“Even for CG-heavy shots—like a crablike Mama walking up a wall and bending over backwards to reverse course and make a beeline at star Jessica Chastain—Weintraub and his team relied on Botet’s performance, shooting his upper and lower bodies separately and stitching together a composite image to make Mama’s ghostly spine bend at a right angle.”
Oh yes, I remember that shot! That’s right, it was in the last act of the movie! I wasn’t really aware of whether or not it looked CG or practical, as I was too busy screaming at the time. I admit a couple of shots in the last ten minutes or so looked a little too CG-ish, though it wasn’t the hair floating as if Mama was underwater (loved the back story explaining why) but a couple too-clear shots of her eyes. No matter, the other scenes and scares were so visceral and terrifying I’ll let a couple shots that appeared a little digital-heavy slide. Plus, anything that made me scream like a tweener in the front row during a Justin Bieber concert didn’t look phony at the time, that’s for damn sure.
We found a great piece written by Mike Olson (that’s his quote above, as well as the one right after the jump) from Thecredits.org that goes into a little more detail on what it took (other than Javier Botet’s frame and movements) to bring the title character in Mama to ghostly life-you can read it below by clicking on the big red link below.
“He’s very frail and can get his body into all these weird positions,” says Weintraub of Botet, and it is those contortions that serve as a physical manifestation of Mama’s tortured past, as well as the present-day horrors she’ll visit upon anyone who gets close to the “daughters” she’s adopted.
What did the Mama character look like on set? Was a lot of her CG?
No, no, most of it wasn’t CG. We had this amazing Spanish actor performer who was Mama. His name is Javier Botet. He has this insane body — he’s like the skinniest guy I’ve ever seen, and very long-limbed. Then they had the special FX team from Pan’s Labyrinth who did his head, so he had four or five hours everyday in make-up, so he came out every day looking more or less like Mama. But without the flowing hair, they added that after. But he was there to shoot. He had those crazy movements. It was weird the first time we saw him on set because he has a crazy look… He had these latex fingers and he would touch me like this [wraps fingers around his neck] — it was disgusting. And Jessica, she has these fights with him. It was all him.
Perhaps that’s why, in most of the reaction shots, none of the acting talent didn’t have to dig unusually deep to look terrified. In fact, if I were one of them, I’d put in my contract that I had to meet Botet before the shoot, and peek in on him a couple times while he was in the make-up chair. Either that, or tell the costume department I’d need room in my wardrobe for a pair of Depends.