Hotel For Dogs: The Latest
From the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Jurassic Park to Superman Returns and now Hotel for Dogs, special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri is always at the center of Hollywood's biggest spectacles.
Lantieri continually pushes the special effects envelope. The multiple Oscar-winner visits with SheKnows in an exclusive interview. It was Lantieri's vision that brought Beowulf, Indiana Jones and Tom Cruise's nightmarish Minority Report to life. With Hotel for Dogs' arrival on DVD and Blu-ray April 28, the special effects mastermind took a few moments to share insight into his arena of film expertise.
Hotel for Dogs stars the niece of Julia Roberts who is carving quite a career for herself, Emma Roberts. Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon and an army of dogs and gadgets fill out the cast.
Summer blockbusters: Lantieri's Lost
His docket for 2009-2010 is beyond impressive including Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Hollywood knows when it comes to special effects, few have mastered the art as Michael Lantieri has for decades.SheKnows: Considering the real and imaginary things that you have worked with over your career, how do having animals in the scene affect what you do?Michael Lantieri: One of the key things that animals bring to the table would be that there is a substantial training time that is necessary to get them comfortable whatever props and gadgets we're working with. Immediately we found out that things had to be built and tested and changed per our animal trainer's (Mark Forbes) input. Everything was on an escalated schedule to get the things finish to spend time with the animals getting them to know simple things like motor sounds, cylinder sounds — things like that.SheKnows: They're always actors stay away from working with animals and kidsâ€¦Michael Lantieri: (Laughs)SheKnows: â€¦for you as an effects person, is that an added challenge working with children in any way?Michael Lantieri: There's always the issue of children can only work so many hours. Children are sometimes more inquisitive than interested in what's going on so they like to play with the props. Truthfully, it's all the same. A good rehearsal and everybody gets together on the same page. It always works out pretty well. I prefer animals, to tell you the truth (laughs).SheKnows: They can't talk back.Michael Lantieri: (Laughs) That's true.SheKnows: I can't help but notice your schedule for 2009-2010, from Tim Burton's Alison in Wonderland to Land of the Lost. First of all as a fellow workaholic, how do you not get worked thin?Michael Lantieri: (Laughs) You know, sometimes it runs in cycles. You get the projects coming your way that are the ones you're looking for. In Hotel for Dogs, the idea to be able to have the gadgets I create be such a big part of the movie — it was irresistible. It's nice if you can space them out and have them line up the way you like them, but they don't. I certainly try to mix it up as much as possible.
Film tech advances
SheKnows: Two things I've noticed, the prevalence of 3-D lately in film and the use of IMAX as a means of taking Hollywood films to the next level and get audiences out of their houses. Now, there's the combination of the two. Does that affect your job at all or does it simply take it to a different level in a different way?
Michael Lantieri: It's funny, I was just having a conversation with Robert Zemeckis, who I've worked with quite a bit, when we first started in tried to do something like a Roger Rabbit, we took cartoons and put them into an all real environment. We've kind of done a 180 now -- we're taking things that are non-existing in a pre-existing environment. There's non-existent props, non-existent reality ways of putting people into the effects. Each thing that you do presents a different challenge. In the case of nowadays, I'm factoring in weight and mass to make it as real as possible. It doesn't affect my job very much -- it just changes every day when you wake up.
A legend's legendary moments
SheKnows: Is there a movie, or movies, that you felt broke a barrier in your line of work that you had a pleasure of being a part of that took your field to the next level?Michael Lantieri: There's a few. Obviously, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was one changed the way everything could be done. Obviously, Jurassic Park changed the way people looked at films. Then, most recently I did Alice in Wonderland with Tim Burton and he has a completely different view (laughs) of the world than most — and anywhere in between. That's the great thing about my job is it's always different. On Hotel for Dogs, for instance, I spend all my time building things like an eleven-year-old would!SheKnows: In many ways, you are a scientist. The other day, Minority Report was on TV and Tom Cruise is using his hands to move text and images on a screen. At the time, people thought â€˜that's so incredible.' Now, if you turn on CNN, there's John King using the technology with the election coverage. Do you ever get a kick out the fact that something you put in a movie years later changes our culture?
Michael Lantieri: Oh, absolutely. The funny thing is every now and then I'll teach at film schools and I tell them to also read books on engineering, medical magazines, aerospace materials and most importantly the business page to find out how the money flows. I constantly read new technology publications to see what's on the cutting edge of technology.
SheKnows: Your list of directors you've worked with is immense including Steven Spielberg. I can't think of any you haven't worked with, but are there any that are on your wish list?Michael Lantieri: (Laughs) I'll tell you who I like, I like Chris Nolan's (Batman) vision. I haven't had the opportunity to work with him. There are definitely some and lots upcoming that I'm sure will be fun. I've been lucky to work with the guys who do things in movies that are truly memorable.
Michael Lantieri's Filmography:
Mars Needs Moms! (2010) (pre-production) (special effects supervisor)
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