Trailer: THE LAST JEDI (!!)

The promotional blizzard for The Force Awakens was incredible. Actually, it was probably excessive. It ultimately left me a little disappointed with the movie on first viewing — my expectations had been ratcheted up so high that it was pretty much guaranteed that the movie wouldn’t live up to my hopes.

Now, we have the trailer for the eighth episode in saga. I’m really looking forward to this. I’m going to make a better effort at just waiting for the movie to come out, rather than consume all the coverage. Crossing fingers…

Latest FORCE AWAKENS Trailer (Tingles…)

Looks fantastic. Great to see a little bit more of the new characters (and Han Solo, of course). I’m cautiously optimistic — more so each time they release something new. Except for one possible snippet, though, where’s Luke Skywalker…? As with the poster released this week, he seems noticeably absent. Mark Hamill is in the behind-the-scenes video that aired at Comic-Con 2015 (and in the above-linked-to post), so we know he is in the movie.

I wonder if Force Awakens is about bringing the old band back together?

Quick Review: WE DON’T NEED ROADS by Caseen Gaines (Plume)

GainesC-WeDontNeedRoadsUSA behind-the-scenes look at the making of the wildly successful and beloved Back to the Future trilogy, just in time for the 30th anniversary 

Long before Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled through time in a flying DeLorean, director Robert Zemeckis, and his friend and writing partner Bob Gale, worked tirelessly to break into the industry with a hit. During their journey to realize their dream, they encountered unprecedented challenges and regularly took the difficult way out.

For the first time ever, the story of how these two young filmmakers struck lightning is being told by those who witnessed it. We Don’t Need Roads includes original interviews with Zemeckis, Gale, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and over fifty others who contributed to one of the most popular and profitable film trilogies of all time.

With a focus not only on the movies, but also the lasting impact of the franchise and its fandom, We Don’t Need Roads is the ultimate read for anyone who has ever wanted to ride a Hoverboard, hang from the top of a clock tower, travel through the space-time continuum, or find out what really happened to Eric Stoltz after the first six weeks of filming. So, why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here – and start reading! We Don’t Need Roads is your density.

It’s always difficult writing reviews of histories like this (or many others), as one’s interest in the subject can often result in over-long recitations of what the author covers — thereby potentially negating the need for others to read it for themselves. That could very easily be the case with this book: there are so many great moments herein. Therefore, I’m going to keep this very short. First of all, We Don’t Need Roads is a very good book — it’s witty, exhaustive (despite its slim length), engaging, and clearly written from a place of affection. This is a must read for any fan of the franchise. Continue reading

Q&A with Andy Serkis on adapting Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON & George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM

AndySerkisIn a Q&A organised by Samantha Shannon’s publicists in the UK, Andy Serkis discussed the acquisition of movie rights for Shannon’s debut novel, The Bone Season. Serkis, best-known perhaps as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, has set up his own film studio, Imaginarium Studio. The Bone Season will be one of their first projects, alongside an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, both of which will be directed by Serkis.

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What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio’s very first slate of films?

We first came across the manuscript at the London Book Fair and immediately fell in love with the scope, the scale and the exceptional detail of the world Samantha had created. It’s a really compelling story with such a great central character – we all immediately saw its potential as a fantastic feature film.

Have you met Samantha Shannon, and how involved will she be in the film’s production?

Yes of course – she’s a delightful, incredibly intelligent person. She’s very warm and a passionate storyteller- dedicated beyond belief. We’re working very closely with her on all aspects of bringing the world of the book to the screen. We’ve been involving her with all the early concept artwork that we’re beginning to put together. Obviously it’s her world so we want to make sure we bring it to life in the way that she wants.

ShannonS-BoneSeasonCan you tell us about how the creative process for adapting a story like The Bone Season begins?

It begins with knowing the story you want to tell. There are thousands of stories contained within the world that Samantha has created – we have to be very disciplined about opening up the world in a way that will lead us on to further investigation in the rest of the series. We need to find the emotional heart of the story; the relationships; the tension; the suspense and the drive, and of course working closely with Samantha is going to make it much easier.

