It was a little before 8 in the morning when I strolled into the Hotel Viceroy lobby in Santa Monica, California for this day-long junket/field trip for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. A throng of international reporters from all over the globe and a handful of us Yanks waited for a few more people before we were whisked away to Chatsworth California, only to come back to Santa Monica in the afternoon. It was going to be a very long, but very fun day. The first indicator was the goody bag I received from one of the reps. Swag. Score.
We were going to Chatsworth, California to visit Amalgamation, the special effects shop run by Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis, who both served as Creature Effects Desingers and Special Effects Supervisors on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. They are two Stan Winston proteges who broke into the biz on such films like The Terminator and Cocoon. We were informed on the bus ride over that we would only be meeting Woodruff since Gillis was sent off somewhere on a job. Woodruff was the guy who actually was in the Alien suit in the last few Alien movies, including Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, so that was fine by me.
When we walked in the building, I immediately regretted not owning a digital camera. While we waited for Woodruff to come out, we got to hang out in their gallery of creatures, a room filled with awesome models of their work throughout the years. They had a bug from Starship Troopers, some creatures from Tremors, a full-sized Goro replica from Mortal Kombat and the mother load: an Alien and a Predator locked in combat. After walking around this small room and checking out everything there is to check out, we were greeted by Tom Woodruff and he gave us all a brief introduction about himself and how he and Alec Gillis came out from under Stan Winston's wing and did Alien 3 under their own flag at Amalgamation. It was also the first time he actually played the Alien on screen as well, and he talked about the importance of him playing the Alien himself, as opposed to someone else. "The truth is, they would've have as much vested in it. They haven't been living and breathing it as much as we have. We understand how important it is that these things move and perform the way we envisioned them when we created them."
He got a laugh by adding, "That, coupled with my intense need for attention, puts me in the suit. Also, it gives me the chance to act without having to go through the audition process." He talked about some of his other works and then told us to feel free to look around and "don't steal stuff" before leaving to get set up for the interviews to follow. They broke us into small groups for these roundtable interviews with Woodruff and I was in the first group. They had a camera crew ready for us to record these interviews as well. Here's what Woodruff had to say about Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and more.
Roundtable Interview With Tom Woodruff
After the interview we played the waiting game. We waited for all the groups to go through and most of the international reporters had one-on-one interviews with Woodruff, so we all just hung out and looked at the creatures some more and tried to figure out what some of the more obscure creatures were. I also found out in those few hours that the international reporters actually were taken out and did combat training, or something like that, with their combat guy from the movie. Green with envy, was I. We were catered to an awesome lunch and shortly after we were all back on the shuttle on the way back to Santa Monica to visit Hydraulx, the special effects house of The Brothers Strausse a.k.a. Colin and Greg Strausse.
Before their directorial debut in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the Brothers cut their teeth similarly to Woodruff, working on the SFX side of the biz. They were just 21 when they worked on Titanic and since then have worked on such blockbusters as Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, Fantastic Four and 300.
We were led into this spacious office setting and into an insanely plush screening room. It was really nice. I mean, REALLY nice. I even the carpeting was amazing. We all took our seats and were told by a guy named Duke that the screening room was brand new and like their baby (a.k.a. don't screw anything up in there).
After waiting around for a little bit, breathing in this awesome room, The Brothers Strausse came in the room and greeted us all. They told us that some of the post-production work on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the final color grading, was done in this very room. Greg added: "It's kind of unique. Usually every one of these little tasks are parceled out to like 12 different companies all over Hollywood, so it's kind of nice that we got to kind of do it all here from mission control."
They then showed us their amazing SFX reel which showcased their SFX work in many of their features, most prominently in 300 and after the reel was over, not only was I convinced that these guys have done some astounding work, but that I need a screening room like that when I win the lottery. Damn that was nice...
I wasn't in the first group of people in this roundtable, so for everyone else, Duke gave us a little tour of the place. It was a pretty cool little building. Duke showed us around the place and showed us where they did the various pre-production tasks for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. He said they did everything except the score there, "obviously because we can't fit 80 people and their instruments in there." He showed us a room called the "Flame Bay" where there were people working on the new Usher video for "Love in the Club," which the Strausse's directed and also people working on the upcoming The Incredible Hulk. Duke then introduced us to Josh, who was the lead animator on the movie and also did the pre-visualization work. He tried to find some cool stuff saved from the movie, but, alas, it was long gone.
Duke showed us around a little more and then it was back to the waiting game. I found out my interview was two hours away, so I left for a little while and spent my time stealing a wireless signal from a Starbucks on the Promenade and checking in with work. I got back and got ready for the Strausse Brothers interview with a new group of roundtablers in a room that was more conducive to roundtabling as well. Take a look at the video interview below.
Roundtable Interview With Greg and Colin Strausse
After that I was done for the day and decided to forego the cocktail event they had scheduled after all the interviews were done. While the prospect of me skipping out on a cocktail event does seem odd, it was a Friday night and Friday night means Friday night L.A. traffic so I wanted to get back to Hollywood sometime before last call... on Saturday.
Well that was my day in the fabulous world of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. I had a blast, met some cool people, scoped out my future screening room and even got some swag to boot. A productive day, I'd say. Take care, my friends, and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time... it probably isn't free. Peace in. Gallagher out!