6 Unknown Artists Who Made All of Our Favorite Movie Moments
With the Oscars on the horizon, it's important to remember that behind every great "film author" are like a hundred other artists with slightly worse publicists. These people have worked tirelessly to help create some of your favorite moments in film, only to have their names scroll by in eight-point font while the audience files out, or, at best, patiently waits for that five-second scene where Iron Man eats a burrito.
Here are six more people you don't know but could not live without.
Bob Anderson Was Responsible for Every Sword Fight You've Ever Loved
Think of the coolest sword fight you've ever seen in a movie. Did you go with Dread Pirate Westley versus Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride?
Blissfully beheading him before he could start the Monty Python Black Knight routine.
Or Connor MacLeod chopping heads off in Highlander?
If you said "Which Highlander?" we're gonna have to ask you to leave.
It doesn't matter which one you chose, because one man was responsible for all of those fights and more. Bob Anderson holds the coolest possible film credit imaginable as sword master for pretty much every movie where a character picks up a sword and proceeds to do something awesome with it. He started out as Errol Flynn's stunt double in the 1950s and kept working until the past decade, when he trained the actors in every Lord of the Rings movie.
"Sean Bean, we'll save time and just teach you how to fall."
In the meantime, he coached everyone from Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond movies to Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins in The Mask of Zorro. When the most detail-oriented director in history, Stanley Fucking Kubrick, needed a sword master who knew his shit for his film Barry Lyndon, he called Anderson. Remember The Three Musketeers with Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland? Yeah, we didn't either, but he worked there, too.
Oh, and he was Darth Vader.
"Hamill, if you're not going to make the light saber sounds with your mouth, how am I supposed to take this seriously?
That's right. It turns out that in addition to David Prowse providing the body and James Earl Jones providing the voice, Bob Anderson provided the awesome by doubling for all of Vader's light saber fights. He's the guy who chopped off Luke's hand, and he wasn't even credited for it. In 1983, it was Mark Hamill himself who revealed that it was Anderson in the suit and not Prowse for those scenes, a fact Lucas had been hiding all those years.
"He said he'd cut something more important if I didn't say anything."
Kyle Cooper Created Every Title Sequence That Was Better Than the Movie
Sometimes the opening titles for a movie or show are way more satisfying to watch than the thing they're supposed to introduce. Take the opening to The Walking Dead, which conveys the tense horror of a zombie invasion better than the first two seasons of the show.
Plus there's no [whichever character we all hate now]!
Or the titles to FX's American Horror Story, which are creepier than anything series creator Ryan Murphy could ever come up with.
And this is the guy who invented Glee.
Well, whenever you come across an opening sequence so good that whatever comes next inevitably feels like a letdown, there's one guy you can blame -- his name is Kyle Cooper, and we seriously wonder how he keeps getting work. Early in his career, he made a name for himself by creating the insanely elaborate title sequence to the movie Se7en, which, as we've told you about before, involved serial-killer-like efforts.
Cooper also came up with the striking opening minutes for Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. The one for Spider-Man 2 alone took an entire year to create and required first-hand research into spiders and octopuses (since the villain was Doctor Octopus), plus digitally scanning dozens of vintage comics for a five-second montage. The one for Spider-Man 3 was so good that they should have just stopped the film there.
"No, really, this is more concise and less infuriating."
See, when your resume includes films like Flubber and Wild Wild West, you can't let a little thing like the movie sucking stop you from putting all your effort into the opening titles. For The Mummy, Cooper researched and created a historically accurate font, meaning that the credits to this film were most likely 10 times more researched than the film itself. He used actual blood for the opening titles to the Dawn of the Dead remake. Even director Zack Snyder had to admit they were better than the movie.
"We paid him extra not to tell us where he got the blood."
Debbie Evans Is Every Crazy Woman You've Seen Behind a Wheel
A good chase sequence can justify the existence of a bad movie. Such is the case with the highway scene in The Matrix Reloaded where Carrie-Anne Moss drives her bike against the traffic to avoid the agents.
Or the vertigo-inducing car chase in Mission: Impossible II where Thandie Newton tries to push Tom Cruise's car off the road and ends up teetering on the edge of a cliff herself.
"Hold on, I'm gonna call Michael Caine, he'll know what to do!"
The Fast and the Furious series is made out of chase scenes and five minutes of plot in each movie to explain them, but one highlight is the scene in the original movie where Michelle Rodriguez drives a Honda Civic under a truck before crashing the shit out of it.
Obviously symbolic of Japanese-American economic co-dependence.
Only it wasn't Michelle Rodriguez, or Thandie Newton, or Carrie-Anne Moss in those scenes -- that was all Debbie Evans.
Moss did all her own ass-scenes, though.
Since the 1970s, any time a lady in a movie gets into a car or on a bike and starts doing stupid shit, Evans is most likely the one behind the wheel. She's doubled for everyone from Pamela Anderson to Whoopi Goldberg. Remember Linda Hamilton firing a rifle out of the back of a riot van in Terminator 2?
You do now.
That was Evans. Angelina Jolie driving like a maniac in Wanted? Evans. Parker Posey in the runaway car in Superman Returns? You get the idea. She even played Steve Martin's insane daredevil girlfriend in The Jerk.
One of the more conspicuous Oscar snubs that year.
How could she have lasted in the business so long? Well, she's been riding bikes since she was 6 years old and winning awards for it since age 9. Which actually makes us think that if movies didn't exist, she'd be doing all this crazy shit on her own dime anyway.
