CHAPMAN INTERVIEW on FRIDAY, OCTOBER, 25 , 3 p.m. NEW YORK TIME, 9
a.m. HONOLULU TIME:
Ben, here are a few questions from some of the
members of the Universal
Creatures Group. So let's run through them one by one.
me with your best shot, Sammy ....
1. I know that the "Creature" suit was made from latex rubber, so my
question to you is "Did you ever suffer a heat stroke on set from
wearing this form fitting outfit? For I know it did not let your
body breathe. (wwangelzr2000-)
No, because I always had a guy off to the side with a hose. Because on the set there was no water. You have to remember my body is completely sealed off, so I couldn't breathe. When I felt my temperature going up, I had him hose my body down. If we were in the backlot with the boat, then I would just swim around in the water. Swim like a torpedo with those hands and feet. But we were able to make the best of it.
2. Secondly, how did it feel to carry the gorgeous Julia Adams in your
3. Since Ben was tabbed to wear the Creature mask/suit, did Ben have any
say about the actual "look" of the Creature? Obviously, I'm sure Ben probably had some say about the actual building of the mask/suit (i.e., the materials used to make it, etc.) since he was wearing it for countless hours a day. I was wondering if any of those comments Ben might have made for comfort's sake possibly changed the look of the Creature. Or maybe he might have made a suggestion about the look of the mask just from an actor's perspective... maybe he thought the Creature should look meaner or more amphibian-like. And if he did make suggestions, did the filmmakers act on them? (trustedswordsman)
That was all Bud Westmore and Jack Keevan along with Milicent Patrick. She did the artwork. She actually drew him first on the artboard and then they went from there with the mold. I wasn't involved in that process at all. So, I had no say, but it was still good fun.
4. When he was first approached for the role (or when he first auditioned), I was wondering what was Ben's initial reaction to this role, and to the film in general. Did he think it was just some goofy sci-fi flick (i.e., was it just a job), or was he really taken with the story of the gill-man? And did he envision the popularity of the Creature series lasting this long? (trustedswordsman)
I just thought hey, it was a job. That's what it is. I never in a million years knew how popular he'd (the Gillman) become. Even Julie and I recently talked about it. We just shake our heads.
SAM'S NOTE: Ben was actually offered the part when he was a Universal day player, in part because of his experience in the Marines, and his swimming ability growing up in Tahiti, and also in part to his tall, muscular 6-foot-5 physique, that with the headpiece/mask made him look 6-foot-7, perhaps even 6-foot-8.
5. This is an offshoot to the above question: At the time he was doing
the Creature, was Ben a fan of the sci-fi boom of the 1950s -- outer
aliens, atomic-bomb enhanced creatures, teenage-related horror flicks,
-- or did he think it was just sort of fad? (trustedswordsman)
Oh yeah, yeah. I was a big fan of all those pictures. Ironically, I used to see those pictures all over the studio at the time (when I was a day player). Karloff, Lugosi, and then I thought to myself (after I was offered the role of the Gillman), oh my goodness, I get to follow these guys. Now it's my turn. But, things worked out. The idea that we wanted is that he was the good guy. They came in there and did that to him. That was his home. And they invaded his territory, which made him probably the most sympathetic monster in almost everyone's eyes.
6. Was Julia Adams as gorgeous in person as she appeared in the
yeah. Oh yeah, and a very nice person, and still is. I can't wait to
go on tour with her this year.
7. I have heard that Richard Carlson could be quite
overbearing. Did you have that impression of him?(JohnnyWaco)
Richard Carlson was a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota. he was a very intelligent person, and sometimes he would kind of put himself above people, like he was smarter than anybody in the room. And he gives you that impression: 'don't f*** with me, because I'm smarter than you.' So, yeah, he could be overbearing about his intelligence. But, he was still a nice guy, maybe just a character flaw (when it came to his intelligence).
8. What was your reaction when you saw the finished Gill Man outfit? Did you know what it would look like when you first signed on for the part? (JohnnyWaco)
Oh, no I didn't know what it would look like. When we were building the costume, putting it all together, each section being molded to a separate part of the body, you know I had to watch my weight. They took a plaster impression of my body and then they molded stuff to the body cast, and transferred it to a body stocking, so if I gained or lost weight it wouldn't look right. It was quite a grand costume after it was built. We liked it right away. The very first time I put it on, and they told me to go down where people could see me. Because their was this big secrecy (in regards to) what the Gillman would look like. They took me downstairs, and I kept hearing Ooh, and AAh. So, that was quite an event standing there in the room. The oohs and the aahs.
9. Did you see "Creature" with a paying audience when it first opened? What was your reaction? The audience's? (JohnnyWaco)
I went with a friend of mine, a guy named Johnny Pappero - he went under the screen name of Ray Gentry. It was in 3-D, so that made it all the better. These were the days of 3-D. It was the first time that I'd seen it in it's finished form. I liked it a lot. It was good fun. That's how I looked at it. I just hoped everybody enjoyed it. They seemed to.
10. Did you get to see "Creature" at a studio screening before it
opened nationally? What was the reaction of the cast members and
crew, if you happen to know?(JohnnyWaco)
I didn't. The studio was very secretive with it, when they were
editing the final product.
