David Gritten visited the set of “Gulliver’s Travels” for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt from his article in our Holiday Movie Sneaks issue …
Fifty yards from the main set of “Gulliver’s Travels,” in which he plays the title role, Jack Black is sprawling on a chair outside his large trailer, having assumed a facial expression familiar to those who know his big-screen work.
With his trademark manic stare and one eyebrow raised sky high, he looks both bewildered and amazed. But right now, Black isn’t playing for laughs. He’s trying to explain to a visitor the camera technology that allows him to play a hero who is a giant among tiny men and women. “It’s wild,” he says. “I’m, like, 12 times bigger than everyone else in the cast. But they’ve developed this, like, amazing camera, so I can be in the same shot as the little people and interacting with them.”
How does it work? Black’s eyebrows shoot even higher and he stretches out his arms in an eloquent “don’t ask me” expression. Here on the backlot of Pinewood Studios, some 20 miles west of London, various key elements for different scenes in “Gulliver’s Travels” are strategically placed at some distance from each other — a clear indication that this is a green-screen production, dependent on elaborate special effects to be inserted later.
This mammoth Fox production, which will be released Dec. 22, is a loose, lighthearted update of Jonathan Swift’s classic 1726 satire about a traveler who is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a giant in a land of little people.Intriguingly, Black is, in every sense of the phrase, the big man on set. Not only is he the star, he is also one of the film’s four producers. And it turns out that he was integral to the project when the idea for it was just a single spoken sentence.
According to producer Gregory Goodman, “It came out of the office of John Davis [a producer with a long-standing deal at Fox]. I think the idea was simply: Let’s do ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and let’s put Jack Black in it.”
“I jumped at the chance,” Black says. “When the book was written, obviously, the world was not a totally discovered place. You could imagine an island where miniature people might live. It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility as it is today. So we thought: Shall we set it in the future? Make Gulliver a space traveler who goes to a different planet? Instead, we have him going through an inter-dimensional portal to an alternate, not altogether different place…”
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– David Gritten
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