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An interview with Tom Beauvais

03.04.13

British designer and artist Tom Beauvais is the man behind several classic British posters, including the quads for Fantastic Voyage (1966), Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) and the cult horror film Zombie Flesh Eaters (pictured below). In a career that lasted over forty years, and continued for twenty more after his ‘retirement’, Tom applied his considerable talents to working on marketing for many of the biggest film studios and collaborated directly with filmmakers such as the late, great Stanley Kubrick. In addition, Tom is also a highly skilled architectural illustrator and it’s this area of work that he concentrated on since leaving the design studio that bore his name, Chapman Beauvais Ltd, in 1992.

Last year I was lucky enough to be able to meet and interview the man himself about his life and career and this article is the result. It contains many exclusive images of Tom and his work, including a handful of never-before-seen concept designs for films such as Star Wars and Blade Runner. I have also included images of his detailed architectural illustrations and other relevant photos which I hope the reader will enjoy.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters, which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

The UK one sheet for Mad Max, designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, 1979

The UK one sheet for Mad Max, designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, 1979

I’ve split the interview up into seven parts and you can use the links below to jump directly to each part, should you wish.

Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists
Part 2 – The art of film marketing
Part 3 – Time for Change: Chapman Beauvais Ltd.
Part 4 – Working with Stanley Kubrick
Part 5 – Architectural illustration and the genetics of artistry
Part 6 – Iconic posters and unused concepts
Part 7 – A kind of retirement

 

Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists

To begin, you were born in 1932 in Belsize Park, North London?
Yes, that’s correct. In 1939 I was evacuated with my sister and we went with our school to Hertfordshire for a couple of years to avoid the blitz. After that our family moved to Egham in Surrey, so I came back from the evacuation to join them and that’s where I had my schooling. I was only about 10 at the time and, well, I failed the exam for the secondary school. I blame the war because I’d missed several years of education.

I ended up going to Kingston Technical School and I did an engineering course for a couple of years there, which was not a great help for an artist but it did give me a really good grounding, and I enjoyed a lot of the practical side of it, which included woodwork, metalwork and that sort of thing. I did reasonably well there and when I left I imagined that I’d become a draughtsman.

Is that what you’d hoped to become when you first chose the course?
Yes, well drawing was always my strongest subject but when I left the college my father, who was a commercial artist himself, told me that there was a potential job going in London. Somebody he knew was on the look out for a junior to join a studio called Bateman Artists that was part of the Allardyce Palmer advertising agency. I remember going along there with specimens of my work and meeting the boss, Bill Bateman. I recall him saying that I shouldn’t worry about drawing and illustration as they had ‘plenty of people who can do that.’ He told me I should learn to do lettering, how to work with typography and practice designing layouts for adverts and posters. ‘With those skills…’ he told me ‘you’ll never be without a job,’

The Allardyce Palmer studio, circa 1955

Tom Beauvais (front) working at his desk in the Bateman Artists studio, circa 1955. Behind him sits Tom Chantrell (left), Sid Townsend (right) and Les Coggins in the far back.

I started the job as an apprentice and in the beginning I was making cups of tea and buying cigarettes, as well as running studio errands all over London. After a while I was given jobs like trimming out bits of artwork and I was learning all the time about the business of creating graphic art. I recall there were about twelve artists working there and before I had started my father had told me that they were a clever crowd. True enough, you’d look over the shoulder of one of them working, perhaps doing some lettering or retouching a photograph, and it’s amazing how quickly you could learn just by following their example.

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Android / one sheet / UK

10.02.14

Poster Poster
Title
Android
AKA
--
Year of Film
1982
Director
Aaron Lipstadt
Starring
Klaus Kinski, Brie Howard, Norbert Weisser, Crofton Hardester, Kendra Kirchner
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Klaus Kinski, Brie Howard, Norbert Weisser, Crofton Hardester, Kendra Kirchner,
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1982
Designer
Tom Beauvais
Artist
Keith Fowles (main figure and arm) | Tom Beauvais (figures at the bottom)
Size (inches)
27 10/16" x 40.5"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
...he learns to love. he learns to kill. he becomes a man. | much more than human

This is the scarce UK one sheet for the release of the 1982 sci-fi film Android, starring the infamous German actor Klaus Kinski. Set in 2036 aboard a remote space station, Kinski stars as a scientist named Dr. Daniel who lives alone except for the company of a human-looking android assistant named Max 404 (Don Keith Opper). It is revealed that androids have become outlawed on earth thanks to an incident referred to as the ‘Munich Revolution’, and Dr Daniel and Max are performing illegal research into their development.

