STORMBREAKER SET VISIT JULY 2005
As promised, heres a report of my recent visit to the Isle of Man where Stormbreaker is now in its third week of production (nine more to go!) In case youre wondering why the Isle of Man, its all to do with tax. Shooting there works out cheaper which means the production can afford more bullets, explosions, bad guys etc. Youd be amazed how many movies are shot on the IoM but it works very well for Stormbreaker. The countryside looks exactly like Cornwall which, as you probably know, is where the book is set.
So what did I see?
Well, when I arrived, they were shooting the scene where Smithers gives Alex his gadgets. Alex Pettyfer looked exactly how I imagined Alex Rider and was giving a great performance opposite Stephen Fry who was having a lot of fun (and doing quite a bit of re-writing) with Smithers. The two of them already knew each other from Tom Browns Schooldays on ITV. Alex had been Tom and Stephen had played the headmaster.
The scene was shot in a back room of a truly hideous hospital but it had been decked out with weird props including a stuffed parrot, a giant cocktail glass and about a thousand toys. This is just one of the many changes Ive made to the book. In the film, Alex visits Smithers at Hamleys the famous toyshop in London. Theyll be filming the outside of the toyshop and part of the ground floor later this year. The magic of the movies!
The afternoon was mayhem. We moved to a local school on the Isle of Man where about 150 kids were dressed up in different uniforms and taking part in three scenes that (in the film) will seem to be three different schools. The scenes come right at the end of the film when the Stormbreakers are about to release their deadly secret. I got to meet Sarah Bolger who plays Sabina Pleasure. Yes. Thats another change. Alex does have a girlfriend (sort of) from the start. But dont worry! Were making an action film, not a romance.
And if you have any doubts, you should have been there the next day when I saw a stuntman hanging upside-down from a helicopter, chasing a car along a winding road at about 50mph. He was being chased by a second helicopter with an amazing, spherical camera on its nose and by two camera trucks. This was a really, really dangerous stunt and it opens the film so it has to be spectacular. It was. The stuntman (playing Yassen Gregorovich) was Lee Sherwood who is one of the best in the businesscheck his credits on the internet. It was freezing and windy and he must have had nerves of steel to be whipped alongsometimes only inches from the car. And if the pilot had made a mistake and Lee had so much as touched the car, apparently hed have been electrocuted!
All in a days work!
And at the same time as all this was going on, Alex Pettyfer was riding a quad bike, being chased by about a dozen jet black jeeps and quad bikes with black-suited guards spraying machine gun bullets in every direction. He was doubled in some scenes youll see quad bikes screeching round corners, often on only two wheels but he did a lot of the work himself. It was a fantastic day. Ive never seen so many bullets fired at one boy. Sparks and explosions everywhere.
Later on, they showed me FOUR MINUTES OF THE FILM.
OK. It was only four minutes. A little bit of Alicia Silverstone as Jack Starbright. A bit of Missi Pyle (out of Dodgeball) as Nadia Vole. I saw the scene that opens the book, when Alex hears about the death of Ian Rider, and a little bit of action with Alex using his yoyo at Sayle Enterprises. But I came away drooling. The director, Geoff Sax, seems to understand the book completely and although his film is different in all sorts of ways, the tone and the mood of it is exactly the same. Its really funny in places. Sad in others. And the motorbike, helicopter and car chase that opens the film is going to be thrilling.
So there it is. Sorry if this all sounds a bit crazed but its taken three years to get here (in fact I wrote the first book six years ago) and I cant believe theyve got it so right.
Ill be going back to the Isle of Man in a couple of weeks time and if youve enjoyed this report (let me know) Ill write up another one.
Oh one last thing.
There are a couple of photos of me on the set. Why me? Its not because Im full of myselfits just that the producers didnt want me to post anything else. Shots of Alex in action and all the really interesting stuff are being kept back for the press. But you can see the car that opens the film and that enormous black helicopter will be flying over the Science Museum at the end. Check out Sayles guards too. Fun or what?
PS The hideous puffer jacket I'm wearing isn't mine. It was freezing on the set and someone lent it to me!