Until yesterday. Because, after all, it was practically shot in my backyard. And some of my friends had walk-on roles in it.
But most of all, I can’t believe I’d missed such a wonderful, colorful, moving fantasy film set in Alabama and featuring a great cast, including some of my favorite actors–Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Steve Buschemi, Billy Crudup and more.
The movie is the 2003 Tim Burton production, Big Fish, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Daniel Wallace. “Heartwarming” is not a term often used to describe Tim Burton films, but it’s a suitable description of this movie. I confess I cried buckets at the end of it, but good tears, if you know what I mean.
Big Fish is the story of a son, Will Bloom (Billy Crudup), coming home to fictional Ashton, Alabama to visit his dying father and try to sort out the actual truth from the many “tall tales” his larger-than-life ranconteur father, Ed (Albert Finney) has spun over the years. The film features flashbacks to a younger Ed (Ewan McGregor) and his adventures, including meeting a local witch with a glass eye into which one can look to see the future and discovering a perfect town where no one wears shoes. And there’s his tenure with a traveling circus, getting “shot, stabbed, shot out of a cannon” and other dangerous activities in order to learn all he could about Sandra, the woman he had fallen in love with at first sight and is determined to woo and win.
Will, who is expecting a child of his own with his French photographer wife, has been estranged from his dad since a falling-out over his dad’s “colorful” speech at Will’s wedding.. They have only communicated through a third party, Will’s mother (Jessica Lange). Will, frustrated with what he sees as his father’s attention-grabbing ploys, aims to learn the real truth of Ed’s life before his dad passes away. And some of what he learns is very surprising . . I will say no more as I don’t want to give any spoilers. I will add that one of the reviewers commented that fans of Pushing Daisies will enjoy Big Fish.
”] The movie was filmed in and around the towns of Prattville, Wetumpka and Selma, as I recall. In one scene, an address is shown on an envelope including “Greenville Road,” which happens to be the name of my home town (where, by the way, Sweet Home Alabama‘s director and his co-writer worked on the film script while soaking up some local color and scouting for locations). Two of our friends were circus clowns, although my dwarf friend’s part ended up on the cutting room floor. However, he did get featured in a spread on the film in Vanity Fair Magazine, which is not too shabby. My other friend, Jay, is easy to spot: he’s about 6’3″ and weighed close to 400 lbs. at the time. He was one big and intimidating clown. 😉
There is always something cool about seeing places and people you know on the big screen. Famed indie director John Sayles‘ Honeydripper gave us that opportunity several years ago, filming here in Butler County and in some locales to the north and west of us, and featuring lots of familiar faces, some in speaking roles. One of our high school classmate’s sons had a prominent speaking role featured throughout the film. A group of local singers formed an amazing gospel choir featured in one scene and on the soundtrack. I was sitting beside one of their choir members the night of the Alabama premiere and got a kick out of watching her watching herself on that big screen.
It was the first time I actually got to be on location whilst filming was going on, to put on the headphones and see what the director was seeing through the lens, to hang out with the continuity people and talk with set dressers and decorators. I have always been fascinated by the technical side of filmmaking, what goes on behind the scenes, too (that’s been part of the enjoyment of watching Sir Peter’s videoblogs, aside from sightings of Mr. A, of course). John and Maggie, his wife and producer, was super-nice to me and I will never forget their kindness. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ah, the magic of movies!!
Now, Sir Peter, would you please send a new videoblog our way so we can learn more fascinating stuff about the filming of The Hobbit–and give us a possible chance to see–and perhaps even hear–our dear Mr. Armitage? That would be swell!