An Interview with Jaws Diorama Sculptor Nigel Humphreys (Part 1 of 2)
While continuing my obsession with high-quality replicas of famous movie monsters (an obsession that dovetails with all of my other movie-related obsessions), I have recently found promotional pictures for a series of Jaws dioramas that being produced by Sculptoria Studio, which is located in Manchester, England. Thankfully, Sculptoria’s founder and creative director, Nigel Humphreys, was kind enough to answer a few questions that I have for him about his Jaws work, his love of sculpting, and how he applies his sculpting talents to his love of Jaws and other horror and sci-fi franchises. Read on for the first part of the interview.
Titans, Terrors, and Toys: How long have you been a Jaws fan?
Nigel Humphreys: Since 1975, I guess. My curiosity about Jaws was roughly at the time of the Planet of The Apes TV series and The Six Million Dollar Man. Oh--and The Waltons too! (Laughs.) I recall my initial introduction to the motion picture Jaws was initially by way of seeing the rising shark poster. That huge shark, its jagged tombstone teeth, its waxy blue skin and sheer scale was mesmerizing to a fresh, wide-eyed ten year old boy. The explosion of bubbles from beneath its head indicated it was propelling itself towards a naked swimmer on the surface of the ocean at great speed. I was fascinated with the contrasts within the movie poster. I mean the calm, almost sedate pose of the swimmer was in sharp contrast to the freight-train shark below. I remember I was so concerned for that poor woman and I was also curious about her nakedness. Where was her bathing costume? Why is she naked? She seemed so helpless and vulnerable.
The iconic Roger Kastel Jaws Poster
The rising shark poster thrilled me to bits and sent a shiver down my spine at the same time. This sensational poster was painted by Roger Kastel and was my first induction into the salty world of Jaws. It showed me somebody in that film had a huge problem on their hands with that hulking brute of a shark. But who else was it going to devour? Where was in the world was it? Does somebody kill it? I wanted to know! (Laughs.)
TTT: That’s some pretty intense fascination with Kastel’s work.
NH: Ever since I was a child I have been seriously fascinated by the sea, especially on a bright sunny day. The ocean’s surface, sparkling against a summer blue sky like a billion diamonds, is the best sight in the world. But my heady fascination for all things maritime was soon to be spoilt one day at the beach while peering into a wide clear rock pool. I remember pushing aside the silky seaweed which sailed through my fingers like mom's hair. Then, it struck! A large crab snapped its claws onto my tender fingers and wouldn't let go--boy, it hurt! I was horrified! Right then and there then life had slapped me across the face with its unpredictable nature. I learned the sea concealed things, dangerous things in its shadows, just below the surface. I mean, there it was, a small unassuming rock pool on a beautiful day, reflecting the blue sky, inviting me to explore the world within it. I felt so betrayed. This nasty little seaside experience really did disturb me. So, you can imagine my curiosity some years later when I saw the rising shark on the Jaws poster. Oh my god!
TTT: When did you first see Jaws?
NH: One hot afternoon in 1975 and it was at the Studio 1, 2 AND 3 cinema in Bolton, and then later in the year it moved to the big Odeon cinema. I went with a gang of my chums. I remember shuffling past the encased rising shark posters on the way in. I knew we were in for a major experience along with all the other innocent victims in the queue. (Laughs.) The thing was, when the movie ended I wanted more. I wasn't satisfied with seeing it just once--no way! I wanted to see it again and again and again. My buddies and I would sink low in our chairs--and I mean LOW--to avoid detection by the patrolling torch of the ice cream lady and this granted us the opportunity to watch Jaws again and again. As soon as the automated red curtains swept aside I thought, "Get those darn movie trailers out of the way!" I wanted the black, silent screen again, those few notes of John Williams score and the Zanuck/Brown opening credits. The milky water, the swaying seaweed and that word JAWS was hot-stamped into my mind. I wanted this movie so bad, again and again.
