Wednesday 31 March 2010

Not worth the money

Now is not the time to get into all the issues I have with the soon-to-be-released Clash of The Titans remake. But I will say this, if you can see the film in 2D, then do so.

The Clash 3D conversion is a truly hideous thing. Images are split, the editing, design, and framing decisions weren't made for 3D and it shows in every single shot. See it flat, if you're going to see it at all.

Fringe typo or tease?

Watching Jacksonville, last night's new episode of Fringe on Sky1, I was struck by this apparent spelling mistake in which "Manhattan" is, quite clearly, missing a second "t".

Firstly, I thought the makers of Fringe were in serious need of a proof reader for their titles. But then it occurred to me that maybe this is the correct way of spelling Manhattan  in the alternate universe that, according to the mythology of the show, sits alongside our own.

And so this typo was a subtle way of telling the viewers that, contrary to appearances, we weren't in real New York.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

On sale now

Alice In Wonderland: A Visual Companion finally arrives in shops today, featuring 256 packed pages of illustrations, sketches, concept artwork, behind-the-scenes photos and text by yours truly. 

Trust me when I say, there's stuff in here that you haven't seen before — and given the selection of stills that accompanied virtually every article on the movie, that's not difficult. So if you're a fan of Alice In Wonderland or Tim Burton, you're in for a real treat. 

Okay, I know what you're thinking, I would say that. But see for yourself...

Monday 29 March 2010

Empire Awards 2010

I spent yesterday afternoon/evening at the Empire Awards, an event that, many years ago, I used to help organize. Now I get to turn up, have a drink or two, say hello to familiar faces, and this year got to introduce Andy Serkis, who picked up the Inspiration Award, to Neil Marshall which was fun.

You can read the full list of winners and see even more photos and video from the event here.

Friday 26 March 2010

Public service announcement

Should any of you living in the US fancy going to the cinema this weekend, might I suggest you get yourself along to a theater (as you'd have it) showing How To Train Your Dragon. Even if you don't have kids.

As animated movies go, it's right up there with the best, nudging close to Pixar territory. Aided by Roger Deakins' exquisite eye, it's beautifully shot and lovingly crafted — the CG beards, in particular, are stunning — and it begs to be seen in 3D. Plus, it features dragons. And vikings. What else do you need to know. Go see it.

Robin Hood opens Cannes

I've had the misfortune of seeing some real howlers down the years opening the Cannes Film Festival, including the painfully unfunny Woody Allen-directed Hollywood Ending.

Last year, Pixar's Up bucked that trend by being not just good, but great. This May, the honour of opening Cannes falls to Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. Meaning Russell Crowe will get to grace the Croisette with his surly presence. Should be interesting.

Eau de Stark

If you've ever wanted to smell like Tony Stark, here's your chance.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Scott Pilgrim teaser

Continuing the comic book movie theme...

That Matthew Vaughn interview...

"I’m a closet geek," admits Matthew Vaughn, one-time producer of Guy Ritchie movies and an accomplished director in his own right. His third feature, Kick-Ass, has been riding a wave of fanboy hype since scenes from the film debuted to mass adoration at Comic-Con last summer. "I’m more of a comic-book movie fan than a comic book fan," he clarifies, when we meet in Soho only two days after he put the finishing touches to the film. "I like big, entertaining movies. I tried to buy the script of Hancock. I loved it. The script was far darker and edgier than the movie. I think Kick-Ass took the ideas that intrigued me in that film to the next level: what would happen if people really tried to be superheroes?"

Based on a six-issue comic book by Scottish writer Mark Millar, first published in 2008, Kick-Ass is a comic-book movie unlike most others: a violent, profane amalgam of Spider-Man and Superbad that revolves around American high-school student and comic fan Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, from Nowhere Boy, with an impeccable accent) who dresses up as a superhero to fight crime, becoming a web phenomenon as a result. Yet his methods pale next to the dynamic duo of Damon MacCready aka Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, channelling Adam West’s Batman) and his pre-teen assassin daughter, Mindy aka Hit-Girl (13-year-oldChloe Moretz), who take an extreme approach to crime-fighting.

