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medieval weaponry chainmail armor

...sometimes it's obvious that I really am wearing a costume and it's not just another day that I happen to be dressed funny....

Don't I look cheerful for being on the receiving end of a gaping wound?

That's Kathleen Kennec on the right creating the fake "scar with dripping blood"; she's an absolutely amazing person to work with, not only is she incredibly skilled and a whole lot of fun, her ability to keep track of continuity issues in her head is nothing short of incredible. (When you're filming three scenes on one day that occur in totally different times along the movie timeline, and scenes that might be separated by nothing more than what looks like a camera angle change are going to be filmed next month, this is a nontrivial matter.)

Trygve gets wounded

It's only a flesh wound...I've had worse.


(And you should see the other guy....)



I have always liked the "Terminator"-look and have done quite a few costumes built around that general theme. The accessories for this one include a few lengths of flexible electrical conduit (wonder costume material that's very mobile, yet holds its shape in space extremely well), a high-precision survey laser (which worked at the time, but it got dropped later and hasn't been fixed, but still looked dramatic enough that I had it and its hard case as one of the props in the background of another movie), and some pieces of old 5-1/4" hard drives (the read-write heads were turned into "claws" you can see on my left hand).

Random acts of violence card
Therion says, 'Howdy!'

Sometimes the "costume" is 90% attitude (or scriptwriting). I could walk down the street dressed like "Therion" here (um, well, sometimes I do--only not with the makeup and perma-hair thing they're so fond of in cinema) and nobody would think twice.

But try picking people up and throwing them around, and all of a sudden, even frenzied Christmas shoppers fighting over the last "Beanie Tomato Worm" will notice. Some of 'em, anyway.

If you're ever faced with coming up with a last-minute halloween costume and all you have is a hodgepodge of torn clothing, medieval-looking armor and weapons, and some nonfunctional high-tech equipment, dressing up as a post-apocalyptic warrior might be your best bet. After all, in the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, nobody is going to be worried if your socks match...let alone whether your antique claymore clashes with your vinyl utility belt.

...and, speaking of getting away with anything, just so you know, you can get away with almost anything as long as you make sure there's a movie camera nearby. That's not merely limited to wearing funny costumes and makeup without waiting for Halloween, you could probably get away with robbing a bank or whatever other normally illegal activities suit your fancy. Just tell people you're making a movie; not only will they not stop you, they'll probably ask if they can be in it.

is that a really big sword, or are you just happy to see me?
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I'm crushing your head'

And other times getting into costume takes a bit more work. In The Shadow Walkers it took between four and six hours to get into makeup. Unfortunately, I don't have an easy time sleeping when I'm sitting up, whether or not I have three makeup technicians working on me, otherwise I could have used that time to catch up on sleep before the twelve to fourteen hours of shooting that followed.

Of course, whether on stage, screen, or while going trick-or-treating, what you bring to the role often makes a lot of difference. (You don't have to take my word on this; you can check out the movie trailers and music video on my multimedia page while you're here.)

So, got some candy?

Being silly while they're checking my makeup
neck grip

No? No candy...?
... we'll just see about that....

(That's Mark Grove on the left, BTW. You've probably seen him in a gazillion or so movies, but he usually gets to be the guy who gets thrown off the bridge, gets shot and falls off a building, etc. Maybe not the juciest roles (except, perhaps, for the parts where he hits the pavement), but it takes more skill to take a punch or a fall well, or to be thrown than to do the throwing--at least if you're trying to do it safely and make it look good on film.)

Uh-oh; I think I'm starting to detect a pattern here....

But if I'm going to be grabbing people by the neck and throwing them around, I can at least try to keep it fresh somehow. Here I am as "Raven" who has nearly white hair and eyebrows and one blank white eye. Walking around between takes with a white eye does weird people out. It'd certainly recommend it as something to do on a slow day.

Raven
full-length suit of chainmail armor

This picture shows the top of a full-length chainmail robe I made several years ago. I used up just over three-quarters of a mile of wire making it. I made the cloak out of a black velvet that reflects deep blue highlights where the light hits it and a blue satin lining. The two clasps are made from hematite and the "what is that?" thing on the right side of my chest is a metal rose--it seemed like an appropriate accessory for a suit of armor.

It's got large flowing angel-style sleeves and is about as historically inaccurate as you can get in a lot of details, but it looks great for performing renaissance-style weddings and other ceremonies. The first wedding I ever did wearing this particular outfit was one where the couple ended up deciding against doing a renaissance-style or medieval wedding a few weeks before the big day, but they liked the outfit so much they wanted me to wear it anyway. I thought it might look a little odd, with nobody else in costume, but nobody complained and compared to some of the weddings I've had a hand in since, that doesn't get a very high rating on the weirdness meter at all.

