- Behind The Scenes Special
SPACEHAWK - Interview with designer/builder Philip D Rae
|Phil Rae has been a well-known
figure in the Gerry Anderson fan community for over 30
years. A fan come model maker turned big-time collector;
who is known around the World for discovering and
acquiring rare and valuable film and television props.
He has also built up a massive photographic archive, a result of which his name has appeared in the credits of a great many books and magazines over the last 25 plus years for providing rare behind-the-scenes pictures - such as some of those on this website.
Left: Spacehawk concept design......... done after the model was built!
did you first get interested in building models?
Phil: I started when I was quite young, I remember building models in my basement when I was about 10-years-old. Hacking and cutting up lumps of waste timber to form crude models, such as the Zero-X. I also built the usual Airfix models and made my own designs from bit and pieces.
David: Were you a big
fan of the Gerry Anderson shows?
|So I used to go over to Blackpool
very regularly and take photographs, and look at every
detail so that I could then come home and copy the
paneling and how things looked and were built. This
helped me to improve my own skills and start producing
decent looking models for once.
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Right: One of Phil's scrachbuilt spacecraft, shortly to become the basis of Spacehawk.
|Later on I managed to gain closer
access to the models and on one occasion I was able to
take a moulding off the Eagle 3 nosecone. That
moulding was used to create an Eagle beak, which I then
leant to a chap in America at a convention years later.
He then cast one side of it I believe, to produce two
copies that could be stuck together, but the two halves
would not match up properly. I think copies of that Beak
or modified version - have been in circulation for
many years and it probably still appears on peoples
Eagle replicas today.
Anyway I used to be such a regular visitor to the Blackpool exhibition that I got friendly with one of the workers there (Mark Harris) and one day he told me that Martin Bower, the guy who built many of the Space: 1999 effects models, was coming over to visit. So I arranged to be there to see him and chat, we got friendly, and he came over to see my models.
Is that how you first got into building models
Did this then lead to the work on Alien?
worked on the Narcissus didnt you?
Phil: Yes, all the main shape of the model had been built by Martin Bower and others, and the rear end was detailed to match the live-action set which I have to say I didn't think looked very convincing. It seemed a bit primitive to my eyes, like it hadn't been thought out by a proper model maker/designer.
The front half was just blank Perspex at that point and needed completely detailing, painting and weathering which I was given to do. At first they had a chap from the design office (who was helping us) working on it as well. So I was on one side adding detail and he was on the other side adding different stuff and ignoring what I was doing - I mean what do you think that results in? You would have a model with two different looking halves! So I just suggested to Martin that it probably wasnt going to work and one of us should do it alone and luckily he decided to pick me. So I just got on with it, doing my own stuff and making it look as good as I could in the time-scale. I also built a detailed interior for it but that was discarded and is not seen in the movie.
................................................Right: Phil at work on the large-scale Narcissus front section.
|After that I was asked to build
the front section of the ship in a much larger scale for
a forced-perspective shot. I think Nick Allder (Special
Effects Supervisor) just sort of held his hands up and
said make it this kind-of-size as they were going to use
rear-projection to put the actors in the windows.
My first thought was bugger, how am I going to reproduce all the detail I'd just done at such a large scale! Anyhow, the basic shape was mainly formed using Perspex sheeting again, which at the time was glued together using chloroform. This was with simple butt joints, the two pieces of plastic simply glued together one against the other with no chamfering, so I then glued plastic tube along the inside edges to give more support. While I was doing this Nick walked in and went up to the model, which was standing on end pointing upwards, and just grabbed the centre retro-engine section and picked the whole thing up and held it horizontally in front of him, reviewing the angle for the required camera shot. I just stood there in a panic, as unknown to him this whole flimsy model was just being supported in mid-air by a tiny bit of glue around the engine. I expected the whole thing to just crash to the ground in pieces, so when he finally left I quickly ran over to it with a tub of car filler and just packed in as much of this stuff as I could, all around the insides to strengthen it up. (laugh)
Anyway, later as I was detailing the model Nick arrived with two television monitors and announced a change-of-plan, as they were going behind the windows instead of using rear-projection screens. So I took these monitors and placed them up against the model and surprise, surprise, they didnt fit into what I had already built - as obviously being square the top edges wouldnt go inside the model. So I had to get the drill out and then start drilling pieces out of the model to install these monitors. As a result the edges do actually protrude from the craft so I got some kit parts and panels and detailed them to blend them into the design, which you can see in the movie although it is probably not noticed.
Of course, I
worked on other stuff too, such as the enlarged Nostromo
nose-section and engine room but it was really nice to be
so involved with one of the main ships, and all such a
great learning experience too. In the end I was very
privileged to work on what turned out to be such a
almost appeared in the film didnt you?