Despite Hollywood’s current love of all things comic book, Vaughn, who’d previously flirted with directing both X Men: The Last Stand and Thor, was turned down by every studio he approached for financing. "They thought it was a 'betweener', because it’s not a kids’ movie and not really an adult film," explains Vaughn, who adapted the comic with his writing partner (and wife of Jonathan Ross) Jane Goldman. "They didn’t like Hit-Girl. They didn’t like the violence, the fact that it was an 11 year old killing and swearing."

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Bourne again?

Is Green Zone really the unofficial fourth Bourne movie as the adverts and promotional campaign are trying to suggest? Most definitely not. That said, there is much to admire in this third collaboration between Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, but I wasn't bowled over by it like some, nor did I tire of the shakycam action sequences as others seem to have. However, I did wonder, What was the point of it all? Other than Greengrass seemingly wanted to do two things: 1) hammer home the fact that we were all lied to regarding the WMDs in Iraq (or rather the absence of WMDs in Iraq) which we all knew anyway; and 2) have an Iraqi character say to an American — and I'm paraphrasing here — "We don't need you to tell us what to do with our country".

Monday 22 March 2010

Film review: Kick-Ass (****)

A costumed crime-fighter stands atop a New York skyscraper. As the music swells, stoking memories of Superman with Metropolis laid out before him, this chap in grey and yellow spreads his blood-red wings and takes off, plummeting headfirst towards the fast-approaching pavement. At any moment, we think, he’s going to pull out of this swan-dive and fly up, up and away... But, he smashes onto the roof of a taxi with a bone-crunching SPLAT!

Welcome to Kick-Ass, a comic-book movie where no power equates to no responsibility; where wannabe superheroes fall foul of gravity and get the crap kicked out of them by ordinary street trash. Written by Scottish scribe Mark Millar (Wanted), the original Kick-Ass comic was an instant hit when the first issue appeared in early 2008, outselling even Spider-Man. No wonder, really; Millar mined a conceit so brilliant yet so simple – real superheroes in the real world – you had to ask yourself why no one had stumbled across it before.

The writer describes it as his “love letter to superhero comics” and reckons the film version will “redefine superhero movies in the same way Pulp Fiction redefined crime movies”. Talk about setting yourself up for a fall. But you know what? He’s not too wide of the mark. Kick-Ass is the most refreshing thing to happen to spandex cinema in years, a profane, violent, gory, gleeful romp that’s as OTT as it is un-PC. It pokes a sharp stick in the eye of po-faced, ‘dark’, ‘edgy’ super-flicks and shrieks, “Why so serious? Let’s have some fun for a change.”

It is, inevitably, an origin story. Geeky high schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) lives a Peter Parkeresque existence with his widowed dad, hanging out with his mates at the local comic shop, jerking off to his voluptuous teacher, and wondering why no one’s ever tried dressing up as a superhero in real life. “Because they’d get their ass kicked,” he’s told, matterof- factly. Not to be put off, Dave buys a green ski-suit from eBay and sets out to prove it can be done...

Alas, his early attempts at righting wrongs ends with him in intensive care. Meanwhile, across town, two well-armed, well-trained, clearly not that well in the head agents of justice are plotting the downfall of mobster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Meet ex-cop Damon Macready AKA Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old sidekick Mindy, AKA Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). They’re father and daughter, mentor and student, an alt-rock Batman and Robin.

Their undeniably twisted but deeply affectionate relationship is the heart of the movie. In one defining moment unlikely to win the support of the NSPCC, Damon lovingly fires a semi-automatic handgun at the chest of his Kevlar-wearing moppet. Today’s lesson? How to take a bullet. Your brain will tell you this scene is very wrong. But you’ll be cackling too loudly to hear it.

It’s all about tone – dark enough to be anarchic, playful enough to amuse – and director Matthew Vaughn has it down pat. Honing storytelling skills first flexed on Layer Cake and Stardust, Vaughn ensures none of the source material’s graphic novelty is lost in translation. (Perhaps no big surprise given that the script – by himself and Jane Goldman – was adapted concurrently with the writing of the comic’s first six-issue arc.)

