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LITTLE NICKY

The Special Effects

The full whimsy of Little Nicky is brought out not only in its hellishly inventive sets but in its myriad mystical effects and transformations, which were overseen by Visual Effects Supervisor John Sullivan. Sullivan used cutting-edge computer technology to forge furnace-like infernos, flying bats, demons-in-a-bottle and Hell's fire-wall, through which Adam Sandler repeatedly is hurled as he comes to terms with the human need to avoid deadly moving objects. He even had the unusual opportunity to make Adam Sandler's head literally do a 360.

"We have over 300 effects shots, which is almost unheard of for a comedy," says Sullivan. "Of course this is not your typical comedy setting!" For Sullivan, knowing the end result was supposed to be funny gave him a no-holds-barred creative freedom. "We're not used to levity in special effects but this time we got to have pure fun. Instead of making scenes like the bus-splattering of Little Nicky explicit, we went for broader, crisper effects that enhance the humor."

One of Sullivan's most intriguing challenges was to create Satan's bit-by-bit deterioration, until all that is left of Hades' ruler is a pair of very pissed-off lips. "From the beginning we wondered how we were going to shoot the lips. We ended up videotaping Harvey Keitel doing his performance as Satan and then using the videotapes as a blueprint for computer animators," he explains. "This allowed us to exaggerate Harvey's lip movements when his lips are lying on the floor talking, and make it even funnier."

Not all of the effects in Little Nicky are high-tech — some are purposefully low-tech and funky, suiting the tone of the comic fantasia. The filmmakers used the dying art of animatronics to create one of the film's most bizarre characters — the ape-like Monster who falls for the Gatekeeper's comely head. "We wanted the monster to be more low tech than 001, sort of a Chewbacca throw-back,' describes Steve Brill. "It's easy to go ga-ga with the high-tech effects but sometimes a guy in a suit is the funniest form of comedy."

Other physical effects include the wire-and-harness stunts which allow Adam Sandler to "float" up 50 feet when he is infested with "stomach butterflies."

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