Copyright © Kitley's Krypt






Kitleyís Krypt:  How did you get started in makeup effects?

Tom Sullivan: I was watching the original KING KONG at age five with my four year old brother Mike and when the giant gorilla and dinosaurs showed up a bolt of lightning struck me and I knew making movies and monsters was what I would do for a career.  So I just started doing it.
    I was always sculpting and drawing and playing King Kong as a kid and when I discovered Famous Monsters and learned about Special Effects, Stop Motions Animation and Make Up Effects, my journey had begun.
    Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien were my masters.  In art, it's Frank Frazetta.
    I took a serious interest in Make up effects after seeing PLANET OF THE APES.  Everybody's first make up experiment back then was the PLANET OF THE APES.
    In the 1970's Don Dohler published "Cinemagic" a magazine that featured "how to" sections on head casting, making foam rubber appliances and building stop motion armatures and puppets.  I could not have made EVIL DEAD without it. 

KK:  How did the EVIL DEAD job come about?

TS:  Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert had been in talks with the leading make up artists in the business but discovered that they would actually have to pay them.  I was drugged and beaten.  And then we made history.
    Or.  I was at Michigan State with my wife Penny (who appeared in ED2 getting off the plane) and I read in the MSU paper about Sam, Rob and Sam's brother Ivan's MSU Creative Filmmaking Society.  Being students they could get a cheap rate renting an auditorium and show Sam's Super 8mm comedies.  They would make enough for rent and an after show pizza.
    We would have movie parties and I'd show my animation stuff and Sam would show his stuff.  Sam came up with a script called "Book of the Dead" and the guys came up with a strategy to make a feature.  Produce a high impact horror short in Super 8mm and sell investors into backing a full-length film.
    Thus WITHIN THE WOODS was born.  Everybody worked for free knowing Sam had it in him and I jumped at the opportunity.
    For it's 30-minute length I had a lot to do.  There is a lot of gore, body parts and make up that took about two weeks to prepare.  I actually had more pre-production time on WITW than EVIL DEAD.

KK: What exactly was your involvement with EVIL DEAD?

TS:  I was Creator of Special Effects Make Up, Uncredited Art Director, Uncredited Prop Creator of the Dagger and Book of the Dead.  I also performed as the Demon arms bursting out of the melting Cheryl and Scotty in the Evil Dead finale.
    Along with Bart Pierce, who was the Director of Photography for the Animated Meltdown sequence as well as Co-Animator, I designed, constructed and co-animated the stop motion finale.

KK: What about EVIL DEAD 2?

TS:  I built and animated the Demons, Books of the Dead and Book being written opening sequence.  I created the new Lost Pages and Books of the Dead for stunts and Glamour shots (they were never returned to me after filming). I animated the Henrietta head that pops up in the basement scene. I animated Bruce's hair turning white. I animated the withering flower at the beginning of the vortex scene. I designed built and animated the Flying Deadite at the finale.  I also appear for about 12 frames at the Airport
scene. I am behind the couple chatting with the Lost Pages case and loading
luggage into a taxi trunk.  Rob Tapert, Dave Goodman and others are there as well.


TS:   Rob Tapert called when AOD was beginning and said they had lost the Books of the Dead (they never returned) and needed me to create another for the film.  They needed it rushed so I spent three days making another and off it went.  Three months later I was wondering where my check was and Rob told me their Art Director said they needed another bigger book because Ash had to get sucked into it.  They made a derivative cover and pasted together four of my pages to make one big one for the interior.  I got a big credit and did get my check.

KK:  As for the work you did in EVIL DEAD, did you have a lot of time for pre-production, or was there a lot of "on-the-spot" work?

TS:  I had about two weeks with Sam's script to break it down, figure out how I might do them, and buy the supplies.  There was a rushed face casting session with the actors in Sam's parentís basement. That was a pretty messy.  The make up designs were for the most part made up as needed.  I'm glad it worked.

KK:  What were the working hours like on EVIL DEAD?

TS:  UGGGHHH!   During my work on the picture it was running the whole time.  Thatís how it was for everybody on the film.  And thatís pretty much it for the film industry.  I worked for seven months average of 6 days per week including Prep and production time.

KK: Is there a certain effect or prop that you are most proud of?

TS:  Without a doubt my favorite prop is My Book of the Dead 1 and 2 and Lost Pages (ED2).  As far as I can tell it's the first unreadable book. There was the Voynich Manuscript but thatís had progress in deciphering.  I based the text on the ancient language of Bullscript.  Coded message-script into the text on ED2.  The Anchor Bay DVD Book is all coded.   I had to draw the original in the late hours during production of EVIL DEAD (then Book of the Dead) usually while talking with Josh Becker about movies.

KK:  What is the best thing you remember from the making of EVIL DEAD?

TS:  That I survived it and am proud of my work considering the conditions.  That and hearing applause twenty-three years later.

KK:  What is the worst thing you remember from the making of EVIL DEAD?

TS:  I tend to empathize too much with people. So when the actors were uncomfortable and that could go to extremes, I felt hyper responsible.  Not that there was a lot I could do.  Make up is fun for the first hour.  For weeks on end it becomes torture.  That has not changed.  A lot of actors are really suffering for their Art (see Carrey in Grinch).

