300: Rise of an Empire – Interview to Justin Raleigh (Fractured FX)

300: Rise of an Empire is in the Italian cinemas from some weeks, and we bring you an exclusive behind the scenes with an interview with Justin Raleigh from Fractured FX, a company specializing in make-up and prosthetics, which has worked to Xerxes, played by actor Rodrigo Santoro, and many other characters in the movie.

Hello, Mr. Raleigh. First of all, may you tell us about yourself, your career, and especially Fractured FX?
I’ve been a make-up and make-up effects artist for nearly 20 years. I started in print and fashion then moved into the special make-up effects industry. Before owning my own company I worked with Stan Winston studios, Steve Johnson, ADI and many other effects studios. In 2005 I founded Quantum Creation FX and was the lead artistic director on on-set supervisor on projects like Watchmen, Sucker Punch and Tron Legacy. In 2010 I split ways with my Ex-business partner and then Founded Fractured FX where I am the artistic director, on-set supervisor and CEO.

How did you come to work on “300: Rise of an Empire”?
Because of my past relationship with Zack Synder, Warnwer Bros and Cruel Films I was invited to join the team as the films special make-up effects designer and on-set supervisor in Bulgaria and Los Angeles.

For this film, you have dealt mainly with prosthetics and make up. Could you talk about your work on this film in detail? There were particular indications by the director and Warner Bros.?
We had to recreate Ephialtes the hunchback from the first movie and Xerxes. It was decided that the Hunchback suit was to be completely overhauled to create a more seamless and lifelike version over what was made for the first movie. They also wish to make Xerxes feel a bit stronger and more tough. Other than those two characters having to feel like the first movie we were able to really dial them in to a stronger look and have fun with some new designs. The hunchback ended up with an actor driven mechanical hand, foam and silicone suit, with silicone appliances, the oversized eye was a digital effect. Xerxes had several scene that were reshoots where we have to make a custom foam latex bald cap that went from his eye lids to the back of his neck since he couldn’t shave his head. We create the mystic, 12 hero silicone bodies, fake heads, thousands of scars and wounds, fire throwers and barge slaves with tumors all over their body.

How many people of Fractured FX worked on the film? Is your work divided by the team or is there a unique team that takes care of everything?
In the studio I had about 50 people building all of the effects and 5 of those people my-self as part of those 5 went to Bulgaria to handle all of the appliances onset with the help of 5 other Bulgarians.

Could you talk about your approach when you start to work on a film? Are There brainstorming among you before venturing into a new project?
We always start with the script, from that we breakdown the possible effects then meet with the director to get the vision. Those meeting usually move into conceptual designs where the director and my team or just myself will collaborate and the aesthetics or technical approach. Once the concept is approved we move into the actual build where we get approvals along the way.

From the various trailer and featurette popular before the film, you notice that should appear less semi-mythological creatures from the first film. What specifics you intervened to change or give a peculiar aspect?
This is something I really missed and the approach was to make it more realistic and less creature based. Personally I really wanted to have more creatures and fantastical characters. Not sure why they decided to pull back.

Are there tools and tecnlogie you use? If yes, what?
Most of our prosthetics are silicone, lots of airbrushing. We also use a hybrid of a silicone and pros aide transfer a lot of time.

Do you have worked so close with the film’s cast? Can you describe your feelings about this?
We always work directly with the cast, and help develop the look they feel their character needs. It a wonderful part of the process.

What are your next projects?
Could you talk about them, please? We just completed “The Knick” which is a period medical drama for Cinemax/HBO. All ten episodes were directed by Steven Soderburgh with the lead actor Clive Owen. I think there will be a lot of talk about this show this year.

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