'Monsters' and 'Godzilla' Director Gareth Edwards Remembers Ray Harryhausen

From Indie Wire

In 2010, British visual effects artist Gareth Edwards' directorial debut "Monsters" took the indie world by the storm by presenting an alien invasion tale containing impressive CGI exclusively produced on Edwards' laptop. Since then, Edwards has attracted the attention of Hollywood and is currently working on a reboot of "Godzilla" for Warner Bros. However, given Edwards' DIY approach to visual effects, we thought it was appropriate to ask him for his thoughts on the iconic stop motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died this past week in London at the age of 92. The following is excerpted from a conversation with Eric Kohn.

Ray Harryhausen was a massive inspiration for me. His films used to come on during every bank holiday in the UK when I was a kid. I grew up watching them. Even though you knew what you were seeing wasn't possible, you couldn't help but watch it and try to figure out how it was done. I remember buying lots of books. There was a local bookshop with a film section that had some books on special effects, including some with chapters on Harryhausen. That's how I got into visual effects.

Way before digital came along, the only way to achieve some of the things in your head was to go about it the hard way with stop motion animation. It's so much harder than what we can do today. I can't wrap my head around it. He would do scenes like Medusa's snakes on her head and managed to keep track of every single movement of every snake one frame at a time. It took a level of discipline and genius that we don't need to do visual effects today. It's quite remarkable what he did -- and I don't there will be anyone quite like him ever again.

He definitely had an impact on a lot of people in the industry. I was in film school when "Jurassic Park" came out and it was clear that computers were going to be way forward in terms of a lot of visual effects. But his sheer perseverance and his decision to do this stuff at an early age when he was inspired by "King Kong" is amazing. Even when I was trying to learn graphics there were very few books about them, so I can't imagine how few resources there were back when he was starting up. He was very much self-taught. He just pictured sequences and figured out how to do them. They would work wonderfully.

I was really lucky to meet him. Shortly before Peter Jackson's "King Kong" came out in 2005, I was working at BBC doing visual effects on a TV show for a producer. She went to work on another documentary about HG Wells. As part of it, she wanted to interview Harryhausen about "War of the Worlds." I got a text from her one day asking, "Do you want to meet Ray Harryhausen?" I swore in the text back to her, but basically I said, "Yeah!"


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