Photos of Conan in Movies

Marvel's Manthing Horror Movie - Conans Casting And Filming Blog

Monday, 21 August 2006

A couple of years ago while working as an actor on set for a Telstra Internet TVC my acting agent called me - "How would you like to act as the Title Role in a major US production? They are looking for a muscular actor, minumum height 6'4" preferrable height 6'8"+ has to be fit and professionally dance trained"

Manthing DVD Cover


Marvel's Man-Thing


I told her to call them and hold my part for me.....

She asked what professional dance training do you have? I jokingly replied Q-bar Sydney 2am sunday morning boop boop boo... She wasn't impressed. Then I reminded her of my work with Sydney Dance Company.... now she was impressed. She called the Man-Thing People.

I have your actor she told them

Manthing Casting

Two days later I went in for the initial Manthing movie casting, it was to be a horror film. There were a couple of other tall guys I already knew from previous acting auditions, a couple I knew from my social life, but none as experienced an actor nor as confident as I. Why was I so confident? Because the description had described me perfectly, I was trained for this, I was willing and I had was teh only one with the experience.

Remember at this point I still did not know the name or the appearance of the character

I had spent hours the night before stalking, slothing, rolling, shambling around the flat doing my best to be a scary horror movie monster. I tried every combination of horror monster movement I could come up with. I was ready for anything.

Except what they actually asked me to do.

They asked me to move like a professional dancer, stealthily and gracefully gliding through (on) the swamps surface, being a part of the swamp I would not be hindered by it.

I pulled out some graceful arm twists as I moved imaginary vegetation out of the way, I looked more like a Hippie on acid, horrifying in another sense, but it was what I was asked to do. I do not think the casting director had much of an idea of the character either.

I left the Manthing casting despondant, I thought I had screwed it, I just acted like the worst horror monster in the world.

Two days later I got a call from my acting agent - the Marvel Manthing movie people want to meet you Monday morning 9am. Monday morning comes around and a Red Bull to get energy and I am and off to meet the Manthing producer and the director.

I meet with the Manthing Producer and Director, have a preliminary chat, everything is very official. They take me down to show me the art department to see the clay Manthing models and drawings of the Manthing swamp monster. Wow, it looks pretty impressive. Horror style drawings all over the walls, 10 different clay statuettes - they point out the one they think they are going to go with - it is the most horrifying of the lot - I am happy. I mean if you are going to make a horror movie you may as well make the Manthing monster as terrifying as possible.

One of the Manthing artists and I get talking, he asks how can a guy my size be flexible? I say stand there and I threw a side kick over his head, impressed he drops into a fighting stance and we start to spar - the Manthing director and producer looking on in horror as one of their staff is about to die.

We kick, punch and parry for a couple of minutes laughing the whole time - this lightened the mood a lot and the formalities dropped after that, which is the way I prefer business anyway.

Then they showed me the swamp model, the swamp was to be built indoors and shot at the same location as the hit Sci-Fi TV series Farscape. The parts were all movable styrofoam sprayed over heavy wire to be easily movable to change the look of different swamp locations without actually going anywhere.

The Manthing swamp was to be waist deep on the average man, crotch deep for me.

After the tour we went upstairs for the final interview. Brett Leonard, the Manthing director, said that I was brought in today to see if I was suitable. The Manthing costume was going to take 3 months to make and it was to be built personally for me, it would not fit anyone else, I cannot quit half way through, also it was going to be hot in the suit, it was going to be heavy did I have a good endurance, and I was going to be in water the whole time, can I swim, am I comfortable around water. They wanted to know if I was willing to make a commitment to the Manthing movie regardless of how I felt later.

I told them (truthfully) that water was not a problem, it was winter at that point, and I swam 1km across from North Bondi Beach to South Bondi Beach once a week.

Bondi Overview

I Used To Swim Across Bondi Beach


And I would run 4km in the soft sand so fitness was not a problem, and the heat - I had wrestled in 40 degree (104 fahrenheit) heat in a vinyl wrestling outfit (during summer), I could handle that, I never quit, in fact you can call my ex-girlfriend she'll testify that I am the most stubborn person she has ever met :)

The Manthing movie guys OK'd all that and last but not least we have to be able to work with you every day for 2 months. My reply "No, you can't do that I am the biggest bastard you have ever met." I looked him squarely in the eyes, he was shocked to say the least. I looked at the producer, he too was shocked. No one said a thing the room was dead quiet, 5...4...3...2... then I laughed, and they cracked smiles too. So where do I sign. (PS I DO NOT recommend this as an approach.)

I was offered to sign the contract for the Manthing Horror Movie.

Making Of The Manthing Monster Suit

Several weeks later I was contacted by Makeup Effects Group (MEG) (check out the website to see some intersting movie effects) and asked to go in for the initial Manthing monster suit fitting. This entailed getting measured and meeting the guys.

Two days later I was asked in again for initial Manthing suit build. What this meant is that I was told to stand still while they covered me in quick drying latex. I did not feel very scary, stiffly stuck to a board with my arms extended.

So there I am standing with just a set of speedos (swimming trunks) on and being coverd in latex by a bunch of guys - this could be an adult movie in itself, lucky their jokes in that direction stayed jokes as I was glued to the spot, literally latexed to the floor.

Several more loonnngggg fittings and many weeks later I go in again, and this time they take photos. This is the first time I could actually see the Manthing monster suit, this is the first photo taken, I was very impressed, still there was a lot of work to do.

