This is an interview conducted with Mark Shostrom over one phonecall; on July 7, 2011. You can listen to the raw audio recording of the interview below, or read the edited & formatted transcription further down.
As well as heading the make-up effects department on Evil Dead II, Mark has worked on a long list of TV and film productions, including A Nightmare On Elm Street Parts 1, 2, & 3, From Beyond, and Videodrome. Mark is still going strong in the Hollywood effects industry, recently forming a new effects company called Hello Boss Effects, as well as writing a blog which you can read Here.
Mark Shostrom surrounded by his creations, including A Nightmare On Elm Street, From Beyond, and Evil Dead II.
In the years prior to Evil Dead II, were you running your own company or just freelance?
Let's see, right before Evil Dead II, I'd been in the business professionally for about six years. I was freelancing but had my own studio. I'd rented a couple of very small art studio rooms, I think I had 400 square feet during The Supernaturals, and in the middle of A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2 I found a bigger space of about a 2,000 square feet, so by the time Evil Dead II came along I was pretty well established.
Mark appearing in a new Evil Dead II documentary (2011)
So Renaissance Pictures LTD hired you as a company, and then you took on your own crew?
Yes, my company was a sole proprietorship called Mark Shostrom Studio, and when I pursued Evil Dead II and Sam Raimi decided to hire me, I was the person in charge of hiring my whole crew. I think the core crew was about seven people, but we numbered up to about ten or twelve people during our busiest period.
How many of your crew had you worked with before, and did you have to take on any new people for effects or processes that you'd not attempted before?
Most of the people I had worked with before; Shannon Shea, Bryan Tausek. Actually Robert Kurtzman & Greg Nicotero had worked with me on From Beyond just prior to Evil Dead II. I also brought in a few specialised people; Steve Patino and Don Pennington to do fibreglass work, Larry Odien to do all the radio controlled mechanisms for the evil hand, and Richard Schnell who did all the contact lenses for me. Richard sadly passed away recently.
One person I didn't know was Mike Trcic. I needed an extra sculptor & painter, and Mike was based in Pennsylvania. He had sent me some photos of his work on Day Of The Dead with Tom Savini; he did a brilliant sculpture replicating two human fingers. It was the most realistic sculpture I'd ever seen, and I actually hired Mike on the basis of those little finger sculptures. Oddly enough, Mike went on to be one of the lead sculptors for the Tyrannosaurus Rex on Jurassic Park.
Had you seen The Evil Dead, before you took on Evil Dead II?
Oh, yes! The whole reason I ended up getting Evil Dead II was because I saw The Evil Dead. I saw it with Philip Duffin who was my room-mate at the time and later became production designer on the film, ironically. The Evil Dead was on a double bill one evening with Brainstorm, Douglas Trumbull's great film. Brainstorm was the first show. We were thinking of leaving after it, but I suggested we stay as The Evil Dead looked kind of interesting. Much as I loved Brainstorm, I was blown away by the frenetic pace of The Evil Dead. I was absolutely floored, I loved it! I thought to myself if they ever make a sequel, I want to be in on it.
I read in Cinefantasique not too long afterwards that a sequel was indeed being planned, and that became the first time that I actively pursued a film. Up to that point everybody had come calling on me. I didn't know who to contact, so I phoned up Irvin Shapiro, the distributor in New York City. He agreed to help, and duly forwarded a letter with some photographs on to Sam Raimi. It was probably six months later when I got a phone call out of the blue from Sam. He was actually flying to Rome for talks with Dino De Laurentis about money for the film when he opened my package of photographs and decided he wanted to hire me on the spot. He told me later that he'd originally hired some guy in New York to do the effects, somebody I guess with not a great deal of experience, and went with me instead because my work seemed a lot more "professional". So anyway I pursued it, and I'm sure glad I did! I didn't know at the time what a cult film it would turn out to be, I mean here it is all these years later and I'm giving interviews right and left, there's a new documentary. It's the film that keeps on giving, I guess you could say.
When you discovered that Evil Dead II was in the works, did you have any ideas in your head about where the story may go, or start thinking about what effects you might be able to do?
No, I really had no clue. I'm sure that when I spoke to Sam initially over that phone, he at least gave me a run down of the story, and when I read the script it was just wall to wall effects. I didn't need to have any sort of fantasies about what cool stuff I'd like to do because Sam had already laid it all out very clearly in the script, and there was certainly no shortage of effects work.
