Aerospace and entertainment are familiar bedfellows.
One of the few places in Tinsel Town that can bridge this magical coupling is Global Effects, Inc, a multi-faceted prop and effects house that, among other things, specializes in the final frontier.
Like most fascinating places in the film industry, Global Effects hides its 20,000 sq. ft. of secrets in an unassuming brick building in North Hollywood, completely un-extraordinary to the untrained eye. But inside, the doors open up to a treasure trove of movie magic, including monsters, snakes in jars, rows and rows of grisly medieval arms, and shelves full of the clutter one might stumble over in any castle, witch cave, or torture dungeon. Costumes ranging in genre, time period, and realism hang neatly on racks, but perhaps the most intriguing and eye-catching collection to marvel over is what is considered Global’s shining star – their space suits.
The suits are so realistic that NASA is one of Global’s biggest customers. Suits that have actually made the amazing journey out of the atmosphere and into the beyond rarely come home in decent shape, if they come home at all. When Buzz Aldrin is dressed in his astronaut best for photo shoots and dedication ceremonies, he is wearing a replica space suit – the real deal costs more than any production could possibly afford, and can weigh up to 3 times what a Global replica does.
Serving as the go-to for countless film, TV and commercial productions for spacesuit rentals, Global Effects also supplies museums and displays all over the world. NASA rents the suits and hires Global technicians to handle them whenever a former moonwalker dons one for a magazine shoot or an appearance. A complicated operation despite their being facsimiles, the suits are multi-layered with authentic locking rings, lights and ventilation systems. Some even require the wearer to climb scaffolding and slip into the suits through a hatch in the back. The suits are considered lightweight at 75-80 lb., and at somewhere around $2000 a week they are attainable and convenient for film productions and NASA productions alike.
NASA was so impressed with Global’s replicas that they challenged the owner Chris Gilman and partner Denis Gilliam to design a real suit for them. The result of this was a manufactured prototype EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) spacesuit.
With the privatization of the space industry, it doesn’t seem like such a leap to think that the master replicators of the most authentic fakes in Hollywood could someday be designing the real thing.