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Gormenghast



Crew Bios
Estelle Daniel, Producer | Christopher Hobbs, Production Designer
Andy Wilson, Director | Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Costume Designer



Estelle Daniel
Producer


Producer Estelle Daniel's journey to bring one of the great unfilmed works of English literature to the screen has been an epic of its own kind. Originally commissioned to air in England at the millennium, Gormenghast was to serve as an antidote to the BBC's standard fare of 18th- and 19th-century costume dramas.

"The big question was, what should it look like? That is the worry when you do a fantasy piece," explains Daniel. "Whether it's Star Trek or any of these other worlds, you have to take audiences in right at the beginning; they have to accept the internal rules and realities of the place and have to be comfortable with it."

Daniel first read the Gormenghast books as a teenager and then reread them as an adult. "When I read them at 15, they struck me like the Tolkien books, as fantasy.... I was just blown away by the visual world when I read them this time."

As she researched author Mervyn Peake's life, the logic of giving Gormenghast an Oriental look grew. "Peake spent part of his childhood in China, where his father was a doctor.... He was fascinated by how everything used to happen at certain times on specific days, via these very formulaic rituals," says Daniel. "We began to understand the forces that were at work in his imagination."

Daniel was also keen to use Gormenghast as a vehicle for reflecting on the past century of art. "It has allusions to lots of 20th-century artists," she says. "We commissioned original music by Richard Rodney Bennett and choral music by John Tavener. We have nods to some of the great 20th-century artists -- [Wassily] Kandinsky banners; sculptures that look like [Joan] Miro's; murals in the spirit of [Paul] Klee. A good classic should operate on all sorts of different levels, and that is there for the discerning audience."

Originally trained as a theater director, Daniel came to the BBC in the early 1980s as a script editor on various programs, including the popular soap opera East Enders. For more than 10 years, she worked as head of development for BBC drama producer Michael Wearing. With Wearing, she developed "a whole raft of serial drama," much of which has aired on PBS's ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre. During that time, she also worked intermittently as a producer and an executive producer. Gormenghast is her third film with director Andy Wilson.

With Gormenghast complete, Daniel's enthusiasm is high, but she is aware that there will be people who have imagined the book differently. "People have always said it's dark and Gothic, but it's not. It's warm and funny as well as being a great action-adventure story," says Daniel. "What I would say is that this is our interpretation of a classic. It will always be that way with classics. We will sit here in 2000 and come at it from our own political and cultural standpoint. It will be done again at some point in the future from the standpoint of another era, I'm sure."


 Crew Bios:
Estelle Daniel, Producer | Christopher Hobbs, Production Designer
Andy Wilson, Director | Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Costume Designer

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