A bit ago, on a certain Tuesday at 2 pm, I got the call to be at the airport at 5:30 pm to fly to London for a visit to the Stardust sets. Neil had called the day before so I was already packed and ready for the adventure. Wednesday morning I stumbled off the plane at Gatwick and was met by a driver and taken, first to a hotel to freshen up, then on to London to pick up Neil, and then to Pinewood Studios where the film was being shot. The cast and crew were scheduled for a night shoot so it was still quiet when we arrived mid-afternoon. We toured the costume and art departments then casually wandered through several gorgeous full size sets.
All the photos below were taken by Neil’s cellphone.
Top photo: The artist himself, posing by a replica of one of the Lilum,
impaled on the wall of the set of the Witch Queen’s palace.
Bottom photo: The crew busy prepping a scene on the same set.
The re-creation of the Mountain Inn that the Witch Queen conjures up in order to trap the Star was lovely. The exterior looked just perfect for an artist’s studio but a bit too big to consider absconding back to Virginia. However the interior was a perfect lair of bone furniture and dark wooden beams just right for the Lilum though a bit gloomy for my art making. (Oh yeah? What about that mountain of skulls you drew in The Books of Magic Charles? remarks Karen) Later that night they were shooting Michelle Pfeiffer’s last scenes in the witch’s lair, a set that fills almost an entire sound stage, stunning to say the least! She was in hag makeup and costume when I spoke with her. Luminous, beautiful eyes peering out of a face made up to look hundreds of years old. The next day I was overcome with the need to draw and retired to the art department and there, surrounded by minature constructions of all the sets, I did just that. Several hours later I’d penciled out a nice concept drawing for the new hardcover edition of Stardust, the book that Vertigo will be releasing next spring. The only trouble was the drawing was too large for my portfolio so we scanned it onto disc for future reference and Neil and I then presented it to Clare Danes. That earned me several big hugs. Nice!
A somewhat blurry photo of our Stardust girl, Clare Danes,
enjoying a relaxing moment.
None of the designs look quite like my original drawings but are never the less very satisfying in their own right. Much as if they were from an alternative world of Stardust just slightly over to the left from my own. After seeing some 35 minutes of raw footage from the film I was blown away. In the rushes were equal amounts of adventure, humor and downright terror. Michelle makes for a very, very scary Witch Queen and Clare is a lovely transformed fallen star. Charlie Cox (Tristran) evolves from lovable nerd to hero as naturally as if he were born for the role. I think (big sigh of relief) that it could very well be a lovely movie. Come next March we will all know.
After two days of glam, Neil and I headed for the train station in route to the Scottish Highlands. But everything came to screeching halt when I discovered I’d left my portfolio in our cab. Neil caught the train and I returned back to the taxi stand. After a frantic search and several calls to the Taxi Company and to the Police Department’s lost and found, I continued on to Scotland on the next train. What else could I do? I’d been told that there was a very good chance that my portfolio would be returned but that it would take 4-6 days to process through the system. So why wait impatiently in a London hotel? The Highlands are a place of what some have called ‘a terrible beauty’ and not for those that only want picture postcard beauty. After two days of walking the moors and mountains, where the continual wind clears your head of most any confusion, Neil proclaimed that I was doing the best job of zenning out my could-be disaster that he’d ever seen.
Neil and myself enjoying the typical Scottish weather.
Upon my return to London the following Monday the trustworthiness of the London cabbie was revealed. I give them an enormous tip of the hat because I soon had my portfolio and all my art safe and sound, back in my hands.
A good thing too, as it contained all of the artwork for my current project, a collection of short stories by Susanna Clarke, The Ladies of Grace Adieu. The book will have 19 b/w illustrations and be published by Bloomsbury Books this October.
Also in the portfolio were all of my pencil layouts to the Blueberry Girl picture book for Harper Collins. Lordy, loosing all that art would have been a personal disaster.
Then it was back home for one day and a turn around to the San Diego Comic Con for more Stardust business.
On the day of our presentation Neil, Jane Goldman (the co-writer of the screenplay and a genuinely gracious lady) and I were made up and groomed in preparation for the media circus. It was a hoot. The stylist kept asking why I was laughing… A stretch limo was there to take us two blocks (!) to the back of the Convention Center so we wouldn’t have to navigate through the crowds. Then there was a short wait in the Media Green Room where I saw directors Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro (the previews for his next film, Pan’s Labyrinth, look GREAT!) and others. Then into Hall H where a crowd of 6000 plus watched our presentation of STARDUST footage. A slight look to the right or left while answering questions revealed your face projected up to 10′ on giant screens – weirdly amusing! Then several hours of print and media interviews followed.
The last 2 days at Comic Con I wandered the aisles, stopping to talk to many friends.
I think that I’m going to try for a booth next year, there will be more Stardust prints for the deluxe portfolio and perhaps a sculpture or two.