04 December 2007

Looking Out for Iorek Byrnison

As soon as I received the last issue of The Atlantic, I turned to Hanna Rosin’s article “How Hollywood Saved God,” which was said to be about how the people making the Golden Compass movie had altered Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials saga to make its Gnosticism less troubling to non-Gnostics (not that those themes appear much in the first book).

I was disappointed to realize soon enough that that the reporter obviously hadn’t seen either the shooting script or the finished movie, and thus had no evidence on which to base any conclusions.

I did, however, note one passage about how the New Line studio came to option the book:

In 2003, when describing what sold him on the movie, Toby Emmerich, New Line’s president of production, explained, “It was two words: Iorek Byrnison.” Iorek is an “insanely awesome character,” he added.
That much-deserved praise for Pullman's armored polar bear came back to me this weekend when I read Charles McGrath’s story in the New York Times, “Unholy Production With a Fairy-Tale Ending.” Writer-director Chris Weitz initially declined to direct the movie because he felt it would be too big for him to handle.
The studio then turned to an even more unlikely director, Anand Tucker, known mainly for “Shopgirl,” based on the Steve Martin novel, who impressed the executives with storyboards suggesting how the movie might look. But Mr. Tucker and New Line soon ran into the kind of impasse that in Hollywood is called “creative differences.”

“You know, sometimes that’s really what they are: creative differences,” Mr. Emmerich said. From Mr. Emmerich’s own account and that of others, it appears that the problem with Mr. Tucker’s “Golden Compass” was that it was paradoxically both more expensive than the movie New Line was hoping for and smaller in scale. The deal breaker may have been when Mr. Tucker, as a cost-cutting move, decided to eliminate the bear fight, the movie’s great set piece.
Yes, that seems like a very quick way to lose a job: eliminate the most important scene for the studio head’s favorite character!

(Though, plotter that I am, I can’t help but wonder whether Tucker was simply proposing to eliminate that scene in order to force Emmerich to raise the production budget enough to get it back in. When federal agencies do that with their budget requests to Congress, it’s called the “Washington Monument ploy.” It doesn’t always work.)

The movie opens this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Better yet...
Iorek is also an insanely awesome ACTION FIGURE!

To combine this with your recent Batman posts, I recall one Batman movie director's advice to another: "Get ready to sell a lot of vehicles."
By which I think he meant that the Bat-hover-craft had to be in the movie no matter how briefly or pointlessly.

(By the way, I noticed that they are selling a Balloon Car as the Golden Compass vehicle. Hardly a must have toy.)

J. L. Bell said...

I recall seeing a plush armored Iorek offered for sale months ago.

But what I really want is armor for my existing teddy bears.