The super producer and the director sit down for a chat about their new film starring Hugo Weaving & Natalie Portman
Hollywood mega producer Joel Silver and director James McTeigue sat down with us to discuss some of the more interesting tidbits that went into the production of V For Vendetta. The first being Alan Moore's [the writer of the graphic novel] public disassociation with the film. He requested his name be removed from the project and Joel Silver obliged, although it was obvious that he wanted Allan's support. Another less publicized controversy was how James Purefoy, who was originally cast as V, left the film and was replaced by Hugo Weaving. Both men wouldn't comment directly if there are any Purefoy scenes remaining, but acknowledged that a few people, including the stuntmen, played V. James McTeigue has a long history with both Joel Silver and star Hugo Weaving. He was the first assistant director to the Wachowski brothers on The Matrix Trilogy.
Describe filming the scene where Natalie Portman's head is shaved. It's basically a one shot deal right?
James McTeigue: You just go into it and hope nothing goes wrong. You use three cameras, so there is a fail safe that's put in place. Natalie is so great knowing where the character is in the narrative at that time. We had like a brief discussion, but it's basically "GO!" And hope that the shears don't get stuck or the film doesn't get jammed.
Allan Moore famously disassociated himself with the film after you made a statement claiming he supported it. How does that affect the film and what did you do to try to get his stamp of approval?
Joel Silver: I first met Alan many years ago. We acquired both "Watchmen" and "V", but I was not able to hold on to Watchmen. I had lunch with Alan and Dave Gibbons [the illustrator for Watchmen] at the time and he was an odd guy. But he was very intrigued and interested in the process. He was game to be involved. I hadn't seen him for many years (pauses) look, I understand his philosophy. His work brought to films has not been as effective as they could have been. I could see why he was bitter and there was a lawsuit after "League of Extraordinary Gentleman" where he was sued by people saying it wasn't his original idea. He went through a lot of unattractive things. We had hoped he would be enthusiastic, but he wasn't. He said he wanted his name off and I think this is the first time that's been done. He had his name on the other movies. He said he didn't want to be part of this and he didn't want to be involved. I wish he didn't, but what could I do? I was happy to oblige him. I wish he'd see the movie, but he probably won't. I think he would appreciate it, but we can't make ourselves crazy about it.
Do you think his experience with the other adaptations soured his opinion of the film industry?
Joel Silver: I think we were very respectful of the material. We changed little bits here and there to make it work. There were things that I missed in the graphic novel that I wish we could have done, but it would have been a nineteen hour movie. We limited the story to "V" and "Evey", which is the base material anyway. We tried to capture David's [David Lloyd, the illustrator of V] original illustrations as best we could and James really tried to translate them to the screen. I think we kept the feeling, the intensity, and the inspirational aspects of the material. I think it works, but Alan's got to do what he has to do.
How do you think this film will play in America? There are references to Bush, like the war in Iraq, and a lot of references to Christian fundamentalism. Do you worry that you're going to turn off the so-called red states?
James McTeigue: I don't think you can worry about that. I think you just go with the material. I think the source material is really intelligent and it's a graphic novel that was written twenty-five years ago. It's great piece of literature and I think the adaptation is a great adaptation. All you can hope to do is take all the elements and hope for a cinematic experience. Of course you can't please everyone, there's no film that pleases everyone. I think you have to push it out there in the world and see where it lands.
Talk about the look of the film. Obviously you had the graphic novel to base it on, but there didn't seem to be a lot of green screen-type special effects.
James McTeigue: Not a huge amount, this is nothing compared to The Matrix or to Star Wars. Like parliament blowing up is a combination of models and digital effects on top of that. I think as digital effects get better, it serves the story more. It doesn't pop you out of the film. We were all very careful to make sure it was a seamless integration.
Who brought in Hugo Weaving to play "V"?
James McTeigue: I had a long history with Hugo. I did the Matrix films with him and various other independent Australian stuff. He's a brilliant actor. We made a small film called Little Fish, where it's an absolutely amazing performance. I think whatever role he's in, whether it's The Matrix or Lord of the Rings, he always brings something. He just knows how to do it. His physicality is incredible and we did a lot of work with the voice. He really brings humanity to the mask.
Is any of James Purefoy still in the movie as V For Vendetta? You would never be able to tell if it was him or Hugo Weaving behind the mask.
Joel Silver: A lot of people played V, there are stunt scenes, and knife scenes, and wirework. There are a lot of people behind the mask.
V For Vendetta is in theaters Friday, March 17th.