Interview: Stan Winston


Skinwalkers‘ monster maker

Dissatisfied by his take of the Wolf Man in Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad (with Carl Thibault under the makeup), Stan Winston was resolute to find a werewolf project through which he could properly represent a creature he has been fascinated with since he was a child. Then along came Skinwalkers (opening August 10th), the story of two dueling tribes of lycanthropes fighting for custody of a young boy with special powers. It was a script that slipped through his fingers, but like a lost dog, it found its way back to him when the film’s producers and director James Isaac asked Winston to come on board as producer and special FX lead.

“There have been few werewolf movies out within the last decade by people I like and people I respect, but I haven’t been impressed by one since Rick Baker’s work in ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and Rob Bottin’s work in ‘The Howling,'” Winston tells “I haven’t been impressed since, but I’m impressed now. If you want to see ‘Underworld,’ don’t see this movie because it isn’t a big extravagant movie. It’s a small movie about people in a little town who happen to have a problem bigger than ours. We’re going to Mayberry and Andy Griffith is a werewolf.”

Without question, Winston knew the werewolves he wanted to bring to the screen would be bipeds as opposed to previous incarnations running around on all fours. “They’re not wolves, they’re wolf men, they’re human beings,” he explains. “The beast has gotten out and they’re humans with wolf-like characteristics. Not men that turn into wolves. What we are seeing with ‘Skinwalkers’ is something that I have wanted to see and have never been able to bring to life. This is the first time I’ve done what I wanted to do successfully, and it’s a complete success.”

That said, the palpable advancement in special effects allowed him to feel confident that the time was now to fulfill his vision. “Also, I wanted to give it back to the actor, which is what turned me on when I was a young kid watching old Universal classic movies – ‘The Wolf Man,’ ‘Werewolf of London,’ Spencer Tracy as ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ Great actors playing these wonderful parts. I wasn’t attracted to the beast, I was attracted to the character, the actor.”

“When Jason [Behr] is a werewolf, he loves it and it’s obvious,” he continues, sounding like a proud father. “And it comes through in the performance. He could not wait to get into the makeup. He relishes it. [Co-star] Elias Koteas hated the idea of being a werewolf and his character hated to be a werewolf but he is one. You can see the pain and you can see the conflict and it comes through because the guy’s a wonderful actor. And you see that with all of the characters.”

Still going strong after all of these years, pulling off a pack of werewolves seems like a walk in the park compared to past (Jurassic Park) and future (Avatar) monstrous projects on Winston’s shop resume. So are there any mountains left to climb? Any challenges for this vet to tackle these days? “It’s all a challenge and if it’s not a challenge, then it’s a bore,” he smiles. “The challenge is to do that thing you have not seen before. You have to have that ability, that risk factor, of failing. You have to have no fear of failure. If you get 80-percent there, you’re a success. We always push it to something beyond what we’ve done. Once you do that, you’re in scary territory because there is no book to tell you how to do it. We don’t read the books, we write the books.”

Source: Ryan Rotten