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WILD WILD WEST

Loveless' Arsenal of Objects
While West and Gordon have their cache of fabulous weapons, as well as their state-of-the-art railroad train, so does Loveless, who would never be outdone by his opponents

While West and Gordon have their cache of fabulous weapons, as well as their state-of-the-art railroad train, so does Loveless, who would never be outdone by his opponents.

In designing Loveless's world, Welch looked at a number of design themes of the post-Civil War era, focusing on 1860s New Orleans, where Loveless lives.

"Since Loveless is a futurist -- a mechanical genius of the era -- he would know what's going on in Europe at the time. He's into machines, steam power, heavy metal and cast-iron," says Welch. "And because of his New Orleans/French connection, he would know about wrought-iron architecture, which they were getting into in France in the 1860s."

Among the sets and inventions are the Loveless mansion and boudoir, constructed on Stage 20 at Warner Bros., which served as the setting for a lavish New Orleans costume ball and "coming out" party for Loveless, complete with 300 fantastically costumed extras.

Contained within its antebellum elegance is the Loveless Lair, a gigantic cast-iron greenhouse design which functions as the clandestine headquarters where Loveless creates his weapons of mass destruction. The Lair was constructed on Stage 16 at Warner Bros.Loveless' yacht is Bo Welch's homage to America's historic fighting ships, the Monitor and the Merrimac, blended with Mississippi riverboat style. It was constructed on Stage 22 at Warner Bros., with a half-scale version built for shooting on location.

Among the fantastic inventions developed by Loveless are the first cast-iron, steam-driven wheelchair and Loveless's cast-iron tank train, Black Death on rails. A versatile land and rail tank, combined with a sleek bullet-like train, Black Death is a formidable opponent to The Wanderer.

But perhaps the greatest opponent of them all is Loveless' awe-inspiring Tarantula, the ultimate weapon -- an 80-foot-tall arachnid of destruction.

Explains Welch, "Loveless is a man without legs. The thing that fascinates him most in nature is the spider. The spider has eight legs and is quite mobile and resourceful and is an engineering genius in and of itself in nature. Loveless is impressed and fascinated by these abilities, so the spider is really his inspiration -- his signature and a recurring motif in the film."

This icon of innovation and destruction was the first element of the film to be designed. "Barry and I had a discussion that went something like this," says Welch: "How big? Oh, 60, 80 feet tall. Okay, I said. And he said it's kind of like an erector set and steam-driven. It just sort of clicked instantly," says Welch.

The Tarantula is created through a combination of sets and computer-generated imagery from Industrial Light and Magic's visual-effects supervisor Eric Brevig and his team.

Welch also received assistance from Academy Award-winning special-effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, whose engineering efforts not only provided for the plethora of moving gadgets and gizmos of the Tarantula, but for virtually every invention revealed in "Wild Wild West."

Welch's art department constructed three separate sets for the spider, including two decks. One deck was lightweight on a motion-control base to accommodate exaggerated movement for blue-screen filming, and one deck was heavy, on air bags to accommodate minimal movement, close-up stunt sequences and dialogue delivery by the actors.

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