[10 August 2007]
San Jose Mercury News, Calif. (MCT)
If there were ever a moment the moviegoing public might suffer from a case of pixie-dust poisoning, now’s the time.
With Hogwarts, hobbits and all manner of hobgoblins haunting movies, the obvious question has to be raised: Has film’s fixation with fantasy run its course?
Not so, says producer and director Matthew Vaughn.
The man behind “Layer Cake” is out with “Stardust,” his adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel that opens Friday. The movie about a young man who discovers a magic realm beyond the wall of his quaint English village stars Claire Danes, Charlie Cox and a slew of heavy hitters, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Rupert Everett and Peter O’Toole.
Stellar cast aside, Vaughn, 36, is aware that with the “Harry Potter” and “Narnia” franchises and such upcoming movies as “The Golden Compass,” anything with so much as a dash of fantasy might have a hard time distinguishing itself from the pack. The director, husband of supermodel Claudia Schiffer, spoke by phone from his Los Angeles hotel room about what makes the movie different and how one directs Robert DeNiro in drag.
When you read the novel “Stardust,” what made you think about adapting it into a movie?
I just read this book and decided I wanted to make a film. I rang up Neil and I said this is great.
I wanted to produce it. I was trying to get Terry Gilliam to direct. He had just done “The Brothers Grimm,” and I think he was (thinking), “I don’t want to do another fairy tale-style movie.”
And one day, I woke up, and I had the movie in my head. We wrote a script in two weeks and brought in another writer, Jane (Goldman), to make the script good enough to show people.
What did you see in the book?
Well, the producer side of me said that no one’s made a “Princess Bride”-style movie in a long time, so I felt there was this hole in the market. I read lots of books, and every now and then I go, “Bang! I can see a film!” So the fact that I could, and writing the script happened so quickly, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Was “The Princess Bride” a model for “Stardust?”
An inspiration. I think it’s a very different movie than “The Princess Bride.” It has comedy, action, romance - all in the same film - and that was definitely a big influence. I don’t think we’re as tongue-in-cheek as “Princess Bride” was. And also, our effects don’t look quite as cheap.
Are audiences hungrier for the more pronounced form of escapism that come with fantasy movies?
I think people need to escape. There’s so much crap going on in the world. I always went to movies as a kid to spend two hours in another world, like with “Star Wars” and “Raiders.”
Robert De Niro seems like a butch guy, having played an assortment of bad guys through the years. How does one direct him to camp it up, to channel his inner Carol Channing, in playing the flamboyant pirate leader?
Luckily, I didn’t have to ask him. He read the script and wanted to do it, and I don’t think I could have asked him. He just did it. So the first day we did that, I say OK, this I going to be interesting.
What’s funny is my boom operator (is obsessed with) “The Godfather” and “Scarface.” When De Niro started doing this stuff, he came up to me after a take and said, “What the hell are you doing now? He’s the Godfather in a dress!”
There have been so many fantasy films in the last few years, such as the “Lord of Rings” series, “Narnia” and the “Harry Potter” franchise. And with such upcoming movies as “The Golden Compass,” with Nicole Kidman, and “The Dark is Rising,” are you at all worried that “Stardust” can get lost in the shuffle?
Hey, we’ll find out soon. I’m a big believer that it’s vital to make as good a movie as possible, and that ultimately audiences will find good films.
I think “Stardust” is different from all these films. It’s not “Lord of the Rings,” It’s not “Narnia.” It’s Neil Gaiman. It’s unique, and it has a different voice, so it won’t get lost among them.