Monster Maker Interview with Creature FX Legend, Steve Wang

Got this from Stan Winston Studio

features the man who Guillermo del Toro calls “an unsung, or not-often-enough-sung genius,” creature designer, monster maker & film director, Steve Wang.

Award winning special effects character creation artist and respected monster maker, Steve Wang, was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States at the age of 9. His greatest inspirations were the Tokusatsu superhero TV shows ULTRAMAN and KAMEN RIDER, as well as Hong Kong kung fu films including MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE.

As a veteran special makeup effects artist and creature designer, Steve has worked with fellow veterans before him including Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Dick Smith. He collaborated and led makeup design on the iconic and original Abe Sapien character in Guillermo Del Toro’s HELLBOY for Spectral Motion, as Art Director for Patrick Tatopolous Designs he helped give life to the werewolves in Len Wiseman’s UNDERWORLD, and working with Miles Teves, helped design the dragons in REIGN OF FIRE.

Coming from Taiwan, there wasn’t really a tradition of celebrating Halloween. Steve’s first exposure to the world of monsters was the Halloween display shelf of latex masks at King Norman’s Kingdom of Toys—a legendary, independent toy store in Northern California. Steve says, “Up until that time, all the masks I’d seen were cardboard…so seeing a full head in latex, I didn’t know what that was, but, it changed my life.” He began collecting the masks, and amassed quite a few, “but,” he continues, “that wasn’t enough for me. I had to know how they were made.”

Steve’s first industry job was for Stan Winston Studio on INVADERS FROM MARS. Hired initially by Studio supervisor Alec Gillis while Stan was in London on ALIENS, Stan came back for the production and, impressed with Steve’s style, encouraged Steve’s work as a creature painter for the drone brains. On set Steve learned the value of communication with the AD’s—a skill that served him well for many, many more characters he’d take to set in the years to come.

It took a Halloween Costume Contest to let Stan trust Steve with the paint on one of Stan’s own designs, the Gill-Man from MONSTER SQUAD. According to Steve, he proposed a frog-like paint scheme that Stan vetoed. It wasn’t until he won a costume contest judged by Stan, Rick Baker and Dick Smith with a paint job much like the one he proposed for the Creature, that Stan let him follow through with his scheme.

Steve has received great praise for his two film adaptations of the manga superhero, Guyver (THE GUYVER and GUYVER: DARK HERO). Another project which drew attention to him was the direct to video movie, DRIVE, which starred Mark Dacascos & Kadeem Hardison. He also made independent films such as KUNG FU RASCALS, based on a series of 8mm short films he did years before. Steve and his brother Michael Wang, an award-winning commercials director, have recently been hired to work on KAMEN RIDER: DRAGON KNIGHT (an adaptation of KAMEN RIDER RYUKI), a second attempt at reviving the KAMEN RIDER series in the United States, after Saban’s MASKED RIDER of 1995. They write, produce, and direct as the “The Wang Brothers.”

“Of all the guys who were the masters when I got started,” says Steve, “Stan was really my mentor…The thing that I took away from Stan the most was how to appreciate what I do. I was more of the self-hating perfectionist, but Stan pulled me aside and said, ‘it’s okay for you to tell yourself you did good, to be proud’ and it made a lot of sense to me.”

Steve goes on to give some advice to those who might have aspirations in the effects field. “Stop texting, and pay attention!” Having the skills are important, but being a good sculptor or painter takes practice and hard work, but to be good means you have to work hard. “And you have to love it. If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t do it.” He leaves us with the repeated message, “Work hard. Work hard. Work hard.”