One of my top movie picks for 2020, Love and Monsters is available to own today. And recently I had the opportunity to interview special effects artist Steve Boyle. He may be the head of creatures for Love and Monsters but he has also been part of many films and shows that we all know and love.
Interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Boyle
From What We Do In The Shadows and Star Wars Attack of the Clones, to Daybreakers and Harrow this man has been showing off his talents for decades. It was exciting to talk to him not only about his monster creations for Love and Monsters but also about his inspirations and where we will see his work next.
What creature was the most challenging to create for Love and Monsters? And which one was your favorite?
Steve: I don't think there was anything that I would say “I wouldn't do again.” Maybe I was saying that while making it. My favorite was the Buzzard, the bunker creature. I think that was my favorite because it's an asymmetrical, miss-mash of flesh, slime, and thorns. It was really fun to do. When I was a kid that was the sort of stuff I always wanted to do. That's the kind of creature that has pulled me into doing this kind of stuff.
The most challenging was Mavis. There were a couple of different reasons for that. When we started the job we thought she was going to be all digital, with no idea that we would be making her practically. About 4 hours before we had to film her on location she was about 100 pieces on a table we were trying to assemble. It was one of those ones where you think “Maybe this is going to be the one that doesn't work.”
There is one monster we never get to see on screen despite it being a massive threat to the characters. Was it always the plan not to have it show up?
Steve: Yes. It's interesting because that seemed to be the whole approach to this movie. This was an intimate approach which personally I liked because you wanted to see more of everything. I think it's better to get little suggestions, have you wanting to see more than seeing too much of them.
How many of the monsters were practical effects versus CGI?
Steve: I'm trying to remember. The gobblers were puppets but they were also taken over with CGI. Mavis was practical, the buzzard was about 80% practical. We built the big centi-gator creature and the big queen gobbler that exploded. We ended up doing more practical stuff than I thought.
When it comes to special effects, you have designed creatures that are well known in lore like the werewolves for What We Do In The Shadows and others like in Star Wars and Love and Monsters that no one has ever seen before. Do you prefer taking something that is traditional and making it your own or coming up with something completely new?
Steve: That's a really good question because I don't know the answer to that. They excite me both in different ways. Nothing excites me more than building something that hasn't been seen before. But at the same time the idea of doing something traditional, like a vampire or a werewolf, and showing it a context that we haven't seen before, I get a real buzz out of that too.
I don't know. I think I kinda swing between the two. Both are hugely satisfying. I guess with building all new stuff you don't have to break through people's conceived ideas of what a werewolf should look like, what a vampire should look like. You can be a bit more free. It's also not compared in the same way. But I love doing both.
Along those lines, is there a character or a monster that you want to bring to life that you haven't yet?
Steve: I could always do another vampire or werewolf movie. I haven't done my own version of Frankenstein yet, I would love to do that. I've been really lucky, I've done most of what I always wanted to do. I've had amazing opportunities across all genres and to be able to work with the best artists in the world. People who were my idols as a kid are now some of my closest friends.
What inspired you to become a special effects artist? What drew you into this as your career?
Steve: I don't know what drew me to it, I just remember being obsessed with it. I never wanted to do anything else. I wasn't particularly good at school to be honest, I didn't really connect with what I was being taught. It was one of those things that kinda chose me and I got the bug very early on. I am creatively ambitious but not careerist if that makes sense. I'm much more interested in what I'm making. I would rather build something exciting than build something boring and get paid more. I'm passion led.
Getting into this at such a young age, were there artists or puppeteers that you looked up to?
Steve: Oh yeah a lot. Richard Taylor who has his company WETA with Peter Jackson. I got to go over there and work with them for about 5 years. It wasn't just about special effects, they were really original thinkers. They were great problem solvers using a really bizarre art form to problem solve.
There are amazing special effects artists now. Really young guys, like there will be some kid in Mexico who is 1000 times better than me and he's 13.
I'm fully aware of how studios are but is there anything you can share about upcoming projects you are working on and where we will see your work come to life next?
Steve: I just finished a possession movie. I'm about to do another horror movie shooting here in Australia, can't say anything about that one. I may or may not be doing some alien effects for a series. I'm looking forward to the alien stuff.
Love and Monsters from Paramount Home Entertainment is now available on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD.