The major players - with the exception of director Robert Zemeckis - assembled for a press conference in support of the performance capture film version of the classic Beowulf. Angelina Jolie, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, and writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary came together to discuss the film which finds Jolie sporting a tail and Winstone looking like a candidate for the Mr Universe title. Winstone plays Beowulf, the hero responsible for slaying the demon Grendel (Glover). In this version of the ancient story, Beowulf is seduced by Grendel's gorgeous mother (Jolie), a twist those who studied the original poem probably never expected.
Beowulf Press Conference
What was it like to work with Robert Zemeckis?
John Malkovich: “For me, it was a great delight. Working with Robert, he's very enthusiastic, precise, and very clear. For me, it was a great joy.”
Anthony Hopkins: “Yes, and for me ditto. It was confusing at first because we had to do these weird gestures and stand up, pull faces, and all that. I wasn't quite sure what the purpose was because it was a room very much like this, with no costumes or scenery or such. I think I was a little late coming in, maybe a day after everyone else, but there was so much energy coming from Bob Zemeckis. It was such a positive energy, it made it so easy, and everyone had a great sense of fun with it. I was just very pleased. I haven't even seen the film yet. I hear it's pretty good. (Laughing) I'm looking forward to seeing it on Monday with people [at the premiere]. Yes, it was all together a wonderful experience. I'm really proud to be part of this great movie.”
Angelina, what was it like to play a demon?
Angelina Jolie: “It was great. It was a great experience that we all had. I think that the nice thing about it was that we all do films these days, and so much of it has become a business, and so much of it is these projects where people want to rush through things, or you feel like you make a movie and you're not really sure. You’ve kind of lost touch with the artistic process and the fun of it. And Bob is a real artist, and he loves it so much. He's so enthusiastic and so original. You really feel that you remember you're a creative person, and you have fun with everybody else. I needed that, as an artist, so it was really great. I'm really grateful for the experience.”
Beowulf isn’t flawless and he’s not the typical hero. How was it to play him?
Ray Winstone: “Well when I met Bob Zemeckis, obviously, I had to do a lot of training for the film. (Laughing) I had to watch my diet and do a lot of press-ups. People say it was very much like theatre, but I found it kind of like the ultimate cinema, in a way, without the cuts. You were there and you played the scene out. You were allowed to go, like theatre, where you carry a scene on and you become engrossed within the scene. I loved the speed of it. There was no time to sit around. You actually cracked on with a scene and your energy levels were kept up. There was no time to actually sit around and lose your concentration. So, for me, I actually really, really enjoyed this experience. I would love to do this again sometime because I think it's going to get better and better and better.”
Neil and Roger, can you talk about working on this project for 10 years?
Neil Gaiman: “We wrote the first draft of the Beowulf script in May ‘97.”
Roger Avary: “10 years in May.”
Neil Gaiman: “10 years in May. And then [we] started working on it with Bob at the beginning of 2005. Originally, he wanted to produce it and then he contacted us and said, ‘I really want to direct it,’ and talked us into it. What’s Bob like? He’s very mysterious and secretive. You may be wondering why he’s not up here, but if you actually look around to the person next to you, that could be Bob Zemeckis (laughing), just brilliantly disguised. It was really easy. The process of working on the script was basically me and Roger and Bob, sitting in a room, and Roger and I read it out loud.”
Roger Avary: “Bob began as a writer and so he never had any bad ideas. He would say, ‘Okay, guys, this is a bad idea, but I’m just going to throw it out there…’ And he’d throw it out and it was like, ‘That’s actually a fantastic idea.’”
Neil Gaiman: “It was just incredibly easy and incredibly pleasant. Except that he had these brilliant ideas that he wouldn’t tell us, and he’d want us to discover them on our own. Occasionally we’d say, ‘Okay, we’ve written this scene, and we’ve done it like that,’ and he’d say, ‘No, you can’t do that because that room isn’t facing that way.’ We’d say, ‘What?’ And he’d say, ‘No, the room isn’t facing that way.’ And then he’d show us the design for the room and we’d go, ‘Why didn’t you show us that before?,’ and he said, ‘Well, you could have come up with something better.’”
Roger Avary: “I wasn’t prepared for how collaborative he would be with us, and how he drew us into the process, and how excited and childlike he is. How he’s constantly inventing new technologies to support his ultimate dream as a style of directing. We would walk into the editing room and he’d be like, ‘Oh, look at what we just made.’ It was the Z-cam, which was a virtual camera that you could move around the editing room. As you moved it around, you would see what the camera angle would be on the screen. I think what excited me was the amount of passion that he had.”