From Back in Black
How did you get cast for the role?
Ben: Well, I'd like to tell you that I beat out about 5,000 other guys, but
no, I used to come on the Universal lot all the time and the casting
director for stunt men said, “You'd be perfect for this movie they're
making because you're half fish.” So the next day, I met with these
gentlemen and they looked me over, had me turn around, looked at me
from different angles and when they were done they said, “Come back
tomorrow because we're going to resign you.”
Julie: I was under contract at Universal.
What happened was, they said,
"I have nothing against remakes,
but I always stress to people: If a movie makes it into a classic form,
it became a classic for a reason. If it does reach that stature, you
take it and you put it on a shelf and you leave it alone."
“Here's your next
movie.” I was making five movies a year and she handed me the
script. I thought, “Why are they putting me in this movie? There's
this creature and ... I don't know ... I don't think this'll be good
for my career.” Little
did I know we'd be sitting here talking about it all these years later.
Julie, Did you do all the underwater
Julie: I would love to fib about this,
but under the water, that was Ginger Stanley who did all those
beautiful underwater sequences.
What do you think of the job Millicent
Patrick did being
the first female to ever design a monster?
Ben: I thought it was great what she
did, of course. A lot of people don't realize she did all the artwork
and sketches. The first Gill Man looked like Oscar, the Academy Award,
but she made him more scaley...changed it completely.
How did they make the gills move?
Ben: On the back of the costume, behind
the gills, they had rubber bladders with hoses that ran down the back
of the costume and off camera. And when I would open my mouth (gasp) a
man off camera would fill the bladders with air and make the gills
move. Compared to today's movies, I think we did a better job because
it was real. Today it's all high-tech. In our day, we made real movies
with real people.
Was it a struggle with buoyancy staying
Ben: Well no ... I think Ricou
(Browning) wore a weight belt. I didn't do that much in the water. A
lot of people ask, “Did he breathe through a reed or something under
the water?” No. Ricou and I were known back then as “freedivers.” In
case you don't know, a freediver is someone who can hold his breath for
a long time. So what Ricou did was, he would dive to a depth that you
needed, then they lowered a hose down with air and he would hook on to
it. And when he was finished with a scene, he would come up.
Julie, how physically demanding was your
Julie: Not very. (audience laughter)
Ben: She's got great lungs on her,
though. (audience groan)
Julie: I think the hardest part is the
scene at the grotto. It was on a sound stage in this big tank and they
forgot to heat it and it was November! So I think that was the toughest
day. You would finish a scene and they would give you towels to warm up
and you would just get warmed up and you'd have to go back in again.
So, besides that, it wasn't too bad.
What was the chemistry like on the set
between all the actors?
Julie: “I would come to work every day
and see Ben in his costume and I would pat him on the head and say,
“Hello, beastie ... how are you doing today?”
Ben: You'd get up in the morning and
you couldn't wait to get to work. But there were some films where you
couldn't wait til it was over.
How did you eat lunch wearing that
Ben: The head came off. There was a
zipper in the back. So they would just take the head off. And I wore
long gloves that came off, but I couldn't sit down so they had to lean
me against a platform and I had to eat standing up.
Universal's plans to remake Creature from
the Black Lagoon
Ben: I don't know if you know the story
of Gary Ross but it was his father Arthur Ross who wrote the original
story of Creature from the Black Lagoon. It's his son who's going to do
the remake. As far as my comment on the remake, I have nothing against
remakes, but I always stress to people if a movie makes it into a
classic form it became a classic for a reason. If it does reach that
stature, you take it and you put it on a shelf and you leave it alone.
Julie: When a movie becomes a classic,
there are a lot of things that happen almost by accident. All the right
people come together and everything happens just right. I mean, if they
knew how to do that every time, then every picture would be perfect.
Take the Wizard of Oz, for instance. They had all these directors and
they wanted Shirley Temple at first but it all came together and it's
the perfect film. It's magical. So good luck to them if they can do it
Ben: The Gill Man was not an
evil-looking person. He was a very unusual person who lived in the
water. That's the other thing I think that makes a film successful. Of
course, he does kill people, but you don't see it. Another thing, when
we made films back in the 40s and 50s, they left it to your
imagination. Today they're so explicit. I remember when you had
nothing to do, you'd go to the movies and you'd come out and feel
great. Today you go to the movies and you come out and you feel worse. In other words, in our day, movies
were for escapism. So you go in, you might have a problem, you'd come
out and feel a little better. Today you go to a movie then you go over
to the next building and you jump off.
Julie: I call it assaulting the senses.
That's why I don't go to those movies.
Tell us some of your favorite parts of the
Ben: Well, mine was carrying her around!
Julie: And I had a guy carry me around! I
like the part when they say, “He could've killed you!” and I say “Yes,
but he didn't.” In other words, he wasn't just destructive. There was
something else with this creature going on there. I like those moments
in the film very much.
If they were to redo Creature would you
consider appearing in a cameo?
Julie: Well, nobody's asked us yet.
Ben: The other thing is, we would like
to know what he's going to look like. If they would bring him back as
he was, then yes. But if he's going to be ... you know ... multiple
arms and slithering around, then no. But Julie and I want to thank you,
the fans, for keeping the Gill Man alive, because if it wasn't for you
people, he would've been dead and buried a long time ago. And that's
the truth. We mean that sincerely. So we wouldn't want to...I don't
know...betray or prostitute something and then you people at the next
convention will be like, “That Ben and Julie, (grumble, grumble)”
(laughter) That's the truth. Because what you people think of us, means
a lot to us.