Working with a much smaller budget than Hollywood usually signs off on such fare, Vaughn doesn’t even try and compete in terms of scale, focusing instead on tone character and dialogue. His set-pieces – and there are tons – rely more on physicality than digi-trickery, and are all the punchier for it.

As the plot pounds along, the worlds of Kick-Ass and Big Daddy/Hit Girl collide. What’s more, another masked vigilante emerges – Red Mist (Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a flash-cardriving upstart with a hidden agenda. Spoilt, snotty and bumbling, it’s Mintz- Plasse’s chewiest role since McLovin - not that there’s any stealing the show from Moretz’s Hit Girl. Think Natalie Portman in Leon without the brooding. Slashing baddies down to size with martial arts moves and a mouth foul beyond her years, she’s deadly funny.

By contrast, Kick-Ass himself is a tad dull, though Johnson’s transformation (and American accent) thoroughly convince. Cage, a massive comic-book fan who missed his chance to play the Man Of Steel when the plug was pulled on Tim Burton’s proposed movie, here gets to channel the Caped Crusader. The costume’s an obvious Dark Knight nod, while the voice is a subtler gag, a spot-on Adam West impersonation.

It’s that kind of movie, one that works on multiple levels: in-jokes for the fanboys, straight-up kicks for the Saturday nighters, fun for all.

Hyper-violent, hyper-knowing and just plain hyper, Kick-Ass marks a bold costume-change for the superhero movie but veers clear of pastiche or parody. For best results, view with a large audience. You will cheer. Guaranteed.

* Review originally published in Total Film.


Finally caught up with Zombieland on Blu-ray over the weekend and wasn't disappointed in either the movie or the picture quality of the disc. Loved the whole rules thing. And the Bill Murray cameo cracked me up. Particularly this bit...

Friday 19 March 2010

I'm Here is here

Spike Jonze's I'm Here

Spike Jonze's short I'm Here is finally available online. Click here to watch it.

Predators trailer

Thursday 18 March 2010

Matthew Vaughn interview

I interviewed Matthew Vaughn about Kick-Ass for this week's issue of Time Out. At present the article isn't online, so either buy yourself a copy or else check back here later for the link.

Incidentally, Kick-Ass: Creating The Comic, Making The Movie, the behind-the-scenes book to which I contributed several interviews, is now on sale and has apparently been the recipient of some glowing reviews.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

On fine form

John Landis was, to quote Edgar Wright, "on fine form" last night at the BFI Southbank, regaling the audience with many wry and wonderfully amusing tales that included his time working on Once Upon A Time In The West, his contribution to The Spy Who Loved Me and how Cubby Broccolli arranged for him to meet the Queen Mother, his monthly lunches with Alfred Hitchcock, as well as his excitement over his latest, Burke & Hare, which he finishes shooting this week.

During the course of an hour and a half, we also managed to cover Schlock, Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf, Trading Places, Into The Night, Coming To America, The Stupids, Beverly Hills Cop 3, Slasher, Three Amigos!, and Mr Warmth, although his views on Avatar and Roland Emmerich movies were, for me, the highlight of a very fun and enormously entertaining evening.

Highlights will be available on the BFI Live website at some point. I'll link to them when they're available.

Photo: BFI

Tuesday 16 March 2010

John Landis In Conversation

Tonight I will be interviewing the legendary John Landis (An American Werewolf In London, The Blues Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places, et al) on stage at the BFI Southbank, following a screening of his fabulous documentary Slasher.

There are a few tickets remaining for the event. Click here to book.

Monday 15 March 2010

Sir Tim. Sort of.

Tim Burton and Marion Cotillard
Tim Burton, together with Big Fish star Marion Cotillard, was today made a knight in the Order of the Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand. "I feel much more at home here than I do in my own country and I thank you very much," said Monsieur Burton.

Incidentally, I've been informed that there is a French-language edition of Alice In Wonderland: The Visual Companion. Still waiting for my English version to arrive...

Weekend wonders

Alice In Wonderland continues its box office assault, taking $62 million in the US in its second weekend, for a North America tally of $206 million and an international take approaching $400 million.

The annual SXSW Festival is currently underway in Austin, Texas, where Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass premiered to ecstatic reviews, while Robert Rodriguez offered the first glimpse of Predators, directed by Nimrod Antal which he's produced.

