KEVIN VAN HOOK
- How did you end up working on THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- I was doing visual effects and storyboarding for Disney Visual FX
at the time. They were called by Touchstone and, in turn, called
- How long did you work on this project?
- Over the course of a few weeks. I was actually brought in after McTiernan
was no longer associated with the project. I dealt with Ned Dowd and Michael
Crichton. My work with Crichton was primarily by fax, and Dowd and I spoke
on the phone several times.
- So you did not work with McTiernan?
- No, I did not have the pleasure.
- Does this mean that the scenes you boarded were shot by someone else
- I believe that they were shot by Crichton.
- Do you remember when exactly you worked on THE 13TH WARRIOR? I suppose
this was during 1998, right?
- Yes, early March of 1998. Prior to the 18th, because that's when I started
on MY FAVORITE MARTIAN.
- So you were involved in the re-shoots...
- This was my work in question! Filling in holes in the visual narrative.
Probably making the film closer to Crichton's vision...
- From what elements did you work?
- I had the rough cut of the film as it stood, and Crichton's notes.
- On what particular sequences did you work?
- Many... A sequence that was not shot, of the indiscretion Banderas'
character has with the Merchant's wife, before being kicked out of town
; spotting the desert people on the horizon ; a fight between Buliwyf
and the old King in the tent before he meets Ibn ; Ibn seeing the aftermath
of carnage in the hut ; the first battle with the Wendols ; the battle
in the cave where Buliwyf is poisoned ; the big climactic fight at the
end ; Buliwyf's funeral. Also, the Wendol Mother's son did not exist when
I was brought aboard. In the original EATERS OF THE DEAD cut, there was
no single foe among the Wendols. We added that. Designed his talisman.
- Besides the lovemaking sequence, did you work on scenes that were not
filmed, or filmed but happened to be edited out?
- I did have a bigger battle with the Wendols, and the funeral at the
end was a little more elaborate in my storytelling. They didn't use the
lovemaking scene at the beginning or an elaborate bazaar opening establishing
shot of Baghdad we designed. The underground cavern sequence was also
bigger than what we boarded.
- What was occuring in your opening shot? How different was it from the
Baghdad matte-painting shot (from Cinesite) that is now in the film? Was
it meant to be a dolly shot, or a crane shot?
- Actually, a crane shot, starting very high, following Ibn through Baghdad
and lowering as he gets closer to us.
- In the final cut, Buliwyf fights with a man in the tent, but rather
some "would-be-king" than the actual old King, I think... Was
the Buliwyf/old King fight you boarded meant to be seen by Ibn? If not,
such a scene would be in contradiction with Ibn's position of narrator:
how could the audience see events he did not witnessed? Yet, I always
suspected Buliwyf was the true hero of the film, not Ibn...
- Well, I think you answered your own question. I believe it was not to
be witnessed by Ibn.
- I really don't understand the purpose of adding this scene (in comparison
to the original cut). Was there something that Crichton (or Dowd) wanted
to clarify with this fight? That Buliwyf killed the old King?
- My understanding was the latter. That Buliwyf killed the old King and
is now the new King.
- I always suspected that the Wendol Mother's son character was an afterthought.
His talisman is a shrinked version of the stone goddess later seen in
the underground cavern, right?
- Yes. That was added from our boards. We designed the element and they
made it somewhat of a motif.
- A very similar figure is also shown during the scene where the warriors
go into the woods to consult the old witch...
- I am not sure there. I know that there is a little figure of the Wendol
Mother shown at this point. We used this as a departure point as a design
motif for the symbol and elsewhere.
- Tell me about the Buliwyf funeral... There are speculations from fans
of the movie about Olga, the village girl (in love with Ibn), volunteering
for sacrifice during Buliwyf's funeral. That would explain why we do not
see her anymore at the end of the final cut...
- Actually, it was supposed to be a fakeout--make the audience think that
they're burning Buliwyf, the girl and the dog, but their ways have changed.
We pan over, then see the dog run up and the girl place her hand on Ibn's
shoulder. I think some of that got cut.
- Sure it did! I was also wondering about King Hrothgar: he mysteriously
disappears at the end of the movie (he seems not to attend Buliwyf's funeral).
Was he killed during the last battle scene?
- Again, I am not sure of this. I was thinking that we knew when the King
died, but maybe it was in the original cut...
- I noticed that the cast "order of appearance," as listed in
the credits, is not matching at all the real order of appearance of the
characters in the final cut! Do you know if some scenes were moved or
shifted from the original cut?
- Yes, but not specifically.
- How come, for example, Sheharazad, her husband and the Calife can be
appearing in 24th, 25th and 26th position in this "cast, in order
of appearance", being as they are in the opening sequence? This "order
of appearance" seems very strange to me...
- I agree, but they were even in the beginning in the original cut. Perhaps
it was a compromise with "importance" in the film?
