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Why Gerard Johnstone Worked Out M3GAN's Look Before They Started Anything Else

The horror comedy "M3GAN" is lighting up movie screens right now, with audiences loving the killer doll action, with M3GAN's fierce dance moves and pop song covers making the doll Gen Z's first horror icon. The film is already a box office success, and, according to Deadline, there's already talk of a sequel. Besides lighting up the box office, critics are giving "M3GAN" rave reviews as well.

None of this would have even been possible if the filmmakers didn't lock down M3GAN's look long before the camera started rolling. While fans may never know how the doll was made, she certainly made an impression, and the filmmakers were very conscious of that. We do know that besides CGI, three equally creepy versions of M3GAN were used to bring the character to life, with a doll, an animatronic puppet, and an actor in a suit all taking turns. Naturally, where and when each would be deployed was worked out meticulously by the film's director, Gerard Johnstone, and the process presented a unique set of challenges.

M3GAN's look had to be obsessively worked out before cameras rolled

In an interview with Variety, the filmmakers discussed how the look of M3GAN had to be carefully worked out before filming ever began. Producer Jason Blum credited director Gerard Johnstone with seeing that task through. "One of the hardest things was figuring out what M3GAN would look like and how she'd work," Blum said. "I give Gerard a lot of credit for figuring that out." 

Blum explained the importance of preproduction when your lead character is a special effect. "The way you stick the landing is you don't start prepping your movie until you know exactly every detail of what M3GAN is going to look like, how you're going to shoot her," the producer said. "Special effects go wrong when they are rushed." 

He went on to say that he'd worked on previous horror films that went into production without fleshed-out monsters, leading to less than stellar results. "We learned from those mistakes, so I didn't want to spend any money on the movie until we knew exactly how we were going to do M3GAN," Blum said.

Blum went on to reveal that director Johnstone drove everyone on the crew crazy with his obsessive attention to detail in both CGI and actor performance. "I look back now, and I'm grateful he did," Blum enthused. "The tiniest details of how her eyes would look and her stare." He said he worked for a long time developing the movie after he was won over by the pitch from James Wan's company, Atomic Monster. Johnstone then spearheaded the creation of M3GAN's already iconic look, which was essential for making the movie bulletproof titanium at the box office.