Director Michael Giacchino tells IndieWire how his work as a composer prepared him to helm the Marvel supernatural special.
When Gael García Bernal finally transforms into the eponymous Werewolf by Night, audiences may be surprised at how much of the actor’s face can be seen behind the practical make-up and prosthetics — that’s the essence of what director Michael Giacchino wanted to achieve with this Marvel special. “I wanted to make sure you can see the face because that’s the human part of it, the eyes and his features. I didn’t want to lose that,” Giacchino told IndieWire.
“A CG werewolf was done great, but I didn’t think we’d improve on what was done and I wanted something real to see ahead of us. It’s enough to ask someone who believes werewolves are real, but I felt like we’d have a better chance of pulling it off if there was actually a real person on set in the costume.”
A big inspiration for Werewolf by Night was Japanese monster movies and Hammer horror films, but it’s also the Universal Classic Monsters movies from the ’30s that are felt throughout the special. This is not only because of the visuals, but also because of the deep sympathy that these films have for their monsters.
“These movies were never just about monsters, they were about the person behind the monster and the struggle of being a monster afflicted with a disease,” Giacchino said. “For me, that emotional approach is something I love about these films. I don’t want to take anything away from movies that are all about indiscriminate killing, but I don’t care, I needed empathy here. I needed something special to understand, and I needed that it’s about looking at someone who is different and accepting them for who they are.”
Of course, “Werewolf by Night” not only captures the emotional resonance of films like “Dracula” by Todd Browning or “The Bride of Frankenstein” by James Whale, but also their look. Presented in black and white, the special looks stunning as it replicates the lighting, the aesthetics of the visual effects, and even small imperfections in the presentation like cigarette burns. Although the black-and-white look was part of the special’s appeal, Giacchino had to prepare alternatives.
“We had a black and white monitor so I could see what it would look like, but we also knew that if we had to do that it would work in color,” the director said. “But everything we did, the lighting, the way the set was designed, everything was to think about how it would look in black and white. We had two completely different daily newspapers, one for color and one for black and white.”
Giacchino’s monochrome vision caught on, which helped sell the many kills in the special more easily. Continuing the work initiated by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Werewolf by Night introduces some gnarly moments to the MCU that should have horror fans howling and roaring: decapitations, mutilations, melting and more. “No one ever said ‘no’ so I just kept going as hard as I could,” said Giacchino. “It became a joke on set when everyone was like, ‘Michael, how does that look? Do you like how this looks?’ And then they would forestall my answer and get more blood. I think part of that was that we were going to be black and white, which helps us get away with more than you normally would.
In his work as a composer, Giacchino has composed films for directors such as the Wachowskis, Taika Waititi and JJ Abrams, experiences which he described as “getting a master class in directing”. But the fact that he was a composer also influenced Giacchino’s approach to Werewolf by Night, and it helped that he was doing double duty and not having to wait until post-production to have someone else provide a score.
“During the making of the film, I wrote the theme for it,” Giacchino said. “I could act out certain things for the actors and give them an idea of the tone, and even on certain things I would explain the pace at which the characters are acting and give instructions on how slowly an actor should walk or how they would feel if they were to move into a set. It’s very helpful, especially I think for an actor to get that tone in his head because otherwise they’re just kind of in a vacuum. It was very helpful to be able to play either the things I was writing or something I had previously written that evoked the same feeling that I wanted.”
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/10/werewolf-by-night-michael-giacchino-interview-1234770627/ Werewolf by Night: Interview with Michael Giacchino