The Island of Dr Moreau (1996)

Cast
Marlon Brando (Dr. Moreau), Val Kilmer (Montgomery),
David Thewlis (Edward Douglas), Fairuza Balk (Aissa),
Ron Perlman (Sayer of the Law), Marco Hofschneider (M'Ling),
Temuera Morrison (Azazello), William Hootkins (Kiril),
Daniel Rigney (Hyena-Swine), Nelson de la Rosa (Majai),
Peter Elliott (II) (Assassimon), Mark Dacascos (Lo-Mai),
Miguel López (Waggdi).

Directed by John Frankenheimer.

Writing credits:
H.G. Wells (novel)
Richard Stanley & Ron Hutchinson (screenplay)

Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Production Companies: New Line Cinema [us]

Special Effects: Digital Domain [us] Stan Winston Studio [us]

Plot summary
On a remote island in the South Pacific, Dr Moreau (Marlon Brando) has used the key of science to unlock the gates of hell…
Dr Moreau is a brilliant geneticist on the brink of superseding evolution. When UN diplomat Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) visits Moreau's island laboratory, he uncovers fantastic but brutal experiments turning animal life forms into human-like beasts. As Moreau and his assistant, Montgomery (Val Kilmer) race towards their barbaric goal of creating the perfect life form - the beasts revolt - threatening not only the island, but ultimately all mankind!

* * *

Ron Perlman as The Sayer of the Law.

But "The Island of Dr Moreau" was a troubled production from the outset. Film director, Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) had spent four years writing and developing a screenplay for the third adaptation of the H.G.Wells novel.

The original version was made in 1933 under the title "Island of Lost Souls," starring another of Ron's inspirations, Charles Laughton. Ron's role of The Sayer of the Law was played by Bela Lugosi.

The second version was filmed in 1977 under the title, "The Island of Dr Moreau," starring Burt Lancaster as Dr Moreau, and Richard Baseheart as The Sayer of the Law.

Writer/Director Richard Stanley was delighted when he received the backing of New Line Cinema, who gave him a budget of $35 million for his futuristic version of the Wells classic. When Stanley discovered that Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer were interested in playing two of the lead roles in the film, he was over the moon!

But the first sign of trouble appeared when Kilmer suddenly decided - for reasons of his own - that he wanted his role cut by 40%. Stanley knew that it was impossible to cut the role of UN diplomat, Edward Prendick (later changed to Edward Douglas) by such a drastic amount, but he wanted to keep Kilmer onboard, so he hit on the idea of switching him to the role of Montgomery, Moreau's assistant on the island. Kilmer agreed to this proposal, so the part of Prendick was given to Rob Morrow (Quizz Show).

The chosen location for "The Island of Dr Moreau" was Australia, in the steamy, tropical rainforests of North Queensland, but just three days into filming, New Line fired Stanley, and brought in veteran film director, John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz). The reasons for Stanley's dismissal are not very clear, but it's been said that he wasn't a strong enough director (to cope with the notoriously difficult Kilmer) and that he didn't have his process very well thought out.

Frankenheimer, like virtually every member of the cast and crew, came on board because he wanted the opportunity to work with Marlon Brando.

Director, John Frankenheimer at the settlement of the Beast people.

Hot on the heels of Stanley's departure, Rob Morrow also decided to jump ship, so Frankenheimer needed to find a new lead actor. He brought in David Thewlis (Naked) to play UN diplomat, Edward Douglas.

Frankenheimer's vision of the H.G. Wells story was very different from Stanley's, and he and Brando decided to rewrite the script with the help of scriptwriters, Walon Green and Ron Hutchinson. So the whole production was shut down for one and a half weeks while these changes were implemented.

According to an article by Benjamin Bond entitled "Putting 'The Island of Dr Moreau' on the Map," (from the official magazine for the movie, produced by Starlog Press), several roles were expanded as a result of the rewrite, including Ron Perlman's. Bond says: "Genre favourite Perlman found that his role of The Sayer of the Law had expanded after the change of directors as well.

"I basically went over there to do one scene in the movie," Perlman recalls, "and when Frankenheimer came on board, I ended up being in nine scenes, including having the last line of the film. I don't know if it's still that way, since things tend to change in the post-production process. But my character kept growing every day.

"There were a few characters like that that Frankenheimer sort of locked onto, because they represented, in my mind, a more accessible way of telling the story that he wanted to tell," Perlman continues. "Mine was one because I represent the order that was in Moreau's world. The Hyena-Swine - and Daniel Rigney is brilliant, he's going to steal the film - represents the chaotic portion of the experiment. So those two characters were very, very much developed, which they hadn't been in the earlier drafts. When Frankenheimer got hired, obviously, he needed to make a film that he felt a passion for, and he found that as he went along."

The enormous task of creating the makeup for the Beast people was placed in the very capable hands of the Stan Winston Studio. Once again from the official Island of Dr Moreau special publication, here are three extracts from another article by Benjamin Bond, entitled "Behind the Beast People."

"We had to create an entire population of Beast People in a limited time frame," Winston recalls. "I believe we had approximately 20 weeks total for the design, development and creation of Moreau's islanders. Sculpting, casting, animatronics, complete body suits and hair suits - a lot of intensive work went into creating a vast number of these people."

Stan Winston surrounded by the sculpted heads of the Beast people.

In the case of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the job of preparing the makeups, shipping them to Australia and then going Down Under to supervise the Winston team went to 14-year Winston shop veteran, Shane Mahan.

Prior to the start of production, Mahan and others from the Winston studio went to Sydney to do life-casting of the Aussie actors cast as Beast People. When they returned, they spent the next four and a half months designing, sculpting and creating the makeups, all of which were then shipped to Australia.

"For Ron Perlman's Sayer of the Law, a maquette ~ a small statuette ~ was sculpted by Bill Basso, partly from sketches by McCreery," Mahan explains. "Early on, the Sayer was always going to wear this fetish mask of MarIon Brando, so all you would see is a goat mouth behind this wooden mask, and some horns above it."

In this Stan Winston sketch the Sayer of the Law hides behind his ceremonial mask.

"But as we went further and further into the project and he showed up a lot, it seemed kind of silly that he always had this mask on. And to take no advantage of Ron Perlman's face and acting by covering him in a wooden mask seemed a waste. So Stan convinced the producers to use the mask, but just as a prop."

Mahan was pleased with Perlman's presence in the movie. "I happen to think he's a damned handsome man. But he has a unique face, so that's why he gets a lot of jobs requiring prosthetics, because he really knows how to act in them, ever since "Quest for Fire."

An early Sayer of the Law incarnation emphasized more ramlike features for the character.

"The design of the Sayer was beautiful," Mahan continues. "He's part goat, with horns and this very goat-like face. We found some old illustrations from occult etchings and woodcuts that had these Pan faces and satyrs and things like that. Also, there's a goat-man who's described in the Wells novel; he's not the Sayer of the Law, but he was described in a certain way that kind of came through. So we used bits of that as well. This was a straight prosthetic makeup, with no animatronics.

The Sayer of the Law closer to design completion.

* * *

The finished effect was a complete and heavy disguise for Ron. So much so that he told fans at the "Beauty and the Beast" Convention in Orlando, Florida in 1999, that even his own mother didn't recognise him in this film.

SCREEN CAPTURES

INTERVIEW WITH RON

TRESSA'S REVIEW

TRAILERS

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