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HOLLOW MAN: Unseen Star Kevin Bacon

Sure, he's playing an invisible man, but he still had to show up on the set.

By Steve Biodrowski     May 04, 2000

In Hollow Man, an updating of the classic invisible man premise, directed by Paul Verhoeven, actor Kevin Bacon stars a brilliant and arrogant scientist named Sebastian Caine, whose work at a top secret experimental laboratory renders him invisible. Unable to reverse the process he at first works with his colleagues to find a way to blend back into society (using latex makeup to cover his skin, for example), but soon the temptations of invisibility overcome his better adjustment, and Caine begins to exploit his newfound power. As the character says, while washing his unseen face in front of the bathroom mirror, 'It's amazing the things you can do when you don't have to look at your face in the mirror anymore.'

The film's trailer contains several startling images like these, which take invisibility effects to a new level. John P. Fulton's work in James Whale's The Invisible Man (1932) may still hold up very well today, but there were certain limitations that have been overcome. You really can tell that it's Bacon playing the scenes, even he's not 'there.' Besides the bubble like effect of the splashing water in the bathroom scene, there are magnificent shots like one exhaled cigarette smoke forming a whispy outline around Caine's invisible face, clearly revealing the actor's identifiable features

All this meant that Bacon had to play all the scenes, whether his character was visible or not. Computer scans and body molds helped Sony Pictures Imageworks create a digital version of the actor in the computer. Bacon then interacted with his fellow cast members on the set, with him painted in green or black makeup, depending on the specific technical needs of the shots. Then the special effects people could remove the actor's face or hands, but leave in the clothing, water, or smoke that conformed to his body movements and facial expressions.

All in all, it was an endurance test for the actor, made all the more exhausting by production delays, including an injury to co-star Elizabeth Shue. With hours spent in green make-up, with matching green tights and wig, that made him look like a stand-in for the Jolly Green Giant, there there definitely times when he wished the effects people would just use some invisible wires to move objects supposedly in the grasp of the invisible man, but that just wasn't part of Paul Verhoeven's approach.

QUESTION: AT TIMES, DIDN'T YOU FEEL AS IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SKIP THE ON-SET WORK AND JUST ADD THE DIALOUGE IN VOICE OVER?

Kevin Bacon: Sounds like a great gig doesn't it? You don't have to show up; just see you on the looping stage. I've been in this movie more and longer hours than any other movie I've ever been seen in; I spent more time on set in front of the camera. The thing is, everyone once in a while, I'll see something or be there for a specific moment, and by nature of being able to be there and give input about the way the scene is structured or whatever, there is a signature kind of thing that happens. I mean, you see there is a scene when I'm walking down the hall, and it's just a sheet walking down the hall, over my head and on my shoulders--it kind of moves like me; i'm sort of there, so its not like I get fed up with it. I happen to be there; something like that will happen, and it sort of makes sense in the end.

DID YOU DO ANYTHING TO GET YOUR EMOTION ACROSS, TO COMPENSATE, THAT YOU WOULDN'T DO FOR A VISIBLE PART?

Not really consciously. I haven't made the choice to go broader. If you think about it, your voice lends a quality to performance; you have to keep remembering that there is a certain power that comes from whispering in someone's ear that can't see you and doesn't know where you are, and this character is constantly thrilled and excited by the way he can wield this power, and his voice is one of the things that is partly there. I'm interested to see how much we end up looping, because even with my voice, it does get changed when wearing the latex mask. The mask is in the story when I decide, 'You guys can see me.' I put on clothes, gloves and fill this latex maskpretty horrible looking. Its got eyes and mouth cut out, and you see right through into nothingness--Hollow Manand i wear green dentures. So with the teeth and the mask closing off my nasal cavities, I make an odd vocal sound.

WAS THE MASK CLAUSTROPHOBIC?

It's horrible. I hate that thing; that was one of the least favorite things. I think we have had 30 days in it. It takes a long time to put on and take off; the 1st day, you want to leave it on for lunch and eat with it because of the time to take off and put on. I said, yeah, too much of a pain in the ass to take it off and put it on; i did that one day. By the end of one day i wanted to jump out of a window, so I'd take it off for lunch. I mean its glued to my face, and it has expression in it; you can wrinkle the forehead. So then, say from a performance standpoint, you go and re-voice that stuff because the reality of the sound with the mask is a bizarre sound.

DOES ANYTHING IN CHARARACTER LAY GROUNDWORK FOR HIS BECOMING A MONSTER?

The decision I made: had he never become invisible, would he go out and do these horrible things, kill people or rape? No. It's the power and pain of getting into it and trying to get out of it, the feeling of being trapped, the insanity all came out of the invisibility. However, would everyone who does this experiment turn into a monster? No, the guy is definitely pre-disposed; he's an incredibly voyeuristic person, a megalomaniac, gigantic ego, and that goes hand in hand with a deep seated insecurity; he's power hungry, and he's the perfect guy to turn into a monster.

YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOU FEEL LIKE A PUPPET. WHAT SATISFACTION ARE YOU GETTING OUT OF THIS SHOOT?

Seeing the end.

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