“How are you going to have a horse with wheels instead of hind legs?”
Steven Bauer is best known for playing Manny Ribera, Al Pacino’s sinister partner in the remake of Scarface. His other work includes Running Scared, Gleaming the Cube and Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Traffic. He hasn’t done a lot of genre work, however, which makes his appearance in the new horror film Werewolf: The Beast Among Us so surprising. He plays one of a band of werewolf hunters, scarred by the beasts he pursues and draped in enough furs to qualify for werewolf status himself. In an exclusive interview with the Sci-Fi Movie Page, he talked about the challenges of the project, and why hunting werewolves was so much fun.
Question: Is there a difference you take in your approach to a movie like this than you would with a straight-up drama?
Steve Bauer: Once I met Louis Morneau and I saw the cast he’d put together, I realized we were playing it pretty straight. The difference is that it’s a costume drama rather than a modern drama. That always heightens the level of fantasy, and that kind of lets-pretend excitement. That was particularly the case with me because of the facial hair involved. I have a lot of facial hair, and I’m also wearing a pad and have one eye. All of that stuff helps create the space. It’s still acting, but there’s something about the costumes and the language, which have an Old World feel to them, that heightens the experiences.
Q: How much of a challenge does the costume present in creating the character? Helping you mold the character rather than letting it dictate the character?
SB: There was something about the chaps we had to wear when we were riding the horses. They said that my character needed to have as much fur and animal hide on it as possible. Mine were sheep’s wool and they were very heavy. We also ran into trouble because there were a lot of sheep and goats on set, and every time I rode by they would get very nervous. Seriously, it is a challenge. You have to adjust the outfit sometimes or ask them to make it a little tighter so you can feel the character instead of being constantly aware of the costume. But even so, it is still in the realm of dress-up. I hadn’t done this kind of piece, a period piece for a long time, so I really relished it.
Q: You had to ride the horse with the missing back legs, didn’t you?
SB: Yeah, that was wild. How are you going to have a horse with wheels instead of hind legs? As actors, we were pretty skeptical, but the tech team was very optimistic and as it turns out, they were right. The horse had a big “X” on its flanks, and because it was such a dark color, the special effects team could edit it out without a lot of fuss. Riding it with the wheels was similar to riding it with a cart. I had a good relationship with the animal, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Q: Did you have a lot of room to improvise your character? Those monologues feel like something you developed organically.
SB: Thank you. Yeah, we did a fair amount of improvising, and developing of his back story. In the script, we get a lot more about who he is than where he’s been. They had his name and his features, like the fact that he wore a lot of skins. The eye-patch was my idea, and we put a monologue in explaining how it happened. Then the monologue turned into the kind of tall tale, where he adds these embellished details about what happened, and how the werewolf took out his eye, so now he has a score to settle. That just became part of the character.
Q: How difficult was it to work with all of the effects shots?
SB: I’ve been a fan of werewolf movies for a long time. Did you ever see Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves? That movie just blew me away; I’m a huge fan of Jordan’s work. I also knew the original Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney, Jr. My biggest fear in coming in to these was that the effects would look cheesy. We could work our hearts out and lay it all on the line, and if the werewolf doesn’t scare the audience, it will all vanish. But that’s not the case here. We didn’t know what it was going to look like and the animatronic people came on set with it, it was just amazing. Once you have that to play off of, the fear becomes much easier and the movie starts to work.