The full-length chainmail is great fun with a Tesla coil, because it'll happily absorb any of the artificial lightning you care to play with and you won't feel a thing. Well, you'll feel the weight of the armor after a while; when I've worn this suit all day long and then take it off, there's a very profound and realistic feeling like I'm floating off into space for a while. Occasionally, doing a few sets of shrugs with five hundred pounds will produce the same kind of feeling, but the feeling definitely lasts longer after taking off the suit.

One time someone considerably smaller than I tried on this particular costume and just didn't achieve the same effect--when you have the sleeves dangling below your hands and a lot of the bottom of the robe pooling around your feet, it creates more the image of being a large metallic penguin. Maybe that'll be Godzilla's nemesis in the sequel...could have some potential there....

full-length suit of chainmail armor

The costume I wore as "The Oracle" in the movie, Gathering of Heroes had a somewhat similar design, but was quite a bit lighter. Having spent quite a bit of time wandering up and down mountainsides in both the metal and cloth wizard-style outfits, I can tell you from personal experience that the cloth version is quite a bit easier.

On the other hand, the metal version is better ventilated--when you get overheated, at least the air will flow through the links and provide a fair bit of cooling.

The Oracle
Vikings, the North Atlantic Saga

This smaller metallic piece would have created less of the "armored penguin of doom" effect, though now that I think about it, that might have made a cool logo for a Linux-based Firewall product.

It's also much more historically accurate, at least for a ninth- or tenth-century Viking, which is worth taking into account if you're going to be the model for a Museum exhibit (in this case, the Smithsonian's "Vikings, the North Atlantic Saga" travelling exhibition--yeah, that was me on all the posters and ads).


British Soldier costume

Leaping forward eight or nine centuries to 1750, I played a British Lieutenant in the King's Guard in The Highwayman which was notable for, among other things, having some of the most extensively researched and historically accurate costumes of any film. For that movie the costumes were sewn by a team of costumers working from the original patterns from the time (just scaled up to my size) and, wherever possible, using the materials and dyes that would have been used by the British military in England at that time.
For most purposes, modern clothing designs and materials are both more comfortable than the military uniforms from back then, but the way they built jackets and breeches in the 18th century are actually quite a bit better suited for both swordfighting and horseback riding than modern-day business suits are. So, depending on what kind of meetings you have coming up, that's a tidbit of information that could be useful someday.

Oh, look there's that piece of chainmail again--same one I wore in the Smithsonian Viking show, but thanks to a few different accessories, it's a sword-and-sorcery fantasy getup. You can get a lot of milage out of one simple piece of chainmail. Not necessarily as quite as much as there is wire rolled up in there, but a lot nonetheless.

medieval helmet and armor

Mark Grove also does a lot of the custom weapons we've used. For the Viking show, he'd constructed aluminum replica of the Viking swords which we used in the combat sequences. He often builds multiple copies of any of the weapons that will be used in a film: not just so that there will be spares in case one gets damaged or lost, but also because there may need to be several modified versions (e.g., one specially designed to be used for a wire-guided effect, one that has been pre-broken for a particular scene, etc.)

This is one of the custom weapons designed for Prime Evil. It's a staff with a head like a large flanged mace with a small sword-breaker on the other end.

staff from Prime Evil
sunglasses and a trenchcoat

And then there's always the "instant mysterious costume" power of the trenchcoat and sunglasses.

...or a beard.

I don't really like having a beard, but I can grow one fast. Just give me a week or two notice--and don't schedule something that needs me to be clean-shaven in the middle.

here I am, being a mercenary again
touching up the makeup

For the camera, you usually end up getting made up even if the only intent is to make you look like you would without makeup. I'm fortunate in not being too shiny and not having any notable facial blemishes or roughness, but the makeup department always wants to do something, even if it's just to make sure that I look consistent from shot-to-shot through a few ten-plus hour shooting days.

...though some parts of the makeup process can be less enjoyable than others....

coated with the alginate


Sometimes the completed creation has to fit you precisely, and for that, you need some way of creating an exact full-scale model of whichever body parts are to be so covered.

covered in duct tape

...One helpful hint: if you're about to be covered in duct tape, take a deep breath first.



santa claus

Have you been naughty this past year? The Good Santa isn't very creative; he only puts lumps of coal into the stockings of the naughty ones. If you've been naughty, wouldn't you rather come sit on Evil Santa's lap and tell him what you've been wishing for? ...and then we'll see what ends up in your stockings; it'll probably be something more interesting than coal.

For a long time, I used to do the Evil Santa bit every year at the Christmas party, but I don't do that so much any more. The original idea that spawned "Evil Santa" was to collect the most embarrassing gifts that could be purchased for under a dollar (eventually, this limit had to be raised because not even evil is immune to the ravages of inflation) and distribute them at the party where as many people as possible could be gathered together to witness the event...even if it meant that it would be their turn soon enough.

I haven't done it so much lately because the group of people who come to the parties these days aren't so tightly-knit, and most of the humor in the various gifts was based on a lot of inside jokes rather than being just generic embarrassing gifts. There's still a box in the garage labeled "Concentrated Evil" that's full of leftover gifts which never made their way to their intended recipients.

And if Santa has an anti-Santa, no doubt there's an anti-Cupid too--but I'm not telling whether this one's the Evil Cupid or the Good Cupid.

It's easy to tell them apart: the regular Cupid doesn't have arrows with armor-piercing tips.

Dark Cupid
Ted, the norse god of bicycle repair and maintenance
I even won an award for this costume of Ted, Thor's lesser-known younger brother, the Norse god of bicycle repair and maintenance.

It all started when Terrylee (who was a regular on soc.singles a bunch of years ago) came into town and dropped by for a visit; we ended up wandering off to MileHighCon and she just happened to have a very well-done medieval costume. Naturally, the moment we made it into the lobby of the hotel where the con was being held, most of the members of the staff were trying to cajole Terrylee into participating in the contest. Suffering from an attack of shyness, she finally agreed that she would--on condition that I (who was not wearing a costume at the time) would as well.

Being much more the obnoxious and foolhardy type myself, I agreed, but that left the little matter of coming up with something to wear. By a fortuitous coincidence, at a garage sale not so many weeks before--through luck and an expediture of seven dollars and fifty cents--it had happened that the so-mythical-as-to-be-utterly-forgotten Spanner of the Gods had fallen into my hands. While rushing home to fetch this legendary tool--aided and abetted by the redoubtable Terrylee--the long-lost Norse myth, "Spam and the Spanner," which told the story of how Spam came to be the sacred food of the Vikings was...um...recovered.

So that's how Ted, the Norse God of Bicycle Repair and Maintenance regained at least a little of his former glory and reknown. We won the award for best presentation and I had a fine time afterwards behaving in a terribly evil and irresponsible manner by occasionally just handing the wrench to some of the people who were asking whether it was real and/or how much it weighed (fifty-five pounds, in case you were wondering). People will give you great reactions sometimes when you casually hand them something that weighs a lot more than they expect.

I didn't mean to look quite so grouchy in these pictures, but I never know how these pictures will turn out until after they've turned. Maybe it's because I couldn't get the little "wings" I'd made for the sneakers out of some metal toe-clips to stay on right; either that or maybe Ted really would be feeling grouchy because, except for a couple of Schwinn mountain bikes, these days nobody makes bicycles that are designed to be adjusted with tenth-century Norwegian tools.

Ted, the norse god of bicycle repair and maintenance

...and while we're on a Viking theme, how could we forget "Cooking with the Norwegian Chef"? Personally, I don't see why it didn't get the ratings that Julia Child did.

cooking with the norwegian chef

If only they'd included Minnesota in the test market area....

reverend trygve in the makeup chair

Or, if your tastes are more refined, there's always the televangelist look....

Which was a whole lot of fun to do, because the role involved being very polished and even "holier-than-thou" on the surface, while being totally calculating and amoral underneath.

televangelist costume
voice of the demon

...and with a little less polish, you can be a fire-and-brimstone breathing preacher.

Playing a priest has the added bonus that it gives you amazing powers. Just for fun, I've done some wandering around in shopping malls in between shoots while I was still in costume...and people react like you can fire invisible posture-straightening beams from your eyes. Just letting your gaze sweep across the mall will cause people everywhere to start speaking more quietly and stand straighter.

Maybe if I wandered into the food court in costume, it would cause shoppers everywhere to eat their vegetables This could be fun....


But stay tuned...who knows what nefarious costume idea might even now be spread all over my dressing room floor in lots of little pieces...?

Don't think of it as "mess"--think of it as "the creative force at work...."

arriflex 16mm lens turret

Okay, maybe it's "the disorganized force at work"; or maybe it's a special "floor costume"....




more images
The base of the tree