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Gormenghast



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



Christopher Hobbs
Production Designer


Christopher Hobbs, acclaimed designer of such films as Caravaggio, Mansfield Park, and Velvet Goldmine, put other projects on hold to devote himself to creating the original and exotic world of Gormenghast.

"I was born to do this film," he says, "partly because I was born in the year Mervyn Peake began writing this and partly because I love the books, but also because it brings together all sorts of ideas that I have had in scribble pads for years. I put them all into this." Early in 1997, BBC producer Estelle Daniel and director Andy Wilson suggested that the Gormenghast look might have been influenced by Peake's childhood memories of the Forbidden City in Beijing. They also gave Hobbs, an artist and sculptor in his own right, two images of distant castles: one a traditional image from Ladakh, the northernmost region of India; the other a Max Ernst picture called The Entire City. Based on these references, he collected similar images from ancient Persia, Morocco, Italy, and China, seeking castles that had endured for centuries because of their novel construction.

"I always look at lots and lots of books, and then I draw and draw and draw and draw. I put together this collage to see where it was going to take me," says Hobbs. "And I realized that I could take forms of architecture from all over the world and they would blend together into a form of architecture which is quite believable."

Hobbs's process is to then create detailed working drawings of the sets he is planning. "I do them for several reasons. One, it obviously helps to clarify my ideas. If I can see a concept very clearly, then I can see what may be wrong with it. I also find it helpful because it shows the producer and the director what they're going to get. Obviously that can change, but for the most part, it's quite definitive. Otherwise there's not much point in doing it. The drawings also help me to see what's needed. I paint in props which helps the set crew gather the right materials without endless text descriptions.

"Rather than a specific Chinese approach, I offered an amalgam of Tibetan and Byzantine architecture, dressed with ancient woodwork from Uzbekistan, India, and the Philippines," says Hobbs. To suggest the vast age of Gormenghast Castle, Hobbs used rotting timbers, draperies hung in gilded rags, and crumbling walls bleached in the sun.

"People are... comforted when they go to these great, stable places like Mount Athos," explains Hobbs. "I wanted to get the feeling of a place that has gone on and on but is now threatened."

Hobbs also knew that fans of the books would scrutinize the production for detail. "I made sure certain things that were in the books were there on the set. For instance, I made sure that Fuchsia's room did have a portrait of a Groan with tattoos on his face, and two little girls playing with vipers and two armies clashing with orange and purple flags." The greatest compliment came when Peake's family visited the set. "The family all seemed to think it was right, that it looked how it should look, which was hugely pleasing for me."


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

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