The brief footage looks promising, but I have to say I've always had a soft spot for Stephen Hopkins' often-maligned Predator 2 which, despite being a total Aliens rip-off, is OTT fun and features another gloriously entertaining Bill Paxton performance.

Is David Fincher turning into Steven Soderbergh? By that I mean, is Fincher gearing up to Soderbergh levels of productivity? I certainly hope so. With The Social Network due late this year, Saturday brought news that Fincher is circling Sony's English-language remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which, to my mind is a marriage made in cinematic heaven, especially with Carey Mulligan top of the studio's wish list to play Lisbeth Salander. 

Variety is also reporting that Fincher is also interested in directing Sony's chess drama Pawn Sacrifice, detailing Bobby Fischer 1972 victory over Russian chess champion Boris Spassky, which Tobey Maguire will produce and possibly star in.

The more Fincher the better...

Friday 12 March 2010

Film review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (**** 1/2)

Noomi Rapace in Millennium: The Girl With the Dragon TattooI haven't read the late Stieg Larsson's acclaimed Millennium trilogy, so I approached director Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of Larsson's first book without any preconceptions, but with much excitement since so many friends had raved about the quality of the series. As a film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a marked success: complex, tense, extremely sexual, and often extremely violent — the book's Swedish title translates as Men Who Hate Women and that's probably a more accurate reflection of the themes and narratives going on here — its two and a half hour running time allowing for copious character development alongside the procedural. While the direction feels, at times, a little small screen, the sheer force of Noomi Rapace's performance as the — deep breathe — bisexual, tattooed, pierced and talented computer hacker Lisbeth Salander who joins forces with (unjustly) disgraced investigative journalist Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to track down those responsible for the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the niece of a wealthy industrialist 40 years before, obliterates any concerns one might have had. Rapace's Lisbeth is, in short, a revelation, and the revenge she inflicts upon the predatory probation officer who takes over her case beats even the bicycle pump moment in The Horseman in terms of both squirm factor and sheer ruthlessness. I'm reliably informed that the film touches upon events from book two and the ending does indeed pave the way for the sequel. Fortunately we don't have to wait long, since books two and three have already been filmed and are being released in the UK later this year...

Thursday 11 March 2010

Ok. Sold

All my initial apprehension regarding Robin Hood has, it's fair to say, been assuaged by this trailer.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Tattoo trailer

I will be reviewing the excellent The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo later in the week. For now, for those who haven't seen it, here's the trailer.

Panoramic coolness

The LA Times has published a series of very cool panoramic shots of red carpet arrivals at Oscars. Click here to check them out.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Tron: Legacy trailer

Here's a link to that amazing Tron: Legacy trailer that I mentioned seeing a while back, and which was attached to prints of Alice In Wonderland this weekend.

Monday 8 March 2010

She did it

Kathryn Bigelow made Oscar history last night, becoming the first woman to win Best Director, one of six Oscars that The Hurt Locker deservedly came home with.

It was a mighty haul, although quite how its director of photography Barry Ackroyd lost the Best Cinematography Award to Avatar I shall never know, especially considering so much of Avatar was created in the computer. That's just plain wrong if you ask me.

There were few surprises to be had, in all honesty, with Precious' Geoffrey Fletcher winning for Best Adapted Screenplay perhaps the biggest, beating Up In The Air, and El Secreto De Sus Ojos triumphing over A Prophet and White Ribbon in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

I was thrilled that Up won Best Animated Feature and Michael Giaccchino picked up the Best Music Oscar for the film, but don't get me started on Carey and Colin.

Then again, there's always next year...

Click here for the full list of winners.

Iron Man 2 trailer

Double blimey

And so it proved that Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland cleaned up internationally too, pulling in $94 million from 40 territories — with France and Japan yet to open — giving the film an opening weekend tally of $210 million which is mighty impressive.

Sunday 7 March 2010


Variety is reporting that Alice In Wonderland made an estimated $116.3 million at the North America box office this weekend. That's the highest ever for a non-sequel, beating Iron Man's $102.1 million from 2008, and the sixth highest of all time. Figures for around 40 international territories will be announced later but Alice's opening weekend take could, in total, top $200 million.

