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How a Truck Became an Actor for 'Monster Trucks'

4 Apr, 2017 By: Chris Tribbey

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Special effects guru Jim Schwalm has long been the go-to guy for big-budget action flicks, working on all five “Transformers” films, all six “Spider-Man” flicks, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon … name an action flick that needed pyrotechnics, and there’s a good chance Schwalm was involved.

But when tasked with tackling the special effects for a family film like Monster Trucks — featuring an all-CGI creature living inside a built-from-scratch, rusted, aqua-green truck — Schwalm and his team switched gears, from explosion experts to puppeteers of sorts.

“There were lots of challenges in this movie that we knocked off successfully,” Schwalm said at a promotional event on the Paramount Pictures lot, ahead of the studio’s April 11 release of the film on Blu-ray Disc. “From the very beginning we studied the story boards with the director and got a feel for what this vehicle needed to do, and what it needed to do was become an actor. What we had to do was transform it into an actor.”

The “monster truck” creation is completely remote controlled, “and can do anything hydraulically — drive, steer, front wheel, back wheel, make gestures, tilt, lean,” Schwalm added. “It can act, with us puppeteering it with two separate remote control radios, one to steer and drive, the other to tilt. We programmed it to act.”

The creation and operation of the truck gets major recognition in the bonus features of the home entertainment release, with two separate featurettes: “Who’s Driving the Monster Trucks?” and “Creating the Monster Truck.” And while the truck — and the gas-guzzling CGI monster Creech inside of it in the film — are indeed major characters, the human cast is what made the movie really work, according to actor Tucker Albrizzi (playing Sam Geldon).

“It was a very good cast in a well-written screenplay, and the director (Chris Wedge) set up a great environment for us, which is important to have,” he said.

For the bonus features, Albrizzi pointed disc owners to the gag reel and deleted scenes of the film, though the real bonus is the film itself: “It’s action-packed family fun, appeals to everybody, has something for everyone,” he said.

Other bonus features included in the combo pack release from Paramount Home Media Distribution include an UltraViolet version of the film, the featurette “The Monster in the Truck” and production diaries.

Along with Albrizzi, the film stars Lucas Till (X-Men: Apocalypse), Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe), Thomas Lennon (“The Odd Couple”), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Rob Lowe (“Parks and Recreation”) and Amy Ryan (Central Intelligence).

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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