An excerpt from the practical effects issue of befores & afters magazine.
Practical effects house Legacy Effects has become synonymous with the large array of Tony Stark suits, ever since the first Iron Man was released in 2008.
That tradition was continued on Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever for the homemade suit and later the advanced suit made by the character Riri (Dominique Thorne), aka Ironheart.
Here, Legacy would source a wealth of different materials such as aircraft parts and even pool noodles for the build, while also crafting their own pieces with 3D printing, rapid prototyping and handmade techniques.
The team delivered a full Mark I suit, and then created their trademark ‘football’ partial suit for Thorne to wear as the Mark II version, since it would appear completely in CG form in the final film.
befores & afters asked effects supervisor and Legacy co-owner Lindsay MacGowan and model shop supervisor David Merritt to break down the suit design and building process.
b&a: What was that Mark I suit crafted out of?
David Merritt: It was pretty much everything. There was a lot of aluminum for strength and to keep it lightweight. Then we utilized 3D printed parts, and nylon pieces, and we also got into casting in very lightweight urethanes, making the wall thicknesses as thin as possible. That helped keep it lightweight and also let us achieve a lot of different textures with different materials. Then there’s all the wire and tubing and all the gack that goes on top of it. There was also harnessing. We have to provide enough for the stunt harnesses underneath so she can fly. It was a really quite a complicated suit.
Lindsay MacGowan: As Dave was saying, we were trying to use materials that were lightweight but still strong enough to endure the physicality of the role and the stunts that were being done. If you make it too light, then it’s going to get damaged in the stunt shot. Too heavy and you can’t do the stunt shots. It’s always a balance of trying to figure out what the material is going to be.
b&a: It’s a very technically advanced suit because Riri has the skills to do that, but what were the things–say the finishes or bits and pieces of gack you mentioned before–that you added to make it feel homemade?
David Merritt: For the substructure of it, we made it technically advanced, but then we have bins and bins of gack that we’ve developed over the years from all the projects we’ve done. It’s my job to open up all the bins and start picking all the parts out that reference the images we have. If some of the parts are too heavy, then we may mold those and cast lighter parts. We also have these metallic paints that we can use to make it look metal. We just try to add as much texture to the suit as we can to give it the depth it needs.
I always like to incorporate leather into any of this high-tech stuff as well because it just kind of gives you that grounding. I did that in the original Iron Man mask on the inside.
Also, we used pool noodles. These were for the back of the head piece, the ‘roll bar’ on the back. It took a little doing to find the right pool noodle. Everything has its use and even though it kind of looks simple, it’s still quite complicated to achieve.
Read more in issue #10.