Eric Allard: Effects-man
Eric Allard: Effects-man -- How he created a futuristic world for ''FX2''
When the cybernetic siren with the blond flip and gold mini careens on-screen at the start of FX2, a quick check of the hefty gams in fishnets puts the audience on instant alert: This must either be a guy with an eye for hooker threads or a woman with a surging steroid count.
Wrong on both scores, actually. When it is sprayed by bullets, a fluorescent blue ooze trickles from its torn appendages and its exploded rib cage reveals a heart of wired hardware. Roboslut, as the cyborg (an electronically controlled humanoid) was dubbed by the crew of FX2, turns out to be neither he, she, nor, completely, it. The creature is a tricky trinity of human, latex, and robotic components, and its annihilation is the most stunning visual effect in this effects-happy, $16 million film.
FX2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, the sequel to the 1986 movie that was a dud at the box office but proved to be a video favorite, is named for the insider’s abbreviation for ”special effects,” the craft that brought a whole new dimension to moviemaking. As in the original, Bryan Brown stars as effects master Rollie Tyler. In the new scenario, directed by Richard Franklin, Rollie is hired by the New York police to devise a trap for a suspected murderer. Behind his wizardry on-screen is real-life special-effects wizard Eric Allard.
The Roboslut character, says Allard, 36, is really a ”combination of a stuntman, an actor, and a waist-up puppet.” For the close-ups, Roboslut was James Stacy, an actor who lost his left arm and leg in a motorcycle accident. Allard and his All Effects Co., which had 50 people working on FX2, made a mold of Stacy’s head and fitted it with exaggerated foam latex features. These ”appliances” were then used to transform the actor’s face in exhausting six-hour makeup sessions; it took an additional four hours to fit him with a circuitry-packed prosthetic left arm and leg. The latex skin on these limbs was hand-punched with human hair, and the cyborg’s ”blood” was gathered manually from 3,000 Cyalume Lightsticks — because the manufacturer refused to sell the blue goo in bulk. In all, says Allard, Roboslut’s 10-second disintegration scene ”represents hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of preparation.”
Roboslut is a flashy character, but Bluey, a Bozo-style clown with slow- blinking cerulean orbs, steals the rest of the show. In the film the clown is a toy created by Rollie that is controlled by an electromagnetically rigged harness called a telemetry suit. Whenever Rollie slips the device on, Bluey mimics his every move, be it a hug, a soft-shoe, or a kick in the groin, and the gimmick provides several of the movie’s wittiest scenes.”The character of Bluey is a remote-control clown, just like the cyborg,” Allard explains — but Bluey is a trick trick: In reality he is simply ”a guy in a suit.” Or sometimes a gal — a male and a female dancer from the Connecticut-based Momix troupe supplied his graceful moves.
At the moment, Bluey is just a clown costume covering a mannequin in Allard’s headquarters, an immaculate, 15,000-square-foot warehouse overlooking the Burbank Airport. Allard, who also animated Number Five, the robot star of Short Circuit and Short Circuit 2, still looks like the Green Beret he once was, his right arm tattooed with a rose and an American flag. ”I guess you could call me the Norman Schwarzkopf of effects,” he says. But even Stormin’ Norman would be hard-pressed to match Allard’s military inventiveness in one pivotal scene. On location in Toronto, Brown and Allard collaborated to develop funny munitions with which Rollie could outwit an assassin in a supermarket. The duo turned common household goods such as after-shave, shoe polish, hair spray, kitty litter, and a display of baked beans into weapons. ”I was remembering things from my chemistry days,” Brown says. ”’Okay, after-shave’s got alcohol, that would burn.’ We were like terrorists.” But terrorists with a social conscience: ”There are chemicals in supermarkets that you could mix together to make a real bomb,” says Allard. ”But I didn’t want to demonstrate that.”