What happened to the Vigo the Carpathian painting from Ghostbusters II
How Vigo began
Director Ivan Reitman knew he wanted something frightening for Vigo the Carpathian. Wizards at Industrial Light And Magic worked up many concepts for the character, and artist Lou Police drew a reference copy. According to Reitman, they were all “too Conan.” So artist Glen Eytchison was brought in.
Eytchison had the perfect experience to draw from: he was production director at the Pageant of the Masters (which was lovingly parodied on Arrested Development as the Living Classics pageant). ILM quickly realized he was the right man for the job, so he was brought on board to create a new living painting.
Making Vigo breathe
As Eytchison revealed on a Ghostbusters forum post, he immediately began making a layered composition. That composition was approved by Reitman, and artist Lou Police made a reference painting for them to work from. But that painting wasn’t the one fans see in Ghostbusters II.
The photograph that became a centuries-old painting
Producers had planned to use a scaled-up painting, but the match wasn’t close enough. So Eytchison and crew came up with a more creative solution.
They posed Wilhelm in the scene, lit it to look flat, and then photographed the entire thing. They took the photograph, made a giant copy, and artificially aged it. That’s the truth about Vigo’s painting—it’s actually a photograph of a very carefully lit, designed, and made-up scene. For the live-action scenes where Vigo moved, they simply shot him in the set again. They used the photograph both for shooting and for reference when filming moving scenes (as seen in the picture above). None of it was easy—they had to create the costume using a full body cast for when Wilhelm wasn’t available.
There’s even some video of Wilhelm performing (supposedly, he wasn’t aware he’d been overdubbed by von Sydow until he saw the movie at the premiere).
Where the original Vigo painting is now
So what happened to the painting? Since it wasn’t a painting, that’s a complicated question.
Some of the concept art continues to float around, but Eytchison says the original reference photograph hangs in ILM offices, Police’s smaller painting is in Ivan Reitman’s home, and the rest is in the hands of collectors. If you’ve seen any prints online, Eytchison wasn’t involved—either they’re careful fan-art replicas or the work of Vigo himself. You never know—Vigo could still be out there somewhere, searching for his kitten.