Graphic of a two-headed lizard from eXistenZ

Transcript: The Fly: Production Design and Effects

CAROL SPIER: Well, on The Fly, because what happens is so bizarre, we wanted everything to look as real as possible. In terms of where he was working, we had to build the warehouse, the lab that was in, because parts of it had to revolve so that he could walk on the ceiling and all the creature work that had to be done, so we had to build the sets up above the ground. We spent a lot of time working with the effects guys, knowing what they needed. We spent a lot of time designing what was outside the windows so it would look like it wasn’t a set. We built a combination of 3D and painted backgrounds. Some of what was outside the window had to move sometimes when the set revolved. It was - it’s hard to say – basically we wanted it to look real, except with a twist, with a kind of a bent to it. I guess that came in with the actual telepod.

When we first started with the telepods, the very first one I think was kind of a variation on a phone booth. (CHUCKLES) It was boring. And we came up with some other ideas and we took them to David. We actually took them to his house, and we said, “We don’t think we’re there yet, but we thought we’d just bring these along and sit down and just talk about which direction we’re going.” And he said, “You know, I think I’d like something with lots of fins on it.” So we started looking at things with fins. And he said, “Maybe like my Ducati motorcycle.” So we went out and took a look at his motorcycle. We took it back to our studio and we looked at it. We said, “You know, we can’t really improve on this a lot.” We looked at it from different angles and ended up turning it upside down. When we turned it upside down, it was like, “Oh, well, that’s it!”

So then it was to make it work. How do you make the switch? It has to have a door; it has to have windows. James [McAteer] basically worked on the drawings for that. We went through everything that was needed: what was going to happen when we closed the door and how was the door going to close. All of that just evolved from the phone booth at the beginning. (CHUCKLES)

MARK IRWIN: The rotating room was a… I’ve shot a few in California, and the Hollywood style, their roots are something else. Joe Curtin and the effects designers in Toronto had their own sheet of paper. They had never done it before. Instead of making a box, basically, that had a pipe through the middle and would kind and you would kind of squeeze inside, they made this thing completely out of sections of corrugated steel. Like a sewer pipe kind of thing, but this was 24 feet high. Now it was 30 feet deep, so you made your own huge tube. It sat on wheels and it would rotate with a chain motor. Just a giant, horizontal Lazy Susan. And then the set went inside that.

The real problem was, not the camera, not the lights, but the fact that, as the story went, he ate a lot of junk food. And he turned into the fly, the vomit dropped, and all that sort of thing. Junk food, unfortunately, comes in cellophane wrappers. So we littered the set with all this stuff, and when it’s sitting there, it’s fine. When you turn it upside down, it starts to quiver. The fact of the matter is, that’s not supposed to happen. He’s supposed to walk up the wall and if anything else does something, it kind of gives it away. That became the big issue. There were tape and glue guns and all kinds of solutions.

STEPHAN DUPUIS: That was an enormous amount of stuff to do, so that was like months. Taking a cast of Jeff Goldblum’s entire body, and then you had the Brundlefly, the monster. That was a whole mechanical contraption. I was so busy with the makeup stuff, that was another section. My part was all the stages of the makeup and plus the arm wrestling sequence.

So we went through different maquettes, and everybody was making a maquette of what Brundlefly would look like. We went with more a diseased, deformed look. With one larger eye [and] contact lens in the later stages. There were all these subtle stages at the beginning where he kind of doesn’t look very good, he’s kind of blotchy-skinned, and he’s got these little fly hairs. And it’s all of those little details. And he starts to lose his fingernails in that famous scene, and lose more stuff, and then it jumps to him being pretty much deformed. With the big head and so on. And the insect politics speech with Geena at the end, where he tells her to get out basically before something happens.

DENISE CRONENBERG: Geena Davis wanted to wear this sweater. When I look at it now I think, “Oh God, it was awful.” But, you know, it was the 80’s. She wanted to wear this and I forget what was on the front, but it was like a great big flower or something that I’d never put on anybody. But at the time she wanted that and I was new, you know? You want to please, you don’t want to… So we showed that to David and David said – and Geena was upset that she couldn’t wear it, but it was David’s decision for her not to. And at the time I didn’t have the experience to say, “Well, this is not something David would like.” Then after, David said to me – I said, “David, why did you not want to use that?” And he said, “Because, Denise, this is not a scene about a sweater.” And I never forgot that. And it isn’t. Because you’d just sort of be looking at this huge, big flower and you wouldn’t see anything else. And I’ve always remembered that. And it really taught me from there to be very guarded and [to] visualize what clothes are going to look like and the connection – almost like a mural, really. But I learned that from him. I never forgot that. I didn’t think he was right at the time, but he was. (CHUCKLES)

HOWARD SHORE: Well, The Fly I saw as an opera. Of course I did years later write it as an opera but the stories had to me this tragic opera feeling to it. I wanted to do a symphonic score at that point. I think it was 1986. It was actually the first fully integrated symphonic score that I wrote for a film. I did a film a few years earlier in New York that used symphony orchestra, called Nothing Lasts Forever. And so I felt I was ready now for a full approach to doing that. The score before The Fly was Videodrome, I believe, which was almost a purely electronic score. The Fly was written in that opera mode and I became very interested in opera at that time. I was going to the Metropolitan Opera a lot and was being influenced by it in a way. Even to the way the recordings were done. I was setting up my orchestra recording spatially like the Metropolitan Opera. I was setting it up as if the orchestra was the pit and recording in surround now – left, centre, right – and mic-ing things in a specific way, like the theatre, like the opera, and imagining the proscenium or the stage to feel like the film. Of being in the cinema and feeling like the orchestra is playing right under the projection, or behind it. So I started to incorporate those techniques, not only in the writing and how the pieces were constructed, but also specifically in the recording.