After the star-studded red carpet premiere of Sky’s new Terry Pratchett adaption, The Colour of Magic (which we reviewed earlier in the week here), cast and crew stuck around – along with the full cinema of eager fans and press – to listen in on a Q&A session about the film and the books.
Advertised as being with David Jason and Sean Astin, Terry Pratchett actually took the stage too – hat and squeaky voice and all – and it was hosted by director Vadim Jean. So here’s the full text of the session, which contains quite a few juicy secrets, including which huge star made a cameo as The Patrician, and which Discworld book is going to get the TV treatment next…
Vadim Jean (VJ)David, what gave you the desire to play Rincewind?
David Jason (DJ)Well, the man himself, sitting there! I read The Colour of Magic many years ago, just after it first came out, and I just fell in love with it – the whole concept. I liked the character Rincewind particularly, I just thought he was such a lovely, mad sort of character. The whole magic, the whole invention of this world, the Discworld, just got straight to me. Ever since then I’ve wanted to do it. It wasn’t until The Mob [production company] came along and ‘made me an offer I couldn’t refuse’ – I’ve been waiting to say that for a long time! – that, yeah, we finally got it on the screen and it was very enjoyable; it was brilliant.
VJ:Sean, I’ve got to say – what persuaded you to work with the legendary comedian, actor, genius and Knight of the Realm, Sir David Jason?
DJ:He didn’t even know who I was!
Sean Astin (SA):Well, I didn’t know too much until I got here and went into the DVD shop and said ‘do you have anything with Sir… David… Jason?’ and the guy looked at me and asked if I was after anything specific. I said no, actually, I want everything, I just want to get it all. So I walked out with about £3,000 worth of DVDs and made my way through as many as I could, and then tortured the poor man when we were working – questions, observations, comments – but in terms of the movie, I met this alien life form [Pratchett]
Terry Pratchett (TP):Is this thing working? It was in a signing shoot, and I spotted him immediately, and I sorted him out and said ‘I know you! You were in Harry Potter!’
SA:I had this very sad, sinking feeling when I learned about Twoflower, when I started reading The Colour of Magic, that I would never get to play him, because it would clearly be an English production if it ever got made, and I told Terry that I knew it would get made, and soon. I actually said it should get made immediately. I had this sinking feeling that I thought they’d never let the guy who was the bad English-sounding Hobbit to ever play-
TP:It wasn’t that bad! I mean, a fortnight on Somerset Cider and we would have got you absolutely turned out right.
VJ:Very good; let’s open it up to questions.
TP:I’ve got one! It’s a technical one. I’ve watched it on small screens all the way through, and on the big screen it looks darker.
VJ:It’s what we call a ‘point’ lighter, because the projector in there isn’t as bright as the light in your TV, and it’s throw of the light across the theatre, the distance.
TP:Because some screens actually glittered at home but now, well, some screens didn’t glitter so much – I’ll put it that way.
VJ:It’s definitely the projector! In glorious high definition – which you’re all going to go out and buy just to see this, it’s, well, stunning.
TP:Actually, for once, he’s not lying! I’ve seen it on the big TV screens and there was masses of colour.
VJ:We’re just stretching the technology to the limit, throwing it 150 feet.
DJ: If anyone out there’s got some interesting questions… That’s what we’re here for! We’d like to hear your thoughts and your reactions before we all go home or some of us go and get drunk.
Audience (A):Sir David – you’ve travelled by limosuine, by first-class travel, everything I should have think, bloody great cars, but now you’ve travelled by luggage. Would you like one for yourself?
DJ:Yeah, I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s better than first class! With all those little legs underneath you, you can’t go wrong can you? It was lovely, yes, I think I’ve travelled by everything now. I think it was a fantastic effect, by the way, it really brought it to life – I think it was one of the funniest props I’ve ever seen!