Manthing Naked


Naked Manthing


The Make Up And Effects Group guys went hard to work on the Manthing suit, it took 3 months solid work to have it completed and a backup Manthing suit just in case. In the end we had an additional set of mechanical hands that were controlled by radio wave remote control and I could get enough head movement, and a major neck workout, without going to a remote control on the head. Check out the feet, they concealed these amazing 1970's Manthing Disco Platform shoes, these were my own ankle boots with 11" of platform added, very hard to walk in the first time i tried them.

After this the Manthing horror monster suit had to be painted and then on set it had to be 'dressed' 

'Dressed' meant that after I had spent an hour putting the Manthing suit on the MEG guys would spend another 30 minutes applying slime, moss and 3 different types of real live worms and maggots to the suit, and of course to me.

Up Close And Personal With Manthing


Horror Movie - Live Maggots In My Face


Filming Marvel's Manthing

The first day of filming the Manthing movie for me was an outdoor scene where I run through a wall in the backup Manthing monster suit, it is not properly painted at this stage and it is not a full head and the hands I am actually holding. If you saw me in daylight you would have laughed.

Before this scene I went with John Walton , the stunt cordinator and a few of the stunt men to a warehouse and tried the scene out and went through the safety aspects. I still remember the first time I ran through the fake movie wall and into the fake movie furnicture the stunt cordinator asked me are you ok? Are you hurt?

I was puzzled. No I am not hurt, I'm OK. Why? That is all fake wood, cardboard. In wrestling you pick up a table and hit the guy with it, if it doesn't break you hit him harder, then if it doesn't break he takes it from you and makes sure it breaks - this is easy stuff. His turn to be surprised. John then explained the scar and dent on his head where he was doing an "easy" stunt like this where a piece of soft break away balsa wood penetrated his eye socket, popping his eye out, throgh his cranial cavity and popping the top of his skull off - my turn to be surprised.

So anyway Manthing runs through the wall, everything looks great, they get some footage of me running through the bushes at night with an real oil refinery in the background, in a real swamp. Nice effects.

The first day on the indoor Manthing movie set Brett Leonard got me in the boots, the heavy mechanical hands and waist deep in water for a scene where Manthing, our favourite horror monster, was chasing the heroes.

Let me paint this picture accurately I was walking in 11" platforms waist deep in water, the bottom was uneven, slippery mud, every step the boots would stick a little I was in danger of walking out of the boots but they were tied to my ankles so they would then be under my feet and in the way.

I had mechanical hands each weighing several kilo that were a foot and a half long. I was strictly instructed do not get the hands wet. I am holding these above the water for  over 1/2 an hour, my arms and shoulders are aching like hell.

Manthing is 10 feet tall in the complete costume including head branches. The foliage ceiling is about 9.5 feet high. I am bent over so as not to catch my head in the overhead branches. I am very uncomfortable, the suit is made rigid for me standing up straight, not bent over.

Manthing On Set


Manthing Getting Dressed - 1 Hour A Day


I don't complain but Brett is very unhappy with the first appearance of the Manthing suit and my first performance, he thinks he has made a huge mistake. I feel horrible for the MEG guys.

Next day we shoot again, this time without the mechanical hands and I refuse to wear the platforms as my feet are underwater. We shoot at one point I get dizzy and go to my knees from the heat, a short break with the Manthing suit head removed, a quick implementation of a fan system and we get the scene completed. SUCCESS.

Brett Leonard is jubilant, he is so happy with this take that next day he comes and informs us that the Man-Thing suit looks so good that they are going to do away with the special effects they had planned to paint over the Manthing swamp monster suit. This was going to cut heaps off of the CGI (computer graphics) bill.

Manthing Angry

Swamp Monster is All Suit Except For CGI Tentacles


The Manthing swamp monster suit was HOT, I had vents under my arms so when I wasn't filming one guy would come either side, put my arm on his shoulder and place a modified hair dryer (heat element removed) into each vent to get cool air to me. Other than that the heat would build up and I would stew in my own juices. I would drink and sweat litres and litres of water each day, I was always soaking wet and when I was not on standby I could take the hands, feet and head off and cool down..... but then I would end up sitting around in a cold wet rubber Manthing monster suit for hours at a time - and you thought movie making was glamorous?

From then on the filming of the Manthing movie went well for us. Most days I would go in and get dressed in the Manthing suit except for feet, hands and head and wander about set scaring dogs and small children.

The food on set is excellent, especially as one of the main actors you could order what you wanted , when you wanted, though I always tried to keep catering onside and just ate what they had prepared.

Though one time they were not happy, I went and asked for a plate of green salad vegetables and parsley. I would not tell them what for. Come lunch time the crew arrives to a elegant silver platter as the main featuring the severed rotting arm from one of the scenes. What? It's Manthing food.... OK apparently not. Several people were very displeased :(

The decaying severed arm was quickly removed, seems not many others saw the humour in it.

The rest of the Manthing movie shoot went well except in the final scene where I fight with the bad guy, in this scene they called in a a stunt double for the action. The stunt double was dressed in body armour and all protective stunt gear.

After cut was called he just lay there, oh shit. Hey you OK? Noooo.... off to the hospital. 4 hours later we recieve confirmation that it is just a couple of broken ribs. And it wasn't me - it was his stuntmen mates pulling his wire too hard and him hitting wrong - but it looks great on film.

Manthing Burns


Manthing burns - Not as much fun as Burning Man in Nevada


Overall I have to say that it was quiet an experience to act on the Manthing movie, it was my first major acting role in my first major movie. Man-Thing was playing on the cable channel here in Thailand just last night. Though it was cinema release in Spain, Russia, and some Arabic countries (these are the ones the I know of definitely)

Would I do it again? Without a doubt.  

Watch the Manthing trailer here


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