I'm still interested in everyone's thoughts on the film. Love it, or hate it, please share your views on the appropriate post below...

And the winners should be...

Apparently there's this big award show happening tonight in Hollywood. Should any or all of the following nominees pick up one of those little gold men, I will be delighted. Although I can't help but wish Spike Jonze and Where The Wild Things Are were up for something...

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up In The Air

Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet

Best Animated Feature: Up

Friday 5 March 2010

The Runaways trailer

Alice In Wonderland week: Your thoughts

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland opens in cinemas today. Reviews have been divisive, some loving it, others thinking it's the worst thing he's made since Planet Of The Apes.

I would very much like to hear what you think.

Alice In Wonderland week: Mia Wasikowska Q&A

Mia Wasikowska plays the title character in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. I spoke to the delightful and talented Australian actress on set. Here's part of my interview with her.

Were you a fan of the book?

Definitely. I read the book when I was little and I also read the book again when I started auditioning. And it was cool to come back to it and see these different things when I was older than when I was younger. But it’s the sort of book you can always read and every time you get something else from. It’s constantly giving.

What did you get the second time?

It was a different feel in a way. It kind of felt in the best way like a delirious dream, where nothing makes sense, the way your body processes your mind when you’re semi unconscious, that’s what I found the second time I read it.

Your Alice is older than in the books. How did you go about playing her?

I’m obviously not playing a seven-year-old Alice, and I wanted to make her seem real to teenagers and young adults, so we really did go for what she would be feeling in the beginning of the film and throughout the film, a lot of grief and loneliness. She would be grumpy and tired at the beginning, so we wanted to play with that. That also gives her somewhere to go. So that she can really build up the strength of who she is.

DVD review: The Horseman (****)

Raw, brutal and totally uncompromising, Steven Kastrissios' blood-soaked revenge thriller The Horseman is like an Australian mash-up of Deathwish and Hardcore. Following the death of his only daughter from a heroin overdose, grief-stricken pest control worker Christian (Peter Marshall) sets out to punish those responsible, after discovering she appeared in a gonzo porno film shortly before she died. Traveling across Australia in his white van with only a fragile hitchhiker (Caroline Marohasy) and his toolbox for company, Christian embarks on a devastatingly potent journey of vengeance. Despite a miniscule budget, writer-director Kastrissios wrings the maximum visceral impact from Christian's almost Biblical retribution, while Marshall manages to imbue his character with enough conflicting emotions so you're always on his side, even as he's pummeling a man to death with an iron bar, stabbing them in the neck with a knife, or, in one excruciating sequence, using an bicycle pump to inflate someone's... well, let's not go there. Quite brilliant.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland week: Helena Bonham Carter

“Everyone is mad in Alice In Wonderland. Except her,” says Helena Bonham Carter, sat in her trailer and looking like a demented version of Bette Davis’ Queen Elizabeth I with her heart-shaped red wig, bright blue eye shadow, and exceedingly high forehead in her role as the Red Queen in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. “I got quite a good book called Tigger On The Couch analysing the maladies of people’s favourite children’s characters and I’m in there. I’ve got acquired situational narcissism. Johnny’s psychotic, shared psychotic disorders, shared with March Hare. I’ve got total narcissism, because everything is about me, obviously, which it is.”

Alice marks the sixth time Bonham Carter’s worked with her director-partner. “I got the script and he said will you consider playing The Red Queen,” she recalls, “and I said I’m so flattered and then… sweetly my agent said I don’t understand why they’re not considering you for the White Queen because she’s described as small and delicate and beautiful. And then I read my description: small, big head, very angry.” She laughs. “I thought, Oh great, that’s how he sees me. But I do love the part.

“I was a big fan of Alice In Wonderland,” Bonham Carter continues. “I’ve always been a fan of tiny things and people changing sizes and just certain characters really stuck in [my mind], the Duchess and the baby pig. It hasn’t got a great plot, but it’s fun. When I was child I didn’t notice it didn’t have a great plot, but as an adult you go, ‘Where’s the plot?’ And that’s what I think is so great about the script. It gives it a plot and it gives it an emotional context, it makes sense of it. Also, it’s a bit like Alice herself, I’ve been here before but everything’s a bit different.”