SA:Richard, the prop guy who worked it from inside – there actually was someone inside working it – after 45 minutes you’d forget someone was inside there. You’d lift the lid and he’d be just about dead, make-up running, sweating and everything, and they’d like ‘we’re gonna go for another one, jump over the hill again?’ and he’d say ‘no problem! No problem!’
VJ:He ran into a lot of trees.
A:For David and Sean. There were a lot of stunts – how many did you do yourselves?
DJ:All of them!
SA:None of them!
DJ:Well, he didn’t no. He was in his trailer! No, there were certain elements that we certainly didn’t do because I can’t obviously ride a horse that well and there were one or two other things. But basically, Sean and I did half if not three quarters. All that stuff in the tank where we were going over the edge of the world, that was he and I, we spent two days in the tank at Vinewood. And I have to tell you that it was bloody freezing! So I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. But no, we both put our hearts and souls into it, but we didn’t do every single bit. But they did drag me upside down for two days on a harness to do the sword fight. Which I still haven’t forgiven you for! It was very painful!
VJ:I did manage to break one actress and a stunt-man and he came out unscathed! So a tough old soul.
SA: I mean, if you add up the number of days he spent in a harness of one sort or another, it’s really pretty spectacular.
DJ:I tell you one thing that I would just like to say that, having worked on the film and seen it completed, it’s stunning. One of the things you’ve got to say, how many books has one read that have been more creative and imaginative than the books that this gentlemen to my right [Pratchett] has written? On behalf of everybody in the film company, the production, and the millions – and I mean this – millions of people all over the world who he has brought tremendous pleasure to, I hope what we’ve done in our humble way will bring as much pleasure as you have with your written word as we have tried to do by breathing life into it visually. So, Terry, thank you very much from all of us, and I mean that.
TP:Actually, I have to thank Vadim. Ok, the budget was small. Not a large budget. Basically, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cigar bill.
VJ:Not that much!
TP:In a way I think that made it better, because lots of ingenuity went into it. And I think lots of ingenuity gets you through times with no money better than money gets you through times of no ingenuity. And the other thing that was magnificent – I had the run of the place. I could go up as often as I liked, I actually re-wrote bits of the script, once again, the crew has managed to get away with an awful lot of props, they’ve got smart this time – some of the more expensive ones seem to have somehow vanished, so check eBay. It really was a pleasure. I mean, I had to knock him [Jean] about a bit know and again, he had to phone me to say who I wanted to play The Patrician, so I gave him a list of names. And they chose the one who I really wanted!
When I found that it was Jeremy Irons I actually re-wrote part of the script because I knew how he would say ‘what are we going to do with you, you little scamp!’
TP:He has this wonderful way of enunciating certain words and I just love that. Even though he wears spectacles which, technically, he shouldn’t.
A:Have you got any more films in the pipeline?
VJ:What am I allowed to say? Well, Terry and I have consulted very closely as to what would be the best thing to do next.
TP:They consulted, I was told.
VJ:And then we were told. No, we were all agreed. You haven’t heard this yet, obviously, but we are going to do Going Postal next.
[‘Oooh’ from audience]
TP:Now, that’s leaping ahead a long way in the series. Over the greater length of it for one reason. But sometimes you can think that ‘I’ve had enough of wizards!’ And sometimes fantasy is not just about wizards. It would be very nice if, when we do Going Postal, we could follow it with another book – which would help us make money in some way. The thought has just crossed my mind!
VJ:And then in the longer term, I’d like to point out, we’re not not doing another Rincewind book because we don’t love Rincewind. It’s like Premiership football, with these top stars – they get transferred to other teams, and Man United have got [Jason] for a bit, but we’re getting him back – and then he can go play for LA Galaxy afterwords, something like that. So I just want to point out that it’s nothing to do with the fact that we don’t love Rincewind – we do – but we are prepared to wait until we can get him back again, because as far as I’m concerned no-one else can play that role.
TP: There’s plenty more Rincewind books. I just want to see the Ankh-Morpork post office. There are scenes there that if you get wrong I will absolutely positively hunt you down and kill you. I will hunt you down with a gun. And because, basically, it almost all takes place in the post office, it can’t be big screen. It’s an interior thing. And that seems to be a better TV vehicle.
