Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

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Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Blightwolf » Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:48 am

Acting With Wolves: Meaty Roles That Require a Gentle Touch
June 4, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Producers on the HBO vampire series "True Blood" were in a race to finish several scenes last month. But their deadline wasn't about budgets or air dates. They needed to wrap the episodes before the wolves shed their winter coats.

"We had to work on their timeline," says executive producer Gregg Fienberg. A lighter summer coat would make the 120-pound gray wolves, cast in werewolf roles, look smaller and less menacing. "We can't suddenly have wolves that look different."

Television producers are used to working with high-maintenance stars. But the popularity of the vampire genre, which all of a sudden has embraced werewolves, has some productions learning to deal with wolf actors. Big-budget movies can afford to craft expensive computer-generated werewolves, but TV, with its smaller budgets, must often rely on the real thing.

Every few seconds of screen time for the growling giant werewolves in the coming movie "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" took a team of as many as six visual-effects experts up to six weeks to create. The cost of live wolves varies, but they typically rent for under $500 a day, plus the cost of trainers. Since the animals prefer to travel in packs, six or seven additional wolves may accompany a wolf actor, but producers don't have to pay for the rest of the entourage.

"Deadwood," a Western series on HBO, used live wolves. Animal Planet recently aired "Living with the Wolfman," a reality series about an English couple that lives with a pack of wolves.

Thunder, a golden timber wolf with deep amber eyes, landed a role as a werewolf on the third season of "True Blood," along with seven other wolves. HBO's series, which returns June 13, follows vampires, werewolves and humans who coexist in the fictional town of Bon Temps, La.

Not everyone is joining the pack. The CW network's "Vampire Diaries" so far isn't springing for wolves, and it even stopped using a live crow last year because it was too much hassle, according to a network spokeswoman.

Wolves, even if raised in captivity, pose a special challenge, because they look like their cuddly canine cousins. Actors must be warned repeatedly not to pet the animals, and have to sit through frequent safety seminars. Perfume and cologne disturb the wolves and are forbidden on the set. Food must be cleared from the immediate premises as per rules provided by the American Humane Association's Film & TV Unit.

Before he was cast as werewolf Alcide Herveaux on "True Blood," actor Joe Manganiello had little experience working with live animals — just a couple of scenes with a penguin on a CBS pilot. A live wolf required some adjustments. On a recent break on a set in West Hollywood, the actor had to rush through a crowd of extras and off the sound stage after crew members spotted him eating turkey. "All I heard was 'Are you out of your mind? The wolves are coming,"' he recalls.

Skittish by nature, wolves must arrive on the set a day or two before a shoot and have private time to sniff around and get comfortable. There are air-conditioned trailers, with separate compartments for each wolf, where they rest between scenes.

Each wolf eats three to four pounds of raw meat and high-protein food daily and needs frequent breaks. "They're worse than children," says director Michael Lehmann.

Wolves can be trained to stand on a mark or jump on cue for a treat of red meat. But unlike dogs, their faces don't exude much expression, directors say. Some scenes require a "hybrid" body double. These mixed-breed dogs are three-quarters wolf and have a more agreeable demeanor. Rugby, a 100-pound perky hybrid, had his cream-colored coat dyed brown so he could stand in for chocolate-colored wolf Shadow for a scene in which a person jumps in front of a bullet to save a werewolf.

Ever since Lon Chaney Jr. prowled the countryside in 1941's "The Wolf Man," Hollywood has returned to werewolves, depicting them in myriad ways. Makeup designer Rick Baker says he was instructed to create a "four-legged hound from hell" for the 1981 movie "An American Werewolf in London," for which he won an Academy Award. In this year's "The Wolfman," Benicio Del Toro walked upright and flashed inch-and-a-half long canines.

"In our world, werewolves are shifters who turn into wolves. They don't turn into giant wolves the size of minivans. They don't turn into human-looking wolves," says "True Blood" creator Alan Ball.

Live wolves can help bring out actors' animal side. Brit Morgan, who plays sultry werewolf Debbie Pelt on "True Blood," shot a scene in which she kicked open a door as two hybrid wolves jumped on either side of her. One got excited and snapped at her hand. The director yelled "cut" and she says she heard someone say, "Um, you almost became lunch."

But the scene is one of her best yet, she says. "It felt so primal and the energy was so strong." (A wolf has an estimated biting capacity of 1,500 pounds per square inch, compared with about 750 pounds for a German shepherd, according to the International Wolf Center.)

