Set Visit: V for Vendetta
The only set visit that Id ever participated in myself was the one for THE FOUNTAIN in February of 2005, mostly because it was in my own backyard of Montreal, Canada, but also because I am a big fan of the director, Darren Aronofsky. Generally, I like to send the rest of the JoBlo.com crew around the world, as the offices are emptier that way and I can order hookers in-house.
That said, when Warner Bros emailed us last May to see who wed like to send to London to visit Natalie Portman and the crew for V FOR VENDETTA, I couldnt help but raise my hand (to myself) and ask to be sent, as I was a big fan of the city of London, I enjoy Ms. Portmans looks and consider myself a pretty big comic book fan around these parts. Also, I had only been to London once in my entire life, and remember really enjoying it quite a bit (from what I remembered, of course).
It was in
1996 when I was living in
All to that say that I was stoked and ready to get back to jolly ol' so that I can order my American chips by asking for crisps, order my Guinness so that I can get wasted and order a fag so that I could well, light a cigarette, of course (and I don't smoke!)
As for the movie itself, well, unless you've never visited this website before, you'd know that the film is directed by James McTeigue (first assistant director on all the MATRIX movies), written by the Wachowski brothers (who wrote and directed the MATRIX movies) and stars Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and John Hurt, and opens wide on March 17th. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name (read our review of that HERE), and can be described as such:
Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, V For Vendetta tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked vigilante (Weaving) known only as V. Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he detonates two London landmarks and takes over the government-controlled airwaves, urging his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about Vs mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plot to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.
Once in London, we were set up in a nice pad overlooking Trafalgar Square, and asked to ready ourselves to visit the set at around 1am that very night. Yeah...you read that correctly...1AM! Around midnight, a bunch of the cool dudes invited to the set with JoBlo.com (read: other webmasters and a slickster from Wizard Magazine) met downstairs in the hotel lobby and headed on over to an old school London edifice, in which we were asked to wait until the folks "on the set" were ready to invite us over to the happenings.
You see, they weren't simply filming on a movie lot somewhere...they were filming on the actual streets of London-- in fact, they had blocked the entire area around the friggin' BIG BEN and PARLIAMENT (anyone who has seen EUROPEAN VACATION knows what I'm talking about) and were about to film the lead character of the film, a man named "V" charging down the street, along with about a thousand other people looking exactly like him-- he wears as mask and cape, so needless to say, the sight was going to be pretty freaky.
Around 1-ish, we were whisked out into the London chill (it's actually pretty cold over there at nights) and walked down the street towards the big-ass crane-lights staring back at us from down the way. The closer we got, the more people in V masks we saw, as well as security, cameras and everything else that comes with Hollywood productions (hookers and coke).
Unfortunately for us, the actual filming process wasn't as "exciting" as you'd hope (it never is), with us mostly just standing around talking about what kind of weed is the best to smoke, while the crew prepared for the next big shot over and over and over again.
Here are a few thoughts that crossed my mind as I stood around for 4+ hours waiting for something to happen:
1) Where's Natalie Portman, yo? (never saw her)
2) Where are the Wachowski siblings? (never saw them)
3) Why is it so cold? (and I'm from Canada!!)
4) Those are some damn cool crane-lights-- when open, they could make the entire scene look like it was taking place during the day, almost.
5) There are a LOT of people working here tonight (at my count, between 500-1000 people were on the "set" that night)
6) I gotta get me one of them cool V masks! (never did)
7) Where's Natalie Portman, yo? (it had to be asked twice, for obvious reasons-- interview with her is coming up though)
8) I wonder if McDonald's is still open at this hour? (it wasn't)
9) Did I leave my computer on at home?
10) I wonder if I can pull off a black cape in my day-to-day life (I couldn't)
All jokes aside though, the visit was ultimately pretty impressive, despite the fact that we didn't see much happen (see pics scrambled around this write-up), simply because one of the busiest areas in the world had been taken over by a film for a few hours.
There were apparently about 400 "V" extras dressed up that night, along with about 100 military folks standing about, intermixed with a few tanks here and there. More "V" characters would later be added with a little something called CGI.
They were only allowed to shoot in that area between 12am-4:30am and this was their 3rd & final day of shooting there.
There were 3 massive crane-lights lighting up that entire area, and 6 cameras filming all of the action.
About 20 real London policemen were watching the set, along with about 70 security guards hired by the studio.
Since they could only stop traffic for 4 minutes at a time, the filmmakers had to prep really well, so that they could use those 4 minutes wisely. Once their shot was done, they would allow traffic to pass through that area as they prepared for another take. It was funny seeing the people going by in the double-decker buses wondering what the f*ck was going on in their infamous square (while a Canadian webmaster flipped them the bird at every single turn).
For some odd reason, there were real protestors standing about with signs that read "No Turkish recognition of Armenian Genocide, no EU membership!" (great sign!), "Bush and Blair...bloody killers" and the like, which apparently had nothing to do with the film. The world is crumbling around us, people.
Despite taking place in England and in order to minimize costs, most of the film was shot in Germany because of tax breaks and co-financing opportunities. Amazingly, the film only ended up costing about $50Million, which is an extremely low figure these days.
Ultimately, we saw a few scenes being shot, a few V characters marching down the street and plenty of grass, as we stood around, talking amongst ourselves. The "real deal" was to come the next day though, as we were going to get to interview the film's director James McTeigue, the dude playing the man behind the mask, Hugo Weaving, and the fairest lady of them all: Natalie Portman (sans hair).
As for me, I'm still trying to get someone to deliver some pizza to my room at 5 in the morning!! It's not working out so well. Damn you, London!!
FOR VENDETTA opens wide on March 17th
Check out its OFFICIAL SITE HERE!!
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