Sam Raimi with Linda's rotting torso in Evil Dead II (1987)
At what stage was the production when you were firmly on board?
When I first talked to Sam and then later met with him at his home in Silverlake, the script was definitely done, I remember reading that very early on. As I recall, most of the money was in place and Sam was in talks with De Laurentis just finalising things. It wasn't a very long from the point at which I met Sam, to actually getting started. I do remember one dinner with Rob, Sam Bruce and I, in a place in Los Feliz just talking about the stuff and how to do it, but it was all pretty much firmly in place, and most of the financing was there by the time I got on board, which was very early on.
A pre-production Variety announcement (1985)
Did you have a set effects budget, or did you have to give Sam an idea of how much things would cost, with a bit of leeway back and forth as to the final amount?
Well, I knew the entire budget of the film was around $4,000,000, and they asked me to come up with an effects budget. I figured in my salary, how long the prep would take, how much time on set, all of my crew; I knew most of their rates from having worked with them before, but being a second film I tried to up people's rates, the cost of living and what-not, the labour, materials, everything, although I did leave shipping up to the production because I didn't want to be responsible for shipping the immense amount of effects from LA to North Carolina and back again. I basically did the budget for Bruce and Robert, because they were the producers, but once I came up with a figure they approved it. There was no squabbling or saying it was too expensive that one sometimes hears from indie producers. The make-up effects were important to the film and they were willing to pay for them.
I do remember after we'd been in pre-production for several weeks, Sam and Rob called me as they had to re-shoot some effects from The Evil Dead because they couldn't get the rights to use the footage from Avco Embassy, to use as a lead in to Evil Dead II. We had to re-shoot some of Linda getting killed which we hadn't budgeted for. They asked how much more it would cost. I came up with a price outlay, and I remember Bruce sitting in the barber chair at my shop with a calculator coming up with figures out of the air, taking some money from the art department and some from the the costume department to allow us to do those extra effects. They were very good about giving me what I needed to keep that whole machine rolling.
Greg Nicotero remembers on The Evil Dead II Anchor Bay DVD commentary that there might have been another Scotty, do you know how far along they got with The Evil Dead flashback before it was abandoned?
Yeah, I've heard about that. I do recall all the effects, and it's been a long time, but I don't remember doing anything for the character of Scotty. We did the Linda stuff, the decapitation which ended up being in the trailer of all things, I don't remember what else we shot that was scrapped.
Sam discussing prototype make-ups with Howard Berger (1987)
Prototyping Ash's possession make-up in pre-production (1987)
With the huge range of effects work needed; physical effects, mechanical effects, sculpting, casting, foam latex, mattes, miniatures, stop motion, how were all the effects shared out to the various departments?
Pretty much every effect was listed very specifically in the script, even the camera types, lenses, the film speed, type of film stock in some shots. It was very clear as you read the script where there was some overlap with another department.
Take for example, the 'dance of the dead' when Linda's emaciated rotting corpse comes out of the ground, and dances around with its decapitated head. That would have been just so tough and expensive to pull off entirely as a physical full size practical effect, it was clear to me that much of it would have to be stop-motion. I'm not sure if it was mentioned specifically as stop-motion in the script but I have a feeling it probably was, because Sam was so well versed in the entire range of special & makeup effects, films & film history, and of course he knew Ray Harryhausen’s films. I do remember recommending Doug Beswick for that because I felt he would be able to pull it off better than anyone else.
Then later when Linda is at the door grabbing Bruce Campbell, that was a combination of prosthetic make-up and lenses on the actress to have a doll head and a rotted body, and there was also a full size puppet we made for the head to fall off.
As far as other department overlaps, we had stuff like the exploding Henrietta Pee-Wee head at the very end. I made a gelatine head with Bryan Tausek, which we then filled with tomato stew, bananas and cottage cheese. It was Vern Hyde, the mechanical, physical effects guy who put the primer cord within the head to do the actual explosion. Then that effect overlapped into how to shoot it, because the primer cord was so powerful it would have blown Bruce Campbell's leg off, and of course we couldn't have anybody else in the room either, so that meant no camera operator. We made a fake leg of Bruce that was locked off stepping on the head, the shotgun was locked to a C-stand pointing down, and then the camera department put a camera locked off right next to it, which was set off by remote control. That was all an effect that was rigged up to basically to go off remotely, everything was done from afar, from off the set in another room entirely.
