This contains spoilers that give away the story and ending of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters (if you’ve not seen it - and I recommend that you do - you can get it on DVD at Amazon: 1999 version | 2011 version - in which they spell it Brendan Fraiser...).
This post is part of a series about my trip to Belfast for the Belfast Film Festival. I wrote this one first because I didn’t take notes at the event and needed to get it all down! It’s actually the shorter version – it was getting a bit unwieldy so I cut some bits out but if you were there and think I missed something important my email address is above, thanks. I’ve tried to keep the swooning to a minimum ;)
|“Brendan Fraser attends film premier at belfast film festival” - by fluterirl on Flickr, creative commons licensed. This photo was taken a few hours after the lunchtime Gods and Monsters event, at the premiere of Terry George's film (in which Brendan stars) Whole Lotta Sole.|
The event was a last-minute addition to the festival programme, announced on the Friday afternoon of the Belfast Film Festival and spotted by me much later that evening as I caught up with the festival tweeting. I’m glad to have spotted it as I’d have hated to have missed this.
Once we were in the theatre Brendan came in and said ‘Hi, I’m Brendan’ to everyone which made me chuckle but it was nice to hear his voice directly, obviously I’ve only ever heard it through cinema or TV speakers before! Then he was properly introduced by one of the festival people.
Before he started to tell us about the film he explained that he was in Belfast for the Whole Lotta Sole premiere and hoped we’d all come along. He was also very complimentary about Martin McCann around whom the film's story revolves – having seen the film later on that evening I’d agree, he’s excellent and the film is hilarious. I may have mentioned that my friend Amanda Hurwitz is in the film, she plays Mary Ellen and is hilarious too :-)
Stupidly I left the notebook in which I’ve made notes at every event in my bag (…I was a bit distracted) and didn’t write anything down, so while Brendan’s comments made perfect sense I might unwittingly mangle the order of things a bit here.
He mentioned that around the time of casting discussions for Gods and Monsters he met with Terence Malick who was working on the Thin Red Line – everyone in Hollywood was in it or wanted to be in it, so there was a fair bit of competition. Brendan had a copy of the ‘script’ though he said it was less of a script and more a thick book full of thoughts and ideas, but apparently that’s how Malick works. Brendan seemed quite chuffed that Malick had really liked Encino Man (known as California Man in Europe). I can’t remember the exact phrase Brendan used in describing what Malick had said about his performance as someone who’d just ‘landed’ on the planet but I thought it was perceptively complimentary, not just ‘oh well done, that was good’.
In any case nothing came of that meeting but by then Brendan heard about Gods and Monsters which was to star Sir Ian McKellen as James Whale (the film director) and Lynn Redgrave as his housekeeper Hanna.
He talked a little about the source material (a book, written by Christopher Bram, called the Father of Frankenstein) but the film’s name comes from the line – “to a new world, of gods and monsters”. The book and film are about a particular point in the later life of James Whale who directed Bride of Frankenstein (he mentioned that this was his favourite) among others.
"I knew that this film had no money, very little time and its working title was 'The Untitled Piece with Ian McKellen' and that's all I needed to know."He’d been really excited about the project as Ian’s one of his heroes. As a student (BFA in acting I think he said, but it may have been theatre; it was a four year course) he’d worn out the library tapes of Ian doing a series on Shakespeare [he asked us if we’d seen it and quite a few had, though not me] and said that he’d learned from this, more than from his course, that Shakespeare’s words should be spoken as naturally as when anyone speaks or writes to someone else.
Brendan Fraser at the March 1999 premiere of the film (source).
After he was cast he went to see Ian McKellen in a play (can’t remember what it was or where it was being performed). At the end Ian did a Q and A and in answer to a question about what he was doing next, said he’d be working on a film with Lynn Redgrave and Brendan Fraser. At this point Brendan did that clutching your chest and ‘oh my god, did he just say my name’ thing haha, so it’s nice to know that he’s not immune to being a bit swoony too.
After the performance the two of them met and the photographers were doing that “pretend like you’re talking to each other” thing while trying to get a shot and Brendan (brilliant mimic by the way) did a great impression of Ian saying, mildly exasperatedly, “but we are talking to each other”.
When filming began they had just a few weeks and it was relatively low budget (about $2 million) and they were a bit stymied by aircraft flying over fairly regularly. At one point they were close to running out of film and Brendan joked that he was all for nipping down to the shops to get more film, or send someone out to get more – “hey, just bill me!”. Fortunately they got everything they needed.
He also mentioned something about the notes on his character’s name (Clayton ‘Clay’ Boone), on the character being a ‘boone of contention’ and the name ‘clay’ implies ‘moulding’ (in terms of whether James Whale is trying to mould Boone as one of his monsters, there’s a point in the film when Boone yells “I’m not your monster”).
At some point I realised that I should get my notebook out as I knew I’d want to write this up later – although it seems my memory without notes is quite a bit better than I’d imagined, although I don’t remember exact phrases. In doing this of course I missed a little bit of his story about a scene that takes place at Whale’s swimming pool – he referred to a bit when Whale is found dead in the pool and then said “oops, hope I haven’t spoiled the ending for you” and we all laughed.
Then he unfolded a bit of paper from his shirt pocket, explained that he’d been in touch with Ian (to let him know that he was introducing the film to us in Belfast) and that Ian had sent him a letter (I seem to remember the word ‘cable’) to read to us – isn’t that lovely? He said Ian’s quite the letter-writer and that also he’s really into email. (He’s also on Twitter too @IanMcKellen).
Brendan read out the letter and I think it began ‘My dear Brendan’ which is a nice way to start letters, Ian also addressed all of us in the auditorium directly. He’d written about the enjoyment of making the film with a lovely bunch of people (and acknowledging that Lynn Redgrave has since died – “may she rest in peace”), and referred to a line which comes from the film (Ian says this, as Whale):
“Making movies was the most wonderful thing in the world. Working with friends. Entertaining people.”
Clive Barker's (executive producer) website is full of quotes from people involved in the film.
Edit: Later in the year I went to see Ian McKellen speak at a London cinema - Gandalf at the Genesis cinema - The Hobbit, Ian McKellen and a Q&A in aid of Step Forward
Nothing to do with Gods and Monsters but people* have kindly pointed out to me that if you visit the flash-enhanced version of Brendan's website (itself a Retronaut-y time-capsule delight seemingly untouched since 2004) you can listen to the full-length version of the BBC R3 version of Tennesee Williams' "Vieux Carré" featuring Brendan as 'the writer'. His voice is lovely. I wonder if anyone's asked him to do an audiobook of TH White's Once and Future King...
Go to http://www.brendanfraser.com/work.swf then click on Vieux Carré and then click on it again and an embedded mp3 player pops up.
*Since I wrote this post a bunch of Brendan's fans have been in touch, which is rather lovely (hello!). Woefully some of them were actually in Belfast for the evening premiere and fairly miffed to have missed hearing about this lovely last-minute addition to the afternoon programme. Sigh.
Edit: 7 September 2012
While packing for another mammoth trip (Orkney Science Festival) I found my ticket in the pocket of my suitcase :)
|Imagine that Blogger had a 'rotate image 90 degrees left' option, or turn your own head 90 degrees to the right.|
Other posts in this series
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #1 - Epic journey to and from Belfast Film Festival
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #2 - Director & Screenwriter Terry George talks film (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #3 - Film editor Nick Emerson talks about editing (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #4 - Actor Brendan Fraser introduces Gods and Monsters (this post)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #5 - Premiere of Whole Lotta Sole (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #6 - Some thoughts on advertising and marketing