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an Interview with Rob Burman !

April 15th, 2015 | by Fred
an Interview with Rob Burman !

This is one of the interviews I did for the website.. More interviews will be online with many Goonies Crew members. Enjoy 😀


 Rob Burman Goonies make up sloth octopusFred – Could you introduce yourself and what was your job on the Goonies ?

Rob Burman – My name is Rob Burman. I was the Shop Supervisor at the Burman Studio working on “Teen Wolf” when the call for The Goonies came in. I supervised the building of the 32′ octopus and the creation of the Sloth make-up.

F – What are the changes made to the original sculpture from Craig Reardon that we can see in the basement scene and one some promotionnal pics ?

RB – The original make-up (which we received as a guide) was very simplistic and smooth. Very little anatomy was shown and it came across as a little bit like a cartoon. The piece was a full, one-piece overhead prosthetic. It had been used for a make-up test that must have been difficult. There was scotch tape over some of the blending edges to try and hide them and long pieces of fishing line connected to the ears so that a puppeteer could make them wiggle from off camera.

The make-up that we built at The Burman Studio was a multi-piece foam latex prosthetic with interior, radio-controled mechanisms for moving the eye and the ears. There was more in the sculpture that defined anatomical srtuctures that suggested his deformations in a more natural way.
In other words, it was a complete departure from the work that Craig did.


F – How long it took to make Sloth ?

RB – We were working on the octopus – we had something like 8 – 10 weeks to build that – When we were asked to take a look at the Sloth make-up. I believe that we only had a couple of weeks at most to put together a new version since they had all ready begun shooting and, due to problems with the make-up, had all ready lost a few shooting days with that character. It was a vey fast, whirlwind build time.


F – How the ears and the famous eye worked ?

RB – My Uncle, Ellis Burman, Jr. was responsible for creating the animatronic that worked Sloth’s eye and ears. I think there were 3 or 4 servos in the head piece. Some moved micro-thin cables down the forehead and around one ear to make the eye move, others moved the ears with solid linkages. The scenes had to be shot just right so that wherever the actor was going to look, the mechanism operator could follow along and keep his “fake” eye in sync with his real eye.


F – What was a typical day for John Matuszak ? And yours ?

RB – Sometimes John would come in having not really slept the night before. He was a pretty wild guy. I think he probably tolerated the make-up more than liked it. There was no telling him, “John, don’t do this or that while in make-up” – He’d do it anyway. I told him during his lifecast (I was cleaning him up afterward) -á “If I hurt you at all, let me know VERBALLY and not physically”. The man was pretty big – 290lbs and NO fat on him. Great guy, tough as nails.

For me, it was running around the shop trying to get both The Goonies and Teen Wolf done. I’d go from the octopus to the Sloth make-up and then move over to make sure werewolf make-ups were progressing. A lot to do but also a lot of fun!


F – How was your relationship with Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner ?

RB – Other than meeting Richard Donner on that show, I really had no interaction with Production. That was my Dad’s responsibility. And when they went off to set, I would stay in the shop and make sure things kept moving. The only time that I visited was for the pirate ship lagoon set. I think EVERYBODY and their families visited that set. Really awesome to see, very magical. Even Michael Jackson, his sister and Emanuel Louis came to visit. It was really impressive.


F – And with the cast ?

RB – Other than Martha Pimpton and Corey Feldman (well, and John…) none of them needed to come in for work at the shop so I didn’t get to interact with them on that. We did Corey and Martha’s lifecasts to make dummies of them that Sloth could rescue from walking the plank but that was it.


F – In the original script, there was a sequence with 2 gorillas  who have been escaped from a zoo. Have you contributed to them ? Do you remember this ?

RB – By the time we got to shooting, I think that the apes had been cut. They did get some Greystoke suits on rental that they were going to use but I don’t think any of that got shot. It didn’t involve us. Besides, there was no way we would have had the time with as short as the schedules were.


F – What about the giant Octopus ?

RB – I think we did a beautiful job on that octopus. It took up a huge portion of one of the main rooms at the studio but rolled up into a big ball for moving. I think that the reason they cut it was that everything hadn’t been thought out properly for the scene and some techincal errors that were beyond us. The scene called for the octopus to menace Data, who then stuffs his walkman in to the octopus’ mouth causing it to pull back and “break dance away across the water to escape”. The concept itself is rediculous enough to get it cut out. We were tasked with building the “cosmetic” aspect of the creature. Production decided to have the rigging department make it move and operate it like a marionette. Their lack of finness left large cables and huge couplings exposed all over the outside of the octopus. They shot the scene (You can see a good portion of it in the Cindi Lauper video of the theme song) but it looked rediculous and phoney as hell. Probably better it was cut rather than having to continuously explain that it wasn’t our fault it looked bad all these years.


F – Do you know why the scene has been removed from the movie without deleted the scene where Data talks about the octopus at the ending ?

