Wolfman: Iconic Howl

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Benicio Del Toro, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt star in "The Wolfman," a remake of the legendary classic from 1935. The film, directed by Joe Johnston, is being released by Universal on February 12.


VFX, SFX, makeup, locations and schedules were nothing when compared to the biggest challenge of the production for director Johnston. The Wolfman’s toughest obstacle was one the reader might think would be minor: perfecting the haunting howl of the title creature.


Johnston explains his conundrum: “When it came time to lay in the sound of the wolf howl, we tried everything from animal impersonators to a crying baby and artificial sounds. We took those sounds and digitally processed them…looking for just the right combination of things to give us the perfect howl. But we just could not find it. We wanted it to be iconic, but something audiences had never heard before.”


A breakthrough would come when one of the production’s sound designers came up with a unique idea. According to Johnston, “HOWELL GIBBENS said, ‘What is the purest and most controllable vocal sound that you can find? It’s arguably an opera singer.’ So we auditioned a number of opera singers in Los Angeles and picked the perfect guy: a bass baritone opera singer.”


After Johnston and his sound team recorded about a dozen howls, they knew they’d found their ideal wolf howls. The director notes: “His howls go through a range of emotions…from angry and victorious to mourning. We pitched them down about 40 percent so they became truly terrifying. When we pitched them down, we had these haunting, visceral animal sounds. They sent chills up our spines and gave us exactly what we were looking for.”