11. Did you, cast and crew treat the Gill Man more as fun or a
joke while filming? Or was everyone fairly serious and
straight-faced about the movie?(JohnnyWaco)
As I've said before, Jack Arnold (the director) didn't want me to make him (the Gillman) a cartoon. So in regards to the character in the movie, we took him very seriously. However, we had fun (on the set). I used to swim up in the middle of the lake - the man-made one where we had the boat. So finally, people were bringing visitors up to see what the creature looked like. I used to stay with just my eyes peeking out of the water, like an alligator. When I swam in, you would see what it looked like from the eyes up, but when I got to shallow water, I would come out screaming. They told me not to do it anymore, because I was giving some people a heart attack. Old people were scared off. Rock Hudson brought some old people over, and I'd swim in closer and closer and all they could see is this little tiny thing sticking up out of the water, they had no idea what they were going to see. And then when I got in two feet of water, I'd jump out screaming.
12. Did you ever have doubts about the movie? Did it seem
silly? Were you a fan of horror or science fiction
NO, we never knew what would happen with this movie. It was one of the first 3-D movies, so we were like, we're going to do a 3-D movie, it's a big deal. House of Wax came out just before that, and that was a great one with Vincent Price. So, we thought it sounded good.
13. Was there extra difficulty filming in 3-D?(JohnnyWaco)
No. Don't ask me how they had to do it, because I don't know. But
it didn't bother us. It was just like a regular shoot.
14. Was the filming of "Creature" mostly a positive
yeah, it was great. Good fun. Here I am 50 years later talking about
it. With Julie Adams going to take her on tour with me next year.
15. Did Jack Arnold personally supervise your performance or was this
done by his assistants? (JohnnyWaco)
Jackie baby. It was Jack. Jack and I would get along real good. We used to go 'Hey Baby,' to each other. That was our expression. He was real nice guy, but he was a no-nonsense guy. When he said go, you didn't f*** with him. He was a very successful director. Just leave him alone. You don't tell Hitchcock what to do either.
16. Did the Gill Man outfit have any particular color scheme since it
was being filmed in black-and-white? (JohnnyWaco)
The color of my costume was kind of a mossy green. That woudl be the basic. He was green and highlighted with gold, copper paint in certain areas to give it that fishy look, shiny. So they put a little copper, little strokes here and there, give it a little glint. So he kind of shines like a fish.
17. What color were the Gill Man's lips? I have heard that they were not -- and don't believe that they were -- as red as they often appear in color photographs. (JohnnyWaco)
You know those pictures that you see, with those red lips and fingers? That's him cruising on a Saturday night. He's got those Monica Lewinsky lips. (laughing) No, no they're not that red. They were red, but toned down. That was too bright. They were more like regular lips, kind of like a little darker red. But nowhere near as bright as they were in those photos.
18. Do you know if the makers of this movie ever planned on giving the
Gill Man a tail? (JohnnyWaco)
They never planned on giving the gill-man a tail. Not to my
19. As fans (especially when younger) we tend to think of all of our favorite movie monsters as a group. We also tend to think that all of the actors probably know each other,...hang out with each other. I know that Mr. Chapman has met Glenn Strange,...but what about Karloff, Lugosi, Price,...maybe even Chaney? Was there ever a promotional party or gathering where other "monsters" attended? (belaattherampdotnet)
Oh, yeah, I met them all around the studio. That's where they did all the great monster movies. I was proud to be a part of it. Karloff I talked to in the lobby one day - and I talked with him for awhile. I told him I was a big fan of his work. He was a real gentleman, real nice. Chaney I just met to say, 'Hi how are you?' The same thing with Lugosi. Didn't know them real well, but I met them. Little did we know back then what we know today how popular these monsters would become. People tell me your the last Universal monster, and I say yeah I'm the baby. There were no promotional parties, but I saw them all at the studio at one time or another.
20. Where was the Creature Black Lagoon filmed? I mean the jungle
Well, it was filmed in two different places: Wakulla Springs, Florida and the Universal Backlot. Here's how you tell the difference between them (Ricou Browning and the other swimming doubles) and us (the principle actors that did all of the print ads and publicity shots). You take the surface of the water, the dividing line between the water in the air, and below the water. Anything under the water was the four doubles, Wakulla Springs, Florida. Anything that breaks the surface of the water - for instance when the Creature would come out of the water, or with their heads sticking out - and out of water that was us. That was in the studio backlot, which was made up to look like the Wakulla Springs area, which resembled the Amazon.
SAM'S NOTE: Just a few things to tie up this answer: one, Wakulla State Park in Wakulla Springs, Florida, still remains untouched by man and looks much as it did back in 1953 when they filmed the movie; like the Amazon. Also, while Ricou Browning contributed greatly to the legend with his graceful swimming under the water, he DID NOT appear in any publicity stills or print ads or anything of that nature for the original CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. As an Olympic swimmer, Ricou was used as Ben's swimming double underneath the water. Just as Richard Carlson, Richard Denning and Julie Adams all had doubles. They do not appear on the poster or in publicity shots, either. And something that is always asked of me: if it was not filmed simultaneously, yes Ben could have handled the swimming chores. Was he an Olympic swimmer? No. But he did grow up in Tahiti, swimming everyday, and he did serve in the Marines, and he had dived before. However, I think when all is said and done, it worked out pretty good the way they shot it.
Alright Benny, I'll let you go enjoy the rest of your day in paradise.
Being as you live in Hawaii right near Waikiki and all.
Sam, I will.
I don't know if I can wait until early next year to see you. The
Chiller is just not the same without you. However, I do look forward to
our next get-together, and the Spring Chiller, when you'll return with
worry we'll all be together soon. Before we know it, we'll be
toasting this interview in the Spring.