Part Two of Sci-Fi Boys and Journey to Skull Island
By Maura Reilly Mar 27, 2006, 2:16 GMT
Two Disc Special Edition Cover
March 21st – Hollywood, CA - This is a continuation of our coverage of the special screening of “Skull Island” a DVD extra on the soon to be released 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of King Kong and Paul David’s documentary on the origins of Sci-Fi movies called The Sci-Fi Boys
BG: Well I do own them and for the first time I am in Beverly Hills and I love it. I wish everyone would go to the gallery and see the art. I have a feeling it will bring us closer together but you may enjoy seeing them. They are three rather beautiful originals. Again, I’m in your fair city from New York and I just love it.
PD: The portraits I remember seeing are a remarkable one of Karloff and Lugosi, and I think the other one was Chaney.
BG: Lon Chaney Sr. as the Phantom of the Opera.
PD: Forry you had a comment you wanted to make?
FA: Yes, four years ago I was in London with Ray Harryhausen seeing a revival of the original animated King Kong and as I was leaving the audience a lady came up to me and she said: “Sir were you the man in the gorilla suit?” “Oh no, I was too young. That was my father.” And then another young man came up to me and he said: “Mr. Ackerman I really have to thank you and King Kong for saving my life. When I was a young man I was very depressed and I was on verge of committing suicide. Then I got the new issue of Famous Monsters with King Kong on the cover and inside there was a story following the movie. I was avidly turning pages after pages. That was my all-time favorite movie. And I turned a page and it said ‘to be concluded next month.’ By that time I was out of the depression.”
PD: He stuck around for another month. Like the story of the Arabian nights. Rick for as long as anyone has known you you’ve always been: Rick Baker, Monster Man. I don’t remember whether Forry dubbed you that or if you had that on business cards when you were a kid. But you figured it out at an awfully young age what your passion in life was going to be. How did you know?
RB: You know it was just something that I was fascinated by. I was one of the first generation to grow up in front of the TV. A lot of the movies I saw were on TV. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but we did have a TV. I have a story like so many others. Both my parents worked and I’m an only child. My mom after she got home from work would go to the grocery market and have to take me with her because there wasn’t anybody to take babysit. And one day I was looking in the magazine rack at a magazine called Famous Monsters. It was issue number 3, the first one I saw. And I grabbed it and started looking through it. It was so cool. But my mom wouldn’t let me buy it. I don’t think she was concerned about the monster thing but basically she didn’t have the spare 35 cents, to tell you the truth. But then every time she went to the supermarket I excitedly went with her to try and find it again. It wasn’t until issue six that they had another copy of it. At that point I had 35 cents, I’d saved it. I bought it and in that issue they had back-issues. So I got issue number three which was the first issue I saw. They had an article called “Boy into Monster” where some not very good make-up artist had made up this kid to look like a monster which basically looked like he’d been hit in the face with a cream pie and put a “Harry Thomas” ping pong ball eye. I vividly remembered that article and also in the letters to the editor saying there was this guy with a blob on his back, this weird thing…. I just thought it was so cool. What did you ask me anyway?
PD: How you knew this would be your profession.
RB: Well I didn’t know. I just liked ping pong balls. It’s just something I love and wanted to do. And when I realized you could do it as a job that some people did I thought: I’d like to do that. Fortunately it worked out. I didn’t really have a Plan B.
PD: Your dad discovered Art Clokey’s production house and walked you in there.
RB: I got a quarter a week allowance when my parents could afford it and I mowed lawns and stuff. There was an arts and crafts store that was three miles from my house that had a quart jar of rubber that was like $8.50 which was a fortune. It took a lot of mowing lawns to get that. I needed a job so that I could buy the material. I went for the typical box boy jobs and dishwashers and nobody wanted me. My dad who had had various jobs throughout his life at one point drove a truck with plumbing supplies and he went to the wrong building by mistake. It’s like the butterfly story. Went into the building that was next door to the plumbing place in Covina where I grew up and [that’s] where they made Gumby. It needed to be walking distance and this was about three miles from my house. “There’s this place, maybe you can get a job there.” So I went into Clokey’s with a box full of rubber masks and things. “I can make molds, I can sculpt. Can you give me a job?” And I started the next day.
PD: And that’s how it started.
RB: There I met Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, David Allen, and Jim Danforth all these guys who like the ones are up here had a common bond of Famous Monsters and Ray Harryhausen and all that.
PD: We were all connected through Forry’s magazine. Steve…
SJ: Before your question let me ask you…well everyone. What do you think about the next remake of King Kong, 100 years from now? How amazing might that be? Look at what’s happened in the last 75 years with the two remakes and the technology and how different they are. Just envision…
RB: What part can I play in that one?
PD: It will be in hologram, 3-D: theater in the round with the audience in the center and it will all just be totally 3-D.
