Behind the Scenes: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
(Above) Director John Landis prepares to push effects artist Rick Baker and his lycanthropic pal into the Piccadilly Circus-set finale of An American Werewolf in London (1981). Landis first gave the script to Baker in 1971 when the pair were working on Landis’ directorial debut Schlock! Baker, in turn, told Landis about the Change-O heads he was developing, which would ultimately make An American Werewolf in London’s transformation scenes a new benchmark in special effects.
However, when Landis called Baker a decade later to tell him Werewolf was finally happening, Baker was already set to work on Joe Dante’s The Howling. Here’s Landis’ version of the conversation, from an interview with MythBuster’s Adam Savage.
I say “Hey Rick, guess what. We’re making An American Werewolf in London.” (He says) “Oh shit.” I go, “Why oh shit.” (He says) “I’m kind of doing a werewolf movie.” “What do you mean you’re kind of doing a werewolf movie? What are you doing?” (He says) “Joe Dante’s doing The Howling and I’m doing The Howling.” (I say), “You didn’t show him the Change-O heads!” “Yeah, I kind of did.” “You motherfucker.” Anyway, so Rick left Joe (Dante’s) movie (to work on American Werewolf) and Rob Bottin, Rick’s assistant, did The Howling.”
(Below) Rick Baker prepares one of his Change-O heads for An American Werewolf in London’s famed transformation scene.