ILHM had the pleasure of meeting one of the genre's leading special make-up FX artists over the three day weekend at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors 2009, Robert Kurtzman. Robert of course was a leading man during the height of KNB's FX work, and has gone on to develop his new company Creature Corps, working out of both Ohio and New Mexico. Robert's newest creations will be on display in the film Hisss, due out late 2009, and in his most recent directorial effort The Rage, now available on DVD. Robert has taken the time to sit down with ILHM and offer some insight into his amazing FX work over the years:
ILHM: Robert, it is a huge privilege to have the chance to catch up on your current projects! Going back to the beginning, what inspired you originally to become a make-up and FX artist?
Robert: I've been a movie fan since I was a little kid and spent all my time watching monster films on late night horror host shows and Sat. afternoon movies while drawing and trying to re-create the creatures. I've always had a fasination for fantastic creatures and special effects and I followed the careers of Rick Baker, Stan Winston and Dick Smith as I read Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and Cinemagic. So eventually I made my way to LA to break into the Biz.
ILHM: Growing up, did you find that your friends and family propelled you in the direction of make-up and design, or did you find some resistance in achieving your goals?
Robert: No resistance at all.... My mother is an artist and she really nurtured the artist in me as I was growing up. I spent a lot of time taking art lessons from her artist friends, and they all had different styles and mediums (oils, watercolor, acrylics, sculpture). Both my mother and father were very supportive. They just wanted me to find a career that mad me happy. I just wanted to do creative things.
ILHM: You have worked with some of the most prolific directors in the horror genre. In your experience, who have you enjoyed working with the most?
Robert: Sam Raimi. I had the best time working on the Evil Dead films and love watching Sam work. He really enjoys the process of making films and his enthusiasm is infectious.
ILHM: What are a few of your fondest memories looking back over the years you have spent on the sets of genre classics like Evil Dead 2, Bride of Re-Animator, up to your own films Wishmaster and The Rage?
Robert: Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are my two favorite film experiences, and of course I love every torturous moment on my own films. When we were working on the Evil Dead films, we were kind of isolated on location and we pretty much just lived for making the films. It was a close knit family, and we had a great time. Just working on a castle set with armies of the dead attacking was like we were kids again and living in a Harryhausen film. Total Blast!
ILHM: What are your greatest fears stepping behind the camera as a director?
Robert: I actually am pretty fearless. I've alwasy been a risk taker. My biggest fear is always is getting fired an not being able to complete the film you worked so hard on, which has happened to other directors I know. Luckily, I have not had that happen to me... knock on wood!
ILHM: Do directing and writing come as easy to you as design work for your make-up and special FX?
Robert: After 5 films now I feel more comfortable behind the camera as director, and it really is the most fufilling experience for me. Writing is a torurous process, as there are too many distractions. Its really hard to sit down and get it on paper. Nothing is really easy... even drawing or working on art.... its hard to find inspiration sometimes because its all a business as well. The best art comes from creative freedom, and thats very hard to find in the film industry.
ILHM: Of all the incredible designs you have put your mark on, what piece or pieces do you feel best represent your work, and which pieces would you say are your favorites?
Robert: That one is tough because the work you do for films are collaberative and have influences coming from writers and directors. The most satisfying work can only be created if you have compete freedom. That said, some of my favorite works are the Witch from Army of Darkness and Bride of Re-Animator. I also still dig the Gargoyle from Tales from the Darkside and the Savini Rat Creature From Dusk Till Dawn, but I'm really fond of the design work I just did for the Hisss make-ups and creatures.
ILHM: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects Hisss, To Live and Die, and Roney's Point?
Robert: To Live and Die is now called Deadly Impact and stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Joe Pantoliano, and Carmen Serano. Its an action thriller in the vein of In the Line of Fire. Its about a cop who's life is distroyed by the assassin he's hunting down, who's also an explosives expert. Its a cat and mouse thriller with lots of action.
Hisss is a film we just did in India with Director Jennifer Lynch who was amazing to work with. The film is based on the Nagin Snake Goddess legend. They've made like a hundred movies around the world about the legend but Hisss is the first Hindi horror film to be shot in India with an Amercian director and fx team onboard. It stars Bollywood Superstars Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Kahn (Slumdog Millionnaire), and the first American villian Jeff Doucette. We shot for 10 weeks in India, all around the country. It was an amazing experience. The film is unlike anything I've worked on, and visually stunning. We are working on post and it should be out later this year or early next.
Roney's Point is a film we've been involved with for a while that has yet to get into production.
ILHM: Wishmaster is one of the rare examples in the horror genre where the amazing practical FX were equally matched with ground-breaking computerized FX. Do you feel that the advances in computerized imagery have helped or hurt the genre as a whole?
Robert: Both! Its an amazing tool to have but it can also be relied on too much, but sometimes there is no other choice, its the only way to do it. Movie schedules have gotten tighter due to the overall economics of making films, and to do things practically and in camera are very coslty orimpossible do to these tight schedules. I still believe the best visual effects incorperatepractical and CGI elements. As a director its a great tool to have in your arsenal.
ILHM: Creature Corps is now up and running out of your recently remodeled bowling alley in Ohio; what are the greatest assets this new setting has provided and what can fans expect to see coming out of Creature Corps in the coming years?
Robert: A connection to the real world outside of LA and a better place to raise a family. Also my studio, which is 13,000 square feet, was more affordable to put together in Ohio keeping our overhead lower. We havent shot a film in LA for 5 years now so it doesnt really matter where you create the fx as we have been shooting all over the world. I've also put togehter a great team of veteran artists who've worked with me for more than 15 years who are also midwesterners. We have a half a dozen projects in the works for this year and we just completed The Dead Matter for director producer Ed Douglas, which we shot in Ohio. Its a independent production about the undead. We just completed the make-up fx work on the Children of the Corn remake directed By Donald Borchers, which he produced for the Sci Fi Channel. As a director, I'm attached to several projects moving forward this year, one of which is Bump, which I'm doing with Fangoria's Scott Licina and Mark Kidwell.
ILHM: What are a few goals you would like to achieve in the coming years, both in make-up and film and personally?
Robert: I'm pushing hard to build the company and our brand name and will continue to pursue interesting projects with creative filmmakers. Personally, I'm very excited about the release of Deadly Impact ( aka To Live and Die), which is myfirst non Horror/SCI FI film, and I will continue to refine my skills as a director.
ILHM: Robert, thanks again for taking the time to give us some insight into your career. Your fans span the world over, and we are all looking forward to your future successes!
Creature Corps' new website is aimed to launch shortly at http://www.creaturecorps.net/, and Robert's production company can be reached at www.p13entertainment.com/. Be sure to grab a copy of The Rage, available now in stores and online, and check out Hisss in the coming months following post-production!
Also, dont forget to check out our older interviews: