- Universal Pictures went all out in bringing The Last Voyage of the Demeter to life, with meticulous attention to detail in both the makeup and the production design.
- The production designer, Edward Thomas, decided to build the exterior ship in a tank in Malta, while interior sets were built on moving platforms in Berlin. Safety was a top priority in creating the massive 100-ton ship.
- Thomas ensured that the ship’s design looked authentic and real, using traditional methods and working with nautical engineers and maritime experts. The goal was to make sure the ship didn’t let the movie down and that it matched the high quality of the acting, costumes, makeup, and special effects.
Universal Pictures spared no expense bringing the old, ill-fated vessel to life. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is ready to set out on its most infamous odyssey. While special effects make-up artist, Göran Lundström, meticulously created Dracula’s new make-up for the film, production designer Edward Thomas took the same time and care when creating the ship the Transylvania Count is destined to scourge. And the result was 100 tons of 19th century glory.
Thomas said in an exclusive interview with MovieWeb:
“One of the decisions early on was – do we actually shoot the whole thing in the studio? It would have probably freed up the nautical theory of it, because then it was never going to be at sea. But we made the decision to build the exterior ship in a tank, so all the interior sets were built on moving platforms in Berlin, in Babelsberg Studio, but then all the exterior stuff was shot in Malta in the tank at Malta Film Studios.
So, to create something that is the scale it was, 214 feet long, 35 feet wide, weighing over 100 tons, you’ve got to really know what you’re doing in terms of safety and in terms of keeping that afloat.”
Thomas’ impressive resume spans 30 years and features a number of unforgettable projects. While the production designer is probably best known for his work on Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, his craft has also benefited titles like Torchwood, Da Vinci’s Demons and both Escape Room and its sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions.
Production Designer Edward Thomas Brought the Demeter to Life
Director André Øvredal brings the classic vampire Dracula back to the big screen in The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Øvredal not only had the luxury of casting Javier Botet in the role of this version of Nosferatu, but he benefited by having the talented Edward Thomas designing the production. And it’s the people involved in the creative venture’s cast and crew that make all the difference.
Thomas said in the same interview:
“And of course, what you do is surround yourself with the best possible people. So, nautical engineers, maritime engineers, great construction people who sort of take all that burden for you. But whilst they’re all doing their jobs, as a production designer, I’ve got to make sure that the finished product, the stuff that the camera sees, looks real. And it has to look real, because we wouldn’t want the ship to let the movie down.
Everything is so good about it, the acting, the costumes, the makeup, the special effects. You can’t have a ship that the audience doesn’t believe, and I wouldn’t ever want that to happen on my watch. So, you go out. And you buy the schooner and maritime history books, you work with the best possible ship designers to make sure that traditional methods are used.”
The authenticity Thomas provides to the 100-ton Demeter should be a sight to behold when fans get to see the vessel on the big screen in theaters. While Dracula obviously never slayed the Demeter’s crew, the ship is steeped in history. Bram Stoker was inspired by the real-life Dmitri, which he came across while researching his 1897 novel in Whitby on the Yorkshire coast.
The doomed ship also ran aground like its fictional counterpart, but there were more survivors than just poor Mr. Renfield. In an ironic twist, which must have stuck with Stoker, the Dmitri was also carrying cumbersome crates of earth. Fortunately, no vampires were reported to have been found terrorizing Whitby Harbor, or the surrounding area.