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Actors pick favorite monsters

Many express a fondness for 'The Wolf Man'

TORONTO — Sigourney Weaver's favorite movie monster isn't "Alien."

Never mind that the 1979 horror classic, regarded as one of the scariest films ever, launched Weaver's career. She has a soft spot for a giant hairy ape.

With Halloween on the horizon, we asked a number of actors and filmmakers at last month's Toronto International Film Festival to tell us about their most beloved feature creatures.

Interestingly, a number of stars named "The Wolf Man" as their favorite movie monster — perhaps reflecting the actors' own inner process of transformation.

More than a few also mentioned characters from "Jaws" and "The Wizard of Oz," illustrating the lasting impact of childhood big-screen scares.

Here's a look at some of Hollywood's fright-film faves:

CHRIS COOPER ("Silver City," "Seabiscuit"):

"I guess the two guys I was brought up on were 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein.'

"Those old ( movies) — what were they, made in the '20s? For a little kid, they really succeed in scaring the hell out of me. Far more than what we're seeing today.

"But my favorite, I don't know. Maybe 'The Wolf Man.' "

SIGOURNEY WEAVER: ("Alien," "Gorillas in the Mist"):

"Is King Kong a monster? I thought he was very sweet. And so I ended up doing a gorilla movie.

"I actually think we haven't done enough interesting spooky movies. We don't have many modern monsters, because of course, they're our politicians.

"But that's a whole a genre that I think is due to be reinvented. I think as we try to escape from real life into fantasy more and more, we're going to see some pretty imaginative stories coming out."

DANIEL CRAIG ("Enduring Love," "Road to Perdition"):

"It would have to be 'Alien,' but the original one. The Ridley Scott 'Alien,' because you don't see it.

"When you don't see it, it really scares you. It's that thing when you use your imagination — your imagination's far worse than anything else."

PAUL GIAMATTI ("Sideways," "American Splendor"):

"I love 'The Wolf Man.' He's cool. I was really into 'The Wolf Man.'

"When I was a kid, I was big monster-movie guy. I always liked the guys who changed into something. So I liked 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' and 'The Wolf Man' and stuff like that. I just liked that movie, too."

JOHN WATERS (Director, "A Dirty Shame," "Hairspray"):

" 'Chucky (Child's Play).' I'm in the new Chucky movie, 'Seed of Chucky.' Chucky kills me. It opens Nov. 12.

" . . . I think Chucky's still great. I would like to have Chucky and Divine in a movie. You know how they bring back like Jason vs. Freddy? I think Chucky vs. Divine would be good."

BILLY CRUDUP ("Big Fish," "Almost Famous"):

"I'm going to go with Michelle Pfeiffer in 'The Witches of Eastwick.' Witches are hot and Michelle Pfeiffer's hot."

CLAIRE DANES ("Stage Beauty," "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"):

"I think the Wicked Witch of the West is pretty good. Maybe I say that because I just saw 'Wicked.'

"(The Wizard of Oz), that was one of the first movies I saw and I was really, really unnerved by that character. Really terrified of those monkeys, man."

EMILY MORTIMER ('Scream 3,' 'Lovely & Amazing'):

"My favorite movie monster is the Lion in 'The Wizard of Oz' because my dad's only advice to me in life has been to avoid doing anything too heroic, because it always leads to trouble.

"So I admire the Lion for being a coward."

RHYS IFANS ("Enduring Love," "Notting Hill"):

"I'd say George W. Bush in 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' "

TREY PARKER ("South Park," "Team America: World Police"):

"My new favorite movie monster is ('Team America's') Kim Jong Il."

ALEXANDER PAYNE (Director, "Sideways," "About Schmidt"):

"My mind goes immediately to (Judith Anderson) in 'Rebecca.' Mrs. Danvers; she is hideous.

KATE BOSWORTH ("Beyond the Sea," "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!"):

"I love scary movies, actually. I was a huge fan when I was younger; I used to watch all of them. 'Candyman' really scared me. And 'The Exorcist' really scared me — that was like, 'Whoa.'

"But movie monster? I was more into those, actually, rather than the monsters. The ones that were really kind of scary."

VIRGINIA MADSEN ("Candyman," "The Haunting"):

"I always loved 'Frankenstein,' because he was so — you had such compassion (for him), even though he threw that girl in the water. He didn't really mean to kill her.