KK:  While making EVIL DEAD, did anybody ever think it would become as popular as it did, or was the feeling of more of just making a little film project?

TS:  I had a fair understanding of the odds against what Sam, Bruce and Rob were trying to do. And it's to their credit the film actually got finished.  It took three years to get it into theaters and a lot of films don't last that long.  I recall the general feeling from everybody during production was that if it played in some drive-ins in the south for a
couple of weeks we should be satisfied.

KK:  What other films have you worked on?

TS:  THE FLY 2, the sequel to the Jeff Goldblum film.  That was working with real professionals on a big budget film and I learned a lot.  One of the things I learned was I was getting diminishing returns of satisfaction on my creative side.
    So I went back to Illustration painting Lovecraftian monsters. 

KK:  Care to expand on that?

TS:  By "diminishing returns" I mean that my role as an artistic collaborator or significant contributor to a film was being reduced in the bigger films.  I was getting more satisfaction, illustrating and having something specific to point at and say I did that.  I am working on building my own Production studio.

KK:  Any particular effect that you worked on in THE FLY 2?

TS:  I sculpted about 60% of the Fly 2 creature's head based on Chris Walas's superb design.  I also sculpted with Howie Weed, the Cocoon and with Howie and Jon Berg (the Great) on the screwed up dog.   I helped out with mold making and some creature fabrication.

KK:  What are your thoughts about Anchor Bay's newest edition of EVIL DEAD?   Weren't you supposed to have a commentary and / or featurette on there as well?

TS:  I am pleased with my work and overwhelmed by it's reception.  The project got so big and expensive, things had to get cut.
    However Anchor Bay is talking about yet another Evil dead release with more audio commentaries.  I'd love to do one. The Ladies of the Evil Dead and Rich Demanicor have not told their stories.  It's important to hear from Joe La Duca and Joel Cohen as well.  I'd like to see an EVIL DEAD DVD documentary.  There is lots of unseen material.

KK:  I personally think that Anchor Bay has released enough versions of the movie.  Fans are getting really pissed off of having to buy the newer version, since it has something new on it.  I know people would like to hear more about the film from you, and the ladies from the film, and others, but enough is enough.  I think your idea of a documentary is much better.  I think they could make a nice 2-3 hour documentary about the film, and that would be much better received by the fans than yet another version on DVD.

TS:  I agree with you about the documentary and not another EVIL DEAD release and I will pass your idea along to Anchor Bay.  Lots to tell.

KK:  Who or what were some of your influences?

TS:  I mentioned Harryhausen, O'Brien and Frazetta, Jim Danforth, Dick Smith, Rob Bottin, Stan Winston, ILM, and Karel Zeman.

KK:  I heard that you might be releasing your own Book of the Dead.  Can you give us some more info?

TS:   I have been creating replicas of my Book of the Dead from the original Book's pages and a new cover sculpting since the original is a glob of butyl rubber.  I have had valued assistance from my talented and resourceful friend Patrick Reese. He is also an EVIL DEAD historian. I improved the cover and it's now what I wish it could have been with pre-production time.  The original cover was a slush rubber latex casting of one of the actors faces and glued onto a piece of corrugated cardboard.  Instant movie history.  It melted over ten years ago.
    The Books have been selling in eBay and the response has been swell.  The plan is to make more affordable books but that kind of publishing in bulk is outside my means.  So I'm making sturdy collectables for now.  The pages are printed on Archival papers with archival inks.  I am told the colors will not fade or the paper yellow for Two hundred years.  Of course they are printed yellowish, so you'll be able to impress your friends for centuries.

KK:  Any other new projects?

TS:  My company DARK AGE PRODUCTIONS is publishing archival prints of my artwork from my EVIL DEAD collection and my Lovecraft years as well as lots of new stuff.
    I'm working towards getting the equipment to have my own Film Production
studio.  Digital is where itís at.  Then I'm off to make my own films.  I have some great stories waiting to get made.

KK:  Can you elaborate a little more?  What type of stories are they?  Horror?  Sci-Fi?  Lovecraft?

TS:  Horror, Action, Adventure and very Lovecraftian.  I've always wanted to do a stop motion Lovecraft film since my association on the never produced "Cry of Cthulhu".   I love CGI FX but I have some ideas for stop motion and digital composition.  I think Lovecraft will work with the eeriness of stop motion.
    I have a ripping zombie story that I've worked up.   I was always working towards directing and producing; being a FX guy was a means to an end.
    I want to tell stories with film and art.

KK:  You've been doing the 'convention circuit' the last couple of years.  How do you like it?

TS:  I enjoy the conventions a lot.  So much so I have put together Tom Sullivan's Movie Memorabilia Museum.  It features the props, photos, masks and Artwork I created for the films.  I sell prints and talk shop with Fans.
    It's odd how life goes.  I made this little movie twenty years ago and suddenly my weekends are very busy.

KK:  Thanks Tom for taking the time to talk to us.

TS:  Nice talking to you, take it easy.