I recently contacted Tom Woodruff Jr. from StudioADI to find out if he could share any information, tidbits about the process of creating the Spider-Man costume. I also wanted to know what it was like working with the star of the film, Tobey Maguire. Below you can read Tom Woodruff Jr.'s fascinating response to my inquiry.
Also below, StudioADI has provided us, ComicBookMovie.com, with an exclusive first look at their latest video. It features some never-before-seen images from the construction of the Spider-Man costume. If you'd like to view more of their wonderful videos visit their YouTube StudioADI channel by clicking here.
Spider-Man - The Making of the Spidey Suit
Tom Woodruff Jr.
We were brought in early in the process, developing the approach that was going to make the Spider-Man suit work not just for Tobey Maguire but also for the different stuntmen who had to match with consistency. We were partnered with designer James Acheson who took to our art and technical mastery to be able to create the many underlying costume elements that would be believable.
We worked for a few months, developing the forms of Spider-Man; the physique beneath the suit (flexible in performance and muscular and strong in appearance – not like a weight-lifter but more like a swimmer), the shape of the head form (the spandex hood had to cling to a definitive heroic shape and allow the actor to breath and talk, not just cling to the actor’s face), the eye shells (many variations from comic book opaque that still allowed vision to translucent were part of the massive R&D phase), the raised webbing detailing (flexible to not inhibit movement but durable to stand up to extensive physical demands), and the spider emblem (finding the right iconic symbol).
While we worked in our studio in Chatsworth, we were also traveling back and forth to Hollywood where Acheson had rented shop space to develop Spider-Man suit art and proceed with the Green Goblin. Into the mix came John David Ridge and the two of them figured out the amazingly effective method of not only imparting texture as a sublimation dye process which turned ordinary spandex into something new and unique, but also built in subtle highlights and shadows to pump up the hero’s physical presence.
Tobey’s first entry into our world was a trip to our studio for a full body life cast as well as molds of his head and hands to make sure the custom muscle suit was going to be an accurate fit to project realistic movement from under the suit. Tobey is an amazingly professional guy – so professional in fact that he didn’t want to burden us with tiny personal details like HE WAS CLAUSTOPHOBIC.
It’s not an unusual condition at all and we’ve cast several actors who have this common and understandable aversion to having their entire body covered and the control of movement taken away with the compression of material all around them.
Taking it like a man, he decided instead to tough it out until he passed the point of no return and began to black out while his body was wrapped in a shell of plaster bandages hardening to create the body mold. Our body casting crew quickly got him safely to the floor so he wouldn’t hurt himself and opened the shell, letting the fresh air relax his body. Tobey confessed that he hadn’t even broached the subject of his claustrophobia with production so we made the call for him, telling the producer that the guy that’s going to play Spider-Man with most of his time in a full body and head costume of foam latex and spandex probably would not be wearing the suit so much…
To his credit, Tobey took one of the very first prototype suits with him and began the long process of training his body and his mind to be able to adapt to performing in the suit while we continued with our process of developing the suit with Acheson.
There’s a funny clip on our studioADI Youtube channel
, that shows an early side-by-side test of Tobey and a stunt man. He was still early in self-managing his claustrophobia and you can read the relief on his face when that constricting hood comes off his head.
What was unique in our design of the muscle suit was to separate the forms into individual muscles leaving gaps in between. This meant taking some latitude with real anatomy so each muscle could gently thin out along the perimeter leaving a gap in between that and the next muscle.
The entire muscle suit was run as one piece over a custom stretch bodysuit that was affixed to a fiberglass copy of Tobey’s body. This tight, open weave suit would hold the final muscles together and in place on his body, allowing the final spandex Spidey suit to slip on over top.
The muscles were cast in dense foam latex, the same material used for make-up prosthetics but not as soft. In our initial runs of foam, the material would seep along the underlying stretch bodysuit, leaving a thin connection of foam between the muscles. This meant that an entire custom-made bodysuit was subject to overall failure if too many of the muscles didn’t fill properly or the foam mix was off resulting in muscle density that was too hard or too soft. We did develop to the point of being able to remove individual muscles that didn’t pass inspection, reset Tobey’s body form and partial muscle suit back in the mold, and recast those missing muscles.
We also began to switch to a method of producing individual muscles that would then be attached to the bodysuit, eliminating the foam bleeding in between. But Acheson preferred the look of the muscles connected with tissue thin foam in between so the runs were completed in that manner. We did ultimately refine the process later during testing of Superman Returns, allowing us to create individual muscles separately of the entire body, and place only the best runs on the final bodysuit.
We also found that, once the final custom finished spandex Spidey suit went over our muscle suit, you could faintly see areas of light and dark materials through it. Even though the spandex was custom colored and lit with subtle shadows and highlights through the dying process, it was stretched so tight to eliminate wrinkles that the weave of the material was revealing the under layer of muscles. The solution for that was simple for a changer and the muscle suits were all painted with the appropriate shades of blue and red in the correct pattern to match the spandex suit on top.
Lenses for the eyes had a series of challenges as well. The function challenge was that as Tobey and the stuntmen became active, moisture would form inside the vacuform head shell and condense on the inside of the eye lenses, fogging their vision. We tested methods of plumbing fine tubing on the inside of the shells to direct moving air from a portable source across the inside of the lenses, but that would only work in close and medium shots in which the hose and air supply could be hidden just out of camera range. We finally developed a simple clip arrangement using ultra strong magnets to allow the lens and frame to be removed from the head shell without having to pull off the spandex hood in between every shot. This was of course the easiest solution to effect on set and keep everyone’s vision clear.
With all the stunt work involved, actor and stuntmen burned through approximately 60 finished Spider-Man suits for the shoot, keeping our studio busy for almost a year from start to finish and putting us in collaboration with a great team including Sam Raimi and Laura Ziskin and delighting the fans who had been waiting more than a decade to see Spider-Man brought to the big screen. But it also opened the bigger question…
Just where DID Peter Parker get that suit?
Spider-Man (2002) was directed by Sam Raimi ("Oz: The Great and Powerful"), from a script written by David Koepp. The cast included: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, and Rosemary Harris. The film had a budget of $140 million, and earned $821 million at the worldwide box office.
"JOE COMES TO LIFE"
I also wanted to showcase Tom Woodruff Jr.'s amazing stop-motion animated film, "Joe Comes to Life," which you can view below. The short features the original and complete Mighty Joe Young (1949) skeletal armature (designed by Willis O'Brien), brought to life for the first time in over 60 years.
"Joe Comes to Life" has been been nominated for a Rondo Award
, in the Best Short Film
category. The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards
are purely fan-based, so if you enjoy the video below make sure to CLICK HERE
for Tom's film. Thanks.