- Perhaps... How did your storyboards look like?
- Pencil boards. Detailed, comic book style drawings. No lens or lighting
- Were they shown to the actors during the re-shoots?
- They were used initially to convince the money folks that Crichton was
justified in adding this new material, to make it make sense. Then they
were used for everyone, I believe, including cast.
- Did they integrate some of your ideas into the film?
- Some of my shots are verbatim. And they did use ideas that I generated--beheading,
seeing a head roll, how Ibn first sees the carnage, etc.
- Did Dowd and Crichton tell you what was "wrong" in the original
cut? Did they want to improve specifically some aspects that were not
working? Did they mention early screenings?
- No mention of test-screenings. I remember they felt that the Wendol
Mother character was all but lost. When Buliwyf gets poisoned, it was
an almost non-existant scene and not very clear. There needed to be clearer
revulsion for what the bearmen were doing. Before, it was less obvious
that they were so violent.
- So the original cut was in fact less gory than the final cut?
- Much less gory! They were also trying to clarify Ibn's character as
a rule-breaker before joining the men, but most of this was not filmed
or was cut. As I have already mentioned, I boarded a lovemaking scene
for the beginning of the film.
- Yes... And where was this lovemaking scene supposed to happen exactly?
One of the set dressers told me that they had
built some garden and some court sets for the Baghdad sequences (not seen
in the movie)...
- That's interesting. I designed a court/garden area that Ibn is to be
waiting in to see the Merchant. The Merchant's wife sees him out there,
makes "eyes" at him and invites him into her chamber. The lovemaking
was there. The Merchant and his men break in to catch Ibn with his pants
- That seems fairly accurate to Crichton's book, except for the "pants
down" situation. Was the overall intention (for this scene) comical
or not at all?
- I think it was to be somewhat comical and kind of showing that he was
a rogue and a bit of a dandy.
- By the way, did you use the original novel from Michael Crichton as
a source of inspiration for your boards?
- No, I read it after I worked on the project.
- I was also wondering if you were influenced by well-known comic books
artists (or illustrators) "specialized" in sword & sorcery?
- Yes--Al Williamson, Alex Raymond. Some Frazetta and Barry Windsor-Smith.
Barry drew the cover to the best selling comic book I ever wrote--the
first issue of "Bloodshot" for Valiant comics.
We worked together in Manhattan for about a year...
- Now, if you don't mind, I would really like you to clarify something,
because I must admit that I am a little confused. If you boarded scenes
for the re-shoots (from Crichton and Dowd's inputs), then I suppose those
scenes you boarded were not in the original cut, right? I can imagine
the film without "the Wendol Mother's son" or "Ibn
seeing the aftermath of carnage in the hut", but I can not imagine
the film without "the first battle with the Wendols"
or "the battle in the cave where Buliwyf is poisoned"
or "the big climactic fight at the end" or "Buliwyf's
funeral"... Could you please elaborate on the before and after?
- Sure. Before, Ibn walked in and we saw his face. He turned, stepped
out and vomited. We never saw what he saw. Before, the son was just not
in there. There were random bear-men, no one foe. No talisman. Just tons
of these guys attacking. The first battle was there, just much smaller.
The cave battle with the poisoning lasted like a minute. No real fight.
He went in, a woman screamed at him and stuck him with a pin. No fighting
of consequence. Then he came out, stumbling. The climactic fight was largely
there, but all of the shots of the son were added. The longshot with him
spinning something in his hand, etc., were all added. The specific shots
of him and his talisman/chest plate were added. Before, Buliwyf just fought
SOMEBODY. Funeral was similar, but modified as I mentioned.
- Hey, I'm starting to get the picture! Did you have to study McTiernan's
directing style, in order to fit in with it?
- Well, I attempted to design shots that worked with the existing material.
- According to some sources, illustrator James Cordeiro was supposed to
work on THE 13TH WARRIOR, but he is not listed in the final credits. Do
you know if he actually ended working on the film?
- No, I do not know.
- Have you heard anything about the McTiernan/Crichton dispute?
- Only speculation...
- Do you know why they finally changed the title of the movie, from EATERS
OF THE DEAD to THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- They were getting a market reaction as if it was a low-budget horror
film, like a George Romero movie!
- Were you satisfied creatively with the final result (i.e. the movie)?
- Very much so. I am proud of the film and feel both Crichton and McTiernan
should be as well.
- Anything you would want to add about your work on THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- It was an intense, rapidfire experience, kicking out hundreds of boards
for a first pass in four days. Insane, but I loved it.
- Last but not least, another storyboard artist is listed alongside with
you in the final credits, C.R. Lister. Do you know him?
- Yes! Charles Robert Lister is a friend of mine for nearly twenty years.
He is a bit of a hermit and lives on a boat. He can draw and was available
to help me during those first four days. He is also one of the stars of
my film, FROST: PORTRAIT OF A VAMPIRE.