The exploding Henrietta Pee-Wee set-up, with fake leg (1987)
Where there was a number of different departments working on the same effect, who decided on the initial design concept, such as the 'look' of each character?
I was in charge of designing all the characters; Henrietta, Linda, Evil Ed, but of course there's delegation because I couldn't have sculpted and painted every tiny detail of every character myself. After all that's why I'd hired my crew. They were great artists. I'd be crazy not to utilize their talents. I designed concepts for Henrietta, and some initial designs for Evil Ed and Linda, but then I turned over the sculpting work on some of them to other artists.
Henrietta sketch (1987)
Henrietta maquette (1987)
Sculpting Evil Ed's facial appliance (1987)
For example, Shannon Shea really took over the Evil Ed design, he had a great idea with those multiple rows of teeth, and that became Shannon's baby. As far as the Linda corpse I turned the sculpture over to Mike Trcic, and again let him run with it. He had the great idea of using a very hard wax to sculpt her skeleton bones and arms and they clay for the rest of the sculpture. I did design a fairly consistent paint scheme to work with many of the characters, based on a pale bone white, a lavender dirty yellow oxide colour. But of course, I gave Bob, Howard, Aaron and Mike a lot of free reign to do their own thing, too. I designed Henrietta, Bob Kurtzman sculpted the feet and part of the arms, and I did everything else myself including the oversized crazy head that we called the Pee-Wee head. That was all full-size, but at a certain point Rick Catizone the stop-motion animator had to take over and do the small scale stop-motion puppet which fights Ash. That was a case where I not only established the design, but also sent photos to Rick to work from.
Marks sculpture of Henrietta/Pee-Wee head (1987)
The completed Henrietta/Pee-Wee head (1987)
By the time Rick was ready to start construction on the puppet, Mike Trcic's job with me was pretty much done out in North Carolina. So Mike worked with Rick, and sculpted the stop-motion puppet in our make-up effects lab. He had the full size suit right there in front of him as reference. That was a beautiful sculpture that Mike did, probably about a foot tall including the long neck. So that design was established by me, and sculpted by one of my artists with the full-size piece in front of his face. It was a perfect system and everything matched.
How much were you drawing concepts from the first film, and were there other films that were an influence?
That's a tough one to answer. I was given a lot of leeway and trust by Sam. I don't think he came to me with a specific look or mentioned any other films. I think we all agreed in the beginning that there was an overall feel and mood to The Evil Dead, but we had a lot more money and time to really fine tune the effects looks in Evil Dead II. As far as designing the concepts themselves, that was a matter of me sketching things for Sam, usually in pastels, getting his input, then moving on to make-up tests at my shop so that Sam and Robert and Bruce could actually see things way before we shot them. It was great in those days because $4,000,000 to do a low budget horror film was quite a chunk of change, and we had ten or twelve weeks prep time ahead of shooting, as well as three or four months shooting, so there was plenty of time.
Did that pre-production period give you enough time to basically sculpt and make everything you needed, or were you still working on pieces in North Carolina?
To answer that question fully I need to go back to the shipping issue. I didn't add shipping into my budget because I had a feeling that we would have stuff we still needed to finish during the production time. Ten to twelve weeks prep was fairly ample but we still didn't get everything done. We got as far as making Henrietta's body mould and pouring our two hero suits, so we didn't have to ship the Henrietta body mould. But I had only just finished sculpting and Bob had just finished casting all the moulds for Henrietta's face, arms and legs, which were at least a dozen very large and heavy dental stone moulds. But we hadn't made the foam latex pieces yet. Production had a shipping company box up all the solid dental stone moulds into several huge crates weighing thousands of pounds, and sent them by truck to North Carolina which cost a boatload of money, but I had it in my contract that they had to ship the moulds back, and luckily none of the moulds got one single scratch.
The original idea was to deliver an 'R' rating, how much of the design was geared towards getting that rating, even though you didn't ultimately get it?
We just shot everything we could, and anything that was trimmed was basically done in the editing. Sam is a very talented editor, so he had more than ample footage. That whole rating thing was mostly to do with the blood and gore.
