Movies are more than just actors, it is about everything they interact with on screen. Creating a world, whether it be 1940s Chicago or a planet far, far away is all about the little details.
When it comes to making those details come to life you go to the prop master. In Hollywood there’s few better than Russell Bobbitt. Bobbitt has been in the industry for almost four decades with a resume that includes everything from Invaders from Mars and Jingle All the Way to the entire Iron Man trilogy.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrates its 10th anniversary That’s My Entertainment sat down with Bobbitt to talk about his amazing career and what went into the creation of some of the most iconic pieces in movie history today.
You’ve been working with Marvel since the very beginning in Iron Man. How do you think your work as prop master has evolved with the Marvel Cinematic Universe now that we’re almost 20 movies in?
The Marvel projects have been great for me. I’m part of the 10 year anniversary because I started on Iron Man 1 and have been working on the movies ever since. The context of the Marvel films make them incredibly challenging to work on. If I were working on a period film set in the 1940s, there’s a clear visualization of how that should look. In space, there are no rules so your imagination comes into play. The biggest challenge is to sell the audience the idea of humans as superheroes! But advancements in technology definitely help us bring this to life.
You got your start with the movie Private Resort in 1985. How has the industry changed since then artistically? Has the role of the art department and the prop master changed?
When I started out in the industry 35 years ago, the technology wasn’t quite as advanced as it is today. We didn’t even have cell phones when we were making prop phones for the characters! Nowadays, I use 3D printers and we have illustrators to create CAD drawings and model every prop from the inside out. The technology allows us to analyse whether it’s going to work mechanically or not. There is also a team of painters and sculptors who provide the finishing touches.
You’ve worked on every genre of film out there. Do you have a favorite? What makes you choose one film over another?
I guess comedy because I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Betty Thomas, she taught me how to put make the audience laugh and how that can be achieved with different camera angles, cuts and of course props!
When you were young you were fascinated with mechanics and electronics. Do you have any recommendations for other tinkerers out there that want to take your career path? What brought you to the film side of things?
I would say it’s important to have a passion for whatever you do. If you have a real talent and love for your craft, you will go far in the film industry. My mother was friends with a set decorator named Robert Gould and he gave me a job for three weeks when I was 20 years old. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. It was a huge challenge in the first few days. He threw me on set in front of a camera and essentially said ‘make it work’- and I did! I completely fell in love with the magic of movie making that week.
Do you have a favorite prop you created? What is it about that you love?
My favorite prop will have to be the Arc Reactor that Tony Stark wears on his chest. The research and development of the prop and all of it’s different iterations have been great fun to figure out. Robert Downey Jr. and myself sit and talk about each one and what purpose it will serve in the story.
Is there a Marvel character you want to design for but haven’t yet?
Perhaps the X-Men. But I stay very busy with the handful of characters that I am currently doing props for. The team is currently over 50 characters. But I always invite more to cross my path.