If you’ve seen Stranger Things 4, then by this point you’ve probably met Vecna.
The standout villain from a series that has included Demogorgons, demodogs and even something ominously called the Mind-Flayer, Vecna’s ultra-realistic make-up and chilling way of dispatching his enemies has quickly elevated him to the status of show icon.
But what you might not have realised is that Vecna’s costume is 95 per cent real, and it was created by Barrie Gower.
As the special makeup effects designer for series four, Barrie and his team were responsible for creating the Vecna costume, and by the sounds of it, a lot of work went into making it look as terrifying as possible.
Talking to the The Evening Standard’s Tech & Science Daily podcast, Barrie explained that the Duffer brothers, who run the show, approached the team two years ago.
“They were looking to create a new iconic villain for the new season but they wanted something which was more humanoid in its shape and form and also had a really practical presence,” Barrie says.
“Primarily so there was a practical presence on set and the cast would be able to interact with it there and then, rather than having a guy in a green screen and mo-cap suit.”
“[Series four] has got a really strong feeling of the Nightmare on Elm franchise in there… I think they were after their own Freddy Kruger in a way really, that could be introduced into this season.”
Once the team said yes, the work began. Firstly, Jamie Campbell Bower, who would be playing Vecna, was flown to London for a full-body cast, before the 25-piece suit was assembled.
Made from different pieces of foam and latex, it took Barrie about eight and a half hours to glue Campbell Bower into his suit at the start.
“The more and more we did the process, the makeup... we managed to chip that time down further and further. I think our record was about 6 hours and 27 minutes in the end and we were really going hell for leather. It was like a marathon every day.”
In the end, Campbell Bower filmed a total of twenty days as Vecna – enough time that the team got to see his creative process in action.
“I think there was a point during that really meaty process of doing his makeup… some mornings we’d be a few hours in and he’d say ‘can you put my hand on now,’ and you’d start to see him switching into his character, his voice would deepen,” Barrie remembers.
“We’d be playing thrash and heavy metal music throughout the whole process and he’d be getting into this zone and towards the end of the application he’d shift from Jamie into Vecna, to the point where you’d be on set and he would be kind of saying things under his breath in this really deep monotone voice… He was terrifying as Vecna, he really was.”
Though some CGI touches were made to the character - editing out Campbell Bower’s nose and pupils, for instance - the full impact of the costume was not lost on the cast.
“On a few of the sequences that we shot, the first time you see some of the characters with Vecna was the first opportunities that the cast actually got to meet Jamie in that makeup, so their responses are quite real, the reactions are quite real.
“I think that happened with Sadie Sink and there are a couple of others you might see a bit later in Volume 2.
“It’s great to know we’ve created this character that’s definitely got this presence to him and can get those kind of reactions.”
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