Now there was a lot of gore that we shot that didn't get in the film because it was just too much. Sam was all for gory and he was all for funny, as long as we avoided an 'X' rating, and it basically came down to the red blood factor. I believe it ended up being released un-rated, which essentially can mean an 'X' to cinema owners. One of my favourite sequences was when Evil Ed gets the top of his head chopped off with an axe and he's still alive. I don't remember whose idea it was, or if it was in the script. We made a great puppet of him with half of his head gone, you could clearly see inside the skull, and the rest of his head was lying on the floor with the eyeball looking around, but that was just too much. That alone, with no blood or anything would have gotten us an 'X' rating. I feel and Sam I think felt at the time, that scene would have been so effective to show the whole thing and use red blood. None of use were really wild about using the multi-coloured blood, the green, the black and brown - I hated having to use that - but it was the only way to avoid an 'X'. You see Bruce stabbing his hand, I made a kind of a black blood, and then he chops his hand off with the chainsaw, it's off screen and his face gets sprayed with red blood, and that was probably pushing it as far as the borderline between 'R' and 'X', that was about as much as we could show, sadly. If we'd showed everything in this film with real blood colour, it would certainly have been 'X' rated! Of course when you have an 'X' rating, you're cutting out a huge chunk of your audience, many of the people who went to see Evil Dead II were under eighteen, so you're talking tens of thousands of people who can't see the movie now because it's 'X,' which means a huge revenue loss. It was a question of; do you want your film to have a wide audience and make money by having an 'R' rating, or do you want to shoot whatever you want, then get an 'X' rating and have a small audience and make no money? There's no way a releasing company would ever allow that to happen.
Deleted Chop-Top sequence, dismembered Evil Ed (1987)
Were you at all disappointed that you had to go in that direction as opposed to the The Evil Dead, which was no holds barred?
No, I kind of figured it would go that way, because The Evil Dead was such a cult hit. You know, whether 'X' rated or unrated, your audience is limited, and you're going to have trouble finding distributors, and I'm sure the idea was right from the get-go, we’ve got to go for an 'R' rating, I'm absolutely sure of that on all fronts.
The top of Evil Ed's head (1987)
Chop-Top being puppeteered by the make-up effects crew (1987)
I guess in retrospect at the time I was thinking I wished we'd shot, for example, the Evil Ed sequence both ways, with green blood, then cleaned up and re-shot the whole thing with the red, but we ended up only shooting that with the green blood. I figured if you're going to go for the 'X', you might as well go for the hard 'X'.
When you got to North Carolina, did Sam come up with any new storyline ideas or new effects that needed to be made over and above what you had already done?
No, it was a continuation of everything we'd started twelve weeks prior. We set up a make-up lab in the science room of the school where we were shooting, and just finished making everything. Sam didn't throw anything new at us at the last minute that we didn't already know about, and he was very specific and very clear up front about what he wanted, so there was no question on what we were making, and Sam was not the type to throw surprises at all.
Ted Raimi in full make-up as possessed Henrietta (1987)
Just moving on to Henrietta, that was probably the most complex make-up of the entire film. Had you attempted anything as difficult as that prior to this?
Yes, actually I'd attempted something even more difficult in a previous film with about one fifth the money; From Beyond. We made the Pretorius creature, the pretzel like thing that was a combination of rod puppet, human puppeteering, operated on a teeter-totter fulcrum, with radio controlled eyes, mechanical moving fingers, limbs, mouth, brows, you name it. That was a lot more complicated, and I had a very small crew, but we managed to pull it off. David Kindlon single-handedly created the numerous animatronics, cable-controlled and radio-controlled movements for Pretorious. He did a genius job. Pretorius was far more complicated than Henrietta. Henrietta was just a fun challenge to do as a make-up on an actor.
Was the original concept as it was finally shown on screen, and did you know it would be as complex as it was?
The original concept started as something far different. The description in the script was simply a dead rotted lady in the cellar, and my first thought was when you're dead and rotting, pieces fall off and the skeleton becomes exposed. The first pastel sketches I did for Sam were of a very skinny emaciated lady with half her breasts rotted off and her ribs showing through and her hips sticking out, very much an EC Comics approach, and Sam loved it. A combination of make-up and rod puppetry, a walking skeleton with flesh on which could perform is something I'd always wanted to try since The Supernaturals. In the end Sam felt that there was too much action involved with Henrietta, and he didn't want to use a skinny actress in a suit.
