff and all the make-up stuff, and the make-up on Colin Farrell and Chris Mintz-Plasse and Imogen Poots. So there’s a huge variety of different things. And what we’re doing today is this is one of our bigger weeks. We have, aside from Colin Farrell working today in a bunch of different make-ups – I’ll explain all of the different stages that we have Colin in, we have what we call the basement vamps. This is Maryia, one of our basement vamps, who’s actually a character within the film who gets turned, and then shows up, which is lovely. And we’ve got a whole bunch of these basement vamps that are utilized within the sequence in the film. So we’ve got about ten make-ups, which is one of our biggest make-up days.
Tammy Lane, who’s over there, Tammy and I have worked together for 15 years now. Tammy is handling all of the application on Colin Farrell, doing all of Colin’s make-ups. And there are six different stages to Colin. We have a normal stage, where Colin just looks like beautiful, handsome Colin, and Tammy has to do all this tattoo removal, which actually sounds like “Oh, you kinda make over it.” But it’s really kind of complicated. And Colin’s got quite a bit of tats on his arms in the scenes where he’s wearing kind of like a wife-beater tee. So Tammy spends a good portion of her day removing all of those tattoos and all that fun stuff.
TAMMY LANE: Darn actors
HOWARD BERGER: Yes, darn actors tattooing themselves, that’s right. Don’t they know we own them? But Colin goes through a series of different stages, from something simplistic where it’s just simple fangs, which are just caps and contact lenses, all the way to his big giant monster stage, which is actually our Stage 5 officially, which is a really big creature. You see there’s these heads on the shelf over here? Those are stunt masks for the stunt guys to wear. But you can see the designs up here on the walls? These are all of the Colin Farrell designs – 1 thru 5. And there will be some digital augmentation on the 5th stage, where you can see the mouth is really wide open. That all gets replaced with a digital mouth, and it will be super, super cool. And there is some other augmentation going on in the Stage 4 make-up. We’re going to probably widen his mouth a little bit and stretch his eyes.
And we also a have a make-up that we’re digitally augmenting, which going to be on Imogen, if you can see on the other cover – Tammy is pointing it out, where she has a big giant open mouth, which is really cool and kind of a homage to the original FRIGHT NIGHT movie. And it’s something that we wanted to do. We wanted to stay in the flavor of the original design, because it’s so cool and Craig Gillespie, our director, really, really liked it as well. But of course, we wanted to upgrade it and be able to utilize the new and exciting digital technology. But one of the cool things about the prosthetic work on this movie and just this movie overall is there’s very minimal digital shots, and we all decided that we wanted to do things as practical as possible, which is something they not do in movies these days. Even films that have digital effects that are obvious seem to have 200 hundred shots. It’s insane. But it was nice that DreamWorks and the production teams, the producers and Craig really wanted to do everything as practical as possible. Even to the point where you see this one design on Christopher who plays ‘Evil Ed’, you see he’s kind of missing an arm. We did a combination of building the old school arm-behind-the-back with a stump that bleeds and has a little “waga waga”. And once in a while we’ll do a little digital augmentation, if there’s some heavy stunt stuff where Chris is in a green screen glove. But for the most part, we’re trying to get away with doing everything practical, and once the film is cut together, they’ll be able to take a look at it, and see what they need to do, as far as any digital augmentation. It’s actually a very intelligent way to go about making a film like this. What else can I tell you?
QUESTION: How long does it take to do this?
HOWARD: BERGER: It takes Tammy, depending on the stage; it can take from about 45 minutes all the way to 2 and a half hours. With the final stage, we have to paint Colin’s body, and he has full hands. Same with the Stage 4 make-up, and Tammy and I tag team that. We both do those together. As far as the earlier stage, he always has some sort of prosthetics on his face, even these little veins. And if you see Colin today, you see he’s got these little three-dimensional veins, kind of like what Maryia has going on. These little Cabo (patch) transfers that transfer on, similar like a two-dimensional tattoo you buy and put it on with water. Kind of the same process. We manufacture these at KNB, then they’re transferred, put on the same way with water and peel them off. But these are three-dimensional tattoos; we paint them on, all that kind of cool and groovy stuff.
QUESTION: The eyes. Are they contacts?
