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How Stranger Things Handled David Harbour’s Physical Changes For Hopper’s Flashbacks In Season 4

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How Stranger Things Handled David Harbour’s Physical Changes For Hopper’s Flashbacks In Season 4

Spoilers ahead for Vol. 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 are ahead.

The fourth season of Stranger Things picked up with more distance between the characters than ever before, which was particularly bad news for Hopper. All of his friends believed that he was dead while he was really stuck in a Russian prison, after escaping certain death through the gate right before it closed in the Season 3 finale. The months before Season 4 picked up were clearly hard on Hopper, as he looked very different, and not just because of the shaved head. Stranger Things prosthetics makeup designer Barrie Gower opened up about how the show handled actor David Harbour’s physical changes when it came to filming the flashbacks. 

Episode 2 started with a flashback to the Season 3 finale to reveal how Hopper survived, and while him diving through the gate before it closed and ending up in Russia was the popular guess among fans, Season 4 went ahead and showed it. Where the flashbacks became tricky was in the fact that David Harbour had lost weight to show how much Hopper had gone through. Barrie Gower spoke with CinemaBlend about the work that he and the BGFX makeup effects company’s prosthetics team did for the show, and shared how they turned trimmer Season 4 Hopper back into Season 3 Hopper:

We were lucky to do character makeup as well, because we worked with David Harbour. There are flashbacks to Season 3, with his character, Hopper. David, because of his story arc in this season, he’s now in a Russian prison, and he actually lost a lot of weight for the role, so he would look a lot more svelte and a lot leaner. So when it came to shooting all the flashback scenes from Season 3, and it’s Hopper right the end of Season 3, where he kind of goes through the gate to the Upside Down and there’s the explosion, when we cut back to him climbing up the ladder and being caught by the Russians, he’s wearing a fat makeup, which we designed to put more pounds back onto David.

While Stranger Things used a body double for certain scenes for the flashback version of Eleven that couldn’t be played by Millie Bobby Brown, the prosthetics makeup team designed makeup to add weight to David Harbour so that he could look like Season 3 Hopper again. Season 3 Hopper lived a life of luxury compared to Season 4 Hopper toiling away in the snow as a Soviet prisoner, and the actor’s physical transformation reflected it. Barrie Gower (who worked with Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund on his Victor Creel prosthetics) continued:

When he’s first taken to the Russian prison, and he’s interrogated, that’s David wearing our fat makeup. So he’s got a full facial appliance just to give him a rounder jaw and a fuller face, which is a really quite tricky and complicated makeup to do because he obviously had to look seamless on his face and we had nowhere to hide. So Stranger Things for has been a real mix of incredible makeup opportunities and achievements for us.

Seeing exactly how Hopper survived the explosion in the third season finale and ended up in Russia was a highly-anticipated reveal ever since Stranger Things confirmed the character’s survival all the way back in early 2020, so the flashbacks could be under even closer scrutiny than other scenes of Season 4. When I noted that I was so convinced by the makeup that I’d wondered if the flashbacks had been filmed at the end of Season 3, Barrie Gower shared:

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That was one of the conversations we had with David! They talked about it towards the end of Season 3 and they were like, ‘No, don’t worry, we’ll sort it out next time around.’ I don’t think they were aware… David lost so much weight and he was so lean for Season 4. So I think they were in a situation like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ We were really lucky to be asked to do that makeup because it was a great opportunity.

Kudos to David Harbour for going the extra mile to really sell how hard life had been for Hopper ever since his accidental arrival in the Soviet Union. He was the only familiar face in the Russian prison storyline for a lot of Vol. 1 before Joyce and Murray arrived, so he had to do a lot of heavy lifting as an actor with his performance and his overall look. Luckily for Hopper, he was finally rescued at the end of the first batch of Season 4 episodes, but there’s still the matter of getting back home. 

Plus, with Vecna (who Barrie Gower confirmed was inspired by Game of Thrones’ Night King) wreaking havoc in Hawkins while Eleven is back with Brenner, his and Joyce’s homecoming (if it happens in Season 4) may just send them into a whole new mess of problems. The future is looking pretty grim for all of the Stranger Things characters, but that means that Vol. 2 is looking pretty exciting for Netflix subscribers

More Vecna deaths may be on the way (and lead sound effects editor Angelo Palazzo revealed the sources for the bone snapping and wet squelching sounds of Vecna’s kills), so mark your calendar for the release of Stranger Things (opens in new tab) Season 4 Vol. 2 on Friday, July 1 at 12:01 a.m. PT on Netflix. For more viewing options now and in the coming weeks, check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule

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Better Call Saul’s Set Decorator On Knowing About That Midseason Finale Death Before The Actor Did

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Better Call Saul’s Set Decorator On Knowing About That Midseason Finale Death Before The Actor Did

Major spoilers for Better Call Saul’s latest episode, “Plan and Execution,” lie ahead, so read at your own risk.