Sam had intended for his brother Ted Raimi to play Henrietta. I thought that was a clever move, because Sam could probably get his brother to do almost anything, Ted was really fit, worked out a lot, and did Karate. I asked Sam to send me photos of Ted without his shirt on so I could see what sort of shape he was, and he had some great muscles. My next thought was, in sculpture you can only add on, you can't subtract. There was just no way I could create the skinny EC Comic's dead lady look on Ted because that would have meant carving into his own flesh. I suggested to Sam that we make Henrietta a fat lady from the beginning. The actress they had was not terribly overweight, so we took a little licence by making the body suit much more fat and bloated, as if the gasses were expanding inside and the stuff inside was bursting out. On the basis of starting large, I could then sculpt down, so I could take Henrietta's fat stomach and carve down to the ribcage and have a big flap of skin exposed and I would never reach Ted's body. I also found out later that Sam had promised Ted Raimi a Screen Actors Guild card, and he delivered. Ted got his SAG card.
Ted Raimi's full body cast (1987)
Sculpting Henrietta (1987)
Henrietta hero suit (1987)
How did you approach each day's make-up, what would you start with, would Ted go to sleep, and how long would it take?
When Bob Kurtzman and I did the first make-up test, we started at about at two in the morning, and probably took around eight hours because it was the first time putting it all together and it was designed to go in a certain sequence. We put the face pieces on first because they were the most detailed, I think it was twelve pieces for the head and the neck, including little ear tabs and eye bags. That was a very long process, because it had to be glued together and blended. Each piece was pre-painted, but we had to blend together all the colours, which took more time.
We left off the chin piece off so Ted could still eat, then gave him a break, then put the chin on. Then we put the body suit on, which was something he basically slipped in to and zipped up the back. Of course we had blending pieces to connect the body suit arms to the foam latex arms, and the seams where the body joined the arms and the neck and the feet. Altogether it was quite a long drawn out process. The second time we did the make-up, it of course went faster. I do remember that for first make-up test, Sam and I decided that there was no point in doing that whole test and not getting at least something shot. At the time, the contact lenses we were using needed a twenty-four hour cleansing period if they got dirty or tarnished. Lenses back then were not only finicky, they were also terrifically expensive. Today I could buy those for twenty bucks in downtown LA from a street vendor, but back then those lenses were at least eight hundred to one thousand dollars, and we had one pair for each actor. We decided to try the shot of Henrietta coming up out of the ground, and I explained to Sam that if one of the lenses happened to fall out, that was it. So Ted Raimi comes up out of the ground, screams and shakes his head and the lens falls out and hits the dirt. That was it, we got that one shot.
Was each piece of the make-up & suit a one shot deal with a new piece every day, or were you able to re-use any of the bits?
There were new face pieces for every application because those were so thin and delicate they would be pretty much ruined upon removal. The lip pieces were almost potato chip thin in spots, and as everything was pre-painted, it was all very time consuming. We had one wig for Henrietta, that was a very fine lace piece which was always taken off carefully, cleaned, and re-used. In fact it was re-used for the Pee-Wee head as well, so this one wig did double and triple duty. As far as the hands, the arms and the feet, they were a little different. The arm pieces were foam latex and we could re-use them a couple of times, but we tried to use new pieces whenever possible. The feet were made of a very sturdy slip latex, and we could re-use them a lot, but we made several pairs because of the sweat issue. We didn't want to put dirty smelly latex feet back on Ted. As far as re-using the suit, we made two hero suits which were all painted up with a zipper. They were made of a very durable urethane foam, so we could re-use them as much as we needed and when one suit was being shot, the other could be repaired, if there was a rip for example. Those two hero suits to got us through the entire show.
Mark applying a section of Ted's facial make-up (1987)
Adding the finishing touches, many hours later (1987)
Mark, with Robert Kurtzman, and Ted Raimi in full makeup (1987)
Did you realise when you were making the suit, how hot it would be in the set, and were you concerned for the safety of Ted?
It's interesting that you bring that up. I'd filmed in North Carolina before, and I knew it could be hot and humid. We were shooting in July and August which are the hottest months of the year there. We arrived around my birthday in mid-May, it was quite warm then and I knew it was going to get even more so as we approached shooting Henrietta in a few weeks. I walked into the school gymnasium where they'd built the whole cabin set, and it was muggy, stifling hot. I immediately I went to see the production manager. I told him we needed air conditioning, as Ted Raimi was going to be up on a wire in 100 degrees in a plastic suit which didn't absorb moisture or let out heat. He told me the production didn't have the money, so I went straight to Sam and pretty much said "Your brother is going to be in a lot of danger if we put him through this without air conditioning", and long story short, an air conditioning system was installed right away! As I recall it had two large tubes, one going to the general stage area, and the other was always reserved for Ted Raimi. They'd pull him off the wire, we'd open the zipper at the back of the suit, and shove in this tube. That was what he lived for, feeling that cool air!
