Gary J. Tunnicliffe [Interview]

Welcome to Day 30 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 5 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

When it comes to the world of horror, today’s interview subject is basically a certified expert. Gary J. Tunnicliffe as seen and done just about everything possible within the world of horror, and definitely beyond this specific world as well. Seriously Folks, his credits after 30 years in the business are absolutely insane and so damn impressive. From make up effects, to special effects, to getting right into the director’s chair, there is simply nothing that this man can not do. Whether it’s the X-Men franchise, or Mission Impossible, or just about every horror franchise you can think of, from the Exorcist to the Scary Movie world, Gary has done it ALL.

We get pretty specific with his amazing work in the Hellraiser world, and that is strictly for personal reasons. We LOVE us some Pinhead and the entire lure of that franchise probably more than any other. And that is why we are so damn excited to have Gary grace our digital pages today. He is a brilliant man with some great stories to tell. So let’s get right into it, shall we? Please enjoy some wonderful words from a brilliant artist!

What inspired you to get into the world of film and television? Specifically in the field of visual makeup effects? Was it an early aspiration to do so, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

Early on I was inspired by film and actors, most notably Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and the Hammer Horror films, watching them on a Friday in the UK was something of a tradition, after that Jaws had a tremendous impact on me, the build up and rumors, everything about it and then film itself mesmerized me, I was seven at the time and it blew me away, that film started the lofty, ambitious, ‘fairytale’ dreams about wanting to work on a film…and at first as an actor. I pursued drama in and outside of school, performed on radio, but considering at as a realistic career was considered ridiculous by my parents and in the mid 80’s I left school and got a regular job. Obviously my love of film had grown, especially in the video boom of the 80’s and me and my friends were avid horror fans, watching all of the current releases and becoming experts on the film makers and the crews ( The Thing, American Werewolf in London, etc)  I was singing in a rock band when one day a drummer was reading an American magazine called Fangoria, when I read it, it was utterly life changing, not only did it feature the films and the directors but also the guys who did the make up effects and they looked like me! (long hair and metal t shirts) within days I had my buddies whole collection, read from cover to cover, and within weeks I was attempting my first make up’s and sculptures, from there it became obsession and within years I had a reasonable portfolio of work and started reaching out to professional make up FX artists.

What was your very first paid gig you can remember getting in the world offilm or television? And did this job leave any sort of lasting impact on you that still makes its way into your work today?

My first PAYING gig was working at Image Animation at Pinewood studios working on two elaborate robot costumes, I had previously worked for Christopher (The Elephant Man) Tucker but that doesn’t count since you said ‘paying’ gig LOL!  Did that first gig have an impact…TOTALLY!  First of all it lead to a lengthy tenure with Bob Keen and the crew there, to my dream project (the Hellraiser series),  my first serious gf relationship (that lasted 13 years and went from the UK to USA) and the ‘robot’s’ themselves have remained firm friends who I have worked with and continue to work with to this day!

One franchise that you have been heavily involved in from its earliest formation is one of our favorites of them all, the Hellraiser franchise! You began the franchise with our past guest Anthony Hickox, also of the Waxwork series you also worked on. So, with over 25 years working in and out of the Hellraiser franchise, would would you say is special about this particular series? In your obviously professional opinion, what sets this one apart from the others?

Hellraiser is unlike any other horror film I think in that the icon of the series isn’t a regular villain, hunting down his victims. There is a strange other world mythos to the cenobites and the services they offer. YOU have to seek them out and ideally or ordinarily anyone finding themselves at their mercy and has done so somewhat willingly. THAT is what made them fascinating to me, that is what drew me to the films (the faustian nature, etc.) THAT is also what (I think) has made them difficult to ‘shoe horn’ into a franchise alongside Freddy and Jason, etc.

And beyond your brilliant work as a Makeup Effects Designer in this franchise, you have also worked in other capacities in some of the films, including Hellraiser: Judgement in which you seemed to wear about every hat possible! So how did you manage to find yourself working beyond your normal gig with this series? How do you enjoy working in other jobs?

Just like an exec at McDonald’s might start off making fries, I entered the Hellraiser world as part of the make up fx crew making puzzle boxes on Hellraiser 3. After that I suspect my unbridled passion for the first film and Clive’s writing, as well as genuine desire to do anything I could on the films, caught peoples attention and then down through the years the producers saw that and allowed me more and more opportunity

Beyond the world of horror, you also happened to work with our old friend Michael Polish on 1999’s Twin Falls Idaho, which is one of my favorite films of all time. So, I am compelled to ask what it was like to work on a Michael Polish set? Was it an experience that you look back on fondly?

I worked with Michael (and Mark) several times after we met on Hellraiser: Bloodline when they played the Cenobite twin, we became good friends pretty early on, again I think my enthusiasm for the project was infectious. Then I worked with them on Twin Falls Idaho AND again on Northfork, I have more memories of Hellraiser: Bloodline and Northfork more than of Twin Falls since we were out on location with such an amazing cast, (James Woods, Daryl Hannah, Ben Foster, Andrew Edwards etc and the late great (personal friend) Robin Sachs who I actually got hired on the film) and the film had such a dreamlike quality and the pieces we created were so different to most of the films I work on….porcelain hand gloves, wooden hand gloves, angel wings and of course FLACO a very strange creature!

While the world of horror is not the only one you work in, you have a legendary status in this world.  And it is our Month of Horror Showcase after all, so I am inclined to ask you how you enjoy working in this genre? What sets it apart from other genres?

I love horror! Personally I’d rather only do horror films, horror allows (depending on the script of course) for all departments to extend themselves from lighting, wardrobe, music and obviously make up fx and direction. I suspect it’s the most freeing of all the genres. I really am not interested in shooting romantic comedies or dramatic dinner scenes, don’t get me wrong obviously there are those films that I love, but I just couldn’t see myself doing that, I’m at my happiest on a creepy, smoke filled set surrounded by bizarre and horrific images.

What is your favorite scary movie?

Obviously I love the classics – The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw, etc. I really like Exorcist 3, the first Evil Dead had a huge impact on me when it came out as did Hellraiser but recently I thought Hereditary was incredible, I actually left the cinema in pain since I needed to go to the bathroom and had to hold it for an hour….I just couldn’t leave the theater! If Toni Collette isn’t at the very least nominated for an Oscar something is very wrong.

What are you plans for the upcoming Halloween? Any kind of traditions you try to uphold each year?

Honestly Halloween is pretty low key for me. If I’m in LA I’ll hit Universal Studios or Dark Harbor etc, but having worked on Halloween attractions it’s always kind of a professional curiosity and if I’m in Bucharest, Romania (at my home there) it’s very quiet since Halloween is basically hardly celebrated here….I know weird, huh??…the home of Dracula and they don’t do Halloween!

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

There’s a possibility I’l be shooting a WW1 horror film called No Man’s Land, the details are being worked out so fingers crossed but it’s a project close to my heart, sort of Private Ryan meets Predator 🙂

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I JUST saw David S. Pumpkins (Tom Hanks) on SNL and that made me laugh!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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