Like many actors who ply their trade from under layers of foam latex or prosthetics, you might not know who Douglas Tait is until you see a photo of him in character.
Appearing at Walker Stalker Con in Boston on June 13th, as part of the Friday the 13th Reunion, which also features Friday the 13th alumni Tom Morga (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning), Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2), and Adrienne King (Friday the 13th); Douglas Tait took some time to chat with me about what it means to be "The Creature Man" and shares a few of his fanboy memories too!
HH: You've done a good mix of live action acting as yourself and as a creature - I'm sure you get asked all the time which you enjoy more…
DT: I enjoy both and the process of both is so different, when I'm in makeup I have to really over exaggerate my facial expressions and look at myself in the mirror to see because every prosthetic piece reads differently, and it's the exact opposite for regular acting - you would never look at yourself in the mirror and you would never exaggerate your expressions because then you're a total phoney. It's such a different process, and other actors that I know who don't have the experience of working with prosthetic pieces they didn't realize that they had to exaggerate that expression to have it read [for camera].
HH: How did you decide that you wanted to be "creature man"?
DT: It all began actually in high school when I got a job at universal studios playing frankenstein and doing shows there, and that was my side job and what led into the whole world of playing characters in makeup - I got to play so many characters because I was there for like ten years, and it was one of those things that I was tall and really enjoyed doing it and I felt like I was good at it, and it just came natural for me and it led to small stuff and then to bigger stuff. It was nothing I planned as an actor, it just kind of led to that kind of stuff, which was really cool. I started to get more offers to do creature work, more people would mention my name - directors I'd worked with, or makeup shops, it just kind of started to take over in that sense… It just kind of happened through getting offers for stuff and I just kind of ran with it. In this business if you can find a niche, you go with it because I know so many actors who aren't working so I'm very fortunate to have found something that keeps me busy.
HH: Do you do stunts as well? I know you did some stunt doubling on American Horror Story (Season 2 as James Cromwell's stunt double).
DT: That was one of the things that when I started to do more creature work that there would be something physical involved, and being an athlete, I would do some of it I don't consider myself a stunt man, and i give it to stunt people for some of the stuff I did. They do stuff I wouldn't want to do. But with the creature stuff, when you're on a wire and stuff like that, it's hard to builtd 2 suits and find a double that fits my size, and it's expensive so I've ended up having to do a lot of that work and playing the character, so it's not something I really enjoy doing to be honest. There are certain things I like, like fighting and things, that's cool, but when you're on a wire 50 feet in the air it's a little scary. But I enjoy the physical acting, and being an athlete all my life, I enjoy that, it comes naturally for me, and a lot of that physicality is considered stunts, but I always am thinking about the character and bringing the character to life more than any stunt. On AHS, I just happened to work with a coordinator on a film before that, and you're the only one who fits James Cromwell - we were the same height and everything, he was a really cool guy and a great actor.
HH: What's been your favourite creature that you've played so far?
DT: My favourite hasn't come out yet, it's for a show called The Quest and I play the lead villain and a couple other characters in it. We shot in Austria, and it's going to air on ABC on July 31st - and it was by far one of the most fun and awesome experiences ever, and I'm so excited about it.
DT: If you could play any iconic horror creature - who would it be and how would you give it a new life?
DT: Frankenstein has been a character that I played at a small level and I've always been a fan of it, so I'd have to say that Frankenstein would be a big one - how I would make it different is a tricky question because there are certain things that Frankenstein is or does that is part of his character that you wouldn't want to steer too far away from, but I would give my twist and my spin on it. I think I'd bring something a little different but still bring the feel of Frankenstein.
My favourite horror character is Michael Myers and I played him so many times on different Halloweens, and I have all the masks, and that would be the character I'd love to play. Halloween 1 and 2 have the most iconic Michael Myers moves and I'd like to bring that back. In the Rob Zombie ones, I thought he was too Jason-y and aggressive.