Max has started showing signs of insubordination and has developed an interest in sex and reproduction, which has worried Dr Daniel and triggered him to develop what he hopes will be a better android, and which just happens to be in the form of a beautiful blonde woman. Life onboard the space station is interrupted by the arrival of a hijacked prison ship with a trio of escaped convicts, including a female convict called Maggie (Brie Howard), who Max allows onboard much to the doctor’s consternation. Max quickly becomes infatuated with Maggie and a dangerous situation develops between the convicts and Dr Daniel, which becomes even more dangerous when galactic police trace the convicts back to the station. The ending has a neat twist which I won’t spoil here.

The artwork is unique to the UK campaign and also featured on the quad (centred with a crimson background to the left and right). It was put together by the British designer and artist Tom Beauvais whom I interviewed in 2012 and the resultant article can be read here. Beauvais designed the poster and illustrated the figures at the bottom, whilst one of his colleagues, an illustrator named Keith Fowles, used an airbrush to paint the head, background and arm.

Below is the excerpt from the interview with Tom Beauvais in which he mentions his work on this poster:

———————–

You also worked on a poster for the science-fiction film Android [1982]?
Yes, that was actually in conjunction with a chap called Keith Fowles who used to work with us. He was very skilled with an airbrush and he modelled up the head of the main character, as well as the arm and the background. I then painted in the figures along the bottom.

————————

To see the other posters designed and/or illustrated by Tom Beauvais that are in the Film on Paper collection click here.

Honkytonk Man / quad / UK

27.02.14

Poster Poster
Title
Honkytonk Man
AKA
--
Year of Film
1982
Director
Clint Eastwood
Starring
Clint Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood, John McIntire, Alexa Kenin, Verna Bloom, Matt Clark, Barry Corbin, Jerry Hardin, Tim Thomerson, Macon McCalman, Joe Regalbuto, Gary Grubbs
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Clint Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood, John McIntire, Alexa Kenin, Verna Bloom, Matt Clark, Barry Corbin, Jerry Hardin, Tim Thomerson, Macon McCalman, Joe Regalbuto, Gary Grubbs,
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1982
Designer
Tom Beauvais
Artist
Tom Beauvais
Size (inches)
30" x 39 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
The boy is on his way to becoming a man. The man is on his way to becoming a legend.

This is the British quad for the release of Honkytonk Man, which was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood who also stars alongside his son Kyle Eastwood. Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the film follows the western singer Red Stovall (Eastwood snr.) who is suffering from tuberculosis and is living on a dust-ruined farm in Oklahoma. He decides to take a chance at making it big in Nashville and sets off in a vintage Lincoln convertible accompanied by his nephew Whit (Eastwood jr.).

The film follows the pair’s escapades along the way as they meet a whole host of unique characters and Red takes Whit to a whore house to ‘make him a man’. When they eventually make it to Nashville, Red manages to impress a record executive who gives him a chance to make a recording, but his illness is quickly catching up with him.

This poster artwork is unique to the UK poster and was painted by the British artist Tom Beauvais who I was lucky enough to interview for this site in 2013. This poster was discussed during the interview and the following is an excerpt:

I wondered if I could ask you about the two posters you painted featuring Clint Eastwood, Bronco Billy and The Honkytonk Man?
With Bronco Billy, the bit that was on the left of the giant circus advert was taken from the American poster but the British distributor felt that it wasn’t enough and they requested a close-up of Clint Eastwood holding guns. I painted the portrait from a still and then married it together with the American art.

The figure of the boy on the Honkytonk Man poster is actually based on a reference pose by my son Keith. There was a still of Clint in the bathtub and also a still of Kyle Eastwood, who played the son in the film, but it was only a headshot so I got Keith to pose with his elbows on the back of a chair.

To see the other posters in the collection that are designed and/or illustrated by Tom Beauvais click here.

