This may be the age of CGI, but on Wednesday director Tim Burton was clear. He wanted a real-life actor to play the classic Addams Family character Thing in the hit Netflix series. even if the thing it is just a disembodied hand.
“So we set out to find an actor who could play the part,” says Tom Turnbull, VFX supervisor for the dark comedy. “Someone who had the right looking hands, who had nimble fingers, could do all these movements.”
Moves such as running across floors and open windows, writing, turning pages of magazines, and expressing a range of emotions, from hesitation and fear to determination and devotion, with the subtle expansion or contraction of one or two fingers.
That someone turned out to be Victor Dorobantu, a 25-year-old Romanian magician and illusionist who had never performed before but who immediately impressed Wednesday’s team with his agile hand movements.
“Even the way he talks, it’s pretty hard to find moves that can express feelings,” says Dorobantu in a new behind-the-scenes video from Netflix detailing how the team brought The Thing to life. “For example, in love or angry.”
Dorbantu, however, manages to channel genuine emotion quite easily, whether it’s flipping the bird over, lovingly cradling Wednesday’s shoulder, or writhing in pain. No spoilers here, but in a scene the Thing shares with Wednesday and Uncle Fester, it’s easy to forget that the diseased body part isn’t human. That’s how convincing Dorbantu’s performance is.
For filming, Dorbantu wore a full-body blue suit, with his hand sticking out so the rest of him could be digitally erased in post-production. A prosthetic wrist stump placed over his hand turned the Thing into a severed body part, complete with prosthetic scars.
The magician often had to crawl or crouch behind walls or under furniture to get the hand to move, and the VFX team worked closely with him to get the positioning just right.
“It’s actually slow for the crew because they have to light it in such a way that Victor doesn’t cast shadows,” Turnbull says in the video. “So there’s a lot to do to do it.”
Now when the Thing join the viral dance on wednesdays?