Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Film and Theatre News

Anthony Hopkins told SCI FI Wire that he has recently completed work on Robert Zemeckis' upcoming computer-animated version of Beowulf, based on the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, and added that he found the entire process fascinating. "I play Hrothgar, king of the Danes," Hopkins said in an interview while promoting his latest film, The World's Fastest Indian. "Beowulf comes to slay the evil monster, and... I can't even remember now! See, that's how... I learn all my lines, and I forget them as soon as it's over."

In the movie, Ray Winstone plays the title character, a warrior who must face down the troll Grendel (Crispin Glover) in order to save the Danish people. Zemeckis is making Beowulf - which also stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn and Brendan Gleeson (recently seen playing Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) — with the same motion-capture animation technique he pioneered in The Polar Express.

Hopkins said that he found the process of acting in such a film fascinating if, at the end of the day, perhaps a bit unnecessary. "It was pretty strange, but it's fun," he said. "It's odd, but I enjoyed it. People say you have a lot of freedom. Well, you don't, actually. You don't wear any clothes. You wear sort of a wetsuit. You're covered in dots and all these little markers all over you. Before each scene you have to say, 'T-pose,' and you stand like [a letter T]. They photograph you for the computer, and you're taken into the computer."

Hopkins added: "You've got dots all over your eyes, [too], so they can now actually make the eye movements real. [They're] these little pearls. You know the reflectives on road signs? They're made of the same material, these little pearls, these ball bearings, whatever they are, and they're coated in this reflective thing. And, of course, they come off every so often, so you have to have a checkup. They put an infrared on you, and they say, 'A-94 is missing,' so they stick it [back] on your head. You've got about 80 or maybe 90 of these things all over your face. You have to take them off at night, and they're all sticky. Big deal. But, no, it's interesting. I don't know why they bother to do it that way. Why not just do a blue screen and photograph the actors? But this is almost photorealism. It was interesting, and I like Zemeckis very much."

Beowulf will be released on November 21, 2007. The film is not to be confused with Beowulf & Grendel, the as-yet-unreleased live-action epic starring Phantom of the Opera's Gerard Butler as Beowulf.

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CBS has struck a deal with Aardman Animations for a half-hour TV series based on the Oscar-winning short Creature Comforts, Variety has reported.

Aardman, the studio behind "Wallace & Gromit", will use its stop-motion animation style for the show, which will be produced in both the United Kingdom and Los Angeles. King of the Hill writer Kit Boss is aboard as executive producer and show runner.

The network has ordered seven episodes of Creature Comforts. Given the painstaking process of filming the show's clay-based characters, they will take a year to produce. The project is targeted for January or midseason 2007.

A British version of Creature Comforts is already a success for ITV and ran last year on BBC America. Aardman and CBS are planning a new take for the United States. But the basic format will remain the same: Audio excerpts from real-people interviews are used as the voices for a slew of animated animals, who will comment on various aspects of everyday life.

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The curtain rose February 4 on the multimillion-dollar stage musical version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in Toronto, the Reuters news service reported.

The production will align theater and a range of musical traditions, including work by Finnish group Varttina and Indian composer A. R. Rahman, to deliver a retelling of Tolkien's fantasy classic, producer Kevin Wallace told Reuters.

Previews begin on Saturday at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theater, ahead of a March 23 world premiere. The show boasts a 55-strong cast and three acts and will run more than three hours.

It is hoped the show will go to London next and then, if the musical proves to be a hit, to Broadway.

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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the stop-motion-animated film that was just nominated for an Oscar, will hit DVD and VHS on February 7 in the US and February 20 in the UK, DreamWorks Home Entertainment announced. The DVD will feature the hit movie starring the cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his ever-faithful dog, Gromit.

The DVD comes with commentary by the film's two directors, Oscar-winning "Wallace & Gromit" creator Nick Park and Steve Box. The US edition of the DVD also includes the U. S. debut of Box's award-winning short film Stage Fright.

Other special features include behind-the-scenes footage of the stop-motion animation process, a tour of Aardman Studios and a never-before-seen sneak peek at DreamWorks Animation and Aardman's upcoming theatrical release, Flushed Away (and boy is there a great voice cast on this movie !), which hits cinemas on November 3. The UK edition of Curse of the Were-Rabbit's special features include: "A First Hand Look At The Coolest Techniques In Filmdom Including How To Build A Bunny" and smashing games including "Anti Pesto SWAT Team", "Victor Quartermaine's Guide To Cool", and "Style With Lady Tottington" ! (This is on my Amazon wishlist !)

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