The Creature From the Black Lagoon Creature From the Black Lagoon! Ben Chapman


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From the Honolulu Advertiser.......

The 'Creature' Lives!
By Wayne Harada, Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Ben Chapman, a Honolulu real estate executive, has a conversation-stopping answer to the trivia question, "Who played "The Creature from the Black Lagoon?"

Creature with arms raisedHis answer? "Me!"

The Universal feature, the quintessential '50s monster movie in black-and-white and 3-D, will mark its 45th anniversary this October. A paperback, "Creature From the Black Lagoon," which includes the original shooting script as well as an interview with Chapman, recently was published to herald the milestone.

"I never knew, when I did the movie at age 25, that it would be such a monster film," Chapman said, pun intended.

"But I've met Harrison Ford, who also never knew when he did the first 'Star Wars', that he would become a star and that the movie would become one of the biggest-ever grossing pictures."

In the movie business, then as now, you just never know, said Chapman.

A Tahiti native, who claims he was the original police detective on the "Hawaiian Eye" pilot, Chapman is a retired senior executive president with International Investors Reality.

He's a big guy- 6'5"- which is one of the reasons he landed the role of the Gillman- the Creature's real name in the film, he said.

The other part was sheer luck- right place, right time.

As he recalled: "In those days, we were contract players with the studio. I went to work one day and was talking to Jonny Rennick, who was casting director of wranglers, cowboys and Indians. I did stunts, too, and she told me, 'Benny, did they ever call you about the picture- about some creature from some lagoon?'"

They hadn't, so he checked out the prospects with director Jack Arnold.

"He asked me if I could swim, and I said, 'Like a fish,' because I was from Tahiti, so he sent me to his office. I got the part," said Chapman.


Chapman was one of two actors portraying the Gillman. Ricou Browning, a Florida swimmer, played the underwater Gillman in footage shots in the Wakulla Springs area of Florida; and Chapman played the Gillman on land, in shooting on the Universal lot.

Chapman likens the story to the "Beauty and the Beast" legend, in which a soul with a ghastly exterior falls in love with the girl of his dreams.

The tale involved a scientific expedition up the Amazon, where a crew is trying to locate the fossils of a newly discovered amphibian. The party is attacked by a man with creature gills, supposedly 3,000 years old.

"The creature suit was a one-piece outfit that zipped down the back with dorsal fins, hands that were gloves, feet that were like boots," Chapman said of his costume. "They had to lay me on a table, take a complete Plaster of Paris mold of my body, then design this costume. I couldn't lose or gain weight, or I wouldn't fit right. The whole experience was like climbing into a large body stocking with creases where you needed 'em."

The mask was a helmet "with those big wonderful lips," said Chapman.

The Gillman had no dialogue, so Chapman had to use body language to communicate.

Though there were two sequels after the original "Creature" film, neither was successful. Chapman appeared only in the first one.

"Clint Eastwood had a very small role in the first sequel," said Chapman, offering a bit of movie trivia.

"Like I said, you never know how things will turn out in the movies."


© 2018 by the Ben Chapman Family

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