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The release of Opiate2 in Blu-ray is an opportunity to look at the work of Dominic Hailstone, an English creator of monsters for cinema, but not only that. For Tool,
he also worked before this video released in 2022 -for the 30th anniversary of the EP Opiate- on show visuals or the feature inside the Fear Inoculum package.
You learnt FX by yourself. How did you manage to start and work on big movies
like Interview with the Vampire?
Dominic Hailstone: Yes, that's right. I started doing FX with a very well known prosthetics artist called Duncan Jarman. We used to make short films together with
a guy called Alex Chandon. We both got into movies through meeting an FX artist called Neil Gorton at Shepperton Studios, who gave us our first break. Apart from that, I used to
either climb over the wall or blag myself past security at Pinewood studios, and then go around seeing anyone I could.
As for Interview with the Vampire, that was complete chance. I was working at Image Animation, and some guy ran in and said that they needed an alligator to kill Tom Cruise.
Everyone was busy so they threw it to me, and I'd only just started working there. It was built very quickly in 3 days, and it was made from the discarded skeleton of Frank from
Hellraiser. It looked like dogshit, but at the very least I can say I helped kill Tom Cruise, which is the only time it has been done in a film so I'm quietly proud of that.
I've discovered that you also worked on the impressive video for "Come
to Daddy" by Aphex Twin. How was it to work with Chris Cunningham?
He was lots of fun and clever too, which always helps. He never gave you enough time to do your job and always changed his mind, but that's
not unsual for good directors.
The video you directed for "Holy Tears" by Isis was astonishing as well. How did it happen?
Thank you. My memory is vague on how I met them, but it was probably through Chet Zar or Brian Williams (Lustmord). It may
have been through Adam Jones.
What was the idea behind that video?
Any meaning is up to the audience to interpret, but the visuals are based on a documentary I saw about stuntmen when I was
about 5 years old, and I just copied what I remembered.
It's also to do with a joke I once wrote, which was: "If I decided to kill myself by jumping off a tall building, I would hate to discover on the way down that the thing that was
missing in my life was skydiving."
You directed the video for "Batcat" by Mogwai after that. Do you speak with the bands for such videos?
No, I generally don't speak with the artists I do videos for at all usually, just the record company.
I was surprised recently that you also did the artworks for Necro
Deathmort's This Beat is Necrotonic and Music of bleak Origin. It was very different compared to your most known "visual universe".
I don't consider having a style to be particularly important, so I try to adapt it to the project. With the Necro stuff, I just wanted a
challenge so I decided to do something I'd never done before.
Next to that, you did the short film The Eel in 2004. Can you tell
us more about it?
That was mostly a response to Robert Clunne's music, but also I had similar visuals in my head from listening to Ween's "The golden Eel"
so I mashed them together.
Weirdly enough, a person contacted me afterwards asking me if I've ever heard Ween, because when he listened to that song he imagined similar things.
As you use traditional FX mixed with CGI, what's your
general way of working?
I don't use much CGI as the process bores me. It's mostly puppets, but they're composited in the computer.
I don't have a general way of working, but usually when doing FX I'll storyboard it first, then possibly do an animation if I think it needs to be timed with the music. I almost
always do tons of drawings, because it helps clarify things for the crew though.
Then Alien: Covenant must have been a big step for you.
That was an amazing job, and I was pinching myself every day. Ridley [Scott] is a beast, and I've never been so impressed with a director.
My favourite memory from the whole thing was watching The Eel with him, and Ridley screaming: "That's the fucking alien right there!" I'll happily take that memory to my
This is going to sound like bullshit, but I don't actually consider it a big step as I hadn't done any physical sculpting in 15 years. It was more like going back to my old job.
However, Alien was one of my primary influences as a filmmaker so I was very happy to take part.
I was first approached as a 2nd unit director, but then Ridley's son came on board so I was pushed out which was disappointing. So it would have been a big step, but it was actually
backwards. However, I was working with friends and I was having a blast so it didn't really matter.
I've seen some of your concept art for this movie. What's your look on what was tried with that movie? (which wasn't well received to say the least)
The initial story was more interesting as it was more like The Island of Doctor Moreau, but big films studios always change things
so lots was thrown out.
