Wizard Universe again:
UP CLOSE: NEIL GAIMAN
The master storyteller spins some yarns about his new film ‘Stardust’ starring Michelle Pfeiffer…and his skunked dog
By Danny Spiegel
Posted August 9, 2007 12:00 PM
WIZARD: “Stardust” director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman adapted the script from your and illustrator Charles Vess’ novel. Were you nervous about reading that first draft?
GAIMAN: I don’t know that I honestly did worry terribly much. I talked about it with Matthew and Jane and I knew that they loved and would respect the project. And honestly, the first draft probably resembled the book much more than the finished thing did. It had my lion and unicorn fight. Things that changed [were] because of budget or time or just because of, you know, an actor twisting their ankle that morning or whatever. But for the second draft I flew over to England [and] went up to Matthew’s big house—I thought my houses were big, but his go on forever.
Was it as big as a pirate ship in the sky?
Oh, it was significantly bigger. I mean, this is his manor house with [his wife] Claudia Schiffer. So we were up on Matthew’s estate, and Matthew sat at his desk and Jane and I read out the script. And that was really good because then if there was anything we weren’t comfortable with, we’d talk about it, we’d change it, we’d argue about it. And there were arguments that I lost because Matthew’s the director, and that’s how it should be.
What was your experience when you were on set?
The main thing was just the continuous feeling of guilt. There’s things that you make up [without regard to a filmed adaptation]. I made up a flying ship because I wanted to see Charles Vess draw one. That’s why it existed. And then suddenly I’m on a film set wandering around and it’s cost them, you know, $2 million to build.
Newcomer Charlie Cox plays the lead as a young man who quests to capture a fallen star—a personified one in this case, played by Claire Danes. What’s it like seeing actors like Peter O’Toole, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer bringing your characters to life?
Absolutely magic. [But] if I’m proudest of anything, it’s of Charlie Cox, because he manages to go from gawky boyhood to suave manhood and makes both absolutely believable. It’s a wonderful acting job.
Your daughter Holly was a production assistant on “Stardust.”
She started out as a “warm body” turning on and off the air conditioning during the pirate sequence. They’d turn it on [before] shooting and then you’d have to turn it off when they’re shooting because it’s too noisy. And within a month or two she was pretty much running the nighttime production office.
Did everyone know that she was your daughter?
I don’t think so. You know, I remember getting at least one phone call from her saying, “Dad, they’ve just cut this bit from the script!” and sort of going, “Oh, okay, darling. Thank you.” And then sitting down and writing my e-mail, “How can you cut this?!” I went all the way up to the head honchos at Paramount because it was a budget [issue]. She wasn’t exactly my mole on the set, but there were at least a couple of times where she went, “Dad, you should know this is going on.” It was very funny.
What’s next for you in comics?
I’m not sure, actually. The last thing in comics was Eternals and the next two big things that are coming out in comics are actually things that I didn’t really do, but they’re lovely. The first one is Craig Russell adapting Coraline. It’s a 250-page full-color graphic novel by Craig, one of the best adapters in the business. And then Craig’s also going to be adapting Sandman: The Dream Hunters, the graphic novel that I did with [Yoshitaka] Amano. It’s a new, old Sandman story so that should be cool.
According to your blog, your dog was just sprayed by a skunk. How bad was that cleanup?
Actually, the cleanup was very, very good only because I actually had watched “Mythbusters,” which is a marvelous TV show where they actually tested all the different things you can clean dogs up with. Thumbs up for that and hurrah for “Mythbusters”!
Did it get all over your house, though?
We went out for a really late-night walk and the bit that just made it hard was going, “Okay, I can either put him down to sleep and come down to the house that smells like skunk in the morning or I can drag him into a shower right now.” And I did it. I didn’t get to sleep until 5 o’clock that morning, but at least I didn’t have a house that smelled like skunk.