Since the character was introduced by Universal in 1941’s The Wolf Man, he has been re-imagined and alluded to many times in film, television and even music to this very day. His appearance has changed over time from a man with wolf features to an all-out wolf that walks on four legs. Of course, you can’t mention the Wolf Man without mentioning three names who have portrayed the character in some way: Lon Chaney, Jr., Will Kemp and Benicio Del Toro. It’s time to meet Universal’s Wolf Men.
Lon Chaney, Jr. is the name that will be forever linked to the Wolf Man and would set the precedent for all Wolf Men who followed. The son of famous monster actor Lon Chaney, Sr., Chaney would reprise the role four times. He would endure six-to ten hours of makeup, applied by the famous Jack Pierce, to become the Wolf Man and even went through stages of make-up so that he could be depicted changing back and forth between wolf and man. Chaney would become the only Universal actor to play four of the studio’s monsters.
Our next Wolf Man is actor Will Kemp, who played the character in the 2004 Universal film Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. Kemp was born in Herfordshire, England on June 29, 1977 and started out as a dancer. His role as Velkan Valerious was his first major film role. Velkan was not the Wolf Man but he was a werewolf, and a ferocious one at that. He looked, walked and acted like a real wolf, a departure from the walking upright, still-fully-clothed Wolf Man from 1941. Speaking of which, our final Wolf Man took on Lon Chaney Jr.’s classic character in a darker, more violent way.
Benicio del Toro, born Benicio Monserrate del Toro Sanchez, lent his personality and acting style to the character in the 2010 remake, The Wolfman, co-starring Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 19, 1967, del Toro has starred in over forty films. The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston, is a direct remake of the 1941 film but it is much different in terms of effect and overtones. Benicio del Toro’s Wolf Man is much scarier than Chaney’s and more deadly. There is carnage, blood and bones cracking as Lawrence transforms into the creature during the full moon, striking fear into a small British town.
The Wolf Man and his werewolf relatives are legendary creatures in the horror, fantasy and monster world. They have been featured in An American Werewolf in London, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful and were even the topic of songs such as “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon and “Of Wolf and Man” by Metallica. Universal is planning another remake of The Wolf Man to coincide with a new line of monster movies starting with 2017’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella. There has not been much news about the film other than it is slated to be released in 2018.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these three Wolf Men and others in the monster world here at Universal Monsters Universe. Who was your favorite Wolf Man? Let us know in the comments below.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)