The Screen Room
Unsung Heroes of Cinema: Bill Bryan (The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man)
This week’s Unsung Hero of Cinema is a man who’s not only responsible for creating and bringing to life creatures, aliens and monsters from movies such as Species (1995), Jurassic Park III (2001), Men in Black (1997) and The Village (2004), he’s also a puppeteer and the guy who played one of the most memorable movie characters of the 1980s: The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters (1984).
It always amazes me how people get into certain jobs. Like how does someone decide to be a stuntman/stuntwoman or how does someone become a lighting specialist on a movie set?
Well when Bill was a kid he watched a show on TV called Muppets on Puppets hosted by Jim Henson and Frank Oz (of The Muppets fame) where they showed you how to make muppets.
Young Bill happened to have some foam and some glue laying about at home and set about making his own which turned out pretty good. His mum’s friend saw it and said “oh you make puppets? Can you put on a show for us?” And that started his journey.
While studying at Syracuse university, on the lead up to Halloween Bill made a Halloween costume. He heard about a bar that was offering $100 for the best costume so he made a few for friends in the hope of making a bit of cash.
A friend of a friend who was studying film at the university asked him to make a plant costume for a plant food commercial he was making. The announcer of the commercial (a guy called Bruce Tufeld) was the son of Dick Tufeld who did the voice of the robot in Lost in Space (“DANGER WILL ROBINSON!”)
Dick happened to be in town visiting his son and decided to sit in on the filming of the commercial. When it was done the director asked him, “What do you think Mr. Tufeld, is there a place for me in Hollywood?” To which Dick replied, “No, but there’s a place for the guy that made that costume.”
And that’s how it all started.
Over the years Bill’s skill with modelling, fabrication and puppeteering has given him a successful career in the movie industry working behind the camera (and occasionally in front of it) to give us some great movie moments.
He worked as a puppeteer for “Chucky” on Child’s Play (1988), designed and created costumes for Dune (1984), built aliens for Men in Black (the giant slug-type alien that walks through MIB headquarters as Will Smith is being shown around by Tommy Lee Jones), appeared as the “Pit Bitch” in Sam Raimi’s hilarious Army of Darkness (1992), and of course, his most iconic performance (and one he’s sadly uncredited for) The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters (1984).
On top of all of that Bill has done work for many TV shows and commercials such as The Outer Limits and The Energizer Bunny ads.
Not bad for a guy who’s first job was building a banana costume for one of Elton John’s tours.