So I went to LA on Sunday night.
It was meant to be a reasonably lazy sort of trip, of the kind where I have a couple of hour's work each day and can spend the rest of the time in a hotel room catching up on writing and email and overseeing the launch of the new website and suchlike. That was the plan, but it changed rapidly as soon as I got there and I learned that Stardust director Matthew Vaughn was still in LA. I'd not expected to see Matthew -- I thought his trip to Hollywood would be over by the time I got there, but I was pleased to see him, and bemused to find myself caught up in his slipstream.
Stardust will start shooting in April, and they're casting it right now, and in some ways the casting process is the most fun and the most frustrating bit of any film-making process. Matthew's plan is to cast Tristran and Yvaine as relative unknowns and put his stars in smaller parts -- the witch, for example, or the captain of the flying ship.
On Monday I did a bunch of things -- I visited The Bridge and saw Chelsea Laird, who showed me a breakdown of the kinds of things people had asked for on the Neil Gaiman merchandise site, and while there were over 500 people who responded and who wanted different things, there was a surprising amount of agreement in the kind of requests coming in, so we'll pick a few of the most popular and set that into motion; with Roger Avary I met director Alex Aja and some nice producers, and Roger and I explained what we would do if we were given Charles Burns' marvellous graphic novel BLACK HOLE to adapt into a film. We liked Alex and I think he liked us, and most importantly we seemed to be talking about the same film; I went from there to Paramount to see Stardust producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Matthew Vaughn, and I met Paramount Execs Gail Berman and Brad Weston, who are all very excited about Beowulf (Paramount) and Stardust (Paramount). I stayed up too late into the night tha night watching DVDs of Yvaine auditions, which was fascinating (partly because pretty much everyone I had on my mental list for DEATH was filmed reading scenes from STARDUST, so I got to strike a few people from the list and put a few actresses I hadn't thought of or hadn't previously heard of onto the DEATH list).
Dinner was with friends at Sushi Sasabune. This used to be my favourite Sushi place in the whole wide world, small and perfect in the middle of nowhere halfway to Santa Monica, and because it wasn't a very big restaurant I didn't ever dare plug it on this blog. This time I got to the restaurant to find it closed and big For Lease signs up on the windows. "They've moved," said a man walking past holding a bunch of flowers, helpfully, "They're now up on Wilshire. The food's nearly as a good but the atmosphere's completely gone."
We went off to find the new location, and discovered it. The food was nearly as good as it used to be (and it was, and still is amazing) but, as the man with the flowers said, the atmosphere isn't the same -- I wished they'd kept the old location and simply started another, rather than expanding so dramatically. Still, the restaurant is now big enough that I'm happy to mention it here. Try the chef's Trust Me menu.
Tuesday started with breakfast with Matthew and Tarquin his assistant, along with a mysterious presence from Aint It Cool News who had read and liked the STARDUST script, then into the Paramount lot (again), where I found myself (slightly to my surprise) operating the camera for the screen tests for several potential Yvaines, including one who had literally just got off the plane from Australia. I missed the last Yvaine because I had to run over to the G4 studios and do Attack of the Show.
Show was fun and odd, and I was incredibly impressed by the section following mine, where a Slingbox was demonstrated. The idea that I could watch my own TV at home -- and operate the TIVO -- from a few thousand miles away on my computer or on pretty much anything with a screen was a boggling one for me and I went over and told Blake Krikorian from Slingmedia this, and he's promised to send me a Slingbox to play with. It sounds like the perfect toy. I'll report back.
I was wiped after the TV appearance and was talked out of doing anything more that evening by Cat Mihos, who did amazing duty as my assistant and driver and help on this trip, and so I obediently went off to my room, ordered room service and went to bed.
Today I sat from eight thirty in the morning until midday in the same place in the hotel's outside restaurant, meeting people and feeling scarily like a Hollywood person who sits in the same seat in a restarant doing meetings. Lisa Henson stopped by and brought me up to speed on the MirrorMask DVD release, on the mystery Henson TV show, on various other things, and she pointed out that the most interesting thing about Beowulf was simply that it's an animated film aimed at adults, and if it succeeds that it'll be a Hollywood first. She's right, I think. I met a potential DEATH actress as well.
Then back to Paramount for the third time in three days, to tell exec Allie Shearmur, who had loved the Beowulf script, what Roger Avary and I would do if we had Black Hole to adapt. And she listened and said "Great, that's what we want" so now it's over to agents and business affairs people to make it happen, and, later this year it's back to writing together for Roger and Me.
Then a mad dash to the airport, an hour spent failing to get online, and onto the plane where I experimented with opera mini and my phone and I learned that I could actually blog from the phone pretty easily, and then as the plane took off, I fell asleep. (This is what I do on planes when they take off, no matter how awake I was five minutes earlier. It's got to the point where I put a neck pillow as soon as I've sat down, just in case.) And then I wrote this...