If you’re a Better Call Saul fan like myself, then chances are you’re probably still reeling from the heartbreaking events of the midseason finale. The episode that closed out the first half of Season 6 was full of massive moments, and fans were subsequently left with a number of questions. Something that was incredibly clear coming out of the episode was the fate of Howard Hamlin, who sadly died at the hands of Lalo Salamanca. One would surely be quick to wonder how a performer approaches their character’s demise, though you also have to consider how much the crew is aware of beforehand. Well, interestingly enough, the show’s set decorator knew about the development even before series star Patrick Fabian did. 

Ashley Marsh has worked as a set decorator/buyer on Better Call Saul since the show’s debut in 2015, so she’s been around for all of the show’s major moments – including character deaths. Howard Hamlin’s may be the most tragic of them all and is honestly enough to make one want to stop watching the Breaking Bad prequel. Marsh was also sad to see Howard go in such brutal fashion, a sentiment that she expressed when we recently chatted. While revealing that she knew about the character’s fate before Patrick Fabian, she also explained whether that affected her and her team’s approach to crafting the sets that the late attorney inhabited:

I mean, yes. I probably knew before Patrick knew. Production called and said, ‘Hey, if you run into him, please don’t say anything.’ Of course, I won’t because we signed an NDA. But I am not sure how long they waited to let him know, because it changes you in your head. And that changes for me because I feel like things have to be a little bit more thought out. Because you don’t want to put anything in there that seems hopeful… but you don’t want to lead it on, either.

That’s a tricky tightrope to walk, to say the least. On the one hand, you don’t want the character’s surroundings to be too cheery, as to suggest that things are going to be fine. However, you also don’t want to lean too much into a sense of dread as to make the lawyer’s fate obvious to viewers. But ultimately, Ashley Marsh and her collaborators succeeded, because I’m not sure how many people could’ve foreseen what was in store for Howard from the jump.

Before Howard’s death, fans were able to see him in some locations that were pretty personal to him. One of those places was the Hamlin estate, which viewers only got a glimpse at from the outside in Season 5. While he was in his swanky pad, it was revealed that he’d been living in the guest house due to marital problems. Throughout the season, audiences also got to see him in his office, where he mainly met with his private investigator. There was a lack of warmth in both locations, and that was especially true for the cold-feeling Hamlin residence. Nevertheless, there were never any dead giveaways that suggested that the bane of Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler’s existence was headed out the door.

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So far, the final season of Better Call Saul has featured two massive casualties. Aside from Howard Hamlin, Michael Mando’s Ignacio “Nacho” Varga also bit the bullet. Well, more specifically (and tragically), he took a self-inflicted bullet to the head after revealing to Hector Salamanca that he caused his stroke. Like Howard’s death, it was a sad moment, though one that Mando acted out in such a masterful way.

There’s a firm chance that the critically acclaimed drama isn’t done picking off characters. Given the Breaking Bad timeline, we know that a few won’t be dying (yet), but a few others could still meet gruesome ends. I’m most worried about Kim Wexler, as was series co-creator Peter Gould. At this point, fans may want to take Ashley Marsh’s comments on Howard into consideration and look for set clues to gauge whether their favorite characters will make it out alive. 

Better Call Saul Season 6’s second half will begin airing on AMC on July 11th at 9 p.m. ET on AMC as part of the 2022 TV schedule. Those who need to catch up before seeing the final season can stream the others with a Netflix subscription.

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What Christian Bale Found ‘Very Surprising’ About Taika Waititi’s Final Cut Of Thor: Love And Thunder

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What Christian Bale Found ‘Very Surprising’ About Taika Waititi’s Final Cut Of Thor: Love And Thunder

Because of the funny roles he takes as an actor, and his recognizable comedic sensibilities, Taika Waititi is frequently lauded for his brilliant ability to make movie-goers laugh – but not to be ignored in that praise is just how terrific he is when it comes to crafting drama as a writer/director. Of the seven films he’s made, What We Do In The Shadows (which he co-directed with Jemaine Clement) is really the only straight comedy, as the other six all find ways to blend heart and emotion into the mix.

This very much includes Thor: Love And Thunder – and the shifting tones are actually something that star Christian Bale found surprising about the new film.