If a scene requires a wolf to stand still for a long period of time, Steve Martin, owner of Steve Martin's Working Wildlife, which provides the wolves, may recommend Thunder, typically his steadiest wolf. Frankie is a happy, outgoing wolf whose head bobs up and down when he tries to stand still. Cody gets nervous with indoor objects overhead, so he's better for outdoor scenes. Shadow is fast and can do scenes that require a werewolf to run through the woods.

Animal actors, like the human variety, experience career highs and lows. A wolf could land several roles and then face a dry spell, says Mr. Martin. And species-wise, he is keeping his options open. Also in his stable are trained reindeer, a bear named Brett, porcupines and an elephant (upon request). "Right now it's wolves," he says. "Next year it could be cheetahs."

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 31266.html
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by happylolzgirl » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:56 pm

Wow! That is actually really interesting! I might actually have to watch an episode of that "True blood " show, just to see the wolves! :lol:
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Blightwolf » Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:26 am

happylolzgirl wrote:Wow! That is actually really interesting! I might actually have to watch an episode of that "True blood " show, just to see the wolves! :lol:
You can get the best view of the wolves in season 3 episodes 1 and 2, if I remember correctly. Beware, though, True Blood contains explicit language and adult scenes.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by happylolzgirl » Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:05 pm

lolz, ok, thanks for the warning.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Garion1 » Sun Aug 22, 2010 12:56 pm

That is interesting, i didn't know they used actual wolves in the filming of that, i thought it was just CGI. Thanks for posting this!
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Blightwolf » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:45 am

Garion1 wrote:That is interesting, i didn't know they used actual wolves in the filming of that, i thought it was just CG. Thanks for posting this!
CGI isn't that impressive. True Blood is always looking for authenticity and originality; they aim for realism. The actors on the show wear retractable vampire fangs, for example, it's not CGI, it's all real. So, obviously, they wanted their werewolves to look as realistic as possible, hence they chose to use real wolves.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by ethiopianwolfking » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:40 am

no matter how happy and calm they try and make the wolves, theyd be 10 times as happy in the wild
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Blightwolf » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:29 am

ethiopianwolfking wrote:no matter how happy and calm they try and make the wolves, theyd be 10 times as happy in the wild
This issue is debatable. Obviously, wolves are wild animals and are not suitable "pets", but wolves that are used in the entertainment industry are captive-born individuals, owned by knowledgeable and responsible professionals. They were born into an artificial environment and were raised, socialized and trained in the company of humans. If they were released, they would not survive in the wild. And at least these wolves are kept in adequate living conditions; the stress they experience is minimized and they are handled safely and properly.

I am not against wolves being used in films and television as long as their psychological and physical state is carefully monitored by their trainer, an animal welfare official, or a veterinarian. As you can see from the article, the wolves are fed well, provided shelter and water, given frequent breaks during shoots, have private, air-conditioned trailers where they can rest without disturbance, and are treated humanely.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by AlbinoWolf6 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:35 am

Interesting. Maybe I ought to watch the show for the wolves. (I cant stand vampire stuff though) Thanks for sharing the news Blight!
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Blightwolf » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:41 am

AlbinoWolf6 wrote:Interesting. Maybe I ought to watch the show for the wolves. (I cant stand vampire stuff though) Thanks for sharing the news Blight!
Don't worry, True Blood is nothing like the teenage drama seen in Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. It's a very mature show with dark themes. I recommend watching it, specially if you want to see the wolves. They are featured in brief scenes, but they are impressive animals and you definitely won't regret viewing them.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Willowwolf510 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:22 am

Thanks for sharing that was interesting information
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Garion1 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:07 pm

Blightwolf wrote:
Garion1 wrote:That is interesting, i didn't know they used actual wolves in the filming of that, i thought it was just CGI. Thanks for posting this!
CGI isn't that impressive. True Blood is always looking for authenticity and originality; they aim for realism. The actors on the show wear retractable vampire fangs, for example, it's not CGI, it's all real. So, obviously, they wanted their werewolves to look as realistic as possible, hence they chose to use real wolves.

I'm not big on CGI either, i just didn't know they used real animals, i prefer the books to the movie series. Anyways thanks for posting.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Griffinsong » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:48 pm

Interesting article, Blightwolf, thanks for posting it. I would watch this show just for the wolves if I hadn't sworn to never touch the series until I'm 16. (I read part of the first book. XD)

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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Alpha Female » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:58 pm

Interesting article. I haven't watched the series and I probably won't, even if there are wolves in it.
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Re: Wolves get meaty roles in HBO's original vampire series

Post by Maia Huntress » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:47 pm

That's very interesting Blight. Thanks for sharing. ^^

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