Academy Award-winning creature and character effects designer Tom Woodruff, Jr., makes his highly-anticipated directorial debut with Fire City: End of Days, hitting DVD and Digital October 6 from Uncork’d Entertainment.
Set in a world where demons live among us, this exhilarating vitrine of effects and action sees a hard-boiled demon named Vine confronted with the ultimate choice between the salvation of his own kind and the life of an innocent human girl. Tobias Jelinek plays the lead role.
This obviously isn’t the first big special effects showcase you’ve worked on. How does it compare though to the likes of Batman & Robin and Hocus Pocus?
In a way Fire City is paying homage to the craft of practical effects, that’s one of the cool things about this movie beyond it’s story and characters. The world of creatures are almost entirely built using practical effects. That’s something we see less and less these days for sure. Batman and Hocus Pocus, those are 90s films, the days of Red Hot Chili Peppers, right? I remember great practical costumes on Batman. Uma’s Poison Ivy was amazing. Batman’s nipples…not so much. For such a small film Fire City had an unbelievable amount of veteran talent. Dave Elsey who did the Emperor on Star Wars spent 2 hours with me every day. He was incredible, very gifted, not to mention an encyclopedia on Sherlock Holmes and Werewolves. I could ask him anything about creatures and he would pull out some esoteric reference or send me an unpublished vampire book. It was crazy and his passion for horror and creature effects was contagious. We spent a lot of time getting those effects right and I think Tom Woodruff was smart. He had the resources and contacts to make it happen. We had Oscar-Winning effects artists on a kickstarted funded thriller. That’s rare.
Did you know the filmmakers beforehand?
Not personally. I was familiar with the many films Tom made. That was a part of why I wanted to get involved initially.
What kind of training or preparation did you do for the role?
The big thing was getting prepared for those long days in prosthetic makeup. Tom warned me, he was like, “Some people can’t handle it.” I mostly wanted to make sure I could concentrate on performance despite the restrictions so my daily preparation was meditation, something I’ve practiced for years. Whenever I wasn’t on set or if we were between setups I would sit and meditate to conserve energy and keep my attention off the discomfort because otherwise I probably woulda been a mess. Performance-wise, Tom helped me understand how movement reads differently when you’re in a full helmet and face prosthetics. Your mode of expression is different. It was immensely helpful having someone like Tom with decades of experience at the helm.
Would you say it’s a horror film at its core or an action movie?
It’s got all the state of art effects of great horror but without the gore. It’s a monster action film in a very peculiar original world. It may take a couple viewings to fully grasp the universe of Fire City. And that’s a good thing. It’s not your run of the mill setting. Things work differently here and I think the audience is going to find that refreshing.
Is there a moment in the film you’re especially proud of?
There’s a scene, toward the end of the second act, where Vine takes the plunge and decides to show Sara his demon form. It’s where everything changes. Keely Aloña, who played Sara, did such a great job and I feel like that scene takes the audience where they need to go. It’s the heart of the film for me.
It’d be remiss not to ask you about Point Break! Live. How cool was it playing Bodhi?
You can still see Point Break Live! because that show will run forever. I stopped after 5 years but they’re still touring L.A., San Fran, San Diego, who knows where else. They should do a show in Australia. People love it. Yeah, Bodhi is one of those roles of a life-time. It really is. My favorite performance memory was the night Gary Busey pulled up in his limo. We have a packed house and near the end, when shit’s really starting to go bad and Pappas, Busey’s character, gets shot, well..Busey, in the audience, jumps on stage with a water gun and we have a full-blown epic shootout. 200 audience members are on their feet cheering. Everybody is soaked. It took 30 minutes to return order so we could finish the show. The best experience on stage—robbing banks, parachuting out of planes, surfing the 50 year storm, I mean, come on.
Do you still do theatre?
I will definitely do more theatre. It’s the best getting to share a performance with the audience. No two shows are ever the same and nothing beats live. Sometimes we forget that but it’s true. Nothing is better than live.
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