Muddy Fitzgerald reporting for Moviehole. Firstly, this was my first assignment for the site and Iï¿½d like to thank Warner Bros and Clint Morris for the opportunity.
The assignment seemed simple and more than reasonable enough. Fly to England. Meet and greet the acting talents that are Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, as well as the Wachowski Brother’s Assistant Director on the Matrix movies. Receive a free copy of an acclaimed 1980ï¿½s graphic novel and visit a movie set.
For what movie? ‘V For Vendetta’. From the team that brought you The Matrix. With the producing talents of a Mr. Joel Silver. The writing talents of The Wachowski Bros and the cinematic eye of their right hand man, Mr. James McTeigue, up for his directing debut. What could possibly go wrong with a combination such as that?
The last time I was in the UK was in the Summer of 2002. Queenï¿½s Jubilee and all that. St. James Park I think. It was a real warm time and drinking heavily, not knowing who any of the Z-List talents performing for Her Majesty really made my day. This time, however, despite it being Summer in the West End of Londons Westminster area, it was freezing. The only drink I was comfortable with was a poor manï¿½s version of a hot chocolate. Boiled water with a brown-ish tint. It scolded my larynx making me sound like Demi Moore and nearly took 6 layers of skin from my palms. Distracted me from the cold though.
The place where journos were meeting at was awesome. Number One Whitehall, in Westminster. A Government building. This alone would make an amazing set for a movie. It just made me realise, dare I say it, how great those Brits were back then. They could design and build.
The WB gave us a goodie bag which contained the Alan Moore graphic novel, ‘V For Vendetta’. Penned in the 80ï¿½s, it was a stab at what was going on at that time in the UK. Thatcherism and all that fascist, political malarkey. Moore writes in an intended style for his books NOT to become films. He tries his damndest to make them unfilmable. Heï¿½s an amazing, creative, detailed, homegrown British man of the North. His North. He creates worlds the readers escape to and get lost in and believe. Could Hollywood do his books justice? Look at the previous works of his that Hollywood have made messes of. ‘From Hell’, ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and soon ‘Watchmen’, but now ‘V’ï¿½.
I was quite content to receive the original book, but knowing I was to meet Ms. Portman and Mr. Weaving, too, I felt very excited and privileged. I met several other journos from around the world. Japanese, Americans, UK, Brazilians. Both from the web and paper media, all a bunch of fellow geeks and geekettes.
We had some quite lavish tucker laid on. Better than any business conference dish I can tell you, but hey, we are dealing with a top quality company here. Warners, on this night, without a doubt, were the most hospitable, welcoming professionals Iï¿½ve met in this line of work and I felt the sheer scale of this movie was fast in taking me over.
We had a talk from a few technical peeps. Visual artists. How they tackled the book and transferring the images to the silver screen. My, my, did they have one heck of a task. They had worked on the Matrix prior to this, so I think they already had some cred and experience to their name.
Next up was the set. We wandered the cold streets of Westminster to Parliament (Big Ben and all that). Along the way, I caught haunting images lurking within the shadows of doorways and railings. Extras. Can I call them that? For the sake of argument, I’ll plead ignorant. First 3 or 4, then 10 or 20, then a dozen or so more. Dressed in black, with their Guy Fawke’s esque V masks and black cloaks. Then a few hundred feet up, blocks of about 50 or so guys. In a futuristic soldier garb. A peculiar looking tank and other such vehicles. I was in awe of such sights and it made me feel some what on edge too. I felt as if I was actually in a rebellion of some sort.
I caught a glimpse of some REAL police snipers upon roof tops. I mean, London was on high terrorist alert here and if anything was to go down, this would be an ideal opportunity for some terrorist activity. I have never seen so many people, especially kitted out in the same gear. A riot was about to occur.
The scene was for the climax of the movie and it had to be done exactly right and soon as London was brought to a halt and would soon be up and running again in a matter of a few hours.
There were soldiers positioned on platforms and towers and by baracades. The sight was very impressive and to think London authorities have never allowed this to be done before was even more awe-inspiring. Yes, with every movie, there is a lot of waiting around and none more so than this. It was nearing 3am and nothing really had happened. Journos were creeping off to wherever their dwellings were. I headed off to a bar some place or other, surprised parts of London actually was still open! I did hear the Jo Blo team ended up in some sordid establishment around town, but that’s another story from them I guess.
