This past week, ComingSoon.net spent a day at Media Pro Studios in Bucharest, Romania where Fox Walden Films have been producing their first movie The Dark Is Rising, adapted from Susan Cooper’s Newberry Award winning fantasy novel of the same name by Danny Boyle’s frequent collaborator John Hodge (Trainspotting, The Beach) and directed by David Cunningham (The Path to 9/11).
Although The Dark Is Rising is Susan Cooper’s second book in a series of five, it’s also a great introduction to the concepts and characters of the series, probably why it was chosen for the first movie by producer Marc Platt and the new company formed by Walden Media and 20th Century Fox. As production came close to wrapping after nearly three months of intense work, we had a chance to check out the remaining sets and talk to most of the cast and crew, many of whom never had read Cooper’s books before coming onto the project.
It stars newcomer Alexander Ludwig from Vancouver as Will Stanton, a thirteen-year old boy from a large American family that recently moved to Huntercombe Village in the British countryside. Just days before Christmas, on Will’s 14th birthday, he encounters a group of strange characters who claim to be the last remaining members of ancient race known as The Old Ones– Ian “Deadwood” McShane’s Merriman Lyon, Frances “Six Feet Under” Conroy’s Miss Greythorne, James Cosmo’s Dawson and Jim “Best in Show” Piddock’s George. They show him how to use powers he never knew he had to travel through time as he tries to find the six signs that are key to the Old Ones’ eternal battle with The Dark, their evil counterpart epitomized by the always great Christopher Eccleston (“Dr. Who,” “Heroes”) as The Rider, a menacing adversary on horseback who doesn’t make Will’s quest any easier.
Fans of the book or those who’ve read them might be surprised by the number of changes made in order to place the story more in the modern-day real world than other recent fantasy filmsthings like the Dark’s ancient “Walker” being played by a still very young Jonathan Jackson. That said, one can expect epic Viking battles and a snake-filled 13th Century chapel, just one of the many jaw-dropping sets and locations built from scratch on MediaPro’s soundstages by Romania’s talented set builders, as well as some impressive in-camera effects like the intentional flooding of one of those sets.
Even though The Dark Is Rising is part of a series, none of the cast or crew involved with making the movie are spending too much time worrying about having to figure out which book to adapt next until this one is done, and they can figure out how well it’s been received.
The Dark Is Rising will open on October 5, 2007, but stay tuned to ComingSoon.net in the next few months when we’ll be running some of the more interesting interviews and a more comprehensive write-up of our visit to the set. Check back soon to find out why a mace-wielding Ian McShane isn’t crazy about Bucharest, how animal-lover Frances Conroy has adopted Bucharest’s rampant stray dog population, and how a giant snow globe plays a pivotal role in the movie’s climax as well as how the movie came together under the guidance of Cunningham and his creative team.