Douglas Trumbull Defined the Look of Sci-Fi -- Before Computer Effects
It's easy to make fun of the old science fiction movies that look like shit today, but what about the ones that don't? Take Blade Runner -- the opening shot of the Tyrell Corporation pyramid still looks breathtaking, and this was done in 1982.
Mr. T debuted in the same year, and he hasn't aged nearly this well.
Or how about that huge fucking spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is five years older?
If you didn't hear the notes in your head, you're probably not a person we'd care to know.
Of course, the granddaddy of them all is 2001: A Space Odyssey -- those shuttles look as awesome as ever, despite the movie being over 40 years old.
We'll trade you your 2001 for the one we had anytime, Kubrick, space babies and all.
Ever wonder how they accomplished all of that before CGI existed? The short answer is Douglas Trumbull, who holds credits for "special photographic effects" on some of the most influential sci-fi films ever and crafted everything we just showed you with his bare hands (and his assistants').
You actually had to stand up and wear pants to work in special effects back then.
You see, "special photographic effects" is just another way of saying "impossible shit we now do with CGI." For example, the opening sequence to Blade Runner was actually done by covering a table with forced-perspective miniatures that were hand painted and fiber-optically lit, then double exposed over footage of fireballs that Trumbull's crew shot in a parking lot outside the studio.
The futuristic city was later occupied by the grittiest ant colony ever.
We've told you about how the trippy "stargate" sequence at the end of 2001 wasn't created with computer effects but with simple photography tricks -- that was Trumbull's idea, too.
He's the reason your parents quit smoking pot.
Even today he kicks CGI in the balls, creating the practical outer space effects for the film Tree of Life using stuff like chemicals, paint, and milk, and extremely zoomed-in cameras. None of that pansy-ass "computer" shit for him.
The Sherman Brothers Wrote the Soundtrack to Your Childhood
Nowadays, putting music to a children's movie consists of buying the rights to a pop song and animating the sarcastic animals that dance to it. Remember when these things actually put effort into their soundtracks? Disney's Mary Poppins alone spawned half a dozen classic tunes, from the inescapable catchiness of "Chim-Chim-Cher-ee" ...
... to the proto-rap of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews: original gangstas.
Meanwhile, The Jungle Book had everything from elephants doing a military march to Beatles-like vultures singing a barbershop quartet to a monkey scatting like a jazzman.
So what happened? How did we go from this to a freaking lemur singing "I Like to Move It"? The simple answer is that the Sherman brothers stopped working. Dick and Bob Sherman wrote every song we mentioned, and many more -- they even came up with the theme song from Winnie the Pooh, a melody that will live on long after our planet has crumbled to dust.
The Sherman brothers got their start when their father, a successful songwriter from the 1920s and '30s, goaded them by telling them they couldn't write a popular kids' song. They proceeded to prove him wrong by writing every popular kids' song ever and becoming more famous than he ever was.
Eventually they hooked up with Walt Disney, who, in addition to using their talents to reshape dark novels into lighthearted hit movies, also tasked them with writing songs for his theme parks -- you may have heard of this little ditty of theirs called "It's a Small World."
And now it's in your head for the next week.
The Sherman brothers' on-and-off association with Disney's studio lasted until 2000's The Tigger Movie. But their awesomeness wasn't limited to Disney movies: They also wrote the songs for films like Charlotte's Web and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Dennis Muren Invented Modern CGI
Visual effects have evolved like almost no other field in the past 30 or so years. We've gone from being shocked by things like the flying bike in E.T.:
"It was as simple as building a trebuchet."
To being blown away by the T-1000's morphing effects in Terminator 2:
Not to mention being the forerunner for years of Capri Sun commercials.
To watching with complete indifference as entire CGI armies battle each other in the Star Wars prequels:
The entire medium has been slowly reshaped over the years ... and most of the reshaping has been done by pretty much one guy: Dennis Muren.
Muren started out moving model spacecrafts in front of a blue screen and manually putting together effect shots for Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind before being crowned the visual effects supervisor of E.T. -- of course, "special effects" at the time meant working with puppets all day.
And he did all this while suffering from an extreme case of gigantism.
Muren was a highly sought after expert in his area, working in the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Ghostbusters films, but that still wasn't enough for him. Not content with simply being the best in his job, he went ahead and invented himself a new one.
You see, while working on the 1985 Young Indiana Jones series, Muren created the first fully computer animated character, as well as the first morphing effect, in Willow. Learning to use Photoshop back when the rest of the world was still trying to figure out how to turn on a computer monitor, he realized the power of digitally compositing images together into a single shot and used that knowledge to create the water penis in James Cameron's The Abyss and, later, the T-1000.
But his biggest contribution to popularizing CGI came in a movie where he isn't credited -- when his buddy Spielberg told him he was making a film about stop-motion dinosaurs, Muren told him, "Nah man, fuck that shit and check this out."
"So remember last year when I was really into animal cross-breeding?"
And now we have the Jurassic Park we know and love. Thanks, Dennis! You gave us fucking dinosaurs!
For more unsung heroes, check out 8 Online Fads You Didn't Know Were Invented Decades Ago and 6 Artists You Didn't Know You Were a Fan Of.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Adorable Animals the Internet Loves (Are Going Extinct).
And stop by LinkSTORM where you may discover who actually writes all of Dan's columns.
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