Have you ever been watching a movie and thought to yourself, "Man, if I had to live in a world that dismal, I would kill myself"? Well, chances are pretty good that Alex McDowell designed that world. His catalog includes designing the inside of every goth kid's head, aka The Crow.
He recreated Alan Moore's dark alternate history of America for the Watchmen movie.
McDowell even managed to channel the drug movement from the vantage point of its most acid-riddled mind in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
And those are just a few of the terrifying places Alex McDowell cooked up specifically to make you feel uneasy.
Now in case you haven't brushed up on the details of various film careers, a production designer is in charge of bringing the director's vision to life with sets, props, makeup and pretty much everything that can potentially show up onscreen. To get an idea of just how important the job is and how insanely good Alex McDowell is at it, take a look at Minority Report next to the worlds that every other Steven Spielberg movie takes place in:
The gothic style of this film is unlike anything Spielberg has ever done before or since, because Spielberg never worked with McDowell before or since. The futuristic cathedral feel to everything, the gritty but technologically advanced rooms all imply that this is pretty atypical for the guy who launched his career filming kids riding their bikes in the woods.
McDowell takes his job so seriously that he even had a massive decrepit mansion specifically built for a film because he couldn't find anything in existence that looked neglected enough for his tastes. You may recognize it from that movie about consensual punching.
There's simply no one better at building sad, filthy worlds that make you never want to walk around barefoot again.
There's no single moment or costume or location you can point to in a film to show just how crucial Robert Evans was to cinema. Instead, we have to point at entire movies and say without a hint of hyperbole that if it wasn't for Robert Evans, this film wouldn't exist:
Like this one, for instance.
When Evans took over Paramount in the late '60s, it was the UPN of movie studios. A couple of months after starting, Evans already had 30 movies in production when he learned that the board of directors at the parent company had made up their minds to shitcan the whole operation, so he decided to send the board a message.
If you don't have time to watch that, Evans talks into the camera about why the board of directors should really see the movies he has in store. He points to two in particular that he thinks will be important. One is Love Story, which he predicts will start a new trend in movies, and the other is a little pet project called The Godfather, which he has a good feeling about.
In case you're not a woman, Love Story was a monster hit, and the "trend in movies" Evans predicted it would start was the modern chick flick. His prediction for The Godfather is even more impressive when you realize that it hadn't even started shooting yet. Evans was gambling his studio and career on a movie that didn't even exist. In baseball terms, Evans had walked to the plate in the World Series with his team down to their final out, called his shot and hit a home run with his dick.
Of course that was three shades of orange and one mediocre cartoon series ago.
But gambling was sort of Evans' thing. He started the trend of buying the rights to books that hadn't even been published yet, which might sound like a recklessly stupid thing to do if it hadn't landed him The Godfather, Love Story and Rosemary's Baby. When it was time to make that last one, he took a huge gamble on an unknown French director named Roman Polanski, who the studio spent the entire production trying to fire. Evans again gambled his job on his vision for the movie, saying if Polanski were fired, he'd quit. Things got even ballsier when Mia Farrow, who played Rosemary, nearly quit in the middle of shooting because her husband, Frank Sinatra, was threatening to divorce her if she didn't leave to work on one of his movies. So, Evans sat her down and convinced her to let Sinatra divorce her if he was going to be a dick about it.
For what is widely regarded as the most important period in American movie history, Evans gambled some of the most influential movies into existence. That list includes Serpico, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a movie everyone told him he was nuts to pursue called Chinatown.
Robert Evans making out with Ali MacGraw at the Godfather premiere party. Your parents lied -- gambling is totally a good idea.
Indiana Jones is famous for his surly one-liners, macho presence and no regrets, dive-punching stamina. He is not famous for spontaneously morphing into a limp-limbed dummy every time he jumps from a horse onto a tank, and you have Vic Armstrong to thank for that. See, while Harrison Ford is great at growling lines like a badass, he tends to be a terrific pussy when it comes to dusting it up. That's where his alter ego comes in.
The guy on the right is Vic Armstrong, and even though you don't recognize him from that angle, you grew up watching him kick ass. Here's a more recognizable angle:
Without Armstrong, this is a dummy being thrown off a horse with a hat pinned to its head.
As Ford's stunt double in the series, he gave Jones the ability to fight that giant Nazi by the plane and that guy on the conveyer belt in Temple of Doom. In fact, it's hard to think of an iconic Indiana Jones scene that doesn't involve Armstrong's work as both stuntman and stunt coordinator.
Vic Armstrong takes punches like mortal men eat popcorn.
And it's not the only time Armstrong has made Harrison Ford look good. You can also see him being carried away by Ewoks in Return of the Jedi and running through the futuristic marketplace in Blade Runner. Because Harrison Ford apparently doesn't even like to break a sweat.
Armstrong risked his life as Christopher Reeves' stunt double in the first and second Superman movies, and as the stunt double for both Roger Moore and Sean Connery as James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Never Say Never Again.
It's not a spy film until someone is being chased on skis.
So to recap -- that's Superman, James Bond and Indiana Jones. Almost every action hero you watched growing up was actually just Vic Armstrong, punching guys, taking hits and trying to hide his face from the camera.
David is a freelance writer and aspiring screenwriter who spends most days moderating in the Cracked Comedy Workshop and watching movies. Feel free to follow him on Twitter, or check him out over at Film School Rejects, where he is a weekly contributor.
For more people you should be grateful for, check out 7 Great Foods (That Were Created Thanks to Dick Moves). Or learn about 7 Inventors You Didn't Know You Wanted to Punch In the Face.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see DOB's video submission to be Spider-Man's stunt double.
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