Kirk Thatcher on David Fincher’s music videos and his career with ILM

special collider Steve Weintraub I recently got a chance to sit down with the legendary multiple hyphen Kirk Thatcher to discuss his prolific career working in numerous roles across the industry. The Emmy Award-winning writer/director/actor/producer/influencer is now known for everything from dolls tonight to me Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home And recently Werewolf by night, but during the interview, he also talked about his roots, which came through Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). It was there that Thatcher would thrive and meet a friend who would help him launch his career – David Fincher.


Before he even started at ILM, Thatcher describes his fascination with it star Wars That would one day lead him to the studio. At the age of 15, he heard the hype surrounding the revolutionary sci-fi film and made sure to be there on opening day to see it unfold. “I kind of knew it was coming out, and I went and watched opening day at Man’s Chinese, the first show, the 12 noon show at Man’s Chinese, absolutely amazing and it just became huge.” star Wars fan immediately. Bought books, incl star Wars sketchbook Joe Johnston. “His love of movies would lead him almost immediately to an important industry connection.” So maybe within three months of opening, my mom came home from church on a Sunday afternoon and said, “Hey, I just met a girl at church, really nice lady, her son’s work star Wars. Her son was Johnston, then a concept artist and special effects technician Star Wars: A New Hope.

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Thatcher got to meet Johnston since ILM was originally based only a mile from where he lived in Van Nuys, and the two fell in love with a young Johnston taking a younger Thatcher under his wing and parading him around the studio. “He showed me information about ILM, which was just starting at that time GalacticaHe said, “I still have one of his sketchbooks that he signed, and someone said, ‘Kirk, are you available for the sequel? ‘” So I would never sell that.” ILM’s vision inspired Thatcher who desperately wanted to work alongside Johnston, even if it only meant sweeping studio floors so he could finish high school. They maintained a friendship that would last into the Thatcher High School years with annual calls to keep in touch.

After high school, Thatcher and his friends would take a trip to San Francisco only to detour to ILM’s new studio after they left Van Nuys. Johnston was kind enough to give them a tour of the creature shop that would eventually influence his early career:

So he gave us a ride, and I gave him this rubbery monster, this creature I made for a movie I was making with friends in high school, and it was this kind of big, chubby, very Jabba-ish character, in terms of fat and big types of clothes, and big bottom lip, And buggy eyes. And he was this fat devil that I made for a movie I was doing with friends. Just because I don’t know, I was like, “Here, I get you this.” And he was like, “Thanks, weird kid.” So he laid it down, and hung it on the wall in the shop of creatures, which at that time was one room. They called it the Rubber Room at the time. It’s where they made dragons Dragon Slayer Warhead’s explosive melt Raiders. So it was just one room where all the creatures were made.

Image via Lucasfilm/ILM

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After that day, Thatcher began his undergraduate studies in film at UCLA, though when word got out, work was a progression. Return of the Jedi that he contacted Johnston again in hopes of getting a job with ILM. He had no idea Johnston had already given his name to the legendary special effects artist Phil Tippett to come and join the movie’s critter shop, keeping his promise from a sketchbook he signed. “I’m like, ‘You’re kidding.'” Nobody told you, he said. I said, ‘No, I only had that inclination because I heard the news that was preparing.’

His little demonic sculpture, along with years of friendship with Johnston, got him into ILM where he is Tom Smith Eventually she hires him, despite some failed attempts at persuasion before Ken Ralston And the Chris Wallace. “I mean, literally they were like, ‘Oh my God, really? You could go to UCLA and get a film degree or something. I’m like, “Yeah, but come on.” They’re like, “Oh my God, you’re so stupid.” I mean, they literally told me I was an idiot, and they just said, “It’s awful work, it’s really hard and it takes your soul.” You guys.” After 40 years, they might have been right.” It was the beginning of his career and many of his closest professional friendships including with Wallace, Tippett and, of course, Fincher.


Interviewing David Fincher and working on his music videos

Fincher started soon after helping Thatcher Return of the Jedi. As the two youngest members of ILM, the two got along well with Fincher’s roommate Craig Barron, who would eventually be a frequent collaborator with the director, but it seemed like Fincher was destined to rise to greater heights. He was called upon to direct an infamous viral smoker’s children’s commercial about the dangers of expectant mothers smoking cigarettes, which led to Fincher being asked to work on music videos as they became all the rage in the ’80s. With an interest in production design, Thatcher got involved. “We’ve been doing music videos for about a year, starting with Rick Springfieldhe said, describing the experience. Then we did a whole bunch of Rick Springfield videos for something called Live drum rhythm, which is basically faking a live concert experience. Then we made two videos for motels And the Martha Davis. “

After that short time together, Fincher and Thatcher went their separate ways. The former left for Los Angeles to form Propaganda Films while the latter was approached Leonard Nimoy About producing and showing encores Star Trek IV. I was told “he did a good job”. Thatcher joked about Fincher. “Little Dave did well.” Of course, Fincher would go on to be one of the most prolific directors of our time, earning three Academy Award nominations, including MankAnd the The curious case of Benjamin ButtonAnd the social networkalthough he has also garnered high praise for blockbusters such as fight club And the Se7en Among many other projects.

Even so, Thatcher always saw the brilliance in his friend. “I mean, Dave and I were buddies, and he’s an incredibly smart guy, and what’s funny is a lot of the people I work with have a sense of humor that you don’t see in their work a lot,” he said. . “His stuff tends to be kind of dark and serious. Although when I saw… what was it? fight clubI said, “Dave, I did your first comedy.” Because we both share a dark sense of humor and we sometimes argue whose sense of humor is worse. He privately believed that, from a young age, Fincher had an incredible knowledge of cameras, lighting and lenses, which infuriated the elderly. Thatcher added:

In fact, it has stirred up a lot of people. We were so young that the fact that he knew so much and had opinions would often give him the nickname L’Enfant Terrible, as if this little idiot weren’t, and he wasn’t, he just had strong opinions and obviously proved he knew what he was talking about, which sometimes What bothers the elderly at work. But yeah, it was cool. We’re still friends, and we had so much fun we killed ourselves. I think “Bop ’til You Drop” was about 18-19 hours a day.

For Thatcher, those days of hoping for a chance at ILM with Johnston and the ensuing long hours working in music videos have culminated in a private career filled with great accolades and stories. Check out the trailer for Werewolf by night Subsequently, he takes on the role of monster hunter Yuvan.

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