Ted spinning in the cabin set up in his harness (1987)
The make-up crew removing Ted's make-up(1987)
Was there any point at which Ted just thought it wasn't worth it?
Oh, no. Not once. Ted had such a great attitude. He was just wonderful about the whole process, and frankly it was pretty brutal on him. It was torturous to be put through hours and hours of make-up and then have to go on set and shoot for twelve hours, up on a wire in the heat spinning around. Ted was great, he was a real trooper and you couldn't ask for a better subject for the make-up, and I'm sure Sam couldn't have found a better person to do the performance. Ted would show up with such energy first thing in the morning, raring to go, just a joy to work with. At the end of each night he was thoroughly exhausted and drained. He'd put a little towel over his shoulder and walk his crumpled body to the shower. But not one complaint through the whole process.
The huge rip in the crotch of Henrietta's hero suit (1987)
Bruce Campbell acting to camera with a water pistol (1987)
Decapitated baby on marionette wires in Evil Dead Baby (1987)
Was there anything that, with the suit that went wrong, or didn't work out as you had planned?
One effect I wanted to try was to make the fat suit appear really fat, like the body had some real weight to it, so I hired some people to make an inner suit with big cloth pouches filled with dried lentil beans. I felt that that would add some weight as Henrietta moved back and forth, maybe the breasts would wobble, and the stomach would wobble. We tried it out, and it just didn't do anything, it didn't read on camera. It was also very heavy and very hot for Ted to wear, so we just tried it once and scrapped the idea immediately. The suit was a learning process for me, I'd never done a full body suit with a performer being asked to do so much physically, and the sweat became a huge issue. It was a constant race to keep things together and sweat from pouring out and showing. Looking back, I would now try different methods of where to drain the sweat or how to open the suit quickly in different places so sweat could drain out because it has to go somewhere, that plastic suit was not absorbing it. There's even a shot where Henrietta's flying across room, and you see the whole crotch has a two foot wide rip. In fact in the Evil Dead II Goofs section on IMDB, the majority of them are make-up effects, but I mean most of the audience will never notice this. Of course these days you could use a cool suit, I think the creator won an Oscar for developing that. that's a cooling suit which goes underneath a big body suit for actors. Today I would probably do Henrietta as a foam latex suit with a gel-filled stomach and breast under-suit to give it a wobbly look when moving.
In The Gore the Merrier documentary there is some of Greg Nicotero's camcorder footage. You look like you were having a lot of fun in your spare time, shooting Evil Dead Baby for instance?
I have a lot of fond memories of the crazy stuff we did in our off hours in the lab. We had a little rack right next to the make-up area where we each had our own water pistol with a label on each one. Back then you could buy water pistols that looked like real guns, these days in America it's all illegal of course as people use them for bank robberies, but back then we could go to Toys 'R Us and buy water pistol M16's and Uzi's and all of these big military weapons that looked like the real thing. When we'd finished working long hours, we'd blow off steam and start a water fight, and that would escalate from the lab, then going all into the production offices and chasing each other around the whole high school complex, squirting each other with water pistols. We were like kids blowing off steam. I don't know where the little plastic baby came from, I think we were probably in Toys 'R Us buying water pistols, and Greg, Bob or I, decided to buy the plastic baby as a little shop mascot. Then we took it's head off and made it a decapitated baby, operating it on marionette wires and walking it to the production office. There was tonnes of stuff like that.
There were a couple of re-shoots, was there anything you were asked to bring back to shoot a second time?
I do remember being in LA long after the film was shot, maybe a year later, and Rob Tapert called and they needed the Pee-Wee head for some insert shots. I was on another project and I mailed it to them in Michigan, it was just a minor re-shoot of some shot they didn't get.
Everyone can look back on their careers and wish they'd done something differently, were there any specific effects in the film that you were never quite happy with?
I think my only disappointment was being so busy with all the very complicated effects, that when it came time to do a very simple effect of the eyeball popping out of Henrietta's Pee-Wee head when Jake steps on the trapdoor, I just kind of didn’t think about it. In retrospect I should have done a nice gelatine or acrylic eye, but we basically took a ping pong ball and put it on a stick and painted it up quickly and added some gelatine & hemp fibre as the optic nerve. We were so busy we just handed it to the prop guy when it came time to shoot it. I've always felt that was a big mistake on my part, because it was a very simple effect, but I cringe whenever I see it, and of course they used it in the trailer. But hindsight is twenty-twenty.