Phil: Ha! Yes but my scene was cut out. Ridley wanted to do a scene where the characters are walking away from the Nostromo whilst showing the spaceship in the background. Being a bit short I could fit inside one of the small spacesuits, which is all they had to hand, and I was asked to go on set with a girl from the production office likewise kitted out (they had small-scale suits for child performers to wear to make the giant Nostromo leg set and Space Jockey sets look even bigger). Of course in the first take I start walking in slow-motion like Im in low-gravity and the director, Ridley Scott, shouts Stop, were not on the bloody Moon now you know, or words to that effect! (laugh).The scene isn't lost though as it appears in the extras on one of the DVDs.
...................................................................................................... Far right: Phil in 'Alien' spacesuit shoot.
how did the Terrahawks job come up?
Phil: Well I had got to know Gerry through the Blackpool displays and knew Steven Begg already. They were setting up the show and apparently the Japanese investors were flying over to look around in about two weeks time and I believe that all they had to show them were the Zeroids. Steven was the designer at the time and had worked on most of the Terrahawk craft except for the Spacehawk, so he offered me the job of building it as he thought that might be more up my alley with the kit-bashed look.
David: Did they give
you a description of the craft, what it was supposed to
do, or look like?
|Left: Spacehawk version one - The main structure of Phil's initial Spacehawk build takes shape - with the help of vacuum cleaner parts and steel tube.|
|So I just asked them to send me the script and I read through it and the basic idea was that Spacehawk was a gigantic battleship, a huge destroyer type thing like the Star Destroyers in Star Wars. So I came up with an idea - actually an idea that I had for a while so this was an opportunity to finally build it - and so I went round the shops looking for these vacuum cleaner plastic cases that I had seen and bought a few, then came back and started assembling this craft with the intention of cladding it all up in kit-part detail.|
|Well a week had gone by now and I
realised that this model was going to take me a lot
longer to build so I was completely stuck, how could I
build a complete spaceship in a week!
So I looked around my model collection and there was a couple of old models that I had previously made which could work. So I took these models apart and rebuilt them into one model the Spacehawk, as you know it today.
So it was just these old models?
I took it down to London on the
Saturday and the Japanese party arrived on the Monday, so
it was a pretty close thing. Even the paint was still
wet; I mean the model was such a rush job that I was
still painting it that morning, so by the time I got
there it was pretty much touch dry but still a bit tacky
the model get altered at all?
Phil: When I delivered the model it had a cluster of probes extending off the front of the three side modules, which I thought looked really aggressive. Id first built these using some left-over probes from Alien but had swapped them for some kit parts good idea really as those Alien bits are worth a fair bit today! Anyway the SFX director at the time was Ian Scoones and he just didnt like the probes, so he stripped them off for filming, although they do appear on the prototype toy so the Japanese people obviously saw it with them on.
They also added the Scotchlite reflective
tapes to create the lights on the ship - someone once
asked me how I had done that thinking that there was a
light inside the model but there wasnt. The people
at the studio added those, they basically stuck on strips
of tape and then painted over them just leaving small
exposed areas to scale the lights down in size.
The newly built Spacehawk model after delivery
to the studios, still featuring the 'probes'.
David: What scale was
the model supposed to be?
I also quickly drew the supposed pre-production art which was needed for that project, but after the model was built! (laughs).
did you end up doing the 'Official Terrahawk Blueprints'?
Phil: Well, simply, I'd already done quite a few blueprint drawings for my pal David Nightingale's 'SIG' magazine and he asked me if I would do it. I went down to Bray (studios) to photograph and measure all the main craft, so the results are pretty accurate. I have to say that they were a real chore to do, especially Spacehawk which was a nightmare trying to reproduce all that detail and I fudged it a bit. (laughs)
I understand you were also offered a job on the show
did you think when it appeared on screen?
Phil: I thought it looked all right actually I never really liked the previous old models before, as I just saw them as a bunch of old plastic margarine tubs and disposable razors stuck together, but the Spacehawk looks OK.
But even if some of the crew did refer to it as the 'Razor-hawk' (because of all the Bic razors I'd used) I still realIy wish I hadn't used the Tie Fighter wing panels ...as they are just too obvious.
much did you get paid for it?
Phil: Ive still got the bill in a pile over there actually, in fact they only rented it off me for a sum of about ú370. I didnt want to sell it to them as I know what happens to movie props and I so I wanted it back.
