Science Fiction Filme.) First of all, I would like to thank you for your time doing this Interview. I think you´re a busy man and I don´t want to interrupt while your working just for an interview with a little fella who loves good ol´ effects like me. So thank you again.
I think you´re work have got a huge fan base here in Germany. Especially because for films like DEEP STAR SIX, TERRORVISION and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN of course.
Could you please tell us something what you did before you come into filmbusiness. Why have you choose the way of being into special make-up effects?
Robert Kurtzman) I got into the film business after attending one year of college and went to Los Angeles. Before makeup fx, I was a garbage man from age 12 to the end of high school.
I have always loved monsters and wanted to create my own. I grew up with late night horror host shows and famous monsters magazine and was fascinated that there were people that got to create their own monsters for a living.
SFF.) Your first experience, if I´m correctly informed, with films was TROLL. So how did you get the job and what did you do for this movie?
R.K.) I was working at John Beuchlers. My jobs were life casting, sculpting the monster which was foam fabricated by Cleve Hall, I made the eyeball stock and pretty much everything else. I did not go to set but worked in the shop.
SFF.) I love movies a lot. One of my very first experiences was ALIEN and THE THING by John Carpenter. Is there any special event or movie which made you think: “Alright, I want to do the same thing.” Do you have any personal idols or favorite movies in your business? Mine is the GODZILLAS-movies and PHASE IV for example. And which movies do you really don´t like and why?
R.K.) All the early shows from Frankenstein to The Howling, America Werewolf in London to the Exorcist but the top would be The Thing that convinced me that I had to work in the business.
Of course, Rick Baker but also John Chambers, Dick Smith, Roy Ashton (who did all the Hammer movies), Tom Berman and Stan Winston.
My favorite makeup movies are Planet of the Apes, the Exorcist, The Howling and The Thing. My personal favorites that I was able to work on myself are Army of Darkness, Evil Dead II, Phantasm II, Misery, Bride of Reanimator, In the mouth of Madness, Dances with Wolves, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jason Goes to Hell, Wishmaster, Tusk, The Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep.
SFF.) You creations of monsters in movies are wonderful examples of effects in the glorious decade of the 80s and 90s. What do you think about that time? Why do people love this period of movies?
R.K.) It was one of the most innovative periods of times in Makeup Effects. Artists had more materials and creativity along with making things that people would have never seen on screen before.
SFF.) What is your opinion about education to become an expert in special make-up effect? Is there any requirement or talent you need to have next to enthusiasm?
R.K.) If it’s something you really want to do, you have to dedicate your life to it and be an artist. You have to work at your art by creating every day either by drawing, painting, sculpting or applying makeups. I encourage the younger generation to get an education at a reputable makeup school but you also have to keep working at it daily.
You have to have some artistic talent or natural ability to see your vision of makeup through to the end.
SFF) Your Portfolio is a wonderful compilation of fantastic work. Do you have some favorite works of yours and is there a project that, unfortunately, never came to fruition, even though you had already designed a lot for it?
R.K.) The bandsaw head from Intruder bandsaw, The bride from The Bride of Reanimator, the witch and deadite captain in Army of Darkness and the creature (designed by the late Bernie Wrightson) from The Faculty. More recently, I loved the walrus in Tusk. It was a privilege to make something so ridiculous for Kevin Smith. I am especially happy with the ghosts from The Haunting of Hill House, the Iron Bob suit from Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (also for Kevin Smith) and of course, Mrs. Massey from Doctor Sleep.
SFF.) CGI nowadays could be a curse or a blessing. What do you think about it comparing to “old school”- films back in the days? Does it makes the progress easier?
R.K.) Here’s my opinion on CGI, at all times practical should be used for in camera but enhancing later with CGI is a beneficial to the outcome and vision of the director.
SFF.) If we look back to the movies you have done, we see that you did a lot of genre-movies. I am really into science fiction (or fantasy movies in general) because I think, that those kind of movies are the best way to show actual political and social events. For example SOYLENT GREEN or SILENT RUNNING. Do you believe that these genres can transfer something to the people?
R.K.) Yes, I think that most great horror movies have an underlying social commentary that people can see.
SFF.) Your monsters are marvelous and absolutely beautiful with full of details. Sometimes it seems, that our nightmares come true. Do you take some (personal) fears into your creations? Where did you take your inspiration from?
R.K.) I don’t really have a fear of monsters. At a young age I made them my friends so there really isn’t anything that I can add.
SFF.) In 2002 your starting your own company named PRECINCT 13 ENTERTAINMENT. Why did you choose starting an own company at that time and not before? I mean you were one of the founders of KNB. One of the biggest and best companies in your business. Is it because you want to do your own independent thing?
R.K.) At the time, my children were young and I wanted them to give them the same benefit that I did by being raised in a small town. So we moved to my hometown and I turned the old bowling alley that I grew up in into a Makeup FX Studio. Also, I was producing and directing at the time and wanted to do it on my own terms.
SFF.) Please tell me a normal process of creating a “monster”. From the first drawing, sculpturing, texturing and modeling. Take some of your creature for example. Is there any special technic or products that helps your trough this process?
R.K.) There is no one way to go about creating as the needs of the production dictate where I would start first. Conversations with the director, sketches, storyboarding and sometimes getting assistance by a concept artist as well. Life-casting of the actor portraying the monster is needed in order to sculpt. Sometimes the features of the actor can dictate the design of the monster. Sculpting is next. I can take direction from all the above but in the end it’s my interpretation. Still, there may be changes depending on the Director’s vision. In this business, you have to be prepared to change along every step of the way.
SFF.) If you think about it, you were the inventor of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. You had the idea, you was co-writing the movie, provided it with effects and produced it. Why don´t you direct it?
R.K.) It was originally conceived as a low budget movie and there were ups and down with me attached to direct. Production studios didn’t know what to make of it…was it a bank robbery movie or a vampire movie. When Robert Rodriguez, who was up and coming at the time, became involved it became a bigger budget movie and that was the way to go as he also brought an a-list cast to the table. We were able to do the effects we wanted and it was my first story credit. That led to my first movie The Demolitionist and directing Wishmaster so I think that it turned out pretty good.
SFF.) I grew up in a videostore. I saw hundreds of wonderful movies, even if they are direct-to-video. One of the best movies in the 90ies was TICKS by Tony Randel. A man who can make a good movie out of a “not so good”- script. What criteria do you use to select your jobs?
R.K.) Sometimes you do a show because you want to work with a particular director or producer or actor. To be honest, most of the time, it’s about getting paid. I have worked on a lot of movies that were low budget that turned out to be block busters and some higher budgets that just didn’t work.
SFF.) Do you have a project you always wanted to do or are there something in progress we can enjoy in the future?
R.K.) Yes and I really don’t like to share projects until they become reality. It’s a jinx to talk about things that “could” be.
SFF )Dear Mr. Kurtzman. I thank you immensely for taking time doing this interview and wish you all the best for your future movie making.