Unlike most children who love Disney films or cartoons, Benicio del Toro was fascinated by monster movies, particularly the ones from Universal Pictures. Years later, with a successful career and an Oscar, he finally had the clout to approach the studio about remaking one of its classics, 1941’s The Wolf Man.
In del Toro’s version, The Wolfman, he portrays Lawrence Talbot, a disturbed nobleman who is lured back to his family’s estate when his brother vanishes, only to discover he faces a horrifying destiny.
Was assuming the role of producer on this film just a practical decision or was it to protect a remake of a movie that you really loved as a kid?
Well, it was a little bit of both. Rick Yorn and I went up to the studio and proposed the idea of doing a remake of the original The Wolf Man movie, with the intention of really paying homage to those Universal classic Horror movie. I mean by paying homage, stay close to the story, and to also have the actor in make up be a big component of the movie, and they liked the idea. Then Rick Baker came in and we were moving.
I’m a big fan of all these Horror movies as far back as I can remember, these were the first movies where I knew the title of the film and I also knew the names of the actors in those films. I think I knew that before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Doctor Dolittle. These are the movies that I grew up watching.
Who turned you on to those Horror movies, because obviously they were way before your time?
It was my cousins, they were older. Sometime in the early Sixties there was a throw back to those Horror movies. There was a magazine called Famous Monsters and that magazine was in my house as far back as I can remember. And then there were these model kits where you’d get a model of Frankenstein or King Kong and you’d glue it together and you painted it. I think it was a great pacifier for kids, and some of them were really gory, I remember the model of the Bride of Frankenstein, you’d have to paint a limb, a brain, they were really cool toys.
What’s your opinion on CGI and green screen and was it hard to convince the studio to play the role with just make-up?
When you’ve got Rick Baker dying to do it, you don’t have to do much convincing. I don’t think the studio had any problems with Rick Baker doing the make-up. I think that CGI can enhance a picture; I think it enhances this one, the transformation [sequence] to CGI helps.
And regarding green screen, it’s really like doing stage work, you have to make believe that something is there that really is not there and convince the audience, it’s part of acting. I don’t have a problem with green screen. I did a movie called Sin City, and it was all done with green screen, and I had fun.
What about the make-up?
It’s Rick Baker. The thing with those old Horror movies with Lon Chaney Sr and The Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man, those movies, the make up artist in a lot of those movies was a guy named Jack Pierce. Part of the attraction to these monsters was not only were they scary, but they were cool. Boris Karloff is fantastic in the Frankenstein make-up, but the make-up was also cool, and I think that’s something that Rick Baker understands more than anyone. When I had a couple of meetings with Rick about this, we were really on the same page. And with Rick Baker, what do you do? You turn into a canvas and let him paint all over your face.
The problem is taking it off. It takes about two hours and it’s painful. At some point I stopped liking Rick Baker, during the process of taking it off. But then next time I’d come around he’d start putting it on and I’d fall in love with him again – we have a love/hate relationship.
What was your creative process on the story itself and the elements you wanted to import from the original film into this movie?
We wanted to keep the basis of the original there. When Andrew Kevin Walker came in we gave him the ball, just run with it. And when he came back with this darker story between father and son, I thought that was very cool.
But he kept the silver bullet, the full moon, and also the fact that the silver bullet will take him down, which I think is important for this movie, that the monster once you put a silver bullet in him, that’s it. We wanted to have an end to the curse.
The thing that Andrew Kevin Walker did that I also liked was that Lawrence Talbot would be more active. I think in the original he’s a little more of a victim and in our version he acts and he fights back and he almost becomes a detective.
Those were the things that we wanted to keep, and the fact that he comes from the States made it easier for me, so I didn’t have to speak with an English accent!