Meet The ‘Professional Gorilla’ Who's Worked With Robin Williams And Bruno Mars

“My goal is to be buried in this suit.”

With hundreds of credits to Tom Woodruff Jr.'s name, you've likely seen him in something, but you might not recognize his face. He's an Oscar-winning special effects character creator who often transforms himself into monstrous creatures — including, notably, the xenomorph in Alien 3 and Alien vs. Predator. But as he says in a 60 Second Docs installment titled "Professional Gorilla," gorilla roles have always been "at [his] heart."

Woodruff says he's been in the special effects biz for 35 years now, and it's the only thing he's wanted to do from the time he was a kid. His gorilla suit, weighing more than 50 pounds, has gotten a lot of play — among movies such as Old Dogs and Hollow Man, TV dramas such as Zoo and Harry's Law, an episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and even a Bruno Mars album cover.

Check out the clip below:

"I'm inserting myself literally into the creature role," he tells the 60 Second Docs team. "It's accurate of a real, full, mature gorilla in a zoo … It's hot, it's uncomfortable, it's constraining. I'll try to stay in it for as many hours as I can so I'm not holding up production. I will say getting out of the suit is like being dumped out of a rubber boot.

Despite the rigor, Woodruff says his gorilla work is therapeutic. "Inside of the suit, I'm creating," he explains. "In coming up with your own way of doing things, you stumble across something that's never been done before." 

Woodruff got his start in the 1980s as he studied under legendary makeup effects creator Stan Winston and landed jobs on The Terminator and Predator. In 1998, he and a fellow Stan Winston protétége started their own company, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.; and in 1993, he and his colleagues on the film Death Becomes Her won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. (He beat himself in the category that year: He was also nominated for his work on Alien 3.) These days, he's working on The Predator, It: Chapter Two, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Even with those high-profile gigs, it's the gorilla work that seems to be most fulfilling for Woodruff. "My goal is to be buried in this suit," he jokes.

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