The next afternoon was interview time. Three large round tables, in a large room, back in the Gov building of the previous day. Five or so journalists from the various media they represented were placed at each table. As far as I was aware, I was the only English speaking (first language) person sat at my table, which proved to be equally as entertaining, in a bemusing kinda way.
Natalie Portman sits next to me at my table. I shake her hand and give a welcoming smile, introducing myself to the bald beauty. Microphones are tested out and fellow journos are already scribbling away on their Whitehall free note pad, with their free pencil. I’d rather use my own and keep the pencil and pad and biscuits as geekside gifts.
So, I heard you were up for the role of Lois Lane, in the new Superman movieï¿½ I ask Ms. Portman, who said with raised eyebrows and a smile that was a new one to her! I tick off my first question and tell her I have more just like that. At least it wasn’t about my bald head.ï¿½ She said.
So, Natalie. You’re bald. What did your mother say about thatï¿½ Natalie laughed and I’m instantly capitivated by how down to Earth she is and my peculiararity and somewhat different questions make her feel more at ease. She tells me that her mother told her, especially in Israel, to put some sun lotion on her scalp in case of sunburn. Ah, wise words indeed.
This female Japanese reporter then listed every single film Ms. Portman had been in. Nataleeeee.. You star in Leee onn, Beauteeefalll Gurrrl, Star War one, Star war two, star war three.. You following me on this? And the question at the end of it?.. What book do you read?ï¿½ Natalie looks at me and I do a Roger Moore Bond-esque eyebrow raising, but the starlet is of course a pro and answers the question. I ask about her neat role in Zach Braff’s nice little pic ‘Garden State’ and she says how fun it was, especially working with Zach. ”At the end of the shoot, Zach gave me my own action figure, of Sam, which he made. It was a Star Wars figure, but he made some clothes like I wore in Garden State.” How good is that!
”Wouldnï¿½t a sequel to Leon (aka The Professional) be fantastic?” I ask her, displaying more than a hint of knowledge to such a project in my facial expression. Ms. Portman agrees and says there was a script or a treatment. The other journos stop scribbling as the two of us could quite easily be anywhere right now. Just having a conversation about people we both know either personally or just mutually. We or I perhaps disclosed more than should have been said on this topic, as we chatted about the ultra talented Luc Besson and briefly the then year old daughter Satine and how itï¿½s easier and certainly more comfortable for Mr. B to write than take up the major task of directing.
Obviously, some V questions had to be posed. Ms. Portman said (of the film) that it was one of the most challenging films she had done. Emotionally and physically. Eveyï¿½s torture scene being number one on the list. Shaving that brilliantly bald head was a one-take affair and the emotion and power Portman brings to her character to display for the audience in that series of scenes is borderline overwhelming to watch. Itï¿½s one of the highlights of the movie.
As Ms. Portman leaves, some journos turn into hungry for anything fans and ask her to sign the graphic novels. I decide against it and just say a mere thanks and take care.
Mr. Hugo Weaving is at our table. I ask him how he felt taking on the ï¿½V character once portrayed by actor James Purefoy (who left the project half way through filming) and whether he would be able to tell whose footage is whose in the final movie. ”There was a lot of voice over work.” Was pretty much all that was said on that regard. ”You reckon James left to take on another James?” (I was suggesting Purefoy was James Bond) Mr. Weaving smirked and shrugged. I then asked him how he felt about the unfortunate decline of the movie ”Eucalyptus”, which was set to star him, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. It was a sore subject and one close to the talentï¿½s heart it seemed. How can a project such as this not be up and running smoothly and with such a stella cast? Unbelievable. Financing a movie, on any level, is a troublesome thing. Making a movie is a troublesome thing.
As I said, the scale of this movie and organisation of such an event film requires a lot of permission from some high profile people, especially in London. I reckon accepting Prime Minister Tony Blair’s son Ewan as a runner on the movie helped production a great deal.
So what of the movie? I’ll leave that to Clint or one of his minions – Tim, Colin, Gossip Monkey, Adam, Ruth or those top-secret filmmakers he now has writing for his site! (Dude! Who ARE they?)