Personally, I think they should have dug into the science/mutation stuff as that's what freaks me out. I saw so much, that without specific questions it's hard to comment.
And so when did you meet Adam Jones?
He contacted me around the time of The Eel, then the first time I met him was at an art gallery.
We got on and agreed it would be good to do something together. I've worked for Tool now for around 10 years now. Easily over 2 hours of visual work, some of which is now on tour,
some of which is top secret.
Did you have a look on what he did for Stan Winston, and was it easy to
communicate with him as he has an experience in FX and directing?
Absolutely. I keep my ear close to the ground, so I was well aware of Adam previously and knew what he'd achieved. Adam and I speak the
same language, which is basically FX and monster movies. I've joked with him about how most people have no idea what's it's like to work for months on something just to have it cut
out of the movie. Making an exploding head that's supposed to be seen for a second, then it gets cut anyway, lit badly or just never filmed. The chances of success are often quite
small, so that job breeds a certain discipline.
Adam works like any good artist does, instinctively, which can drive some people nuts, but if you understand that process it's easy and there is a great deal of freedom. I owe him a
You know Chet Zar. He too comes from FX, and he worked a lot with Tool.
Yes. I know Chet, and I love him to bits. I owe him a lot as do many other people, he is an exceptionally generous man. I'd love to work with
him some day.
What you make fits well with Tool's artworks. What's your view on what they
have achieved and represent?
I have no idea on what they represent to be honest, which might be why I fit, but their music is great and they've certainly achieved a
lot, especially seeing how unconventional they are.
That's very impressive, especially live when you see them play their stuff flawlessly.
You said that you had complete artistic freedom to direct the video
Opiate2. Does it mean that you gave your own interpretation of the song, or is it something else here?
It's my interpretation to a degree, but it's also an old idea I always wanted to do so it just kind of worked. These things
are always shaped by forces outside of your imagination though, usually based on time and budget, so it's not like you can do what you want. It's more like a puzzle. For instance,
the break in the song wasn't planned or budgeted for, so I had to come up with something on the spot to fill those 3 minutes. You just kind of roll with it and see what comes out,
it's not particularly conscious. More like I like what the camera is doing here, so let's use that sort of thing.
How is the communication on this kind of set?
Artists can be hard to manage and tend to be a bit unstable, which can cause problems for a production. So I try and hire techniciains mainly, or artists with good technical
The way that I direct is that I usually just tell them what I want practically, then if that doesn't work, I make up something that I hope makes sense to them.
For instance when Javier opens his hand on the Opiate2 video, he wasn't doing it right, so I told him: "Look at your hand like you would if you were on LSD." That worked.
About the fact that you don't use CGI so much, I was tricked probably because of the textures and movements. How do you manage to obtain such a result?
A lot of the textures are already there with the puppets, although I understand what you mean.
What I try and do are things that computers would find difficult. The Eel for instance has the underwater shots with the particles in the water reacting to the eel, and that
was impossible to do back in 2004.
In Opiate2, it was the dirt which used to play a bigger part in the video with the creature really rolling around in the muck. You can do that stuff fairly easily now, but
Opiate2 was made in 2015. Cest la vie.
There are a few shots in Opiate2 that are completely puppet, but most of it is 50/50. Usually, what I do is film the puppets first, do an edit, film the actors later, then
blend the two together in After Effects which is a compositing program.
All you have to do is make sure that the shots line up roughly, adjusting the lenses for each take so the perspectives match. So you would film the actor on a 35mm, then the puppet
on an 18mm or thereabouts.
In your work, there's a recurring pattern of deformity, mutation. Where does it come from?
The Thing mostly, as I was obsessed with that as a kid, but also David Cronenberg films, American Werewolf in London and Alien.
My mother used to work for The Spastics Society [disability equality charity in England and Wales] as well, so that may have something to do with it.
Are there any FX that blew you away in some movies lately, or even some artists?
I'm blown away all the time. I loved Dune recently, but I tend to stay away from FX films as I find them boring. I'd rather watch
Step Brothers again. There are too many artists to list, I wouldn't want to leave anyone out.
Thank you for this interview! What are your projects nowadays?
Right now, just working with Tool and designing more monsters for movies. I write a lot, so I sell scripts occasionally. I'd like to end my days doing that. I'll probably make a
feature at some point, if anyone will let me.