Face of Colossus in ‘Deadpool’

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SYB_0060_v106.1063Preston Barta // Editor

DEADPOOL smashed all kinds of box-office records last weekend, including earning the title as the biggest R-rated opening weekend ever. With 20th Century Fox sweeping in $132.7 million over its Friday-to-Sunday frame, it’s apparent DEADPOOL delivered a film worth quoting and revisiting.

It’s easy to acknowledge Ryan Reynold’s titular performance, the film’s witty script and spectacular direction, because all those components are laid out thick on the surface. However, one element that may fall underneath the radar is the work of Greg LaSalle, the facial performer of Deadpool’s voice of reason, Colossus.

Colossus previously appeared in X2: X-MEN UNITED, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, but his character was barely developed and rarely spoke. DEADPOOL is undoubtedly his most important appearance yet, even if we never see him out of his metal form like the previous X-MEN films.

Greg LaSalle capturing the face of Colossus. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Greg LaSalle capturing the face of Colossus. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

LaSalle is one of the biggest reasons we feel for the character. With the aid of new breakthroughs in motion capture that fully embodied Colossus’ facial expressions, LaSalle brought a certain subtlety to Colossus that’s hard to dismiss.

As a motion capture artist, LaSalle’s role is much more fluid compared to actors performing on a set. The continuity of his filming process keeps him focused. “I don’t have to wait for camera setup, costume change or rigging – you can literally blast through several pages of a script in a day,” said LaSalle when we recently rang him up. “When you see Colossus walking down the hallway with [Negasonic Teenage Warhead] (played by Brianna Hildebrand), we shot that scene all at once. We would loop it and do it over and over. So it’s never like, ‘Shoot this one line and then the next,’ and so on. This sense of flow is constructive.”

While the process is more brisk for LaSalle, the downside is the inability to work off other actors. “When I come in, the actors are already done filming. I work off of what was done in the scene,” said LaSalle.

The interaction on his side is minimal, but it still leaves room to create. “I would work with director Tim Miller on Colossus’ behavior and what I think he would do in the moment. It’s not necessarily the dialogue that helps your performance, it’s being aware of what’s going on around you.”

LaSalle wasn’t the other contributor to the Colossus we see on screen. There was the voice actor and the on-set stand-in who helped create the character. “The voice of Colossus (done by Stefan Kapicic) was recorded in a different location, in Croatia. We would receive the audio files from there and I would practice the timing of the dialogue,” said LaSalle.

A behind the scenes look at the motion capture process for Colossus. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

A behind the scenes look at the motion capture process for Colossus. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

To match the stand-in, whether done by body or hand animation, cameras would be placed around LaSalle from all angles. “You can move a little bit in my stationary position, but it’s too difficult to try and mimic an actor’s movement from production. As a solution, we would stabilize the data from production, meaning whenever there is head motion we would remove it in post. This limited my worries to only creating the facial movements,” said LaSalle.

The history of motion captured performances started with the body, wearing reflective markers on a body suit. It was deduced by what the skeleton frame would do with his or her body. As the technology progressed over the years, the markers were made smaller to include more detailed movement, such as one’s face. “We wanted to be able to transfer the real expressions and subtlety of the captured performance through the final computer-generated character,” said LaSalle. “It’s really made a huge difference in the ability to have an actor’s performance come through.”

Technology is an ever-changing concept, and DEADPOOL is a considerable example of how far we’ve come.

DEADPOOL opened last week and is playing in theaters nationwide today.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.