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How "Twisted Metal" Production Designer Victoria Paul Recreated the Video Game’s Iconic Vehicles
May 15, 2024

Writted by IndieWire

Peacock’s “Twisted Metal” is more than a dystopian series about bloodthirsty cars trying to blow each other up into smithereens. But for the show that switches gears between complete chaos and edgy rom-com, the infamous vehicles adapted from the popular video game franchise had to be characters of their own. Creating them was a balance in aesthetics, practicality, safety, and of course, budget — an assembly line of challenges faced by production designer Victoria Paul and picture car coordinator Ty Guidroz.

The tight-knit collaborators curated over a dozen principal vehicles for the show that follows a charming motormouth “milkman” named John Doe (Anthony Mackie) as he makes a long-haul delivery that could forever change his life. Key builds included an armor-spiked Camaro named Roadkill, a menacing police cruiser dubbed Outlaw, a rumbling big rig convoy, and an ice cream truck driven by the game’s most iconic character, Sweet Teeth, a sadistic clown played by Joe Seanoa but voiced by Will Arnett.

A guiding light for the designs was to make the vehicles feel visually scavenged where a patchwork of parts outfitted the post-apocalyptic patina. Research and mood boards conjured concept drawings for the team’s practical builds. This was especially true for Evelyn, a sunburnt Subaru WRX driven by John, an original creation for the show. “The first step was talking with showrunner Michael Jonathan Smith about what kind of vehicle he envisioned,” Paul told IndieWire. “We would land on something that works and I would pass that off to Ty [Guidroz].”

“Our team does everything from prepping the vehicles. We transport the vehicles to set. We had 8 guys all in our department which is a very large department for picture cars,” said Guidroz. “Victoria allowed us to bring our creative side out because she did allow us to give input on how we built things and how to attach guns to cars. How do we modify this car to make it look badass.”

In the video below, watch how production designer Victoria Paul and car coordinator Ty Guidroz turned concept drawings dripping in recycled materials, dilapidated color palettes, and insane firepower into practical killing machines with unmistakable character.

Designing and Building the Killer Vehicles of ‘Twisted Metal‘

Like costumes, the cars of “Twisted Metal” are an extension of those driving them. Paul and Guidroz discussed concepts on a practical level based on the performance needs of each vehicle and when visual effects would take over. For instance, the mounted guns never fired blanks; instead, visual effects created those in post as a safety precaution. On top of designing and fabricating the fleet, most cars required at least two versions, a hero car and a separate stunt car for the elaborate chase sequences. “You have to make sure that it’s safe and the vehicle can do what they want it to do because there’s no sense building out a car that isn’t set up to do what you want to portray,” noted Guidroz. 

Inspiration for Sweet Tooth’s deliciously demonic ice cream truck came from the games while a modified front fender and malicious firepower fine-tuned a bespoke look. “For us, the inside was really as interesting with all his weapons hanging and the window that slid and the gun that came out,” said Paul. “But the truck had a lot of requirements, and they all went through a lot of iterations.” Two separate vehicles were built, each modified to allow a stunt person to drive on one side while Seanoa acted out scenes on the other. Stunt breaks were added allowing the truck to perform detailed maneuvers during the metal crunching pursuits. For moments when Sweet Tooth fires the sliding gun, the picture car team attached the rig just for those scenes. “We were able to pull those shots off, and then we would take the gun off so it wouldn’t be hanging out all the time,” said Guidroz.

In creating John’s car Evelyn, she had to be fast, lightweight, and showcase decades of ownership as the gold-rimmed killing machine was not only a means of survival for John but a connection to his past. “The Evelyn car had to drift so Clay [Cullen], our stunt coordinator, had a lot of input on what kind of car we would use. The Subaru WRX was specifically chosen so it can do the type of driving that we were going to do,” said Guidroz.” 

Visually, the team experimented with different colors and graphics to define the look. A burnt orange hue wraps the car while a rear spoiler, black hood, and exhaust system adds Frankenstein’s monster-like flair. Car painters meticulously layered in signs of aging. “Evelyn changed a lot from when we saw her in the beginning,” said Paul. “Because it came with history from the first time he finds it. It goes through a lot of changes, and then it dies. So that was one of our favorite vehicles to track through the show.” Four vehicles were built to pull off all the action needed for Evelyn: a hero car, two stunt vehicles, and a pod vehicle with a cage on top allowing a stunt driver to man the wheel while the actors played out scenes. For moments when a younger John Doe first finds Evelyn in the woods, a fifth Subaru WRX was brought in to play the base model of the souped-up, future version. 

For Paul and Guidroz, the project’s success stemmed from a finely tuned collaboration. “What I do as a designer is I put a lot into a rendering or a drawing, and I hope for 100 percent of that. Ty did that and more,” said Paul. Thankfully, the team realized they were on the right track early on. “When we were transporting the cars people would stop and say, ‘Oh my god, is that Sweet Tooth? Can we take a picture?’ Everybody was like, ‘That’s amazing.’ So we knew we must be onto something,” recalled Guidroz.

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