Stardust - Matthew Vaughn and Neil Gaiman interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MATTHEW Vaughn and Neil Gaiman, the director and writer of Stardust, talk about some of the challenges of getting the film made and what they liked about working with each other…
Why was Stardust crying out to be adapted for the big screen?
Matthew Vaughn: Because I loved it – I loved the story, I loved the book and I wanted to do something that I could share with my family, my kids and my wife and also do something different. It just felt like a natural thing to do.
You were initially resistant to having the rights handed over to be turned into a film. So why was Matthew Vaughn eventually the right choice?
Neil Gaiman: I let Miramax have it at the end of the ’90s and was very relieved when the option expired and I got it back. Then I spent about five years saying no to various directors and lots of very beautiful blonde young ladies who thought it would be an ideal vehicle for them to play the star. But then Matthew asked and I knew that he loved Stardust. Claudia [Schiffer] had read it first, fell in love with it and made Matthew read it. And he talked to be about how much he’d love to see it as a film and maybe produce it one day.
It got to the point where he called me and said he’d just walked off X-Men 3 and he wanted to make Stardust. It seemed like a no-brainer, so I said: “Yes.” But I also trusted him. In Hollywood, lying is something that people do like breathing but Matthew does what he says he will do and sticks to his word and that meant everything.
How involved were you in the production process? Or did you decide to stay away?
Neil Gaiman: It was very apparent that Matthew had a vision for how he wanted to make the film and I felt very comfortable with that. He was certainly willing for me to chip in if I wanted to but I elected not to. What I did, which I think was probably very fortunate, was I found him his co-writer. I knew just from talking to Matthew that the areas he felt uncomfortable with tended to be the more romantic parts of the script and I thought it would be good for him to work with a woman on this. But it had to be a woman who understood fantasy, who was also funny and sharp, and who could cope with the extra stuff. So, I found Jane Goldman, who I thought would be really good, who loved the book and they hit it off and it worked.
I obviously gave comments on the initial script. Once they got to the second draft I flew in and Jane, Matthew and I sat in Matthew’s office at home and we actually acted the script out. Matthew didn’t – he just watched. But we did the whole thing and made lots of little changes and sorted little niggles while we did that. It was enormously fun.
How was filming on the Isle of Skye?
Matthew Vaughn: I actually love Scotland, so I felt happy up there, but it was challenging. The weather was a joke. On one day, over the course of an hour, we had sun, rain, hail and wind. All of the shots I wanted to get I couldn’t because I wanted a big crane shot and was told that the whole thing would fly off the mountain because of the wind. But I’d happily shoot in Scotland again.
How easy was it to get Robert De Niro involved? And did he choose his own dresses?
Matthew Vaughn: [Laughs] It was surprisingly easy. He read the script and liked it. I was nervous when we had the meeting because it was the last thing he asked me… he actually talked about Layer Cake a lot, more than he did Stardust, which was flattering for me but also made me suspicious that he hadn’t read the script. But then as I was leaving he said: “There’s just one last question… Am I gay or a transvestite?” I certainly didn’t know the answer to that question, so just said: “Whatever you want to be Bob…” And he took it his way. He’s a pretty buff guy, so we had to make the dress for him. But we had a great costume designer.
Q. After Layer Cake, this is a much bigger film. Were you ever daunted by the bigger scale, or working with bigger actors?
Matthew Vaughn: No. I was working on X-Men 3 for three months and that was sort of my University of Big Filmmaking. I prepped a huge film, I learned how to co-ordinate six different film units and I learned very quickly that the hard thing in life is to make good films. Technically, filmmaking is the camera and the actor telling the story and that’s what I’m more interested in doing.