(Above) The crew from the visual effects company Boss Film prepares the “exploding Thunder” gag on John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986).
Photo from Tara Bennett and Paul Terry’s book The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China, released to commemorate film’s 30th anniversary.
Here’s Steve Johnson (pictured above), credited as Special MakeUp Effects on Big Trouble, on pulling off the gag.
“The head had huge bladders in it, plus mechanisms for the brows to work. His eyes were squint shut and it had a little bit of lip articulation. When it started to expand, we replaced that with another head…It started about as far as the first head would go, then we cut away to where the second head would go even further. We did some cartoon stuff like the steam out of his nose and ears. We also made feet and hands that expanded, plus a full body suit.
I also had this guy, Eric Fiedler, who was a great engineer. He created these dump tanks where we used compressors to get as much air in as fast as we could. At the flick of a switch, air would go through these huge hoses and the body parts would instantly inflate. All the muscles were made of separate bladders, so we had lines going to each one. That way, we could get his entire body to inflate. It went really fast on film so it would read on a quick shot.”
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