'The Monster Squad' Star Unravels the Art of Making a Movie Mummy

The Mummy, Universal’s new horror-action hybrid, is both a reboot of a popular franchise, and the start of a whole new series. Directed by Alex Kurtzman, the Tom Cruise-led feature will introduce audiences to the “Dark Universe,” where the studio’s classic monsters including Frankenstein’s monster (Javier Bardem), the Invisible Man (Johnny Depp), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Russell Crowe) will mix and mingle. If that sounds a little familiar, it’s because these creatures have met before. Thirty years ago this summer, The Monster Squad pitted Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, Gill-man, and, of course, the Mummy against a pint-sized legion of kiddie adventurers straight out of The Goonies. Directed by Fred Dekker and co-written by Dekker and Shane Black, The Monster Squad has been a nostalgic favorite for anyone who grew up in the ’80s and had a love for old-school creatures. With a new Mummy in theaters this weekend, we caught up with the man behind The Monster Squad‘s Mummy, Michael Reid MacKay, who went on to play the “Sloth” victim in David Fincher’s Seven and Jason Stryker in X2. He told us about creating his version of the Mummy walk and how he freaked out one of the youngest members of the Monster Squad.

Yahoo Movies: How did you originally get involved with The Monster Squad?
Michael Reid MacKay: A friend of mine saw this tiny thing in Variety that said, “Wanted: Male to play Mummy. Must be extremely thin on the verge of anorexic.” I’ve always been super-skinny, so a friend of mine said, “You should go for that!” I called, and went directly to Sony Studios. Usually you go through the casting process and everything, but I went directly to the studio and I went upstairs to a room where [Monster Squad director] Fred Dekker was having an argument with someone. He said, “Oh, thanks for coming in,” and went back to his argument.

Then he said, “OK, walk across the floor.” So I walked across the floor, and he said, “Drag one foot.” So I did. I’m walking across the floor, I’m dragging a foot, and he says, “OK, now this time, do the same thing, but put some little movement in it.” So I did some body quirkiness; I kind of scrunched my hands up and dragged my foot. He said, “Perfect!” and goes back to the conversation. Then he looks at me and says, “As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got the part.” The following day, I got a call, and a woman said, “Congratulations, you got the part of the Mummy in The Monster Squad.” And that was it! It was my first professional job, and I got it because of that little ad.

Were you a fan of the Universal monster movies growing up?
I wasn’t a real fan, but I watched all those films when I was a kid. The Mummy always intrigued me; that was one of my favorites thinking back now. I never dreamed I would end up playing one of those classic monsters. It kind of started a whole thing for me. From that point on, I’ve been doing a lot of creature films and horror films and stuff like that. I just kind of fell into it.

Did you go back and watch the Boris Karloff Mummy when you got the part? What were some of the lessons you learned from those monster movie masters?
I liked their looks, the way they moved and the things they did with their eyes. [But] I didn’t want to copy what they did; I wanted to make it my own. I did the thing with the dragging my foot, but I didn’t do it the way that they did it. I added my quirkiness into it, and made it my own Mummy.

What was it like to be on the set when all the monsters appeared in the same frame for the first time?
It was cool. We were all in a semi-circle around Frankenstein’s monster [played by Tom Noonan] when he rises up. There was lightning, it was dark and it was kind of ominous and scary. I felt like we were the Monster Squad!

What was the make-up process like for the Mummy?
I was very fortunate, because I’ve done other things since that were rubber suits and really like slipping on a glove. This was really cool. My feet were like slippers, my hands were like gloves and my Mummy outfit was muslin, so it was very lightweight. It was like [wearing] pajamas. And my headpiece just slipped on. After I had everything on, I was wrapped with individual bandages, so I would be locked in, so to speak. Of course, I felt a little tight when they wrapped the bandages, but it was no big deal. The costume didn’t inhibit my movements at all. The tightness around the legs helped me with my walk in a way. And it was pretty fast to get out of as well. They’d cut those bandages off, and I just slipped off everything else.

Which of the actors had the hardest make-up job?
Carl Thibault had a really hard time when they put him in the Wolf Man suit. They had to pull it on him. He always talked about the struggles they had getting him into the suit. Then he had to movie and there was so much restriction.

If you could have played any of the other monsters in the film, which would you have chosen?
Gosh, I don’t know! I was so wrapped up in the Mummy. [Laughs] Dracula, maybe? I like that kind of mystery when you do a character like that. So I would say Dracula.

The tone of the movie is a kids’ adventure comedy crossed with a monster movie, so it’s sometimes funny and sometimes scary. How did you walk that line in your performance?
I always had it in my mind to keep a low, mysterious profile and be very quiet. The scene where I come out of the little boy’s closet was kind of funny to me, because he sees the bandages go out the window as I creep out. Basically, I was pretty serious the whole time. I was in my little cocoon, doing my thing.

How did the child actors react when they saw you in costume? Would you joke with them between takes?
As an actor, you want to feel mysterious, but they saw me when I was getting made up, so they knew me. It would be like, “Hey, Mikey!” But there was one particular time where Ashley [Bank, who plays the hero’s little sister] was in the back of the truck and started crying because I had to go in the back of the truck and really scare her. She started crying and said, “I don’t want to do the scene because he scares me.”

So Fred came up to me and said, “Mike, could you please help me out here? I don’t know what to do. Go up to Ashley and show her your lip or something to show her it’s really you.” So I did, and she calmed down a little bit. Like I said, at first I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to stay mysterious. But it all worked out; she was all good and very confident once she knew it was me. She was a trouper.

That scene on the truck is a lot of fun, especially when the Mummy is “unwrapped” by an arrow fired by one of the kids. How did they pull of that effect?
They made a bracket and welded it to the back of the truck, then lifted me up and put me on it. They strapped me in so that I was balancing on the back of the truck, but was totally secure. Then they switched the child actors with little people stand-ins. We did some test runs, and I was fine. At the point where Rudy [played by Ryan Lambert] shoots the arrow that connects to the tree and starts the unwrapping process, they took me out of the bracket and switched me with a hallowed-out dummy. When the bandage first starts to unravel, it’s my head, but when everything disintegrates, it’s the dummy.

The Mummy is a monster that keeps coming back in popular culture; there were the Brendan Fraser films years ago, and now there’s a new version coming out starring Tom Cruise. Having played the Mummy yourself, what do you think is the secret to the creature’s longevity?
It’s funny, after I did this film, I just became fond of mummies. As a matter of fact, at one of the conventions I did last year, this fan came up to me and said, “I wanted to get you this.” She had brought me this little mummy. It was very sweet. The movie that’s coming out now looks really sinister and scary, but my Mummy is kind of like the old Hollywood Mummy. We were playing the classic monsters of the ’30s and ’40s. I’ll probably see the new movie. I’ve seen them all, and compared them all. I keep up on all the Mummies!

What’s the lasting appeal of The Monster Squad to you?
When I go to conventions, I see a lot of kids and their parents, and the parents always say, “This was my favorite movies growing up.” There’s always that deep sense of love and good times; it’s just dear to many people’s hearts. At the time, never in a million years did any of us think it would become this cult classic. I remember that The Lost Boys was out, and younger people were going to see that because it was cool — teenagers as vampires. The Monster Squad was more like a kid film. But there’s such a fanbase for it. It just took off.

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