Alice In Wonderland week: Anne Hathaway Q&A

Anne Hathaway plays the White Queen in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. I spoke with her while she was filming Alice in Los Angeles. Here's part of the interview.

When I heard you had been cast as the White Queen I had an image of what you’d be like, but you’re nothing like I imagined. Tell me a bit about the character, and how you shaped her with Tim.

In the script she’s written to be kind of the voice of wisdom, very ethereal. She I definitely got that and I knew that it was in the story. However, she is a creature of Wonderland, and one of the things I noticed from the script and from the book is that people in Wonderland feel emotions very, very deeply, very openly and without any kind of logical progression. So, someone who could be having murderous thoughts one second, the next minute they love everyone, and it doesn’t have to make sense. That was the biggest, I guess, inspiration. Also, I’m a huge fan of Tim Burton, so I knew no one wants to be the flat one in his world. [Laughs] So I wanted to show up the way everyone else did and make a character out of her because it was an opportunity to do so, because he is so accepting of out there characters.

There’s this Norma Desmond thing going on with your hands when your character moves. How did that come about?

That just happened. I was at a friend’s house and I had kind of developed the backwards walk thing. If you had the White Queen who was the good Queen, and she would be very, very composed, hands forward, very contained and regal, and so I started off with that idea, and then I started to mess with it. I kind of leaned back into the corset, which automatically made my hands go up to the side and then I noticed my hand went into a modified prayer pose which was kind of cool. The gliding, I don’t know, it just showed up. And once I did that, I realised the hands had to move in order to sell the glide. I didn’t think of Norma Desmond, I was thinking more Greta Garbo. But then [producer] Richard Zanuck came up to me and said, “You look like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard”, so I guess that’s who I’m doing.

More Hurt

Despite the various attempts, some unwitting, some not, to derail The Hurt Locker Oscar bandwagon, I have faith that justice will prevail on Sunday night in Hollywood and Kathryn Bigelow's superb movie will walk away with the statuette for Best Picture.

Before then, may I direct you to Hurt screenwriter/producer Mark Boal's article for Playboy, The Man In The Bomb Suit, that was the genesis of the movie. It's a cracking read.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland week: Johnny Depp Q&A

Some people tend to think of Alice In Wonderland as quaint and cutesy because of the 1951 Disney cartoon, yet Lewis Carroll’s book is dark, surreal and disturbing. Perfect material, in fact, for Tim Burton
There’s an absurdist, circus kind of atmosphere. There’s a profound kind of darkness and element of danger. There’s hilarity and it’s incredibly poetic. All those things, I think, are the main ingredients that make Tim Burton Tim Burton. Dark, edgy, unique, funny. Those words can describe not only this book and this movie, but Tim.
Were you a fan of the book already?
Who isn’t? Alice In Wonderland is one of the top 25 books of all time. I always loved the book and I always loved the various characters, the psychedelic nature of it and kind-of odd allegorical stories inside stories. I always thought it was beautiful.
How did you approach the role?
I had re-read the book not all that long before and there were lines that I was pretty fascinated by, that I thought were clues to the character, little morsels. The Mad Hatter makes a statement: “I am investigating things that begin with the letter M,” and it’s never dealt with for the rest of the book. It’s because of the mercury. He couldn’t quite remember. He remembered the M. That’s as far as he got [laughs]. And, of course, you think Hatter, “mad as a hatter”, that whole thing comes from mercury poisoning, because they used mercury in the hatting process back then, and guys would start going weird.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland week: Matt Lucas Q&A

British actor and comedian Matt Lucas plays Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice In Wonderland. I spoke to him in his trailer at Culver City Studios in Los Angeles while Alice was in production. Here's part of our chat.  

Tell me how you’re approaching playing the Tweedles.

I had this image of two tubby Victorian schoolchildren with their hands in the honey pot, and a bit Augustus Gloop and a bit Billy Bunter. I wanted to make them a bit more likeable because I think they often can be a bit annoying. They’re bit remote and I wanted them to be esoteric, but I didn’t want them to be remote. Tim talked to me about the two girls in The Shining and I remember Sleepy Hollow and he had those two girls, and also the TV show The League Of Gentlemen. So there are times when the Tweedles are very still and quiet but I suppose they’re naughty, They try and get each other into trouble a bit but they’re ultimately on the same side. 