Blood Beach / quad / UK

04.02.13

Poster Poster
Title
Blood Beach
AKA
--
Year of Film
1980
Director
Jeffrey Bloom
Starring
David Huffman, Marianna Hill, Burt Young, Otis Young, Lena Pousette, John Saxon, Darrell Fetty, Stefan Gierasch, Eleanor Zee, Pamela McMyler, Harriet Medin, Mickey Fox
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
David Huffman, Marianna Hill, Burt Young, Otis Young, Lena Pousette, John Saxon, Darrell Fetty, Stefan Gierasch, Eleanor Zee, Pamela McMyler, Harriet Medin, Mickey Fox,
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Tom Beauvais
Artist
Tom Beauvais
Size (inches)
30" x 40"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
Just when it's safe to go back in the water... you can't get across the beach!

Something lurks beneath the surface of Santa Monica beach and it’s hungry for flesh – can it be stopped? That’s pretty much the elevator pitch for the 1980 horror film Blood Beach, which was directed by Jeffrey Bloom and features genre stalwart John Saxon and prolific character actor Burt Young (perhaps best known for his role as Paulie in Rocky) as two local policemen assigned to discover the truth behind a number of mysterious disappearances (and a dog with a missing head).

For a film with such a simple premise Blood Beach is surprisingly boring and features several limp sequences involving the other two names mentioned on this poster. David Huffman and Marianna Hill play two locals with a muddily explained backstory and any pretence of them being the film’s leads is abandoned halfway through. There are a handful of effective scenes featuring victims being dragged beneath the sand (I’d actually like to know how the effect was achieved) and one moment where an unlucky gentlemen (well, technically, would-be rapist) has his privates removed by the creature. When it is finally revealed, the beast is so terribly realised that any fear that might have built up immediately evaporates – perhaps the budget ran out by that point but the rubber monstrosity on show is beyond laughable.

Currently the film is very hard to track down if you do want to subject yourself to it, and I actually ended up watching it on a German DVD, which is the only digital release available worldwide and is the slightly modified R-rated version.

The poster was designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, a British artist with a lengthy career working in film marketing which saw him design and/or illustrate several notable posters, including the quad for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Mad Max. He was also responsible for the infamous ‘rotten hand bursting from the ground’ image for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, a device Tom was clearly happy reusing for this poster! In 2012 I was lucky enough to meet and interview Tom and the article can be read here.

Mad Max / quad / UK

17.12.12

Poster Poster
Title
Mad Max
AKA
Interceptor (Italy)
Year of Film
1979
Director
George Miller
Starring
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry
Origin of Film
Australia
Genre(s) of Film
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry,
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1979
Designer
Tom Beauvais
Artist
Tom Beauvais
Size (inches)
30" x 39 15/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
The last law in a world gone out of control. Pray he's out there somewhere.

George Miller‘s brilliant vision of an apocalyptic future set in the Australian wastelands follows the battle between vicious outlaw gangs and a group of Main Force Patrol (MFP) pursuit cops who try to keep law and order on the roads. When officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson in his breakout role) kills the ‘Nightrider’, the leader of a motorcycle gang, he sets in motion a chain of events that sees his wife and young son murdered and his partner burned alive. Driven mad by grief, Max commandeers a supercharged black Pursuit Special and sets out to avenge their deaths by whatever means necessary. The film was followed three years later by the superior Mad Max 2 (AKA The Road Warrior).

Because of Gibson’s anonymity to audiences outside Australia his face was not featured on many of the posters designed to sell the film in other territories. The American one sheet features a classic illustration of a leather-clad figure with his face covered by a futuristic visor. This British quad features an MFP figure pointing a shotgun directly at the viewer but it’s not obviously Mel Gibson’s character. The car below the figure is a hybrid between the colourful Interceptor cop vehicles and Max’s black Pursuit.

The poster was designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, a British artist with a lengthy career working in film marketing which saw him design and/or illustrate several notable posters, including the quad for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the infamous ‘rotten hand bursting from the ground’ image for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters.

This UK quad was designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, a British artist with a lengthy career working in film marketing which saw him design and/or illustrate several notable posters, including the quad for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the infamous ‘rotten hand bursting from the ground’ image for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters. In 2012 I was lucky enough to meet and interview Tom and the article can be read here. The Mad Max poster was discussed during the meeting:

———

You worked on one of my favourite film posters at the end of the 1970s, which is the one for Mad Max. Could you talk about designing that?
On that one we were working to a brief from Julian Senior at Warner Bros and he told us he wanted a policeman looking down the twin-barrels of a shotgun. I did an initial sketch of the figure with the car below and he responded really well to it. The praise was generous and I think it was probably because it had been his idea originally. I actually think that Mike Sparling, who I mentioned earlier, was used as a reference model for the policeman.