RB – Except for Data’s line of dialogue, cutting the octopus was pretty seamless. the problem was that the end scene was shot before anything was edited so they still thought the octopus scene would be in the film. Once the scene was cut, they weren’t going to go back and shoot that whole end so that they could remove the one line. Besides, I think that it speaks to how much children are thought to exagerate a moment.


F – Have you seen more deleted scenes ?

RB – I haven’t seen anything that isn’t on the DVD release!


F – Is The Goonies had a strong influence in the career of your family ?

RB – I wouldn’t say that it has been a big influence. We, collectively as a family, have done SO many things over the years that it is difficult to find any “defining” projects for us. I will say that when I first started out, The Planet Of The Apes was probably the biggest influence on bringing new people in to this business – everyone that interviewed had his little box of ape prosthetics. Now, a lot of newcomers site The Goonies as a major influence. It’s nice to be involved with iconic projects like that.


F – Have you kept some movie props or anything else from the set ?

RB – Nothing from the set but I do have a 13″ casting of Sloth that we made after the show was finished. We built one for Richard Donner, one for Steven Speilberg and one for John Matusack. They stood on a wooden base. It was Sloth standing in his suspenders, Superman shirt and pirate hat. When you pushed a button in the base, it’s ears wiggled and arms moved up and down. I wonder if they still have them…?



F – Do you think you can create a new Sloth make-up ?

RB – I think we could easily do a new Sloth make-up. It will inevitably piss off the pureists out there as it ALWAYS does but it could be an opportunity to create another new and exciting character for people to love!


F – Your family is well know in the sfx business, there’s a gene passed from generation to generation? Lol. Who are your models and influences ?

RB – Personally, I’m not a “follower” in the sense that I look to one or two influences to guide my hand. I am an explorer always on the look-out for good work, images that transport me, that fascinate. My Grandfather was amazingly talented – he could draw with both hands simultaneously and was a master of his craft. My Dad has a magical ability to breath life in to all of his work. My Brother has an inate “eye” for seeing the truth in your work. I don’t know that it is in the DNA, but it is like a muscle – it gets stronger the longer you excersise it. If your influences start young on a certain path, that muscle gets pretty damned strong over the years.

Right now, I am completely taken by the work of Ron Mueck, Dwayne Hanson and about a dozen other guys that I either know through this industry or know “of”. There’s some talent out there that I’ll never even begin to be as good as and the work just fascinates me.


F – What do you think of CGI ?

RB – CGI is a great tool. The Pixar films are some of the best entertainment there is – better than 90% of the “real” films out there. Of course that doesn’t excuse when the villain in a film with real actors and sets steps in to frame and looks like a cartoon. My feeling is: Do it live, do everything you can to make it look real and “there”. THEN, after it is shot, go back and use CGI to clean up the wrinkles and folds- all of the stuff that didn’t work right in the live shoot or was physically impossible. Both techniques together will render an image far more real and believeable than either one alone.


F – Do you believe in a Goonies 2 ? Would you be interested in taking part ?

RB – If they were going to do a Goonies 2 I’d be honored to be asked!


F – What does it feel to have participed on a film like the Goonies, which influenced a lot of people ? Do you like the movie ?

RB – When the film first came out I was stunned and elated. Loved it. Just MY kind of movie. Over the years it has taken a bit of a beating and now feels a bit simplistic – still a lot of fun but it is lacking in some of the richness that adults crave when seeing a movie. I’m most honored that it is a film I can mention and people ALL know what I’m talking about. A lot of what we work on hardly sees the light of day so it is rewarding when people are aware of what you are referencing.


F – What are your favorite movies ?

RB – the Incredibles is, hands down, the best superhero movie yet. I’m an escapist – I’m not fond of traumatic themes or sadness. I lean towards the absurdist (Forbidden Zone) and the odd (The Marquis) – and just about anything as long as it’s funny!


F – What is your favorite medium for sculpting ?

RB – I can sculpt in just about anything. If it’s relatively small (like a prosthetic) I like to use Chavant NSP Medium. If I need it fast or it is bigger than a human head – EM-217 WED (Water-based clay similar to ceramic clay). I can whip that stuff in to shape pretty fast.


F – What do you recommend for someone who wants to work in special effects ?

RB – Know what it is that you want to do. This is a BIG field and there are many paths. Do you want to apply make-up on set? Do you want to stay in the lab and sculpt? Make molds? Cast parts? All of my students say, “I want to do it all!” and it just isn’t realistic. It takes at least 10 years to begin to have an idea of what you are doing. If you wait until that time, you’ll never get started. Pick a path and stay on it. Over time, it will lead you to where you want to go.


F – What’s your next project ?

RB – I don’t think that I’m ever without one. Mostly personal sculpture projects, private commissions – I’ll be back teaching at the end of April. It’s something I enjoy and it’s about time the students get the eduaction they deserve!


Thank you Rob ! 





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