To play the Tweedles, you’re wearing a green motion-capture suit and they’re recording both your facial expressions, which we’ll see onscreen, and your body movements, which will form the basis of the CGI Tweedles. How have you found the whole green-screen experience?

It’s unusual to be acting in a big green room, in a green suit. You have to use your imagination. But then you do as an actor anyway. I love disguising myself and I love dressing up and I love the escapism of being an actor and I love looking in a mirror when I’m in full makeup as a different person and not being able to see myself. And so the idea of being shrunk or being made wider or being manipulated onscreen is, to me, very exciting. I also like the technical innovation of it. [But] I still love the fact that at the centre of that technology is human performance and [Tim Burton] is only creating via computer that which cannot be done in the real world. So even though the film is going to be visually extraordinary, it’s all about enhancing the real world. And I think that’s the right way to use this technology — to enhance rather than totally bulldoze over any truth.

Out now on DVD

In the US, at least. It's very good.

Monday 1 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland week: Linda Woolverton Q&A

Alice In Wonderland screenwriter Linda Woolverton also wrote the scripts for Disney's The Lion King and Beauty And The Beast.

I’m assuming you’re a big fan of the book.

Huge fan. Read them as a child, of course. Had them read to me. Keep reading them over the years. I had always wanted to do something with the world but I didn’t have the hubris. That’s how I felt the whole time. How dare I? Are you really going to do this Linda? Take his work and reconceive it? I reconceived it in a way that was beyond where his work was, took her older and brought her back. Who has the balls to do that? I don’t know. I was crazy. Crazy. And the whole time I kept thinking, Linda, what are you doing, who do you think you are?

Why did you decide to do something outside the canon rather than a straight adaptation?

It had to be outside the canon for me to be able to do what I wanted. In other words, I had to take her outside so I could play. To adapt the books would be incredibly difficult and certainly not made into a film because, just purely structurally, it doesn’t lend itself to the dramatic structure at all. Because that’s not the way he wrote. That’s wonderful but it doesn’t naturally become a film. I would look at the Disney film and think, Did they blow it. This is an incredible work that needs to be made into something that honours the work. I felt the whole time I needed to honour the work, primarily, but also take those incredible, beloved characters — there aren’t any better characters, there just aren’t, in literature, in my mind — and make them into a tale that is accessible to a modern audience and give them a different spin. There’s no way I could have done that just adapting the material as it exists. Because that would be wrong. But to go out of it and bring her back, in a different way, it still leaves the beauty and perfection of the work intact, of his work, Lewis Carroll’s work. So I wasn’t messing with it.

How did you begin to build this story?

I had been running at it in a lot of different ways in my head over the years. Ultimately I got an image of her standing in a very crucial decision making moment in her life, and looking over and seeing this rabbit. And the image of the white rabbit, leaning against the tree, looking at her, like, What are you doing? And her looking at him, knowing that she had to put a pin in this crucial decision and follow this rabbit, cos that was her destiny in some way. And ultimately what is the most crucial decision, certainly in Victorian England, when women couldn’t work? Marriage was the only way out of their circumstances. It’s very thematic. Who am I? What am I going to do? Who am I going to be? Am I going to be this? Or am I going to follow my own path? Which is the rabbit. Am I going to be this? It’s this sense of a society and everyone driving her towards this gazebo [where she’s proposed to], and everybody looking at her, and the words have to come out of her mouth that will set her destiny for her whole life. That crucial moment, that’s what I saw. And there was this other image I saw, and it isn’t in the film but it was her standing there, looking around for the rabbit, and his paw coming up out of the earth, grabbing her around the ankle, and jerking her down. That’s not in the movie, but that image, that was a very crucial image for me. It wasn’t a voluntary act of going down. It was her being brought back for a reason, against her will.

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Alice In Wonderland week

This week is Alice In Wonderland week on reel world matters. There will be exclusive interviews with cast and crew each day, leading up to the film's release on Friday.

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