It’s a striking poster and made even more impressive by the fact that the illustration isn’t crowded out by too much text. It’s effective partly because it’s so minimal.

———

The poster is quite difficult to photograph well because it’s printed on a paper with a kind of silver metallic finish and so any reflections or bends in the paper are very obvious. It’s a difficult quad to find rolled and so I was very happy to track this pristine copy down earlier this year.

As well as this quad there was UK one sheet printed for the title that was designed by Beauvais and features the same artwork. The quad is also part of the Film on Paper collection and it can be viewed here.

Mad Max / one sheet / UK

03.04.13

Poster Poster
Title
Mad Max
AKA
Interceptor (Italy)
Year of Film
1979
Director
George Miller
Starring
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry
Origin of Film
Australia
Genre(s) of Film
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry,
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1979
Designer
Tom Beauvais
Artist
Tom Beauvais
Size (inches)
27" x 39 15/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
The last law in a world gone out of control. Pray he's out there somewhere.

George Miller‘s brilliant vision of an apocalyptic future set in the Australian wastelands follows the battle between vicious outlaw gangs and a group of Main Force Patrol (MFP) pursuit cops who try to keep law and order on the roads. When officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson in his breakout role) kills the ‘Nightrider’, the leader of a motorcycle gang, he sets in motion a chain of events that sees his wife and young son murdered and his partner burned alive. Driven mad by grief, Max commandeers a supercharged black Pursuit Special and sets out to avenge their deaths by whatever means necessary. The film was followed three years later by the superior Mad Max 2 (AKA The Road Warrior).

Because of Gibson’s anonymity to audiences outside Australia his face was not featured on many of the posters designed to sell the film in other territories. The American one sheet features a classic illustration of a leather-clad figure with his face covered by a futuristic visor. This British quad features an MFP figure pointing a shotgun directly at the viewer but it’s not obviously Mel Gibson’s character. The car below the figure is a hybrid between the colourful Interceptor cop vehicles and Max’s black Pursuit.

This UK one sheet was designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, a British artist with a lengthy career working in film marketing which saw him design and/or illustrate several notable posters, including the quad for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the infamous ‘rotten hand bursting from the ground’ image for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters. In 2012 I was lucky enough to meet and interview Tom and the article can be read here. The Mad Max poster was discussed during the meeting:

———

You worked on one of my favourite film posters at the end of the 1970s, which is the one for Mad Max. Could you talk about designing that?
On that one we were working to a brief from Julian Senior at Warner Bros and he told us he wanted a policeman looking down the twin-barrels of a shotgun. I did an initial sketch of the figure with the car below and he responded really well to it. The praise was generous and I think it was probably because it had been his idea originally. I actually think that Mike Sparling, who I mentioned earlier, was used as a reference model for the policeman.

It’s a striking poster and made even more impressive by the fact that the illustration isn’t crowded out by too much text. It’s effective partly because it’s so minimal.

———

As well as this UK one sheet there was a British quad poster printed for the title that was designed by Beauvais and features the same artwork. The quad is also part of the Film on Paper collection and it can be viewed here.

The Shining / quad / UK

18.05.11

Poster Poster
Title
The Shining
AKA
--
Year of Film
1980
Director
Stanley Kubrick
Starring
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Barry Dennen
Origin of Film
UK | USA
Genre(s) of Film
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Barry Dennen,
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1980
Designer
Chapman Beauvais (John Chapman and Tom Beauvais)
Artist
--
Size (inches)
30" x 39 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
The tide of terror that swept America IS HERE

Mad Max / B2 / style B / Japan

17.05.11

Poster Poster
Title
Mad Max
AKA
Interceptor (Italy)
Year of Film
1979
Director
George Miller
Starring
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry
Origin of Film
Australia
Genre(s) of Film
Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry,
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
Style B
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1980
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Tom Beauvais (figure)
Size (inches)
20 7/16" x 28 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--