TTT: How long have you been doing sculpture work?
NH: Since Play-Doh in nursery school. (Laughs.) Seriously. My memories of sculpting started with that lovely stuff. The only problem was I just didn't know whether to eat it or play with it. God, it smelled really nice. I remember showing mom and dad my Play-Doh creations. I really did feel I had created something wonderful out of that squishy stuff but I'm sure my folks must have considered my creative offerings as nothing more than abstract lumps of turd. (Laughs.)
Throughout the period of my childhood, I went on to assemble Airfix kits and I had hours of fun assembling these, such as Spitfires and Junker bombers. The smell of Humbrol paint still makes me dizzy with gorgeous, cherished memories of childhood youth, of Christmas trees and of home, safe and warm. Then, as I got older and a little more skilled, I progressed onto the new Aurora's monster model kits. Whoopee!
I remember the first monster kit dad bought me was a 'glow in the dark' Frankenstein. The box-art was awesome, truly awesome and Frankie was sculpted walking over his own grave in a kind of trance, arms outstretched and hands clutching. With this kit, you had the option whether to attach the glow in the dark head and hands or simply the solid grey plastic head and hands--I always opted for GLOW IN THE DARK! I would power charge the glow elements under my bedside lamp until I could smell the plastic almost burning (laughs) then I would flick the switch and plunge my bedroom into darkness and relish my glowing Frankenstein beside me. I would stare at him totally transfixed until my eyes grew tired and I fell asleep. I would wake in the morning and I couldn't help but think how rather unassuming he looked in daylight but I knew the night would soon come around again and plunge me into the spooky world of Aurora. Working on these various model kits gave me an amazing understanding of how things are put together and my passion for assembling things grew and grew as a result and so did my passion for painting too.
TTT: I’m glad to hear that the Aurora legacy of creating “monster kids” is still alive and well. When did you begin Sculptoria Studio?
NH: About 1993 I think, with the determined intention that Sculptoria Studio would be another Franklin Mint in the quality of its future projects. Getting into major licenses started with my work on Jeff Wayne's 1978 musical version of The War of the Worlds. Working closely with Jeff Wayne has been an amazing experience. My time spent chatting with him at his home are very special to me and my work on these projects are still ongoing. I remember the day my brother bought the album in 1978 and I spent every day thereafter listening to it until my mom pulled the plug out of frustration. (Laughs.) I was a huge Jeff Wayne fan from then on. Jeff is a truly great guy. I wanted to create War of the Worlds collectibles he would be proud of. I subsequently created a stunning War of the Worlds Victorian theme pocket watch as well as an amazing Martian Fighting Machine CD Album Holder of infinite detail and luxury. We are continuing our negotiations with distributors and additional financiers for these exciting products. (Editor’s Note: With my own personal love of War of the Worlds, I can assure you that this blog will be covering more Sculptoria’s WOW work in future posts.)
TTT: What made you decide to pursue the Jaws license as a professional project?
NH: Are you crazy? (Laughs.) Jaws has always been in my bones, my blood, my dreams and has never left me. It has been on my creative hit list since my early model making days, I just didn't know it at the time.
Off topic a little here, I remember building the Jaws Addar 'Super Scene' of Hooper and the shark cage. I was so excited Jaws was in kit form at last and upon assembling all the parts I remember how really disappointed I was with the shark. Arggghhhhhh! It was naff. I wanted Jaws--my Jaws, THE Jaws from the movie, the shark that scared the heck out of me. All I got from Addar when I fixed it together was a white banana shark! (Laughs.) Of course, I have THE Jaws now with the work I’m doing, but I still loved my Addar kit because that's all I could find at the time by way of Jaws merchandising.
Stay tuned for part two of the interview, where Nigel discusses the upcoming Jaws: Estuary Attack diorama, the first in a series of unique Jaws collectibles from Sculptoria Studio, as well as other movie collectibles the Steven Spielberg fans are going to love.