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On a sound stage set representing an alien ship's
interior, director Joe Dante (left) discusses an
upcoming scene with young actor River Phoenix as
the space creature Wak leans in to listen in
Paramount Pictures' new science fantasy "Explorers."
The film was produced by Edward S. Feldman and
David Bombyk and written by Eric Luke, with Michael
Finnell as executive producer.
At 14, Bottin's incurable monstermania led him to submit a series of illustrations to his all-time hero, special makeup effects artist Rick Baker, which was to mark the beginning of their five-year collaboration. Although he received scholarship offers to the University of Southern California and Pasadena, California's Art Center, Bottin opted to stay with his mentor and assisted Baker on such films as "King Kong," "The Incredible Melting Man," "Star Wars," "The Fury" and "Piranha," his first association with director Joe Dante.
When he was barely 20, Bottin struck out on his own to execute the incredible werewolf transformation sequence for Dante's "The Howling." As an encore, he turned his artistry to the grizzly makeup effects for John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing," again joining Dante to create the garish cartoon elements of the director's "It's a Good Life" episode of "Twilight Zone: The Movie."
Without so much as a breather, Bottin spent the following two years in London on Ridley Scott's forthcoming "Legends" before re-teaming once more with Dante on "Explorers."
"Rob and I have a great relationship," says Dante. "I had no idea what he would deliver for this movie--but then, I never do."
The assignment called for one bizarre but benevolent boy alien, Wak, his rather nubile teenage sister Neek and their irate, blue-collar father who comes storming through the cosmos to drag his irresponsible offspring home.
"Wak had such a great personality in the script that I thought it would be even funnier if he looked kind of dopey and clumsy, but still had a lot of charm and character," explains Bottin. "He has a green, goofy-looking bug body and Daffy Duck feet with giant pizza slices cut out of them, and long toes and fingers with suction cups at the ends. I also love pulp science-fiction, so we put big tentacle eyes on top of his head."
Coy and pink, with cat-like eyes and voluptuous ruby red lips, Neek is, upon first glance, the more flamboyant of this brother-sister act.
"Joe wanted the aliens to dress like teenagers from outer space," confirms Bottin. "Neek is definitely a Valley girl from way, way out. Both aliens seem fairly huge to the three boys--but when their father shows up, he is like King Kong. He looks like Wak at 50, and with his toolbelt, longjohns and beard stubble, you know he works for a living."