In the upcoming Marvel blockbuster, Bale plays the villainous Gorr The God Butcher, and the character’s story in the film is much darker and more serious than the plotline following the on-going adventures of Chris Hemsworth’s titular God of Thunder (which gets downright goofy at times). During the Thor: Love And Thunder press day this past weekend, I asked the actor about the influence that this dual tone on his performance and approach, and Bale explained that it’s an aspect of the film that he greatly appreciates and that he didn’t fully expect:

Taika [Waititi], yeah, he uses music, he uses his great sense of humor. [There’s] an absolute wonderful sincerity and emotion. It is a beautiful film. And I think people will expect it to be bloody funny, and it is, but it is also incredibly moving as well, which is very surprising.

With less than two weeks to go before the theatrical release of Thor: Love And Thunder, it would be unfair at this time to detail the precise ways that the Marvel Cinematic Universe feature balances the light and the dark – but I will note that it is something that will audiences will recognize instantly when watching the movie, as it opens with some serious and heavy drama before digging into the “cosmic fun” side of things.

Obviously it’s a very different kind of comic book movie for Christian Bale as well. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which features Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, doesn’t feature much humor at all, and the actor was clearly impressed with Thor: Love And Thunder’s ability to balance both.

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Featuring a stacked cast including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Christian Bale, and definitely not Tom Hiddleston, Thor: Love And Thunder will by flying into theaters everywhere on July 8 – and tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab). If you need to do some refreshing in terms of everything that has been going in the MCU to date, allow me to recommend my Marvel Movies In Order guide, and you can watch/rewatch all of the Thor and Avengers movies with a Disney+ subscription.

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Thor: Love And Thunder’s Tessa Thompson Admits Spying On Russell Crowe’s ‘Fantastic’ Thunderbolt Practice

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Thor: Love And Thunder’s Tessa Thompson Admits Spying On Russell Crowe’s ‘Fantastic’ Thunderbolt Practice

When the latest full trailer for Thor: Love And Thunder dropped in late May, it generated a lot of questions about the upcoming Marvel movie, but it also featured some cool revelations – including the fact that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie (whose real name we don’t know just yet) is fighting with a new weapon in the blockbuster: Zeus’ thunderbolt. Behind the scenes, wielding this new godly tool required Thompson to do some special training, and she pulls off some killer moves with it on screen (as audiences will witness themselves very soon). By the actor’s own admission, however,  her skills with the bolt are nothing compared to those possessed by the MCU’s Zeus himself, Russell Crowe.

How does she know this? Not only did Tessa Thompson get to see what her co-star could do with the thunderbolt while cameras were rolling during production, but she also evidently watched him surreptitiously while he practiced with the prop outside of her on-set trailer.

As captured in the video at the top of this article, I had the pleasure of interviewing King Valkyrie herself during the Thor: Love And Thunder press day in Los Angeles this past weekend, and during our conversation I took time to ask her about the thunderbolt. She admitted that it’s not the easiest weapon to wield, and gave credit to Russell Crowe for what he was able to do with it:

No, it’s pretty hard. And to be honest, gimme a couple more months with that thunderbolt and I might have really learned some tricks. I got okay with it, but Russell Crowe is so good, and I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m saying this, but I watched him. He would rehearse sometimes outside of my trailer with it. And I would watch him Cause he is really good! He’s like so, so fantastic at it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally imagining Tessa Thompson peeking through the curtains of her trailer at an in-costume Russell Crowe throwing and twirling his prop thunderbolt around like a professional sign spinner. It’s a mental image that makes me giggle every time I conjure it.

In all seriousness, though, the passion and enthusiasm that Tessa Thompson effused for her work behind the scenes of Thor: Love and Thunder was a wonderful thing to see. On top of expressing genuine remorse that she didn’t get more time to practice with Zeus’ legendary weapon in the making of the blockbuster, she talked about bonding with her weapons in Thor: Ragnarok – the sword Dragonfang and her two daggers – and explained that she created a kind of intimacy with them. She continued,

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That’s the thing: you spend… I remember when I had Dragon Fang and I was first training with that weapon and my two daggers, I would spend so much time you become intimate with them in a way. So the Thunderbolt was fun to wield, but it’s not my weapon, so I forgive myself for not being perfect at it.

The funny irony of this is that the relationship between a hero and their weapon of choice is actually a running joke in Thor: Love and Thunder, and while I won’t spoil the details of it in this forum, Tessa Thompson explained that the gag was something that wholly developed on set:

That is like the funniest thing, ’cause that was actually something that really developed in the course of shooting the film, and then seeing it last night especially it works like a charm. It’s just like so, so funny.

Audiences will get on this inside of this joke very soon, as Thor: Love And Thunder is now less than two weeks away from release (and buzz about the blockbuster is already growing). The Taika Waititi-directed Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, and Tessa Thompson, arrives in theaters everywhere on July 8 – and tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab).

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