What is your background?

TONY: I worked on The Flintstones, did several years at Universal, and in different prop shops around the industry. I ran the Warner Bros. prop shop for a while, working on all their test TV shows. I’ve been doing motion pictures now pretty steadily for about the last eight years, just going form one movie to the next: Maverick, Apollo 13, The Cell, all those types.

MATRIX: What are you working on at the moment?

TONY: I’m doing standby work for the First Unit, working with all the breakaways and whatever rigging work has to be done. Right now we’re doing a little pyrasel work to simulate a concrete base on a pole the Neo character yanks out of the ground, then hits one of the Agents with. Pyrasel is a mixture of plaster and baking soda, which causes the plaster to rise like bread, makes it very crumbly when you impact it with anything, and it also makes it a lot lighter. Right now we’re shaping the pyrasel to look like a concreted post bottom, dressing it up the way the Directors see it.

MATRIX: Do you make the pyrasel mixture yourselves?

TONY: Sometimes we do, sometimes we use a pre-mixed material, and sometimes we just doctor up the pre-mixed material. When we’re just going to do a little bit of it, we’ll use the pre-mixed pyrasel. The color is a tint or a dye that’s added to the mix, because it would be white normally, just like plaster. We have to mix it to match the set pieces it’s going into.

MATRIX: Which set will this be on?

TONY: This is in the Park set [for the Burly Brawl]. First Unit has been shooting in the Park set for a month now, doing a fight sequence, and this is all part of the fight sequence.

MATRIX: How many of these are you making?

TONY: For a normal run of breakaways, we usually use three to six pieces. We’ve already done four on set, and we’re making eight more to get the look they’re looking for. They were looking for more of a chunky concrete break on the last ones, so we’re giving them another shot.

MATRIX: What other work have you done on this project?

TONY: As far as breakaways go, we’ve done some breakaway park benches for the same set; we’ll be breaking some of those today as a matter of fact. And we’ve done a breakaway brick wall that Neo flies into.

MATRIX: Did you use pyrasel for the brick wall also?

TONY: This is our formula for masonry or concrete. We sometimes use foams, different types of rigid foams to simulate that, especially if weight is going to be a concern with pieces falling on actors or whatever. For instance, we use a foam for rocks. If something needs to break on camera and look like cement or stone, this is what we’ll use.

MATRIX: Is this an area you specialize in?

TONY: Breakaways and props, things like that we do a lot of. I do a lot of mold work in the part of the business I’m in, we do a lot of plastic props, guns, anything the Directors or the Art Department needs, basically. For instance, this is the tire mold we made for the twins’ vehicle. Morpheus slides his sword right through the twins’ vehicle and the sword ends up coming across the tire. To simulate the tire blowing apart, we’ve taken a real tire and cut off the tread portion of it after making a mold of the real tire. We put a real tire rim back inside the mold, minus the tread area, clamp it all up, and then we fill the mold through the top port. We put foam in it, the foam expands and takes the shape of the mold. It looks like a real tire but it has our foam piece in it.

MATRIX: Will that tire be driven on an actual vehicle?

TONY: It goes onto a process car body that also has the knife cut jag in it. The sword slices through, rips all the sheet metal, then proceeds right on through the vehicle, blowing up the tire. It actually, in the shot, continues right on up through the gas tank and out the back tail light. But for our purposes, we have stopped it at the tire for the insert.

MATRIX: Will this be shot on a blue screen stage?

TONY: Most likely. We did a couple of these out on the freeway set and it looks like we’re going to do another run at them on the blue screen stage. The knife mechanism is all run from the back of the process body, it actually rides on a track behind the door and sticks out from the back. It slides along the track until it gets to the tire, then it stops, and we put in a new rig for the tire that’s on a hydraulic ram which pushes the knife out from the back and shoves it into the spinning tire and peels it. It peels the foam pieces right off.

MATRIX: Thanks Tony.

Interview by REDPILL
May 2001