INTERVIEW: Neil Gaiman Talks ‘MirrorMask’ and More

A while back novelist/screenwriter Neil Gaiman posted a link to our MirrorMask gallery on his official site and immediately the film shot to the top of our preview lists compelling me to look more into just who this guy was and where this loyal following of fans came from.

Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with Neil’s publicist for MirrorMask and set up an interview with him from the Sarasota Film Festival where he is currently showcasing MirrorMask following his Sundance Film Festival presentation. I got the chance to talk with him about MirrorMask, the festival life, his upcoming projects and his future in film.

First off, I asked how his experience at Sundance was and he quickly answered, “An exhausting and very long nine days. MirrorMask happened late, but the reviews and the audience reactions were amazing.”

If you haven’t yet checked out the information, stills and trailers we have for MirrorMask do so right now before heading on, just click here, just so you will know exactly what we are talking about here.

In asking Neil to quickly describe the film he quoted what he felt was the best tagline from The Hollywood Reporter saying, “It’s The Wizard of Oz for the 21st century, I thought that was just great.”

He is also reserved in the way audiences have already responded to the films citing, “This is a family film, for kids, teenagers and adults, but not everyone is going to enjoy it.” However he was quite excited, yet taken aback by some of the responses he got after the screenings at Sundance.

“The first ever screening was at a high school, where the majority of the kids thought it was the coolest thing they had ever seen. One girl asked me to sign her arm, which I was not unfamiliar with signing body parts so I went ahead and signed it, but then she said, ‘I don’t even know who you are, but you had something to do with that.'”

It took him a while to become accustomed to the atmosphere surrounding the festival and finally realize that among all the celebrity hoopla there was actually a film festival going on and he commented, “It was weird and interesting at the same time to see people lined up to see the film five hours ahead of time.”

MirrorMask was made on a budget of almost nothing in comparison to the film’s coming out in this genre. If Shrek had been made on this budget you may have had a five minute film but when there is heart in a project there is no stopping it.

Gaiman wrote the screenplay for MirrorMask in February of 2002, finally got the green light, or what he described as a “green-ish almost amber light” in May of 2003 and finally the live-action portion of the film was shot by director Dave McKean in June and July of 2003, before the massive amount of CGI effects were laid down.

If you have seen the trailer you know just how much of an escape from the real world MirrorMask will be. Gaiman compares it to such films as Labyrinth, Spirited Away and Paper House, “films of a certain kind of genre in which a girl gets to go somewhere and search something out.” The story centers on Helena, a 15-year-old girl in a family of circus entertainers, whose mother falls quite ill and Helena is convinced that it is all her fault. On the eve of her mother’s major surgery, she dreams that she is in a strange world with two opposing queens, bizarre creatures, and masked inhabitants. All is not well in this new world – the white queen has fallen ill and can only be restored by the MirrorMask, and it’s up to Helena to find it. But as her adventures continue, she begins to wonder whether she’s in a dream, or something far more sinister.

Gaiman’s imagination has taken him further than many of us can dream, and when asking him about his plans for the future, it is a future so bright he may have to wear shades as he says, “Most people have careers, fortunately I have had a run at the candy store from books to film. I did a short film last year and I am directing a film for New Line this year based on my book, ‘Death: The High Cost of Living‘… I actually turned in the third draft of the script just the other day, it will be 100 percent live-action.”

Gaiman’s film career doesn’t stop there, more like it actually is just getting started, as news recently came out that Sony and Steve Bing have already gambled upwards of $2 million on a Beowulf script penned by Richard Avary and Neil Gaiman, for Robert Zemeckis to direct.

The film will be the second venture into an all motion-capture film for Zemeckis, just like his highly successful The Polar Express. Unfortunately we have had to wait this long for interest in the script as Gaiman says, “I wrote the script six years ago, and it is based off the whole poem… It will be the story you read in high school, filled with bravery, need, sex and lots of fun spanning from Beowulf battling Grendel to 50 years later when he sets out to kill the dragon that attacks his people. Robert [Zemeckis] really wanted to do something more adult after The Polar Express and this is it.”

Fortunately for Gaiman it doesn’t matter if he puts the pen to paper to pump out a graphic novel or a screenplay, he is fortunate enough to get his work optioned either way, as he says, “People are forever buying options.”

On top of “Death: The High Cost of Living” and the Beowulf script he tells me that his spooky story for young girls, the graphic novel Coraline, illustrated by MirrorMask helmer Dave McKean, has been optioned by Henry Selleck as well as there are several options out for his 2001 novel, American Gods.

MirrorMask is yet to receive an official release date, but keep your wary eye out for it coming to a film festival near you. For more on the film, including trailers, cast, synopsis and stills simply click here, more pics will be coming in the near future.