SA:It’s more recent, new and fresh.
TP:And I like it!
A: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are the most action-packed, in many ways, of Terry’s books – as you go on through the series they get maybe more mature and plot driven but the first books, a huge number of scenes and spectacular images you could have chosen. I was just wondering, seeing what you kept in, if there are any that you really regretted leaving out?
VJ:Gosh. I’ll give a little nod to the kinds of editorial decisions you can make, in the scene where Sean is deciding which milestone to follow – do I go to the giant spider or the dragons? I thought ‘you know what? We’ve never seen transparent dragons before, and we’ve definitely never seen upside-down sword fighting – I would love to see David doing that!’ So that was the decision made there. The book – both books – are so incredibly rich and I think all those dilemmas we went to. But that was one example where I wanted to see something I’d never seen before. And besides, Sean had already been attacked by a spider, you know – so I’m lead to believe.
SA:And upside-down dragons would make better toys these days.
TP:I have to be the one to say that the really nice thing about transparent dragons is that not only do they fit the book but the special effects are remarkably cheap! Look, it’s an invisible dragon!
TP:But then, they have to fade into view, which is the bit I really liked.
A:Some audiences aren’t necessarily familiar with Terry’s work, so why should they come to this story now?
VJ:I think that even though it’s a book written 25 years ago – 25th anniversary this year – it’s the first book I read, the first book that got me into the series, and I still think that it’s really original and very, very funny. I still think it holds up, and I came to the books 6 or 7 years ago and it was still fresh then – there’s nothing like it, and it’s still very funny and very original.
DJ:Well, I think that-
TP:You’re a Knight [Jason], I’m only an OBE, so excuse this.
[Pratchett kneels ceremoniously in front of Jason]
DJ:You’ll make it one day.
DJ: All I was going to mention was that the question was why should an audience come to the books or the film now? Well, I think that this is probably quite original, it’s totally fresh for television, for the movies it’s very modern. I mean, CGI, the special effects that Vadim used so brilliantly, it’s being used in the big major movies, and people accept it, and this sort of entertainment is long overdue. It’s nothing gratuitious, there’s no violence in it. It’s not like what’s-his-name, Rambo, what is it, 257 deaths before the interval? That’s just a different audience, but I think this is accessible to everyone. The Rambo-lovers as well as mums and dads – we’ve got our little ones here and they’ve been loving it, and Sean’s little ones too. I think that given a fair go, and reasonable publicity, that this will attract a lovely family audience, and that’s what we made it for.
TP:I think that, well, what I liked about it. No-one likes everything. God help us, even though my sales are huge there must be some people who don’t read me; I’m certain that there are people who can go and visit them, and help them.
TP:I get people occasionally, at parties, out of mischief perhaps or a desire for misplaced honestly, they say that ‘I…I’ve never read one of your books’ and I say that I don’t mind. Which kind of upsets them a bit, which is the whole idea really. I know what my audience is. And it’s not the classic 14-year old boy called Kevin. And if you ever were a 14-year old boy called Kevin, there’s a cure for that – it lasts exactly 12 months. And now you’re a 36-year old IT manager called Kevin and you have all my books and can afford to buy them in hardback now.
One of my regular fan-ish correspondents is a nun, and there’s any amount of Wiccans – you can’t move for them these days. I know the size of my readership and I know that you never know them until you introduce themselves. I was actually given a book to sign by a Flight Attendant in a British Airways first-class lounge. Once you can get the BA Flight Attendants as fans, then you’ve won through! So, you know, those that want to see it, will like. Those who don’t can watch Rambo.
VJ:We’re going to have to close the questions there, but I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at The Mob, all the cast and crew, everyone at Sky for backing this so fabulously, thank you all for coming and enjoy the evening.
The Colour Of Magic will be shown on Sky over Easter.