Various DVD & Blu-Ray releases of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II have been 'tweaked', painting out the stick holding the eyeball in Evil Dead II for instance. What are your feelings on this?
I haven't seen the Blu-Ray edition so I can't say for sure, but yes, paint the damn stick out! Seriously, my overall feeling about any film is the original was what it was intended to be, so why change it? I say keep it that way. It is film history, it is how the director (usually) intended it. I do remember Turner Movie Classics did a colourised version of Casablanca. Why change it? It was meant to be in black and white, always stick with the original.
Bruce in full possession make-up (1987)
You worked on the A Nightmare On Elm Street series, was it your idea to hang the Freddy Kruger glove in the Workshed and the cellar sets?
No, that was nothing to do with me. It was all Sam's idea, as a nod to Wes Craven. Actually Don Coscarelli continued that concept when we did Phantasm II. There is a scene where an embalmer hangs a bag of ashes from a recent cremation and that bag says 'Ashes of Sam Raimi', that was Don's tip of the hat to Evil Dead II.
Highlighted; Freddy Kruger's glove in the workshed (1987)
Highlighted; Freddy Kruger's glove in the cellar (1987)
Do you remember interview you did with Jonathan Ross for The Incredibly Strange Film Show?
Yes, that was just after Evil Dead II back in, probably 1987. I remember I cringed when Jonathon Ross pronounced my name wrong. Then a period of twenty years went by where I didn't get any interview requests, I think I got one from a magazine out of the blue about five years ago, and I thought that was odd, twenty years later giving an interview for Evil Dead II?
Mark interviewed about Evil Dead II by Johnathan Ross (1987)
Mark with Sam Raimi in the workshed set (1987)
My web designer only recently told me about all these websites like yours, and all the other Evil Dead fan sites that I really wasn't aware existed, and I wrote to a few of them and said I'd be up for an interview. It's really for the fans more than anything. I enjoy doing these and it's a very classic cult horror film. Here we are twenty five years later and I'm doing several interviews a week, but I think it's cool because I've always been one of these people who have been grateful to the fans, because they buy the tickets, they pay for our rent and mortgages.
Out of everything you've done in your career, is Evil Dead II something you've had the most feedback on?
A Nightmare On Elm Street series is popular, but the one that really is still a part of my life is Evil Dead II It is one of the ultimate cult horror classics. That film was so instrumental in me getting so many other movies, I got Phantasm II from it, which lead to Phantasm III, I even got a martial arts movie. I'd worked with a production manager named Steve Brown on a detective movie, and he happened to hook up with a guy named Phillip Lee who was doing a martial arts picture, and Phillip rented Evil Dead II one night and walked in the next day and talked to Steve who said he'd just worked with me. So how unexpected is that? I got a martial arts movie from my work on Evil Dead II, so I started calling it the film that keeps on giving, and I guess it's now my time to give back interviews for the fans.
You're featuring in a new Evil Dead II documentary, can you tell us anything more about this?
It's being done through Red Shirt Productions. Lionsgate will be releasing it. They haven't decided yet if it's going to be a 25th anniversary or what, but the people at Red Shirt have interviewed everybody in town on that one. It should be interesting.
There's quite a few actors and actresses that do conventions in the US, has that ever been something that interested you?
I was never that interested. In fact I was one of the first people approached by, I think it was Creation Conventions, the early Fango convention, but I just wasn't interested 25 years ago. These days I've thought about it, and there are friends of mine who have encouraged me to do go. I'm going to start doing conventions possibly with Mark Patton or Angus Scrimm, but I'm just so busy right now. Actually I intended six months ago to start doing conventions, but I haven't had the time. Maybe when things settle a bit I will.
Have you ever thought of writing a book or an autobiography about your life in special effects?
You know, you're about the third person this week who tells me I should do that! There is actually something in the works, there's an author in England who is working on it already. So far, I've given him about nineteen or twenty hours of very detailed interviews, and that will be forthcoming, hopefully in the next year or two.
Mark with his creation; Ted Raimi in full make-up as possessed Henrietta Evil Dead II (1987)
OK, well thank you for taking the time to talk to us, is there anything else you want to add?
No, no, thank you. Oh, please don't print a picture of the stupid eyeball!