SJ: Absolutely, pretty astounding to think about.
PD: And then when Kong jumps into the audience, we’ll all have trouble. Here’s my question for you. Steve is becoming a director now. He has spent his career building monsters and props for other people’s movies and he’s beginning to make his own. And so this is a question that you’re going to have to think about philosophically. It has to do with Reality versus Fiction. The lines are getting really blurred. It’s an Adobe PhotoShop world we live in. People are having trouble telling the difference anymore. Like with the Roswell puppet that you made for us. Did you know that publisher Bob Guccione took a photograph of that and he put it in the centerfold in Penthouse and he said: “this is a photograph of the World’s first legitimate alien”? And we had trouble convincing the world that he was full of it?
SJ: I remember. Was that before or after the Alien Autopsy?
PD: It was after and then you tried to disprove the Alien Autopsy by doing your own just to poke fun.
SJ: Isn’t that funny? And I just got a call yesterday from the Producer of the original Alien Autopsy special and he goes: “Listen we’re going to come on and debunk it. We’ve finally proven it’s not real. Do you have any footage of that thing you made?”
PD: Would this be Bob Kiviat you’re talking about?
SJ: Yes, Bob.
PD: But I think people are having trouble in their own lives determining fact versus fiction. Certainly what we hear from the government every day doesn’t make it any easier to determine fact from fiction. What do you think the role of the special effects man is? Is there any responsibility here or is it ok to create fantasies for people that are so convincing that they’re lost in them?
SJ: Of course. I mean, I think the direction that I’m moving in is kind of exactly the same as the direction I’ve always gone in. It’s just changing its flavor and nature a little bit. And that is in writing and actually creating images that are incredibly startling and different, unique and awe-inspiring it’s notching it up a little. What kind of used to do was do exactly that same thing but I was doing it with one character, quite different from one sequence. And now in writing and creating an entire world you can completely immerse the audience into something incredibly unique with a different and fresh perspective. It’s pretty exciting. I think there’s an awful lot of stuff, like Peter Jackson said, there are so many things that digital technology has not yet even come close to tapping into.
PD: So we’re just beginning?
SJ: Of course. I think it’s going to keep going further. It’s only going exponentially continue as have we evolved, the technology is going to evolve. It’s just going to get cooler and cooler. Until potentially we get trapped in the 3-D digital world. We don’t even know the difference, like The Matrix.
PD: Basil, it was actually Peter Jackson who said to me when I was trying to figure out what kind of key art to have on the cover of Sci-Fi Boys. He said: “why don’t you try to find Basil Gogos’s phone number and talk to him?” It was a brilliant idea. I remember when I said: “let’s have a lot of Sci-Fi boys on there” you were a bit overwhelmed with the idea of doing seven likenesses. We’ll show you here: we’ve got Forry Ackerman reading the Guidebook to Skull Island in the midst of all this mayhem, Peter Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, John Landis, Rick Baker, and Dennis Muren. We’ve got King Kong and three of the monsters that I made when I was a kid.
SJ: I notice I’m not on there.
PD: Because when I told him that we should have 8, 9, 10 he said he would turn down the job.
SJ: Did you pay by the person?
PD: So I was going to bump Rick Baker for you. But I didn’t think you’d want me to. Tell me what that painting means to you Basil and a little bit about the mayhem in which we had to do it so fast, your deadline.
BG: It was over the holidays and we had to take time out. Universal had to take time out. The deadline did not get any further than it was. As a matter of fact it got shorter. And meanwhile what did we have, how many days? It was a fun job; it had to be done quickly. It was an informal job. It’s not the usual illustration. It’s humorous, that’s all. And it just came out very smoothly.
PD: But you took off in the middle of the job to come to the Golden Globe party to meet Peter Jackson.
BG: I didn’t know I was going to come here. That was three more days that I lost. But of course I enjoyed it. It came out flawless. It was a beautiful smooth job, as long as Steve wasn’t in it.
RB: That’s why it’s good.
PD: He’s a tough likeness.
BG: There you are. But I haven’t heard from anyone so I guess the likenesses are good. But there’s still time…
Audience Question #1: I have been doing some research into Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster and I found out that Mr. Ackerman happens to be the hero of the first Superman story. It was when Superman was a villain and the hero’s a reporter named Forest Ackerman. I wondered how you started your correspondence with Jerry Siegel and how that progressed, because you were in contact with many fans in the time of the 30s.
FA: I remember getting the first issue of that publication called Science Fiction. I was reading it and suddenly there was a reporter named Forest Ackerman in it. It seems that Schuster and Siegel had been kind of fans of mine. I had created the first amateur magazine called the Time Traveler which they had read. They read some of my fiction and all together they thought it would be an amusing touch to make me a character. The story was called “Reign of the Superman” and in the second issue I had a little story myself that went five issues all together. I remember being at the wedding in San Diego of Schuster.
