Directed by Tore Frandsen, Virgin Mobile ‘Nothing Hidden’ from Publicis Dublin sees a surprisingly sweet and friendly Bigfoot come out of hiding. We spoke to Tore about creating the legend’s unique look and character, and fulfilling his life-long dream of creating a Monster Movie.
Q: What’s the story behind Bigfoot? How did he come to star in this spot for Virgin Mobile?
Tore Frandsen: The idea was to try and find a story that reflected the notion ‘Nothing Hidden’; something that would suggest what you see is what you get. Bigfoot was a good visual representation of this idea, because for centuries people have imagined what this creature is like without ever really knowing. Presented cinematically, the story of him coming out of hiding to mix with regular townsfolk and dispel his own myths, was one that we felt would be exciting and intriguing.
Q: Has making a monster movie always been a life-long dream for you?
TF: Ever since I was a little kid, I have always had an authentic passion for monster movies. There’s something so primeval about the notion of the unknown. It was exciting for me to be to be able to explore something that goes beyond the everyday with these films, because I love to use my imagination and come up with unusual ideas.
Q: How did you create Bigfoot’s unique ‘look’?
TF: First, I did a lot of research into the kinds of beasts that people have been depicting for many centuries. I started collecting lots of images that have been created of him before and then I worked with a designer to combine all the features that I wanted our Bigfoot to have. This was drawn up and then mapped out digitally to be turned into prosthetics.
The actor was brought in for lots of tests throughout the development because I wanted to make sure there was plenty of expression to his face and that it didn’t just look like a mask. We were able to enhance some of the lines and wrinkles in his face with post-production VFX, helping to create a more realistic look than prosthetics alone. We also had many conversations about the texture of his fur and how tall he needed to be because we wanted him to look appropriately unkempt, huge and muscular compared to the other people in the films.
Q: What’s he really like beyond that matted, never-been-washed exterior? Which parts of his character were you trying to draw out?
TF: While he is a creature of epic proportions, he’s not threatening at all. He’s docile and struggles to understand how to be around people or what to do in everyday situations. Remember, he’s a guy that’s been living in the woods, excluded from regular civilisation up until now. Trying to capture this was quite a challenge, and we did so by presenting a Bigfoot that’s sweet, but a little weird. He has an accommodating and patient nature that most non-humans (and some humans) can’t muster, especially while waiting in line. At the end of the day, Bigfoot’s just like you and me. He just wants a transparent contract and consistent reception like everyone else.
Q: What tone did you want to create in the film?
TF: Again, nailing the right mood was a challenge, because we wanted to capture the essence of a monster movie, but there is a limit to how scary you can go with advertising, and certainly something too dreadful and spooky wasn’t quite right in this case. It was more about building mystery and suspense before resolving on charm and humour. A lot of this was done through the facial expressions and body language of our cast, making everything feel very human and relatable.
Q: The casting process for the film must have been a little different. Tell us about this?
TF: For me, the most important thing was finding someone with amazing comedic timing. While we could have looked for someone with typical Bigfoot-like features, the reality was that we would only really be seeing the eyes and teeth beyond the prosthetics, so the acting really had to be there.
We experimented with different accents and decided that the tone of someone from a foreign dialect worked better than a British voice. After a couple of days searching and not finding anyone quite right, I remembered a guy who I had worked with previously who had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. Everyone agreed he had the perfect character, and within a couple of days we were already building the costume around him. The interesting thing is, he’s not actually that tall at all – only about 5.9” – so we had to stand him on boxes next to the other cast members and do a lot of post-production VFX work to make him look bigger.
Q: Where did you choose to film?
TF: I liked the idea of being somewhere in Ireland, but it had to be an Irish town from our imagination, rather than strictly a real location that everyone instantly recognises. It’s also quite hard to create the cinematic style on location in the real-world, because in order to do so, you need to get past all sorts of obstacles and organise things like road closures to make way for filming. So, we settled on using a backlot in Europe that had the perfect cityscape – with a look and feel reminiscent of both London and New York – and with a mountain in the distance that we can imagine was once Bigfoot’s home.
Q: What was the reaction to Bigfoot on set? Was anyone genuinely scared?
TF: It was definitely interesting and slightly strange for me because I knew the actor well, but all of a sudden I could barely recognise him. His face was so different that it did make people feel quite uncomfortable. Despite the 30-degree heat and so many layers of costume that he had to be fanned down with leaf blowers, he didn’t smell bad, but no one really wanted to sit next to him at lunch.