Comic-Con 2006: First (Spoilerish) Look at Neil Gaiman's "Stardust"!

by | July 26, 2006 | Comments

"MirrorMask" novelist Neil Gaiman presented a smorgasbord of raw footage from the upcoming "Stardust," a star-studded fantasy-adventure adapted from his wildly popular graphic novel of the same name. Judging from the clip show, fans of fantasy, romance, and many more genres have a lot to look forward to…

"Stardust" follows Gaiman’s story about a country lad named Tristan (Charlie Cox) who sets out to retrieve a fallen star in order to win the heart of the beautiful Victoria (Sienna Miller). To do this, he must cross the town’s age-old border into a magical realm, and must contend with others who wish to possess the star for themselves, including a youth-hungry witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a power-hungry band of seven lords.

[Serious Spoiler Warning!]

Without drawing too many parallels to "The Princess Bride" (of which there are many), "Stardust" has a lot to offer movie fans. There’s romance between Tristran and his crush Victoria, and [Possible Spoiler] later with the fallen star herself, Yvaine (Claire Danes). There’s also comedy in the form of Brit funnyman Ricky Gervais, who plays Ferdy the Fence, a less-than-scrupulous occult salesman who draws the wrath of Pfeiffer’s sorceress, Lamia. There are scenes of epic grandeur as Tristan hikes through the magical land of Faerie on his quest. And there is Robert De Niro as a flying pirate named Captain Shakespeare, who seems to be the only character in the cast who doesn’t even attempt a British accent.

Gaiman entrusted the adaptation of his novel to screenwriter Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake"), who was still on location shooting "Stardust" during the Comic-Con panel. Gaiman, Goldman, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura ("Transformers") and "Stardust" illustrator Charles Vess presented rough footage and a trailer-like montage, which are recapped below.

Clip 1

In the quietest scene of the bunch, the foundation is laid for Tristran’s journey:

The camera pans down from a starlit sky through a country town, and we see a young man, white flowers in hand, walking through the cobblestone streets with a hopeful look on his face. He stops in front of a house and throws a pebble at a window; inside, a gaggle of young women whisper, "It’s him!"

Victoria (Sienna Miller) looks out to see Tristran at her window, but she’s disappointed as she was expecting someone else: Humphrey. The dashing Humphrey (Henry Cavill) arrives and smashes Tristran’s white flowers out of his hands. Humphrey holds a bouquet of red flowers for Victoria, and proceeds to ridicule Tristran’s vain attempts to fence with a tree branch. Tristran ends up on the ground, defeated, as Victoria prepares to meet Humphrey.

Clip 2

Tristran has made his promise to fetch a fallen star for Victoria, and approaches the stone wall guarding their town from the magical land of Faerie. A grizzled old man with a cane guards the wall, and tells Tristran to turn around and go home. Tristran assents, but sees the near-blind elder guard tottering about, and makes a mad dash for the wall. Just when he gets across, the old man jumps into the air, does a flip, and cuts Tristran off! Using his cane martial arts-style, the old man karate kicks Tristran into submission and gently sends him on his way.

Clip 3

The witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) has been sent by her two witch sisters to fetch the fallen star (Danes) and cut out her heart so that they may retain their youthful beauty. Lamia, resting on the roadside, meets a character named Ditchwater Sal (Melanie Hill), who secretly feeds Lamia a dose of Limbus grass, which makes one unwittingly reveal secrets. Lamia realizes the trick and becomes enraged; she reveals her power by conjuring a great wind that shakes everything, makes a teapot explode, and casts a spell on Sal to wipe her memory. The camera focuses on Pfeiffer’s face as she gets more and more pissed off, and the camera itself shakes violently, letting the experience the wrath of Pfeiffer’s gaze.

The amazing thing about this scene is that, as the panel revealed, all the clips shown at Comic-Con were rough cuts that hadn’t yet been digitally enhanced. All effects, including the shaking effect during this scene, had been shot in the camera. Producer di Bonaventura also later revealed that even the rumbling in the audio was real, as the production had shot through a real storm and captured the thunder in the scene.

Clip 4

Captain Shakespeare (De Niro) meets traveling salesman Ferdy the Fence, who unsuccessfully (and very comically) attempts to haggle with the pirate over the purchase of a container of lightning bolts.

Clip 5

Tristran, having captured the fallen star (Danes as a beautiful, yet bothersome young woman), is traveling with her across a stunning coastline of black sand and ice (shot in Scotland). The two are running out of time. Their banter is flirtatious.

Clip 6

Ferdy (Gervais) is nervous as Lamia (Pfeiffer) shops in his store while on the trail of the fallen star. His rambling annoys her too much, and she points at his mouth. He loses the ability to speak, and can only squawk in animal noises; she leaves.

Clip 7

Ferdy, still under Lamia’s spell, can only speak in animal grunts – bad news for him, since one of the seven power-hungry Lords is interrogating him for info. Thinking Ferdy is mocking him, the Lord runs him through with his sword.

Clip 8 – Montage

In this montage, we see a flurry of scenes, including the three witches together, one of the witches’ grotesque wizened face, many beautiful landscape shots, some sword play with Tristran, a kiss between Tristran and Yvaine, and…a unicorn! A great big unicorn!

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