PD: He has a memory, doesn’t he? Is Bob Burns among you? You must have a question for someone up here or comments on the film.
Bob Burns: Why do we look so old? Actually Forry looks younger than all of us. But there’s a good reason for that. He’s taking a lot of our stuff and putting it in himself and that’s how he keeps going. And that’s why we’re Sci-Fi Boys. If it hadn’t had been for Forry, there wouldn’t be any Sci-Fi Boys. And as far as the rest of the gang there, I mean there are some of the most talented people sitting right up there that you’ll ever know in the world today. Yeah, Rick you’re included.
Audience Question #2: How would you like all of us to remember you in today’s generation?
FA: Well uh, as the essential fan who lived a life of science fiction. When I got it all together in one piece I finally had 50,000 books and thousands of stills and props and a number of these things now survive in the $20M Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. While I have the attention of the audience I would just like to make a prediction. I’m on the verge of turning 90. I expect to live to be 100. In the next 10 years I believe that I will see on the screen: A.E. Van Vogt’s Slan, The Weapon Shops of Isher, the best of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars, Venus and Pellucidar stories. I will see the Forever War and the World Below and Out of the Silence. And who is going to make all these film possible for me and the general audiences? I have a little list: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Landis, Tim Sullivan, Casey Wong, Kevin Burns, Frank Darabont, Rick Baker, Winter Wolf, and Peter Jackson. I believe they were all born to bring these classics to the silver screen.
PD: Steve and I will have to work our way onto that list.
Audience Question #3: Mr. Johnson, you’re going into filmmaking. What are you working on?
SJ: I’ve worked with Clive Barker on a couple of things. I’m actually taking a really nice long hiatus from the other part of filmmaking that you saw in Paul’s thing. So I’m just resting and relaxing for once in 30 years. 30 years in the business! 30 years in and doing nothing feels so good.
RB: We’re getting old. It’s kind of weird to be called a Sci-Fi Boy. Sci-Fi Old Men was too long to put on the covers
SJ: Sci-Fi Old Men… I did do a short film; unfortunately it’s not on this…
PD: The bonus materials for Sci-Fi Boys is 70 minutes of Sci-Fi treasures. But we do have excerpts from “You’re Ever Loving.”
SJ: Yeah we had an issue with music; we didn’t have the rights to it so we didn’t put the whole thing on.
PD: But some of the best shots are included.
SJ: Yeah, you should take a look at it. It’s actually pretty cool.
Audience Question #4: The original Kong creators pushed the boundaries as far as special effects and directing and action. What do you think they would think about this new Kong where Peter Jackson has obviously taken everything to the next level: directing, action, special effects? What do you think Merian C Cooper, Willis O’Brien, Ernest Schoedsack would think sitting the in the theater in 2005/2006 watching Peter Jackson’s King Kong?
PD: I think it would be a little like the guys who used to do Morse code seeing cell phones, or the people who invented the typewriter having to learn about non-linear editing word processing on computers. We have moved ourselves into a different technological state. We no longer have the Pony Express. I don’t know whether they’d want to stay back there in their own time of if they’d want to jump into ours. But we are talking two different worlds. I think as science fiction people we know that the world of the future we survive it. We get rid of our nuclear weapons and our private warfare and we grow up and become one mankind and womankind so we have another 100 or 1000 or 10,000 years to grow we will move into spaces that are amazing. We will go to the other planets; we will go to the stars. We will be looked back upon as a piece of ancient history but we did have our little moment of moving things from here to here to reach the stars.
FA: I hope everyone in the audience realizes that before 1954 the term Sci-Fi did not exist. I was riding along in the automobile had the radio on and some mention was made of Hi-Fi. Since Science Fiction had been on the tip of my tongue ever since 1929, I looked in the rear-view mirror, stuck out my tongue and there tattooed on the end of my tongue was Sci-Fi. And to her immortal embarrassment my dear wife said: “Forget it Forry, it will never catch on.” And it did catch the throat of a certain spec-fic author who detested it with a purple passion. He says it’s the sound of two crickets screwing. And one man who had reacted to that said: “Well I love copulating crickets.”
PD: You’re not sitting to close as Forry as I am but Sci-Fi is still tattooed on the end of his tongue.
King Kong is set to roar onto DVD Tuesday, March 28th in both a single disc version and the two-disc special edition. The single disc version is available at the suggested retail price of $29.98 and the two-disc special edition will have a suggested retail price of $30.98. Sci-Fi Boys is available exclusively at Best Buy stores March 28th.
The Two Disc Special Edition will include loads of features fans of the movie will enjoy. The features on disc 1 include The Volkswagen Toureg & King Kong and Wish You Were Here. Disc 2 features include Special Introduction by Peter Jackson; Post-Production Diaries; Kong's New York; and Skull Island: A Natural History.