At this very early stage it’s about finding the right writer and the right approach to telling the story. Hand in hand with developing the screenplay it’s also about developing the visual world and bringing that to life, finding the right visual effects team who understand Samantha’s concepts.

You have been part of bringing some of the world’s most famous and well-loved fantasy worlds to contemporary audiences. Which of your experiences across film, TV, stage and video games would you say has been most helpful in preparing you to produce The Bone Season?

It would be impossible to single out any one single experience, it’s an accumulation of all my experiences to date, but obviously having worked on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s extraordinary world with Peter Jackson is incredibly useful. Peter basically gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of extraordinary characters in a lot of extraordinary worlds and has opened up my eyes to a genre that I knew very little about before.

Will performance capture will come mostly into play when portraying Shannon’s Rephaim race on screen in The Bone Season? Can you give us any insight into how you’d like these characters to appear?

We’re in very early stages of designing how we want to portray these characters, and are exploring a variety of avenues to bring these characters to life. We’re certainly not tied to any one production technique at this early stage.

Animal Farm is the other film on your inaugural slate. What can you tell us about this project?

OrwellG-AnimalFarmWe’re extraordinarily excited about Animal Farm. We have been working on the methodology this year, the development of the characters and the story. We’re working with a wonderful character designer and very pleased with how the animals are developing as visual characters.

In terms of story, we’re remaining very truthful to the original book however we are relocating the setting as if Orwell were writing in the present day – we’ve been working very closely with the Orwell estate on this.

You’re talents are very varied! If you could only do one thing for the rest of your career, which would you choose (stage/TV/film/video game roles, voice roles, director or producer)?

Mountain Climber.

Star Wars in Rolling Stone

RS-198007-SlavesOfTheEmpireWhile perusing Rolling Stone’s website (something I do frequently), I spotted a link for “Star Wars in Rolling Stone”. It’s a collection of the articles from the magazine, beginning with an interview with George Lucas from 1977. They’re presented in reverse-chronology, so I’d start with the final page (linked above) and work from there.

One article in particular jumped out for me – partly because of the title – and that was from the June 12th, 1980 issue of the magazine (pictured): “Slaves to the Empire: The ‘Star Wars’ Kids Talk Back”, by Timothy White. The article is about (according to the standfirst):

“Five actors caught in the paradox of ‘Star Wars’ (the highest-grossing film of all time has done nothing for their careers) talk about their trap, the making of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and why they still want to be a part of the third installment”

It’s an interesting interview, more about their opinions about the movies, working on them, and where they came from, than about being “trapped” by the films’ success. It’s filled with some great trivia for die-hard Star Wars fans. For example: Carrie Fisher is quite mischievous, and suggests that Leia should have fallen for Chewbacca; Mark Hamill considered Luke to be the “classic thankless role”, confesses that he is a “serious collector” of Star Wars memorabilia, and amusingly bemoans the fact that the Luke dolls have been marked down in price for collectors; Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) explains why the first movie was a “miasma of pain”; Harrison Ford sheepishly admits that he’s “never been much of a film fan” but felt like Empire Strikes Back was “the first time I’ve ever seen anything I’ve done that I’m happy with”.

The piece also addresses Mark Hamill’s car accident, and is actually the first time I’ve read anything about it:

“Hamill’s anxiety about landing choice roles was tragically accelerated when his BMW ran off the freeway in 1977. Star Wars had not yet been released, and his face was sufficiently ravaged that he wondered whether he would be able to retain any part of his angular good looks, let alone fulfill the remainder of his three-picture deal with Lucas. That mental anguish was only intensified when the film proved to be an international smash.”

Reading these articles got me to thinking: has anyone written a book about the making of the movies? Not just big, photo-stuffed Coffee Table books (although, those are really nice, too), but a campaign-biography-style volume about the making of the original movies. I’d definitely read one of those.