HOWARD BERGER: Yes, for the eyes, there are different stages of contact lenses. Colin has three sets of eyes. He’s got small-like black ones that just enlarge his iris just a little bit, which are 15mm lenses, and then we go to 22mm lenses, which are basically solid black eyes. And then we have a set of lenses, I call them sunburst, which are big 22mm and are really, really big, where you don’t see any white at all. So, he has those sets. Christopher has the same set but a different design as far as his sunburst goes, and the same with Imogen. She has two sets of lenses: blacks and a version of sunburst. And they’re all different looks. And Colin has 500 pairs of teeth. We’re constantly switching dentures out. That’s where we start to reinvent new stages. Like we were supposed to be Stage 1 with specific teeth and specific eyes and veins. And then Colin and Craig may say, “Let’s do like a Point 6 today.” – which might be 3rd Stage teeth with small black eyes with ear tips and fingernails. So, we kind of mix it up. We designed Stage 5, and I think we’re really up to…
TAMMY LANE: …about nine.
HOWARD BERGER: Yeah, about nine. It changes a lot. So it’s good, and we’re used to that and we roll with the punches. That’s why we’re liked on-set.
QUESTION: How is Colin on the chair there? Does he chat?
HOWARD BERGER: He’s fantastic. I have to say Colin Farrell is one of our favorite actors to work on, and I’m not just saying that. I think when this movie wraps, I’ll be going to Colin’s house everyday and applying make-up to him, whether he likes it or not. Or at least just to see him: “Good morning, Colin.” And then I’ll drive home. But Tammy and I have grown really fond of Colin. And he’s fantastic in the chair. I think he feels everyday is Halloween, because there are times when he’ll come in and he just wants to wear his teeth. And there was a time when we went to set, and we had a big bag, a big container of teeth, and I noticed his 1st Stage teeth were missing. And I’m like, “oh no, I’m sure I put them away.” Because after the end of the takes, he pops them out and puts them in my hand, and maybe I went, “oh, maybe he threw them away.” And so, I’m panicking. I go to set and I’m like, “Colin, we might be able to use your 1st Stage teeth.” He’s like, “oh I already got them. I went in your office and I took them out of your drawer.” And I go, “Don’t do that anymore.” (Laughter) So he likes having the teeth and the eyes. He loves getting made up, and he’s great about it. He’s fantastic in the chair. He really brings it to life. And that’s part of the success of how a make-up goes. We do 50% and the actor does the other 50% and brings it to life. There’s so many times where we’ve all done make-ups on actors that haven’t done that; that don’t step up to the plate, and it just doesn’t work. But we’re very lucky we have actors in this film, between Christopher, Imogen and Colin that love wearing the make-up. Well, I don’t know if they love it, but they enjoy wearing the make-up, and they do a fantastic job while doing it.
QUESTION: Does he (Colin) ever not wear the contacts?
HOWARD BERGER: There’s only one point in the film, in the beginning, where we first meet Jerry Dandrige, where he is in his normal stage, and it’s his own eyes.
QUESTION: Otherwise…?
HOWARD BERGER: Otherwise, he has some version of contacts and teeth. He’s always vamped to some degree, except for the very opening of the film, when we first meet him.
QUESTION: That’s a bit of variation from the original?
HOWARD BERGER: It is. I think in the original film, the Jerry Dandrige character, he’s pretty normal in a good portion of it. Chris Sarandon was pretty normal, and then he goes through his changes here and there. And there’s one other thing, just let me talk about the neat variation on the vampire thing in general, especially in this film, is Craig came up with a concept for Jerry – he vamps. All the characters vamp. It deals with adrenaline and anger. And it’s not, “I’m gonna turn into a giant bat monster.” It’s actually the fury that builds and builds; the adrenaline that builds within them, that flares up. And there won’t be a period in the movie where he’s walking around in a big giant monster head, “Hey, I’m gonna get you!” It really flares up in moments and recedes down. And that’s also why we have so many stages. He’ll vamp up from a Stage 2 all the way to a Stage 4, and then come down really quick once the fury is done. And I really kind of like that, and I also think that in thinking about the design – the whole character thing – we really tried to find something different. There’s so much vampire stuff done. And I think between Craig’s ideas, our ideas and Colin’s ideas, we really came up with something original that will play within the context of the film. And I think the film is very original in the essence of how Craig is approaching it. Really, he’s like an old school filmmaker for a guy that hasn’t made a tremendous amount of movies, he has a great style, which is “let the scene play out” and look at it all. It’s not about 5000 edits. I love the way he’s shooting things. The film feels very unnerving when watching pieces of it. It’s a very unsettling film. It’s not like a cheap scare – a cat jumps out of a garbage can, or they open up a closet and books or bunch of stuff falls on them – that stuff doesn’t exist within this film. It’s really very long shots that make you really uncomfortable and want to get the hell out of there, out of that environment – which I think is really, really fantastic. And that’s something Craig has developed.
