Sunday, August 21, 2005

Special effects added later

The internet here was down yesterday, so this is mostly yesterday's blog entry...

There's an update or two over at Where's Neil about the Victoria and Vancouver events on the Anansi Boys tour. We're still waiting for details about Toronto. No, I don't know why the Toronto event details are so mysterious or problematic or just so long in coming...

[Edit -- after a phone call: I do now, and it sounds like it's going to be worth waiting for...]

Re: V masks. They were passing out plastic, Halloween style, V masks at the V For Vendetta presentation at San Diego, so presumably they're obtainable from the studio.
Also, just walked by the Blackwell's in Charing Cross Road, and they have a sign up for their fall signing events which includes your Novemeber one. The description includes a note that your past two have sold out, so be sure to order tickets early. It appears it's possible to order them now, so you might want to alert the blog readers to this.

Consider them alerted, more or less (well, they're alerted, but since I haven't been sent a confirmed date and time yet I can't post it here, but it's somewhere early in November). For Coraline and for Wolves in the Walls, I did readings/signings for Foyles, so this year , for Anansi Boys, Headline decided it would be fairer to give other booksellers a go, and Blackwells got it. Oddly enough, Andy Quinn, who organised the Foyles events, has now crossed the road and is organising the Blackwells event. I know we're in a larger hall than we were last time...

And plastic V for Vendetta masks aren't the pressed- and -moulded cardboard Guy Fawkes masks of my youth (which aren't for wearing, but for putting onto a guy and burning).

Dear Neil,Why not make your own Guy Fawkes masks? You could simply find a Guy Fawkes picture you like on the internet, use your computer or a copy machine to enlarge it, and then print it on or rubber-cement it to card stock or 2-ply Bristol.Best regards,Helana

See above. When I was a kid, during the week or so before fireworks night, shops sold Guy Fawkes masks (V wears something that looks like one of them), that you could place on the face of the guy you were going to burn. If anyone reading this knows of anywhere that still makes them, let me know...

Hi Neil,I was surprised to notice that you didn't mention anything on your journal about the UK premiere of 'Mirrormask' in Edinburgh yesterday. Just wondering if there was a reason for that? I'd also like to say that it is a beautiful and wonderful film, and I think everybody there absolutely loved it. I hadn't realised before that Dave McKean was going to be doing a Q&A afterwards, so that was a nice surprise, and what a very lovely man he is. :)Thanks for the stories,Tina

Well, I wasn't there and didn't really have anything sensible to say about it other than "MirrorMask is showing at the Edinburgh Festival today, but unless you've already got your ticket you're out of luck".

We got a nice review in The Glasgow Herald

Film festival
August 19 2005

This ravishingly visualised and sharply original fantasy marks the directorial debut of Dave McKean, the British illustrator best known for his work with the celebrated fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, who wrote the script. McKean's distinctive visual style is stamped all over the film, but it's no mere showcase for his artistic virtuosity. Rather, it's a sensitively observed portrayal of adolescent dreams and woes, which just happens to take place in a magical realm ruled (in the grand tradition of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz) by two competing Queens. Warm, funny, and thrilling in its painstaking artistry, this is the kind of British cinema we need more of. Stephanie Leonidas is lovely in the lead role of 15-year-old Helena; Gina McKee and Rob Brydon co-star.

And the Daily Telegraph --
A very different coming-of-age story can be seen in MirrorMask, the feature film debut of acclaimed artist Dave McKean. This is a boldly imaginative fantasy about a teenage girl (Stephanie Leonidas) who wants to run away from the circus owned by her parents (Gina McKee and Rob Brydon) and join real life. Instead, after a flaming row with her mother, she is transported into a strange parallel world, where everyone wears masks and mythical creatures run riot - sphinxes, gryphons, orbiting giants.

