Colossus Facial Performance Artist Greg LaSalle sits down with Alex Yarde on the premiere of DEADPOOL!
I finally got a chance to meet the very talented, knowledgeable and surprisingly witty Greg LaSalle, the face of Colossus in the record-shattering DEADPOOL out now. If you haven’t seen DEADPOOL you are missing a new gold standard on what gifted individuals like Deadpool Director Tim Miller and actors like Mr. LaSalle (who also has a vast technical background in mo cap) can bring to a property and literally breathe life into CGI characters on an unprecedented detail! We met recently at the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South in NYC. If you wish to see the video I shot, here is a You Tube link. For the interview below Key—AY: Alex Yarde GL: Greg LaSalle
Alex Yarde: Greg it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for speaking with me.
Greg LaSalle: You’re very welcome, you too Alex, thank you.
AY: When you first heard that you were up for performing the Mocap for Colossus did you know that Colossus was going to be so important to the story?
GL: Actually, I knew there was a substantial amount of dialogue but there were more shots than I imagined originally. I’ve been working with Tim Miller (Director, Deadpool) for a few years even back on the test for Deadpool—that was five years ago maybe? But I wasn’t aware of how integrated into the story he’d be.
AY: How do you combine the actors who are physically portraying Colossus, the voice actor and your facial performance? Tell me about the process of mo cap.
GL: First, Tim Miller is really fluent with technology. He has his own visual effects company, he’s been up on the technology so he realized he could take different aspects of different actors and kind of ‘Frankenstein” those things together. In this case you had Andre on set actually doing the physical stuff, the stuntmen doing the fighting and a stuntman from Vancouver who is actually the likeness of Colossus. Stephan does the voice and I do the facial performance. For me, I didn’t have to worry about the body stuff (thank goodness) because I couldn’t move like the guys in the fights. Stephan did a lot of the audio beforehand so I had the audio files to rehearse just to get the timing down. I didn’t want to have to think about timing, because when you’re performing you don’t want to be thinking about things you want to actually just perform. There’s a behavioral kind of thing with acting where sometimes my lips are not moving properly, so I rehearsed for days along with the audio files just to get those down. Then when we’re actually filming, it’s looking at live action plates, and having Tim Miller say now that I’m here “Colossus is he upset. Is he frustrated?” You know this is the kind of expression and the kinds of feelings that are going on now so that’s what you want to do.
AY: So as you’re going through this process, you’re in Colossus head acting out his expressions it’s amazing to me as a fan and consumer of these kinds of movies the amount of detail you can display like with a wrinkled brow.
GL: Yeah, yes..
AY: …especially with a character like Colossus who’s made of metal, how does that work?
GL: It was Tim’s vision to make him as “humanly chrome” as possible, and then about two years ago we had advanced the technology in such a way that…Ok, so the MOVA system captures the performance in high resolution. But two years ago we developed a way to transfer that performance to a computer generated character mathematically so instead of older methods where it would filter out some of the details of the performance. Now with very little animator intervention—-since the MOVA System picks up all the wrinkles all those features and movements so well—we wanted to be able to transfer that in the new system Direct Drive. So, that gave Tim the ability to make the characters face full screen and be totally believable. And I think it worked. This is the first time the technology has been used on a hero character in a film with those big shots.
AY: Excellent! Now when you talk about collaborating with the other actors all portraying the same character do you get a lot of face time with the other actors? Or is it more like voice acting where you go in the booth, you go in by yourself you do your part and that’s it?
GL: Yeah, that’s what it’s like. The other thing is that—to be really efficient financially Tim shot the whole movie up front and started editing it together and then figured out what were the real lines that Colossus was going to say. So we didn’t start filming Colossus until September, we didn’t finish until Thanksgiving so by then all the principal photography was done except for a few minor details so my only interactions was with the live action plates and the files from Stephan then we were filming just working with Tim.
AY: So all that together brings Colossus to life? Amazing. Colossus is a favorite of mine. He’s an X-man. He’s been so well received is there a possibility of Colossus appearing by himself in a sequel or spin-off film?
GL: I would love to do that because I think what’s interesting about Colossus is he’s a different kind of superhero. He’s such a gentle soul, and there’s a lot of depth to his character that I think would be awesome to explore. We’d joke about what future plans for Colossus are I was busting Tim about having Colossus go back to the farm.
GL: Colossus in love!
GL: He can’t be a cab driver though, because he apparently has trouble fitting inside a taxicab.
AY: (laughs hysterically) That’s true! So going into this role do you have a lot of background—were you a comic book person?
GL: No I’m not. So when I finally discussed playing Colossus doing the facial performance for Tim, I ran home and I started researching his background. Not the comics side but his history—as an actor, these are the things that help you. So him growing up on the farm you know, what happened to his sister and the rest of his family? Having some understanding of those helped me understand his behavior as a human being, the human side of his character. I did a lot of research on that but I didn’t read any of the comics because I didn’t want any of that stuff getting into the character. Not in a bad way.
GL: I just wanaa understand who he is. Not in the comic sense of what he’s doing, does that makes sense?
AY: Oh absolutely. You’re unique take on Peter/ Colossus.
AY: As an aside I haven’t seen the movie yet.
GL: (laughs) Oh man! (laughs) You’re going to love it.
AY: (laughs) Yeah I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas. I’m wondering about Colossus’ relationship with Kitty—does that come in? Is Kitty in the movie? This probably a spoiler (laughs) Because of what he seems to be the Angel on [Deadpool’s] shoulder. Someone who is his kind of moral compass?
AY: And as you said though he’s immensely powerful he’s this gentle giant.
GL: Yeah, he fights only when he absolutely has too.
AY: So is he like the opposite of The Hulk?
GL: Well, I think there are a lot of aspects of The Hulk that Colossus shares but Colossus is a more developed human, if that makes any sense.
AY: Sure. Is there anything you would want people to know going into Deadpool about your Motion Capture performance?
GL: No. I’m a big “go in fresh” person. I wouldn’t even see the cuts of the film until it was finished. Because, I’m a big fan of see it when it’s all together. See it when it’s finished, and just have a good time.
AY: One last question, when Ray Park talked about doing Darth Maul or Toad in X-Men he talked about leaving signature moves that fans could point to and says That’s Ray Park! Now what are the Greg LaSalle signatures moves we fans can look for?
GL: Well it’s not me, one of the big things that Tim was…like..look, he doesn’t have eyes, so, the eyebrow movement and the movement around the eyes were really important. We had to portray a lot with just that so we did a lot of takes choreographing exactly what was going on with only my eyebrows so while I’m not sure they are “signature’ moves, I think they are important moves that help get across what’s going on in Colossus head.
AY: Excellent! I can’t wait to see the picture and thank you so much for talking with me about it! It was a pleasure meeting you and good luck with it!
GL: It was nice to meet you! Thanks Alex! Take care!
art credit ~ 20th century fox /Alex Yarde