Note: I was originally going to write this on the heels of my article about director Alec Gillis, due to the fact that Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr have been partners at their special effects company Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. for many years, but something told me to wait. I'm glad I did, because Woodruff has said some very interesting things in the interim. Let's begin.
To get a sense of the scope of Tom Woodruff Jr's career, you could go farther back than his first major job, which was working on the now classic James Cameron science fiction film The Terminator. However, it's better to move forward from this point, to where he sculpted the now iconic Xenomorph warrior head for the 1985 mega hit sequel to the Sigourney Weaver sci-fi/horror film, Alien. From there Woodruff made it a habit to continue working with legends and creating unforgettable creatures for the silver screen, including Pumpkinhead, Gill-Man from Monster Squad, Goro from Mortal Combat, Berny the gorilla for Zookeeper, and the Pred-Alien from Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, most of which he also worked on as a suit performer. Nominated twice for an Academy Award for his work on Alien 3 & Starship Troopers, and winning for his work on the groundbreaking Death Becomes Her, it could be argued that the secret to his success is that he's never stopped learning or evolving as an artist.
This Renaissance man has continued to ever better himself in the realms of sculpting and creature design...
...and stop motion, by working with some of the oldest examples of the art, and advancing them into something new, again.
However, when CGI made its way into the mainstream, Woodruff refused to turn in his hands-on tools for a keyboard, not out of any hatred for something new, but for the love of the art form he had always embraced. For a while it looked grim for the practical effects industry, as many shops that dealt in the trade closed down, but Tom (along with his business partner Alec) crusaded for the merits of doing movie magic gags on camera. They found that they were not alone. The show of support from movie fans was palpable, and in a recent chat session on io9 Woodruff said:
"There are more and more voices being heard about a yearning to see more practical effects land on screen and not disappear under the shadow of digital effects only. We're seeing a few more doors opening in meetings, letting us back in the room to consider practical effects."
In other words, they stuck to their guns, and progress is being made. Now, Woodruff has taken up new rolls as a producer for the Alec Gillis directed Harbinger Down (with Dark Dunes Productions) and as a director himself for the upcoming demon Noir, Fire City: The Interpreter of Signs.
Set in a world where demons walk among us, unseen by humans, the trailer (as well as a short film which you an watch here) promises a masterful grasp of dramatic story telling, and a cinematic eye that can hold its own amongst the many other talented directors that Woodruff has worked with in the past, including Ridley Scott, David Fincher, and James Cameron.
"In horror and all things, I think of the audience and I think of those open minds ready to watch a movie. And I know the movie can either tell them EVERYTHING or it can tell them only ENOUGH to allow them to put those minds to work and fill in the blanks to custom build the value of what they're seeing to strike each one's individual nerve."
What does the future hold for Tom Woodruff, Jr? Great things, I think. This is an artist who will never be done growing, and those are always the best ones to watch.
Let me leave a couple of more videos of Tom for you to check out. In addition to his many talents, he also comes across as one of the most fun loving professionals in Hollywood.
Here he is, with horror host Darkest Jack:
...and here he is, hamming it up with none other than Sigourney Weaver: