'Buddy' takes Henson magic one step further
June 11, 1997
Web posted at: 4:24 a.m. EDT (0824 GMT)
From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester
HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- On the set of the film "Buddy," which
stars a gorilla and a cast of countless animals, it was
difficult to tell the fake fur from the real, thanks to the
expertise of Jim Henson Pictures.
Faced with the difficulties of working with a real-live 300-
pound gorilla, the creators opted to use fake apes to bring
to life the story of a baby gorilla growing up.
"When a primate hits adolescence ... and you say, 'Go sit in
your chair,' they say, 'Make me.' And so it was just never
going to be a feasible reality (to use a real gorilla)," said
writer/director Caroline Thompson.
Brian Henson, son of the late Muppet-master Jim Henson, said
the film's creators advanced their own technology to create
several extremely realistic gorillas -- from infant to adult
-- to star in the film.
"There were huge jumps in this to make skin that looks
utterly believable (and) real hair. And probably the most
impressive are real (looking) eyes," said Henson.
The full-grown Buddy also had 26 servos, or motors, in his
head to make its head and facial movements realistic. While
the servos were operated remotely by puppeteers, inside the
body of the gorilla suit was Peter Elliot -- a 20-year
veteran of ape pictures.
"In that suit, he's very nearly blind, he's deprived of
oxygen and it's so hot in there it almost gets to the boiling
point," Thompson said.
"Buddy" star Rene Russo says she was completely convinced by
Henson's creatures, but the number of people it took to
operate them was a constant reminder that she wasn't alone.
"You've got five puppeteers under your dress ... truly ...
and you're holding this darling baby gorilla, and they'd be
down there saying, 'Move over, move over. I've got to get my
elbow', while I'd be singing a lullaby. It was trying," Russo
Both Russo and co-star Alan Cumming spent much of the film
with real-life chimpanzees and bonded with their co-stars
months before the cameras rolled.
"It was an amazing experience, because you just get immersed
in a world that you never thought (existed)," Cummings said
as he held and feed a baby chimp. "Look at me. I was playing
Hamlet three years ago. This is not where I thought I'd be at
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