Creature performer legend Javier Botet on Slenderman and making monsters

We talk to actor Javier Botet about Slenderman and his process in bringing iconic horror creatures to life

You might not know Javier Botet’s face but you’ll definitely know his work. The Spanish actor broke out in modern horror classic [REC] and almost certainly gave you a heart attack with his role as Niña Medeiros in the film’s final minutes and its various sequels. He played the title role in Andy Muschietti’s Mama, he was The Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2 and Keyface in Insidious: The Last Key, three different spectres in Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, an xenomorph motion capture performer in Alien: Covenant and the terrifying Hobo in IT.

This year, Botet took on the role of one of the most notorious nightmare characters of our times with Slenderman, and with the film out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download, we grabbed the chance to talk to one of the genre’s most talented and versatile performers.

Were you familiar with the legend of Slenderman?

Yes, I was very familiar. As soon as I discovered the existence of this character, I was paying attention to all the stories about Slenderman because I was very interested in this role. I was already working in horror movies and I thought I was perfect to play him, so I was always researching, because I thought the opportunity was going to come. So when they called me and it finally happened, I was waiting for it and I was totally involved with the role.

Was it a challenge to play a character who is so expressionless and is so still?

Yes, in the beginning I tried to give my affectation because I always want to give a character his own personality but after facing the role when finally I was going to play it, I discovered that Slenderman’s power is to be nothing. Slenderman does not give you any clues about his intentions, about what he wants. So once I started working, I stopped working! I was, after all this research, thinking that I should do it doing nothing.

Even the make-up worked in this way because Slenderman has no expression. A lot of times I’ll have a big prosthetic make-up that doesn’t allow me to express very much, because sometimes you have a big mask or your eyes are in other places and you can’t move the muscles in your face to express what you want. So, in all this time I was learning to sometimes express only with my body, but with Slenderman I discovered that I should not even do that. Something very static, very still, very stylish but aggressive…he’s slow but never stops, it’s a very challenging point between everything.

So yes, it was challenging for me to accept, to find this point. But a lot of people are interviewing me about my work in Slenderman and the fact is the work that I feel I can speak about is like: I did nothing! There was a work that drove me to decide to do that but the fact is that at the end I was doing almost nothing. It’s hard for an actor to accept that!

What’s your starting point when you take on a character? Is it based on the look, the movement?

Well, when a character already exists like Slenderman I always find things by myself, I do my own research and start making the base. When you receive the screenplay, the screenplay is a very important part but you always need to wait to speak to the director. You always need to give your own opinion, your own decisions, you always at the end have the power to make your decisions but it’s always very interesting to know what the directors are looking for and what the screenplay proposes and do a mix of everything.

Sometimes I have a way to work that I’ve decided by myself but I find the director’s vision is better than mine, and then I have no problem to lose all that I decided. I’m always thinking by myself but I have no problem with accepting something that is better for the movie. I love the teamwork, to make the base and to hear everybody’s opinions but, after all, you have to decide.

A lot of your roles are based in prosthetics and make-up and then augmented with CGI. Do you always have a clear idea of what the final version will look like?

Yes, so in terms of how it’s going to be treated, in my experience, I usually know all the techniques they are going to use if we are going to use something mechanical or they are going to use something digital after all. We try to work knowing everything and give [the filmmakers] the space they are going to need when something is prepared to be finished with CGI. Usually there are technical people telling us what we need to do to help with that.

It’s the work of a lot of people but in my opinion, I’d always rather work with practical things. But sometimes the CGI helps a lot.

Finally, do you have a personal favourite of the roles you’ve played?

Well, I especially love two movies: [REC] that we made in Spain and Mama with Andy Muschietti because these two movies were very important in my career and I think they are two roles that are very important. I love very much how we did them and all the happiness they give me after everybody met these monsters. But I also loved the Crooked Man and I think we will work on a spin-off, I think so and I hope so, and then maybe my part in Alien: Covenant for how important it is to my dreams to be part of Alien. So I think those four roles are the most important and happy memories for me.

Slenderman is available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray now.