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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Garth Jennings Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Were you at all nervous about taking on something as enormous as this, particularly among fans, and especially because you came onto the project at the last minute?
A.
My initial reaction when I first read the script was all the memories came flooding back of these things we'd grown up with and loved so much.
The second reaction was 'well, we definitely can't do this because there are loads of people like us, who are fans, that take it incredibly seriously, and that's just too daunting a task'.
So that was my initial reaction. But once you start to think about 'how would I design Marvin?' Or if I was going to do a Vogon poetry scene, how would I do that, you suddenly realise that it's actually the best job in the whole world. To be honest, once I got started, even just drawing the odd little picture and stuff like that, the idea of these hungry fans just waiting to pounce just became abstract.
And I haven't thought about it until you asked me just now - so I'm frightened again now!

Q. What has the reaction been of test-screen audiences who have no knowledge of the previous version?
A:
Oh it's been great! That was one of the best days I think I've ever had - was test screening the film in Pasadena. I'd never been there, had no idea where it was, turned up to this complex that was situated on a giant mall, and there was queue going round the block to get into it. It was revealed afterwards that only half the audience had heard of the book; the other half had just come along to this weird sounding movie.
The first five minutes were terrifying because you're wanting it to work and at that stage as well, I hadn't finished, and it turned into the best evening ever. Just two years work had worked and it was great. It was a proper comedy and it was really satisfying.

Q. How big a problem did you find scaling Douglas Adams' original text down? Was it difficult?
A.
Well I think all the scaling down, all the editing, had been done. So by the time we got the script, Douglas' draft had just been revised by Karey [Kirkpatrick] and it was in such great shape that I'd say almost all of the pairing down had been done. What we did was add stuff; we ended up putting in things that we loved, like the scene where the whale falls out of the sky and has to come to terms with who he is and what it's doing, things like that we thought were amazing. And we're still amazed that they made it into the final film, which is great.

Q. Given the advances in special effects since the TV series, was there ever a danger that the film might become overwhelmed with special effects?
A.
Yes. When Nick and I first read the script and responded to it, our initial reaction was to make something that wasn't trying to compete with the current trend for just CG-heavy movies. It would have been such a shame if it had just ended up trying to outdo The Matrix, or something like that.
What's nice for us is that we wanted to do it in a more inventive way, almost old-style as well as the new style. Still use CG elements but not have them dominate because it is a comedy first and foremost, and the minute you start trying to just outdo yourself... even my mum is so used to those effects now she's just not impressed. So we decided to make people out of wool and it feels like more of an inventive and funny approach.

Q. What about if you'd perhaps had more money?
A.
I can honestly say that even if we'd had double the budget I would hope that our approach to the film would have been the same. And I'm really proud of it. I actually think it needed to be done in that way because it's better than seeing all the things you usually see in a sci-fi movie. You actually see a spaceship crashing from a crab's point of view and more inventive ways. Douglas was good at focusing on all the little details. So I hope we've sort of tried to take that approach throughout the movie.

Q. Given the jovial nature of the cast, did you ever have any trouble with them on-set? Was anyone a victim of a Bill Nighy prank?
A.
It was quite straight-forward actually, everyone is very different. But they're all different for the right reasons. There wasn't any frought tensions on-set. It was incredibly loud most of the time. In fact, the problem was it was incredibly loud, actually. You'd either have Freddie Mercury playing on Sam's walkman/stereo before he came on and did his scenes, or Zooey would be playing the banjo. I'm not joking, she plays amazing banjo.
It was a bit of a tea-party for us all, most of the time, in so far that it was a bit mad. But it was fun.

Q. If you discovered the world was going to end in ten or 12 minutes time, how would you spend those minutes?
A.
Thanks, all the funny people went first! I've no idea. I don't know what I'd do. I better call my mum, that's really important. Phone my mum! I'd just say, 'see ya, it was great, thanks for having me and give my love to dad'.

Photo by: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

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