Wolfman Movie: His Lonesome Howl: Cry of the Wolf

The Wolfman

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VFX, SFX, makeup, locations and schedules were nothing when compared to the biggest challenge of the production for director Johnston. The Wolfman's toughest obstacle was one the reader might think would be minor: perfecting the haunting howl of the title creature. Johnston explains his conundrum: When it came time to lay in the sound of the wolf howl, we tried everything from animal impersonators to a crying baby and artificial sounds. We took those sounds and digitally processed them…looking for just the right combination of things to give us the perfect howl. But we just could not find it. We wanted it to be iconic, but something audiences had never heard before.

A breakthrough would come when one of the productions sound designers came up with a unique idea. According to Johnston, Howell Gibbens said, What is the purest and most controllable vocal sound that you can find? It's arguably an opera singer. So we auditioned a number of opera singers in Los Angeles and picked the perfect guy: a bass baritone opera singer.

After Johnston and his sound team recorded about a dozen howls, they knew theyd found their perfect wolf howls. The director notes: His howls go through a range of emotions…from angry and victorious to mourning. We pitched them down about 40 percent so they became truly terrifying.  When we pitched them down, we had these haunting, visceral animal sounds. They sent chills up our spines and gave us exactly what we were looking for.

Victorian Costumes: Milena Canonero Design

Triple Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero, whose previous work includes her stunning costume work for Marie Antoinette, has an extensive background working on period films. Johnston asked Canonero to make the costumes for The Wolfman very gothic, which, in 1890, included strikingly angular shapes.  She used dark, rich colors, which were unlike the light, frothy look that could be seen at the end of the 19th century in England.

A perfectionist in detail, Canonero wanted to make the division between the upper- and working-class characters in The Wolfman very apparent. The upper echelons costumes were comprised of sharp silhouettes and long elegant lines, with materials including silks, velvets and furs that were indicative of the characters social status. The working-class characters she designed for wore outfits that were bundled up; she dressed them in fabrics including wool, linen and cotton. The upper-class men were put in top hats and bowler hats, while the working-class men hats were given a more rough-and-ready, beaten-up look.

Most of the costumes for the principal cast were handmade and, due to the transformation and action scenes, some of the costumes were recrafted up to 20 times. Having multiple copies of many of the pieces proved very helpful, especially for scenes that included blood and fire (in which case the fabric was fire-guarded to protect the stunt double). For the larger crowd scenes, Canoneros team dressed the background actors in clothing found in costume houses from France and Italy to throughout England.

Gwen Conliffe is in mourning throughout most of the film and, therefore, was dressed primarily in black. As a member of the upper crust, she was dressed in corsets mixed in different textures and shades of black. To add a bit of color, Canonero had her team find teal velvet fabric to mix in with the mourning fiancees dark sleeves and skirt. As Gwen eases out of her grief and finds unexpected romance with Lawrence, the team dressed Emily Blunt in lilacs and dark purples. Of the corsets, Blunt laughs: It was all about the waist in that period, which means that my internal organs now hate me.

Though Sir John Talbot is very much aristocracy, he has rarely left his decaying home in the past several decades and no longer takes care of his image. Inspired by an Edward Gorey illustration, Canonero's team created Talbot Sr.s clothing by using pieces that were once beautiful but now heavily worn; the result was the creation of decayed elegance. A former hunter who made dangerous excursions to placecountry-regionIndia, Sir John had numerous trophies and other eclectic souvenirs as part of his wardrobe, including furs that he wears with his dressing gown and overcoat.

Lawrence has returned to England from America; when he is reintroduced to the audience, he is the star of Shakespeares Hamlet. Because his character has traveled back and forth across the Atlantic, Canoneros team gave his costumes a look that is more expansive than a regular upper-class English gentlemans.

For the transformation scenes in which the beast emerged, the team prepped Del Toros costumes so that his seams would expand and rip as his muscles grew. They used stretchy fabric and thread that could literally appear to burst and tear apart. As Del Toro often was dressed in costumes made of tweed, the team found stretchy nylon that matched that fabric on camera. The final piece of Lawrence Talbots wardrobe created for the film was the productions favorite: an actual replica of the wolf-head cane grasped by Lon Chaney, Jr. in the 1941 film.

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