QUESTION: What inspired the few rows of teeth?
HOWARD BERGER: What inspired the rows of teeth? Craig really wanted to do shark teeth. He wanted to have these to have a form-follows-function sort of thing. This will be done in post too when he opens his mouth, we’ll see the teeth unfurl, like a shark. So, we’ll see these rows and rows, especially as he’s getting into his later stages - his third and fourth stages. So that’s one of the reasons why we kind of did the big shark thing, and again to try and find thing that we hadn’t seen before. And it’s something that we found really kind of interesting and gave us the opportunity as make-up artist to come up with something that we haven’t done. KNB has been involved with millions of movies and a lot of vampire films, and I really wanted to come up with something we had not seen before. And this was a great opportunity. Craig was really open to all of our suggestions and still is, as was DreamWorks who’s been wonderful to deal with. There hasn’t really been anything too horrifying.
QUESTION: Is there any practicality to such big black eyes?
HOWARD BERGER: For the most part the big black eyes initially kind of represent that shark feel - sort of like that soulless, lifeless eye. You know when shark’s attack, their eyes kind of roll back white, or black rather, and they’re like these soulless things. We just really wanted that. But then I really wanted to do the sunburst lenses to help. Because I didn’t want him to always have black eyes. It’s something Craig and I debated for a really long time, and it end up working out really, really well. I finally pushed him in that direction. I forced him in that direction.
We really just wanted to mix it up and have different looks. And hopefully it won’t come across as a big giant continuity mistake. Like “why does he look like that, now he looks like this?” But in our minds – Tammy’s and my mind – it all works as one and is very cohesive and works within the universe that Craig’s created. Again, which we have to design for in this reality, this universe that Craig has put us all in, which I really, really like. It’s funny, I just watched the original FRIGHT NIGHT. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the original film – I love it – but there are shots of Jerry’s house, which is the back lot of Universal. There’s all of that fog creeping. It’s so horror show stuff. But there’s none of that in this, because Craig’s created a reality. And that’s why I think this is so scary and unnerving. It’s almost on the level of a serial killer. He’s a vampire, but really it’s all about killing to survive, and probably the thrill of the hunt.
QUESTION: What did you find the most challenging part?
HOWARD BERGER: I think the most challenging thing was to come up with something we hadn’t seen before. Probably everybody says that. But literally, we were really hunting for a look, a different feel. And I still sort of wanted to stay faithful to the original film, because I am such a big fan of that. And I like the work in that movie. And still maintain Colin Farrell’s charisma and good looks. I mean if you could do a hideous vampire, but still looks handsome: “That Colin Farrell is a hot, gross vampire.” But I think that was one of the more challenging things. I think that with filmmaking generally nowadays – the way filmmaking is – the challenge is that you have very little time these days.
QUESTION: How does the 3D work?
HOWARD BERGER: The combination 3D and HD has been very tough. We really have to be careful, because Colin has a lot of hairpieces in the make-ups, because we move his hairline back. We found we couldn’t use the standard wig. We had to punch all the hair into all of the appliances. So, instead of us putting down a lace piece and gluing it down, the lace always shows, even if you trim way back. So, Tammy is taking it upon herself to do all of the hand punching on all of the appliances, so every set has eyebrows punched, all the forehead hair punched. It’s very, very time consuming. It just takes a long time. But it really pays off, because it looks great. But that is definitely something because of the HD and the 3D, because everything shows. We’re trying to get used to that whole crazy world. This is the 4th Stage make-up for Colin. You can see it’s a really big piece. The whole piece lays down over Colin’s entire face and gets glued down.
QUESTION: How long does it take?
TAMMY LANE: To do one it’s probably about two hours, three hours. And I’ve done eight of them so far. I got four more to go. But they’re fun.

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