Q&A WITH JOHN ROSENGRANT
went to them exactly because they had the John Rosengrants of the world,"
Rosengrant is one of the wizards who, under the direction of the legendary, late
Stan Winston, helped to bring some of the biggest sci-fi icons to life on screen
and continues to deliver incredible creature and makeup effects to this day.
John Rosengrant worked
for Stan Winston Studio since the early 80’s and did both make-up and special
effects for the legendary company. After Stan passed, John was one of the
founders of a new company called Legacy Effects, and it’s where many of Stan’s
crew will continue his brilliant work. His resume is impressive to say the
least. he worked on The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and
Avatar… and it’s not limited to James Cameron’s work. Movies such as
Iron Man, Batman Returns and Predator can also be seen on the list, among many
We had a great pleasure
to sit down with one of the
wizards and talk about his work on James Cameron’s movies.
JAMESCAMERONONLINE.COM: Do you recall meeting James Cameron for the first time,
and what were your impressions?
JOHN ROSENGRANT: I first met Jim on the first
Terminator, which I believe was the 3rd film I ever worked on, and
was spoiled at that point into thinking all directors were as good as Jim. I was
impressed how well rounded Jim was…….nothing that he couldn’t do ,draw, paint,
write, light the scene, shoot it…and a master of all
JCO: The rumor in the
Terminator fan community is that the endoskeleton teeth were the exact
duplicates of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Is that true?
JR: That is the truth. We started with a head
cast of Arnold poured up in clay and the endo’s head was sculpted down from that
point, so that it truly fit under Arnold’s skin (in the movie world of course).
A hard casting of his teeth were inserted into the clay sculpt as to keep it
true to Arnold (sans gums)
JCO: Any particular story from the set of The
Terminator that you want to share?
JR: As always in movies something comes down to
whipping up something quickly on the fly on set. In this case our crushing head
we made didn’t smash down far enough for Jim in the press at the end, so I took
an Endo skull and pressed thin lead foil I grabbed from the lighting department
to give it the correct form and created a thin crushable skull in minutes.
Richard Landon added an eye light on a dimmer and it’s the last image you see of
the defeated Terminator as he is crushed and his eye fades out
JCO: One of the earliest ideas for Aliens involved two
types of aliens: drones and warriors. How far did that idea go? Were there any
sketches or work done for the drones?
JR: Not really as far as I remember…..the
Warriors were basically similar to the Alien from the first movie, with the
difference being no clear head dome, and that hands matched the inner small arms
of the Queen alien to look less “manlike”. The most important thing with the
Warriors was to keep the suit very mobile; Jim wanted the stunt men inside them
to have unrestricted movement and he knew exactly how he would shoot and light
them, so the concern was not making them close-up perfect, that was reserved for
the close-up puppet Warrior aliens
JCO: The Alien Queen was brought to life using many
different techniques. Her body housed two stuntmen inside her torso. Do you
think she was designed with special effects and their execution in mind, or was
it the other way around and the techniques adjusted to the design?
JR: The idea was to combine and serve both best
technique available at that time and make the design really cool, and not
affecting either negatively
JCO: Any particular story on working on Aliens that you
want to share?
JR: I remember working with Steve Norrington on
finishing/ building the hero Alien puppet (that tries to burst into the APC and
gets blasted with Hick’s
shotgun) for 36 hours straight because the shooting
deadline got moved up….but being really proud of how cool that shot turned out,
worth every ounce of the blood ,sweat and tears to pull that off
JCO: Why weren’t you involved in The Abyss?
JR: Wish we had been, but Stan had taken on
another movie at the time ,ironically an undersea yarn called Leviathan and
didn’t have the man power to do both sadly
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY
JCO: You are credited as an art department coordinator
on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. What exactly was your job on that movie?
JR: Kind of a funny title really, did what I
would always do: create and build characters, make-ups, animatronics, puppeteer
JCO: Stan Winston said that the endoskeletons in T2
were more advanced than the one in the first movie. Can you elaborate?
JR: The parts of the Endo’s were lighter
weight, easier to puppeteer and the hands were more intricate and detailed(
functioned very realistically as revealed when the Terminator pulls off the skin
to reveal his Endo skeleton hand). Overall the chrome finish came out a bit
nicer as well.
JCO: What was the most difficult effect in T2?
JR: Really and honestly damn near every one we
did in the film had it’s own challenges. One that jumps out and everyone thinks
is digital is when Arnold blows up the frozen T1000 and it shatters into a
million pieces. That was a practical piece!
JCO: How did you get involved in Avatar?
JR: Originally we were brought in to work on fleshing out and designing
the Navi’s and Avatar’s. Worked on the Viper wolves, Dire Horses and refining
the Banshee’s head.
JCO: The AMP suit is an absolute fantastic looking
machine and you mentioned in other interviews that James Cameron had a hand in the
AMP suit design himself. How much of it was designed by him and how much was tweaked by
the Legacy Effects?
JR: Well Ty Rueben , great designer did the actual hands on work, but as
everything in a Jim film, it stems from Jim’s head and his stamp. We took Ty’s
sketch-up designs and 3D modeled it, rapid proto-typed/ milled out the
parts (over 200 some odd parts), old school detailed them out molded and built it
out of fiberglass, aluminum and steel frame. Canopy was draped at an aircraft
factory……brought it into the real world
JCO: What other
practical effects were done for Avatar?
JR: We built Valkyrie and Scorpion cockpits…the cryovault and something
everyone asks about is Jake’s atrophied legs.
JCO: You worked on the
amazing Amp Suit maquette for Sideshow. Now when Avatar has just become the
second highest grossing movie of all time, is there a chance or are there any
plans for more Avatar-related Sideshow collectibles?
JR: I am certainly open to the possibility of
doing some more….see how that plays out
JCO: Can we expect any special displays or exhibition
of all the gadgets from Legacy Effects?
JR: We will keep anything that Jim will let us keep from Avatar ..LOL
JCO: How was it different working for James Cameron
today this time around?
JR: Designing using the computer
whether using 2D Photoshop or 3D sculptures enabled us to nail down what Jim
wanted in a more efficient manner than in the past. We worked out a nice design
presentation with Jim that was, I feel, very effective. It was as always
challenging in a positive way, as Jim always brings out and expects the best
from you as an artist and you feel like you are working on something very
special. It’s exciting to push the boundaries and as Arnold always said “no pain,
We want to sincerely
thank you for this Q&A and wish you good luck with future projects