HH: Men in Suits was the first time I had seen you as a creature performer - can you tell me about your experience with the documentary, and what does a documentary like this mean to you as a creature performer?
DT: Men in Suits is one of those things that sheds light on people like me, who people may not know me in the business or may not understand that process. it shows that you can't just hire a tall guy or a stunt man to do this thing, because it's like a slap in our faces - it's something that I've trained for, I've done it for a long time, I'm an actor so I'm thinking about the character, and then I also have the physicality to do these things. So you can't just grab anyone to do it like some people might think, and i appreciate that Frank (the director of Men in Suits) took the time to expose all that. And there are directors who understand that - Guillermo Del Toro in the documentary mentions that he hires the right actor for the character because they're going to give him what he needs from the character.
HH: It's nice to see a return to practical effects, and I think the shops are getting a lot more power when it comes to the return of this art form:
DT: It all depends on the director and producer. When I do conventions and panels, I hear it all the time "I really like the stuff you do, because we can see it, it's like the 80's, and we're so tired of CGI" and it makes me feel like there's an audience for it, I mean we love it because we're in that world, but I hear it from other people and it just confirms that practical effects are not lost and there's an audience that wants to see them. Working with shops like Spectral Motion (Knights of Badassdom, The Quest, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), you can shoot that stuff up close and people are blown away by the work, and when you have that quality there's no reason you shouldn't use that instead of CGI, that's why it bugs me.
HH: What has been your most difficult suit experience thus far?
DT: Knights of Badassdom was probably one of the most difficult that I've done, and if you see Men in Suits you kinda get a feel of what I went through. They don't do suits like this very often, the suit weighed about 130lbs. I was on lifts, and I was fighting people with 35lb arms and the lifts were built like a high heel, so my balance was thrown off and the ground was uneven. It was really a tough experience, a great one but also very difficult. I did a film right before Havenhurst called Exfil, and that was a pretty rough one because I was in a full suit with harness on, cinched for 12 hours because I was doing wire stuff, and I was in a huge prosthetic with animatronics that was glued to my face so I had to have that on all day and that was glued into the full suit so I couldn't come out of anything. I was doing wire work on a moving rig fighting in the air and there was all this metal in the suit and it was cutting into me and they couldn't fix it because they'd have to take the whole suit off…and it was too tight so it was cutting off my circulation - it was pretty rough.
HH: How long are you usually on set filming? In productions that take several months to complete, how much time are you investing?
DT: Knights of Badassdom was a month and a half of shooting, and I was there for about 3.5 weeks.
HH: What was your longest amount of time in the makeup chair?
DT: [big sigh] Probably 8 hours, and it was for something that has never come out, but the reason it took so long is because it was a head piece that went down through my shoulders and chest and had to be blended seamlessly, and arms that had to be blended in - and just the amount of time it took for everything to be blended seamlessly, and adding hair it was just a nightmare, because after the 8 hours in the chair we worked another 9 or 10 hours and then removal after that. "Tear it off!"
Star Trek was pretty long, that was a 5 hour application. That took a while and the days were long shooting, but on a project like that you just deal with it.
HH: Can you share any fanboy moments with us?
DT: Working with Will Farrell on Land of the Lost - he's a very calm quiet guy and then as soon as the cameras are rolling he brings it on.
When I got to play Jason (Freddy vs Jason), and I'm in the hockey mask sitting with Robert Englund, a guy who scared the crap out of me growing up, and here I am working next to him as Jason. That was my biggest fanboy moment for sure.
HH - You have a LOT of films in post-production are there any awesome things we should be watching for?
DT: The Quest - July 31st on ABC
Outpost 37 - sci-fi thriller shot in South Africa- based on the documentary Restreppo - took the same premise and added aliens - Doug plays all of the aliens designed by Steve Wang who made predator. It's going to be at the Toronto film festival
There's a lot of cool stuff coming out and hopefully they hit - I think The Quest is the one that's going to be big.