The script was co-written by Neil Gaiman, with whom McKean has already mapped out a dark and dream-like territory in comics (The Sandman, Mr Punch) and children's books (Coraline, The Wolves in the Walls). The film's visual world is extraordinarily rich, mixing live action with computer animation in a stunning explosion of textures. It's possible to place MirrorMask in a context that includes Terry Gilliam, Jan Svankmajer and Jim Henson's 1980s fantasies Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal - but the truth is that it's a one-off, the most original vision to come out of British cinema for some time.

The Bank of Scotland Herald Angel awards were given out to Edinburgh Festival things, and MirrorMask was the film that was given one -- details at

Lots of people in the UK have been writing in to find out when Sony UK are going to be releasing it in the UK; several of you have asked if there's anyone they can write to directly, or petition. Given the reviews and the reception so far, I can't imagine it would come to that, but I'll try and find out more information here.


I said I was done on talking about Beowulf here until it starts shooting, and really I am. But still...

Lots of messages coming in from Beowulf fans around the world, of which the kindest ones say words to the effect of "I read something in a newspaper about the plot of your Beowulf movie and I don't like it. If you're going to change the plot that much, why call it Beowulf?", and of which the less restrained reminded me mostly of the kind of things I saw posted on Aint It Cool News when they announced that Spider-Man's web-shooters in the movie were going to be biological not inventions, leading me to suspect that Beowulf fans have more in common with hardcore Marvel continuity fans, in terms of having an emotional investment in the details of the story, than I had previously imagined. But I digress....

I'm not quite sure how to get across "None of the newspaper bits about Beowulf that you've read were written by people who had read the script or knew what they were talking about," in any other way than that. I thought I had explained it yesterday, but if I did it didn't seem to take. Mostly the articles you are reading are written by people who don't know what Beowulf is, then copyedited and rewritten by other people who don't know what Beowulf is, in order to explain to the casually browsing reader why the newspaper or webpage is running a photo of Angelina Jolie.

Trust me, this joke article -- -- is as accurate as most of the stuff I've seen in print so far describing what the Zemeckis Beowulf is going to be like.

It's like watching some strange game of Telephone, in which each newspaper adds a little made-up bit to the story, and the next newspaper copies that story or changes it a little, and they all pretend they know what they're talking about. ("The filming of the new movie starts in September. The film crew will use the stop-motion technology, meaning the cast will have to act in studios, whereas all special effects will be added afterwards", we learn, in one lovely piece of nonsense that doesn't even refer to the plot.)

I don't think anyone who's seen the script is talking -- certainly there hasn't been an article yet that made me go "Good lord, this is actually written by someone who's read the script, I wonder how they got it?" (I received an e-mail the other day from the wife of our consulting Anglo-Saxon Scholar informing me that he was taking his confidentiality agreements seriously enough that he hadn't shown the script to her.) I'm sure that sooner or later something not fake will show up on AICN but currently everything I've seen written about the plot of our Beowulf movie has been imaginary.

It's also probably worth reminding people that the point of using the performance capture technology is that the characters don't have to look like the actors playing them. So Grendel will not actually look like Crispin Glover, nor Unferth like John Malkovitch, and so forth...

And now I really am done. By all means feel free to hate our Beowulf movie, or hate Beowulf and Grendel, but you should probably wait until you've seen them, or know more than a few fragments of casting, before you do. Personally, I'm at least going to wait until the film's been made before making up my mind what I think.

And you can always take comfort in reminding yourself that the poem was around a long time before Roger Avary and I decided to see if we could retell it as a movie, and it will be around long after all such movies have been long forgotten...

(Edit to add: Glad to see that, like all online communities, the Anglo-Saxon community seems to contain the voices of reason alongside the ones who like yelling:


Dear Neil,

I was at the pre-opening event of the new Centre for Children's Books yesterday (I've written what is probably more than you want to know about it in my LiveJournal Part of the entertainment was a wonderful theatre / dance / abseiling outfit called Scarabeus, who performed to a soundtrack of fragments of music and words.

And I thought you might like to know that one of the texts they sampled was The Wolves in the Walls. (It worked very well)

Thanks for all the good stuff to read


You're welcome, and how marvellous. What a great-looking place. I hope it thrives.