David: Im surprised that you
managed to get it back safely.
|So I just drove down there and
grabbed it quick, but of course while I was there I saw
all the other models lying about and so later I rang
Gerry and asked what was happening to them? He basically
said that if I wanted them then I could have them all -
just ring Bob Bell to arrange it. So I rang Bob and
talked to him and remember asking him How big a van
should I bring? (laugh)
Anyway I hired a van and drove down there with a friend to help me carry them all and surprise, surprise, the models had gone! There were just a few bits of scenery left and that was about it so I have no idea where the models are today, someone must have a few, probably the people who last worked on the show.
disappointing but you have managed to get a few models in
I remember a person asked for my advice years ago to verify and value a lot of original studio models that he had bought. Obviously I was very excited at this news so drove off one night with my camera to visit the guy. (Phil shows me some pictures of a Sky 1 with massive comedy wings, a Stingray that looks like a bubble bath container, and a blue box-like vehicle.)
that supposed to be a SHADO Mobile?
I still remember the thrill of getting my first original models during the time of the Blackpool displays. When we moved the display to the smaller site I couldnt really fit everything in so I made a case for leaving the small versions of the Ultraprobe and Altares out. I said to Gerry 'What shall we do with them?' and he said 'What do you want to do with them?' So I ended up with them (laugh)!
ended up with them all anyway when you bought the Alton
Phil: Yes I had been keeping an eye on it for years and kept on writing letters to them asking to possibly buy some of the models. In the end I got a reply asking me to visit and when I got there found out that they intended to dump the collection, as they werent interested in having it anymore because Gerry Anderson shows were old hat and the public werent bothered this of course was just before the massive Thunderbirds revival! They didnt want to sell just one model, but all of it in one single go!
So I took out a loan, which was a big thing for me as I had a wife, young kids and a steep mortgage at the time, and just started shipping all this stuff to my house and there was loads of it. Of course today I pretty much have nothing really major left from that collection. Ive got rid of quite a bit over the years due to changing life circumstances, but have no real regrets...you can't have everything. You of course have been quite lucky to be in the right place at the right time because you got the original 44 Eagle model and youve done a bang-up job on cleaning it up.
Phil's loft space in the early 1990s after buying the
Alton Towers collection. Two 44" Eagles, two
Altares, Swift, Superswift, Sky 1, Moonbase Interceptor,
Hawks, Lunar Tanks, Spacesuits, Puppets, Moon buggy,
Space Warp Derelict, Gliders, Ultraprobe, and much
more........ a fans dream come true!
See HERE for more photos
|David: The Eagle
does look nice today, although I have seen the odd
comment about the restoration destroying its
Phil: Well thats all bollocks because it had been totally repainted after the show ended (apart from the undercarriage), thats why when I got it there were no decals on it. The whole model had been re-sprayed white and all the detailing was different to what had appeared in the show.
Luckily the 2nd and 3rd 44 Eagles are still in filmed condition and so they dont need restoring. But the first one had been buggered about with, mostly by people who didnt know what they were doing even I changed it and made mistakes, so it was in desperate need of restoration.
I added the red rescue stripes because I liked them - Ive always thought the Eagle looked too plain in all white and the red stripes added colour and made it look more exciting. When I repainted the black windows I also painted the black right to the edge, which I should not have done.
David: But of course
people have copied those details for years, so they think
its how it should be.
David: You sold a fair bit of your collection over the years but you still have your key items.
|Phil: Yes, much of it has
now gone sadly to pay bills etc, but I still have the
huge Sky 1, big Moonbase Interceptor,
big Angel Interceptor, Spacehawk and
Captain Scarlet.... and a few smaller pieces.
Someone asked me if I would sell these items if offered a lot of money, but I probably would not as they are priceless. Money didnt mean too much to me back then, when I had it it was just numbers. I used it to acquire the things that I really wanted, so I simply didnt worry about it. Things are rather different now with Anderson stuff at a premium and sometimes changing hands for thousands of pounds. Oh, I also have some GREAT replicas made by the amazing David Sisson. I believe you have some too! (laughs)
|Fortunately I still have what I
believe is the biggest Gerry Anderson photo archive in
the World. Ive always been interested in the visual
look of the shows and collecting photographs has always
been as important to me as collecting models. The shows
just look fantastic and the detail in the work is
amazing. I know you are a huge fan of '1999'
and the truth is that if it wasn't for the likes of
Martin Bower's amazing ships then that whole show could
have been filled with alien craft like that blue lump
from Earthbound God I thought that was
So whats next on the collecting front?
Left: Phil arrives at Bray Studios to deliver the Spacehawk model (1982).
Many thanks to
Philip D Rae for the interview and use of his photographs.
Other photographs by Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd.
'Terrahawks' is copyright by Christopher Burr - No infringement of copyright is intended - non-profit fan interest site only.
'Terrahawks' is a Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr Production.
Article and other photographs David Sisson 2013