Men in Suits (2012)
Directed by Frank H. Woodward
Starring Doug Jones, Brian Steele, Tom Woodruff Jr., Douglas Tait, Haruo Nakajima, Bob Burns, Misty Rosas, Camden Toy, Bobby Clark, Van Snowden, Alec Gillis, Michelan Sisti, Arturo Gil
After years of going to conventions and hearing the stories from the stuntmen that appear there, as well as reading different biographies, I really learned quite a bit of what goes on behind the curtain on filmmaking and what some of these people go through with really no credit. Damn shame, really. But over the last few years, there is another group of very talented and hard working people that have been coming to the forefront, trying to get the credit that they also so richly deserve. That group of people are the men (and women) in suits.
This new documentary by Frank Woodward shows a meer glimpse inside the world of actors that have to perform while stuck inside a costume. But sometimes it is not just a costume, but a massive custom build costume where they are totally hidden from camera. There are times they can’t hear, or even see that well, so not only do they still need to act and perform for the camera, but they need to sell their performance so much that these creatures become real on the screen. Pretty simple stuff, right? Wrong. Try walking around with a 150-200 pound suit on for hours at a time, remembering your marks, remembering what and how you’re suppose to move and when, all the while trying to breathe life into this character. Director Woodward is no stranger to the horror genre, after directing a lot of the special features on the Anchor Bay releases of The Masters of Horror, as well as an award winning documentary on H.P. Lovecraft called Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. So he definitely is a fan of the genre and is helping to set the record straight when it comes to these unseen heroes of the movies.
Men in suits, or full creature costumes, have been around since pretty much the beginning of cinema, or as soon as the filmmakers were able to convince some poor bastard to get inside one of these things and move around. Some of these performers took great pride in their work and really tried to do their best, even with their costume or monster suit wasn’t the greatest. Over the years, the talent and technology that goes into the making of these suits has really advanced, giving more detail and more movement than years ago. But no matter how much fancy gizmos, gadgets, and servos you have in these intricate monster-suits, there still has to be someone inside of it moving it around and making it become more than just a suit of rubber, latex and little remote controlled mechanisms. For some tragic reason, these people are never really considered actors, or given the credit for being one. Instead they are called “suit performers”. That really needs to be changed since they are doing so much more than just wearing a suit. And this documentary really should start that change. At least we can hope.
Men in Suits shows just but a fraction of what some of these actors go through on each movie they work on, the hours and hours of physical training to get in shape for a particular role, putting in just as much work (if not more) into their role and performance as any of the other actors they are performing with. But still they tend not to receive a lot of credit for all of this work, which really is a damn shame.
Director Woodward has done an excellent job here giving these actors a chance not only to speak out but also to show the world what they do on a regular basis. This isn’t them just whining that they don’t get any credit, but a little respect for the work they do and should be recognized a little more for it, which I couldn’t agree more. Every single person they cover here probably has more passion and drive for each of their jobs than quite a few ‘regular’ actors who sometimes seem like they are just phoning in their performance. Not these guys. They are die-hard professionals right to the end. And therefore need to be recognized for it.
One of the best things I liked about this documentary is that they don’t just cover the recent actors, but give us an overview of who came before today, going through the actors that made a career out of playing gorillas to Godzilla. As regulars to this site know, we are always preaching the aspects of learning about the history of the genre, and this documentary does just that and more. We get to learn about the actors that made all those gorilla movies like George Barrows and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan. We learn about Haruo Nakajima, the first man to wear the Godzilla suit, who would go on to appear in over 20 Kaiju films in his career.
Brian Steele is also featured quite a bit here, who has gone on to play some terrific, not to mention big, memorable characters on the screen, such as Sammael in Hellboy, two different Predators in Predators, not to mention countless other roles. And of course, Doug Jones is covered as well, who has created some unbelievable characters in his career, usually without having his face on screen. What he went through for his role of the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth is just remarkable. And it’s just not guys that are playing monsters, but even the guys who were in shows like H.R. Pufnstuf. So this really covers a wide scale of these type of actors that have been doing this kind of work for a very long time. It also shows us some footage from an upcoming project that actor Douglas Tait is working, called Knights of Badassdom. This not only shows the different stages of the project and showing a little of what he is putting himself through for this role.