In theaters tomorrow, Inkheart is a magical story that will have you wanting to literally dive deep into literature. The film is directed by Iain Softley from the book series of producer Cornelia Funke. Watch the pages unfold on screen, and you’ll see quite the stellar cast, including Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, and the man, the myth, the mummy buster – Brendan Fraser. A week or so ago, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with several of the aforementioned to learn a bit more about the film.
By all accounts, the production was a fun one, full of dinners rich with wine served up by director Iain Softley to his mostly British crew. Fraser considered himself the token Yank surrounded by Brits. Filming took place mostly on location in some stunningly beautiful Italian locations, a fact that made the logistical side of filmmaking a bit difficult. A few key scenes take place on a narrow stone bridge towering 100 feet up in the air, which resulted in stilted platforms and dangling cameramen. Lots of dangling camermen, in fact. In capturing the shots and the plethora of practical effects, from wind to debris to live animals, five or six cameras would be rolling at a time to record the action.
Everyone involved valued the books as a research aide, providing hundreds of pages of background to each character. From the page to the screen, a few things had to change for time limitations and a few other things were changed just to switch up the recipe. Different characters were drawn out of the books and were given bigger roles in the story. Director Softley came up with the idea of writing appearing on the faces of some “misread” characters, a visual touch that nicely illustrated their literary roots.
Fraser was drawn to the role directly at the behest of Funke, but was also happy to be involved in a warm family film that was about literature without being condescending. Having turned 40 and begun raising his own family, the story fit perfectly with how Fraser wanted to continue. The animated and passionate actor also honestly confessed to also just needing to work as he continues to dig himself out of the self-professed quicksand his career was in after his Looney Toons debacle.
Speaking of Fraser, and of speaking, you may notice he sounds like, well, himself. The cast was peppered with questions about accents, why it was chosen that the character Mo, who had an obviously British family, didn’t have an accent. Fraser indicated it never came up and Softley never gave it thought – though he did say faked accents can ruin a film. Sounds like he read my Boiling Point. Funke came up with a clever explanation – Mo’s voice was different because he was a Silvertongue, someone who can read characters out of books.
On the fun side of things, Paul Bettany plays Dustfinger, a fire eater who also juggles flames on pair of whirling chains – quite awesome to watch. Bettany spent 2 months training with live fire only to show up and have the insurance company refuse to bond the film if he actually used fire. To the film’s credit, the digital fire (and the rest of the digital effects) looked great.
If the film does well with its intended audience, described as 8-14 year olds, though with plenty to entertain adults, there are sequels already being prepared based on the books in the Inkheart series, Inkspell and Inkdeath. All of the actors are ready and excited to continue on, with everyone sort of signed on for the trilogy. In the sequel, all of the characters would enter the world of Inkheart and undergo some dramatic changes. The character of Meggie would spend plenty of time with Fengolio (Jim Broadbent) while Fraser’s Mo becomes a killing machine and a Robin Hood like thief figure.
Sounds pretty wicked cool to me. Stay tuned for our review of Inkheart on Friday.