The men behind the monsters

When you hear people talking about “men in suits,” the first thing that comes to mind is, “Didn’t CGI get rid of stuff like that? Do we really need people to put on suits to be monsters anymore?” Well, in a word, yes.

As much as FX technology has advanced over the years, there’s still plenty of room for people stomping around in monster suits.

And there’s a lot more to being a guy in a suit than just doing Godzilla kind of stuff. What about Hellboy, Alien, Predator, and many others we know and love? Now the documentary Men In Suits celebrates the people who help bring these creatures to life, and have to endure a lot of heat inside those big, heavy costumes.

Men in Suits is now available on Amazon, and it features interviews with Doug Jones (Hellboy), Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla, Ultraman),Tom Woodruff Jr. (the Alien flicks), Michelan Sisti (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Guillermo Del Toro, Bobby Clark (the Gorn), and many more. This is one of a number of documentaries that was funded by Kickstarter, and it’s a great subject for genre fans who know playing a character in costume is much more work and effort than it looks. 

As Frank H. Woodward, co-founder of Wyrd Studios, recalled, he decided to make Men in Suits was one day talking to a friend, and telling her, “We’re thinking about making a documentary about the guys who wear creature suits.” Her response was all the impetus he needed to go forward with the project: “That’s a job?” And as Woodward recalled, “We made Men In Suits to show that it’s not only a job…it’s an art.” 

As Doug Jones says in one of the trailers for Suits, “All those characters, whether they’re human or not human, deserve an actor’s touch to develop a heart and soul, intentions, fear, desires. Audiences want to connect with people. They want to connect with a character on film that’s living and breathing.” He also concluded, “If I die under rubber on a Guillermo Del Toro film set, that would be a happy way to go for me.”

So when you check out Men in Suits, you’ll see what kind of work and effort it takes to help bring a creature to life, not just from the actor’s perspective, but the point of view from the FX and creature teams who design these guys, and help bring them to life as well.

Again, it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks, and look at how hard many in Hollywood campaigned for Andy Serkis to be nominated for an Academy Award for his motion capture performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. 

There’s still a lot of debate as to whether motion capture should be eligible for an Oscar, but think about how hard it is to get real emotion across doing motion capture, or if you’re a guy in a suit. It’s not easy acting under all that rubber, or all that CGI, and if you can convince people that the character is realistic, you’ve pulled off quite a feat.