FX Technician For 'Dark Knight' Gets Respect
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Here in North America, "The Dark Knight" had the biggest opening day ever yesterday. It made $66 million. That's almost $7 million more than the record set last year by "Spiderman 3." If you're planning on adding to those numbers this weekend, you might want to stay for the closing credits. They include a dedication to the memories of two people. One, of course, is Heath Ledger, the other, Conway Wickliffe. He was a special-effects tech from New Zealand. He was killed last September during a rehearsal. Wickliffe was filming from the passenger seat of a car trailing the Batmobile. The driver lost control and hit a tree. The driver survived; Wickliffe did not.
Special effects expert Matthew Johnson worked with Conway Wickliffe on a number of movies, including the last two James Bond flicks.
Mr. MATTHEW JOHNSON (Special Effects Expert): He was probably, I would say, the best in welding and fabricating. He had a massive part to play in the first Batman, in "Batman Begins," the Batmobile. He built that car from scratch, designed from zero. So it was amazing when you actually see it on screen.
Ms. DERRYN CHASE: The Batmobile, oh my gosh, that thing is amazing.
SEABROOK: Derryn Chase was Conway Wickliffe's partner for 22 years. She says his job wasn't dangerous. Normally, Wickliffe spent the day in a quiet workshop, designing things. She spoke with him by phone only an hour before he died.
Ms. CHASE: I said oh, babe, what are you up to today, and he goes, oh no, hon. You know, I did a big job on the Friday. He'd made a gadget on the Batman belt. You know, he goes I'm just going to keep my head low and not volunteer for anything today, and unfortunately, I'm presuming they just asked him to film some things that happened on the day, and yeah, he never came home.
SEABROOK: Hundreds of people paid their respects at a wake in London, including Batman star Christian Bale. Mourners shared stories about their gregarious and fun-loving friend. Matthew Johnson was among them. He remembers a party after they wrapped the movie "Tomb Raider 2." The tech crew partied at the Hard Rock Café in London.
Mr. JOHNSON: We went down into the vault where they have all the memorabilia from, you know, Elvis' suit and the guitars and drums, and you name it, it's all in there, and the guy who was running it gave us his own little private tour, you know, and he said please don't touch anything, and the next minute, we turn around, and there's Conway sitting there with Jimi Hendrix' guitar, man, just knocking out a tune.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. JOHNSON: And because he was so good, the guy never said anything. He just let him crack on, you know, and he was just okay, that was great. Now can you put it back, please?
(Soundbite of laughter)
SEABROOK: Johnson says he and Wickliffe used to joke about how little respect the special effects guys get at the end of a film. They'd make bets about whether they'd even get in the credits at all.
Mr. JOHNSON: He definitely got a credit this time, that's for sure, and it's definitely a testament to the kind of guy that he was, that he should have his name up there with Heath. I think it's a nice touch.
SEABROOK: Special effects technician Conway Wickliffe was killed on the set of "The Dark Knight" back in September. He was 41 years old.