"I'm sure he was a smart guy underneath it all. He had a big heart. And I loved him then in 'Young Frankenstein.' "

HELEN HUNT ("What Women Want," "As Good as It Gets"):

"Peter Boyle in 'Young Frankenstein,' for obvious reasons."

DYLAN KIDD (Director, "P.S.," "Roger Dodger"):

"I really love the old Bela Lugosi — the Universal Dracula films.

"My father was a big fan of the old horror movies. For years, I really fought them. I was like, 'Oh, black and white.' But when I finally saw Lugosi in these films . . . it was like, 'This is a great movie.'

"I think Lugosi is one of the first people to really bring out the pathos of the vampire and this idea of attempting to connect in kind of a dysfunctional way. So I'd have to go with Bela Lugosi's 'Dracula.' "

JOHN SAYLES (Director, "Silver City," "Lone Star"):

"I think 'Gamera,' because 'Gamera' loves children all over the world and because it's just so great to have this concept — it's just so wacky and so Japanese — of a flying turtle who blows flames out his butt so he can fly but then can become a submarine.

"But he's so easy to animate, because turtles don't have that many moving parts. It just seemed like the perfect Japanese movie monster was 'Gamera.'

"And because for whatever reason, he works for good. He's a monster, but he fights the other monsters. How does he know? Why doesn't he hang out with the monsters instead of the human beings?"

THOMAS HADEN CHURCH ("Sideways," "George of the Jungle"):

"I think werewolves are really sexy. There's always something seductive about them. One of my favorite movies is 'The Howling.'

"Remember the scene where the guy, he's been shot in the head and he pulls the bullet out? Actually, that actor's name is Robert Picardo; I worked with him on 'China Beach.' It's a very seductive scene as he's going into his werewolf transformation. I love werewolves."

JEFF DANIELS ("Imaginary Heroes," "Dumb and Dumber"):

"I always liked — was it the 'Werewolf' or the 'Creature'? I think it was the 'Werewolf.'

"I'd love to say I know what movies, but you know — those 4-in-the-afternoon movies they would show back in the Midwest.

"There was the 'Creature,' there was the 'Mummy,' there was the 'Werewolf.' We all had our guys: 'He likes him'; 'He likes him.' It's like picking your favorite Detroit Tiger — your favorite baseball player.

"I remember the 'Werewolf' being mine. Maybe it was because he was the only one left."

ROGER MICHELL (Director, "Changing Lanes," "Notting Hill"):

"Is 'Jaws' a movie monster? I think the classic story about 'Jaws' is that they had a few problems with it, so they decided not to really show it for the first hour and a half of the film.

"And that's such a brilliant lesson for filmmakers in lots and lots of other ways . . . hiding your shark till the last possible moment."

LEIGH WHANNELL ("Saw," "The Matrix Reloaded"):

" 'Jaws' — I mean, the shark. It may be rubbery, it may be kind of fake-looking to most people, but Jaws is the ultimate because it swims into your subconscious and stays there.

"I remember seeing 'Jaws' when I was about 6. I kept begging my dad. We had one of those ancient video players that first came out, one of the Betamax ones, which was about the size of a fridge. I kept begging my dad for the 'shark movie.' All I knew was it was the movie with the shark on the cover.

" 'Jaws' changed my life. It was just one of those ultimate cinema experiences. It gets inside your head and won't leave."

JAMES WAN (Director, "Saw"):

"I love way too many monsters to be able to single out one. . . . I love the shark in 'Jaws,' but I love 'Godzilla,' as well.

"Yeah, big 'Godzilla' fan. Because it's a man in a monster suit going around stomping on miniature buildings. How cool is that?

"Geez. I love monster movies. I'm sorry, I can't single any one out. I'd have to say all of them."

GREGG HOFFMAN (Producer, "Saw")

"I was trying to debate between either Freddy ('A Nightmare on Elm Street') or Mike Myers ('Halloween') only because the first 'Nightmare,' before he got too tongue-in-cheek, really, really, really scared me.

"But Mike Myers, I specifically remember the Halloween that it came out. I had a huge crush on this girl, and she finally agreed to go with me to the movies. I was like 15 or something like that, and she literally was so scared that she was in my lap the whole time. . . .

"I really do have John Carpenter to thank."

Dave Larsen writes for the Dayton Daily News. E-mail: