During the development of The Psycho Movies web site, we had the rare opportunity to talk with a crew member from one of the Psycho films. His name is Mark Bradley and he has been extremely helpful in getting our site plenty of behind the scenes information as well as some rare and never before seen photographs of the Bates Motel and Psycho House. Bradley served on the art department crew of Psycho IV: The Beginning, which was the final chapter in the Anthony Perkins-Psycho Film Series. Bradley also worked on the crew of such films as Problem Child 2 and TV shows like Sequest DSV and the new Swamp Thing.
Describe how you became involved on Psycho IV: The Beginning
It was really only my second job in the film industry. I had worked with someone who was part of MCA TV Entertainment- the branch of Universal/MCA that handled cable and syndicated TV shows. Basically that gave me a way to get into see Hilton Green and demonstrate my enthusiasm for the project and my main marketable skill at the time- model building. I don't think they were really looking for a model builder per se, but when I showed up they 'created' the position for me. It really was only a few weeks of work in the Art Department, but it was enough to get me on the crew. After I did everything I could do for the art department, I wanted to keep working on the production. So the carpenter crew agreed to take me on as a 'production assistant' while the sets were being built. I actually ended up building some of the same models again for them to use in constructing the sets. After that, I helped do various tasks such as laying the stone floor in the basement set, priming trim for the interior mansion, and even doing a little painting on the exterior house itself.
Did you guys film the movie while the theme park in Orlando was open?
Yes. Originally the movie was to be filmed before the theme park was built. The house and motel exteriors were built in 1988, when only the outlying theme park support buildings and soundstages existed. The part of Universal Studios Florida that the public sees didn't exist at all at the time. This large portion of land had been cleared, but the only thing in the middle of it was the hill with the house and motel on it. The idea what that it was the perfect setting for the exterior Psycho sets. I don't know why, but the production ended up being delayed until after the park was built. Sadly, this ended up limiting the scope of what could be shot around the exterior sets. A wide camera angle would reveal either of the two massive buildings on either side of the house- the Hard Rock Cafe or the Back to the Future Ride. Production of Psycho IV was in full swing during the grand opening of the park. In fact, I remember the producers giving tours of the sets to several VIP's who were there for the grand press opening of the park. I found myself standing next to Charleton Heston and Janet Leigh on the same day while I was working on the soundstage. It was a 30 day shoot. There were of course several weeks of prep before the actual shooting happened.
Was the film a closed set, or were people allowed to come and watch the shoot?
Closed. While the sets were being built, the large stage doors were left open so that walking-tour groups could get a glimpse inside, but once shooting started only essential crew were let in.
Were the interiors all re-created from scratch, or did any set pieces from Psycho II and III come over from California?
The sets were rebuilt from the ground up, but used several 'stock' units from Universal in Hollywood. Things such as the arch in Mom's room entry, some windows, the large 'dining room' door in the front hall, and the stained glass window in the kitchen hallway were indeed parts of the original 1959 interior sets as well as the rebuilt sets for Psycho II and III. These 'stock' parts are constantly used for productions at Universal Hollywood before and after the Psycho sequels. When they arrived in Florida, some of the parts still had tags on them from recent productions like Murder She Wrote.
Describe the Bates House and Motel exteriors and how the filmmakers made the house look younger for the 50's flashbacks and then dilapidated and ultimately partially burned down.
The first time I visited the studio in late 1988 the house could be see from the other side of the property where the soundstages were. Both the house and motel were fully built and detailed, but not yet painted with anything but primer. The whole house and motel were an eire off-white color except for the brown asphalt shingles on the roof of both. In the bright florida sun, the house in the distance looked like a ghost of the real Bates house. There were a lot of small details that were not added until the production started- sign age (cabin numbers, etc.) on the motel, the motel neon sign, the stone steps leading from the motel to the house, and a lot of appropriate greenery. The 50s scenes were done first, so the first paint job was the yellow and white. The very back panel of the house was not painted since it would not be seen. During the shoot, the 'old' paint was applied right over the yellow and white. Sometime while the 'old' paint was being applied to the left side of the house, the work was halted because everyone realized that it wouldn't be seen. The-half-and-half paint job remained until the house was torn down. For years after, visitors to the park often thought that the house was being painted yellow for some reason. The house and motel were both facades. It was very simple wood construction with black tar paper behind the clap board. The motel office(but not the parlor) was built inside the facade for a few scenes where the office could be seen through the open door and window. As with most sets, the facades were not built to 'code' and for this reason they were not able to be used for tours or anything else related to the park. During several of the Halloween Horror Nights events years later, the sets were used as a backdrop for one of the walk-through haunted houses. As far as the fire goes for the end of the film, each area where the flame was coming out was a controlled fire device that could be turned up or down on cue. Minimal scorching was done to the actual house. The final shot of the gutted house was of course a matte painting. Again, the flames were carefully controlled with flame devices done by the mechanical effects crew. The interior first floor and upstairs hallway set was sheathed in fire-rated drywall so that the set wouldn't catch fire. The fire scenes were the last shot on the relevant sets because of the damage.
Which soundstage at Universal in Florida housed the interiors?
Stage 21- the largest stage at the studio. The stage housed these sets:
Interior Bates house first floor (living room, hall, kitchen) and upstairs hallway.
Interior Bates house second floor (mom's room, Norman's room)
Interior Bates house basement
Interior Motel office, parlor, and cabin 1
Interior Norman and Connie's house (kitchen, hallway)
The radio station interior was actually a converted local news set at a TV studio closer to downtown Orlando. The TV station had recently relocated to a new building elsewhere in Orlando and the building was unoccupied at the time.
I worked with the construction crew for a few weeks on the soundstage and the radio station location. I did everything from sweeping floors to simple painting on parts of the sets. Me and one of the construction guys hand layed all the slate flooring in the basement set. That took 2 or 3 days as I recall. I developed an appreciation for country music during that time- all the construction guys listed to the same station on their portable radios.
How was it working with the legendary Anthony Perkins?
I really don't know much about that since I wasn't around for the shooting. I never heard anything bad about him though- and that's usually a good indication of how he was to work with. I did hear people call him very professional and pleasant. I only saw him once myself.
Describe in detail the screening at Universal in Hollywood
Since most of the department heads, cast, and producers, etc. were from LA, naturally the party was there. Even though I was pretty much one of the lowest crew members on the totem pole, I went because I had worked with the person who was coordinating the party- he was the Director of Publicity on the movie. The Production Manager was surprised to see me there! Hehe... The screening was in the Alfred Hitchcock Theater on the Universal Front Lot. This is a theater used for internal screenings, etc. I remember Oliva Hussy being there, but Tony Perkins wasn't and I don't think Henry Thomas was, but I could be wrong on that one. A lot of the supporting cast was there too. Mick Garris and Hilton Green were there. I believe just about anyone connected with the movie was invited, but I think I was the only Orlando-based person to come!
Return to the Interview Section of Psycho IV