Science Fiction Filme.) First of all, I would like to thank you for your time doing this Interview. I think you´re work have got a huge fan base here in Germany. Especially because for films like PROMETHEUS (2012), SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) or the tv-series GAME OF THRONES of course. A lot of movie maniacs know the films you´re involved. Could you please tell us what you did before you come into filmbusiness. Why have you choose the way of being into SFX?
Douglas McCarthy) It’s always a pleasure to share my memories and experience and it is an honour to have been asked by you.
I left school in 1983 and began a craft apprenticeship at Rolls Royce Ltd Leavesden , near Watford England. This was all sides of engineering for their military gas turbine engines for helicopters such as the Lynx, Wessex,Puma and Gazelle. I did this for over 6 years after completing my 3 year apprenticeship.
I then got involved in playing drums and in 1989 decided to leave Rolls Royce to work for a local family run company as their chief service engineer, this allowed me to have plenty of time to tour with one band ( The Rattlers) in Germany Belgium Holland and Switzerland .
I then found a newspaper in one of our company vans advertising a 20th century fox based west end show called Alien War, I applied to the add and was asked to audition ( even though I wanted to get behind the scenes).
I got the job as a colonial marine and it turned out I was one of the better ones and it was a coin toss between myself and another marine who would take Sigourney around on the opening night, he won the toss and I took the second group with the Alien 3 cast.
This was a fun job and I was picked to be one of the 2 managers of the site in London for 18 months in which time we set up our own SFX and creature shop to deal with the constant repairs needed to all the costumes and equipment .
Th company was sold in summer 1995 and at the time of my father passing away I decided to try and get in to film and TV work.
This happened when a friend of mine told me an SFX company in SW London were looking for engineers for a big TV series and it was for some futuristic vehicles (one of my hobbies was building Hot rods) so I drove there in my 1929 V8 Chevrolet convertible and I got the job.
I learned so much very quickly working there for 18 months on films TV shows Pop videos and tv commercials. it was great training and I am still friends with a couple of the guys I worked with there.
SFF.) What exactly is a senior special effect technician?
D.McC.) Ok so, in film primarily but also in TV we have tradings for the type of work and experience you have in Special Effects.
Starting out as a Trainee ( normally for about 5 years if you keep busy).
Next there is a relatively new role of Assistant Technician , followed by Technician , then a Senior Technician who can lead teams and run the floor effects if required by the Supervisor, a senior has to have a lot of experience in all fields of the work undertaken and can design effects and mechanical rigs as well as operate them and safe use of Pyrotechnics.
SFF.) You were responsible for the SFX by the second unit in JOHN RAMBO. Could you please explain this kind of work.
D.McC.) I was asked to fly out to northern Thailand in 2007 with 5 other guys to support 2nd unit on the Rambo movie, I was one of 2 who made, fitted and operated all of the body hits and bullet hits on that show, we were very busy!
2nd unit is usually close up shots not requiring the main actors and /or stunt and big SFX scenes also not requiring the lead actors ( may favourite jobs in film have been 2nd unit)
SFF.) You´re working for television-series like GAME OF THRONES or COLD LAZARUS. What exactly is the difference between working on television and movies for the cinematic world?
D.McC.) Mainly the money and time given to prepare for design, build, test and operation of our type of work.
SFF.)Do you have any personal idols or films in your business?
D.McC.) My favorite film of all time is Raiders of The Lost Ark, it is brilliantly filmed , has a great cast, story line and has something for everyone, I have never really idolised an actor, but I was a little star struck by Angelia Jolie, she was a pleasure to work with and always happy, helpful and friendly to the crew.
My other favorite movies are Aliens, the Italian Job (original version)
Kelly’s Heroes and Dark Star I did love the 1st Star Wars but not enough to be in my top 5 movies.
But Matt Damon and Heath ledger are my top two, such amazing guys and Heath even was the DJ at mine and a friend’s Birthday party in Prague in 2003.
So sad and I remember I was talking to Daniel Radcliffe while he was on the broom flying rig on Harry Potter and the deathly hallows when I was told Heath had died. A moment I will never forget.
SFF.) What do you think about CGI comparing to “old school”- sfx back in the days?
D.McC.) CGI is great for its true intended purpose, excellent at polishing and finishing off a good physical special effect, my career saw the last of the Big Model/SFX units such as Lost In Space in 1997 begin to be replaced by CGI, it is more expensive and still does not give me any feeling that it’s a real object / space ship/ vehicle etc, it is improving but I do not enjoy a full CGI film it may a well be a cartoon for me. This is my personal view.
SFF.) Could you please tell us something about working for PROMETHEUS. How did you came to this project and what do you think about this movie in order of the ALIEN-franchise (in fact I like this one)?
D.McC.) I was working on a small Pyro job for a children’s TV show at Pinewood and I bumped in to my workshop supervisor from the last 3 Harry Potter movies, he asked what I was doing as he had just started a project that was perfect for me , this was Prometheus and he put me in charge of a team of 4 to build one of the 8x8 vehicles, when this was completed I was moved up to the main SFX workshop to do other projects on the movie, then was asked to go with my vehicle to Iceland for about 6 weeks I think to prepare the vehicles and keep them running during the shoot there. Driving the vehicle to set and back each day across the ash fields was just fantastic. Very good memories indeed.
I think Prometheus should have one the art direction Oscar that year; it was a stunning looking movie with incredible design and detail. I did enjoy watching it at the crew showing, but with most sequels / prequels, they never beat the originals.
SFF.) Do you have a project you always wanted to do or are there something in progress we can enjoy in the future?
D.McC.) I did fancy working on a Star Wars and I did do 2 days on a bond film, so that was good. I also worked on Batman Dark Knight with the armoury department and had great fun seeing Heath again.
I am pretty much retired now from Film and TV special effects and armoury, the last big film was Tim Burtons Dumbo two years ago.
SFF.) I held up with the most important question to the end: What was the most difficult effect you were working on and why?
D.McC.) That is the toughest question to answer, most aspects of our work are thinking of a way to make the effect happen and look good, so it’s a design and build to test, the most difficult jobs are when there is very little design and build time, Prometheus was very short on time to make the 3 8x8 Rovers and we worked long days and all weekends over three months to get it all done.
I also worked 32 days nonstop on large steel hydraulic rig for Fantastic Beasts and the shot got changed last minute and so half of our work was not needed, it is the way of film making.
SFF) What do you do beneath making SFX?
D.McC.) I was in a rockabilly band called The Rattlers , we did a festival in Germany 4 years ago after over a 25 year gap, I don’t play for them now though they just reformed . One of our albums was banned in Germany as I was holding a shotgun on the back cover ( 1990) I have been singing for the Resistants in and off for 10 years and that’s fun.
SFF.) Dear Mr. McCarthy. I thank you immensely for taking time doing this interview and wish you all the best for your future movie making.
D.McC.) Thank you. It was fun.