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adaptation peter pan
 

 

swordplay and stunts
The filmmakers had very definite influences in mind when they set about establishing the tone of the fighting in Peter Pan. "Some of my favourite films are the Errol Flynn movies of the 1930's and '40's and I thought if I could equal or top those sword fights, I'd be very pleased," the director said. "They are marvellous fun and the actors really know what they're doing. So when Captain Hook and Peter Pan were duelling, we wanted them to recall the flash and fire of actors like Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn."

To achieve this end, the crew was fortified with a trio of today's top action experts: second unit director Conrad Palmisano, fencing master Gary Worsfield and fight co-ordinator Brad Allan.

The duelists in Peter Pan fenced, using swords with points. "It's not the type of swordplay where they slice at each other until somebody gets it," Palmisano explained. "They tell a story in the fight choreography with a series of attacks and parries and retreats, all aimed at getting the opponent to do something. Gary is a wonderful swordmaster who gets people to work very fast and tight. It's very, very fast-handed and close contact, which is exciting. When Hook has Pan cornered or in trouble, then Pan does something special to get out of it, and that's where Brad comes in. The whole end battle is done in the air, amidst the sails of the Jolly Roger. Some of this is like an aerial dog-fight for brief moments. Pan's advantage has always been his quickness and ability to fly--but we're taking that away from him at the end, raising the stakes of the final battle between him and Hook."

Worsfield savoured the opportunity to bring the beauty of swordplay to the screen. "We've put in almost every fencing action there is," he said. "There's rapport or communication through swords, as well as insults, humiliation, disgust, anger, deception - much more than brute strength. There's been no film that I know of with sword-fighting and flying together. Fencing is very linear but Pan can fly so the possibilities are mind-boggling."
Brad Allan, who has worked with the Jackie Chan stunt team for seven years, maximized the impact of the flying fights. "The Hong Kong style is not congruous with the look of Peter Pan, but the filmmakers wanted to add some airplay to the Errol Flynn style," he explained.
"I think Jeremy wants to be the next Jackie Chan," Allan added. "Sometimes we have to hold him back - he's really good."

For four months before production began, Sumpter devoted four hours a day to fencing. "Peter controls his fights - he's skilful, he's smooth," said the young actor. "I learned proper fencing with the mask. Once you do that, you can work on your feet and knees and how your body position and lunges are supposed to be."

Jason Isaacs came to the project experienced in swordplay, but did not have as much advantage as he expected. "I'd done sword-fighting in a few films. I was a little bit cocky about it, until it became clear that I had to sword fight with my left hand - because Hook has a hook on his right hand."

Ultimately, it only increased his ferocity. "Jason has a great deal of dexterity with his hook," said Palmisano. "He's like the Mix Master of cutting edges coming at you when he makes the moves. Trying to rehearse him, about three moves into it, you just want to drop the sword and run outside and wait for it to be safe again."

Wendy and the Lost Boys were less threatening, but all received serious training. "We'd bring the Lost Boys into the rehearsal stage with 10 fully-grown adult stuntmen," said Palmisano, "and hand them all metal swords and say, 'Here, attack those guys!' For months, we'd do practice and play routines and each boy found something that he really liked to do the best, and we'd work that into their fight scenes."

Actor Bruce Spence, who plays the pirate Cookson, dueled with Wendy. "The crew here are great swordsmen and now when I observe people like Errol Flynn, I'm thinking, 'Tsk, tsk, is that really all you can do, Errol?' Of course, fighting Wendy is a little different than fighting Errol Flynn, but when Wendy is up against it and has to get her courage, it's a moment I really enjoy. She has to move from being the little girl she was to being more grown-up and take control."

Accidents? A few. "Sometimes you get hit fencing and it hurts," Sumpter reported matter-of-factly.

"Yes, we've gone wrong a few times sword-fighting, Jeremy and I," Isaacs concurred.

But both actors were always ready for more. "Jason and Jeremy trained very hard to be the guys actually performing the stunts and we're very proud of them for that," said Palmisano.

"As a 30-year veteran of the stunt field," he reflected, "I think there's a little Peter Pan in all stuntmen. We don't live in Neverland, but we really don't have to grow up. We still get to play with boys' toys, they're just bigger than usual."\

Still, Sumpter's fearlessness surprised even this seasoned risk-taker. "I was always the first kid in the neighbourhood to jump off the bridge into the water, but I always went down and looked in the water first. Jeremy might just jump.

who was j.m.barrie? - the history of peter pan
J. M. Barrie was born in the tiny Scottish town of Kirriemuir in 1860 and moved to London as a young man to make his mark as a writer. His earliest stories were colorful newspaper pieces about a fictional version of Kirriemuir. He also contributed to the National Observer, along with such contemporaries as Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells and W. B. Yeats. Later, with several successful plays and novels to his credit, he lived across the road from the Kensington Gardens, where he took daily walks with his St. Bernard. It was during these rambles that he met the Llewelyn Davies children, the five brothers who inspired him to create Peter Pan. When the children's parents died, Barrie adopted all five boys.

Peter Pan first appeared in J. M. Barrie's 1902 novel, The Little White Bird, as the hero of a story the book's narrator tells a child. Barrie was already a popular novelist and playwright in London when his Peter Pan play debuted on December 27, 1904 at the Duke of York's Theatre. The premiere was not a children's matinee, but a glittering West End opening night for an audience of sophisticated Londoners who had come to see the latest work by one of the top writers of the day. The patrons had no idea of what to expect from Peter Pan, nor did anyone feel prescient enough to predict the fate of the thematically daring and technically demanding production. But the producer's faith in Barrie, and Barrie's faithfulness to his own unique vision, made Peter Pan an immediate classic.

Barrie refined the play's text for many years after it debuted and expanded the story for his Peter Pan novel, which was published as Peter and Wendy in 1911. The play was not published until 1928, after a full 24 years of stage productions - and revisions. Thanks to writer Andrew Birkin, a comprehensive volume of Barrie's notes and drafts as he conceptualized, wrote and revised Peter Pan over this long period was collected in one massive document, affectionately known among the Peter Pan filmmakers as 'the tome.' 'The tome' was an invaluable aid in making this film.

Peter Pan is cherished around the world for its promise of an awfully big adventure, but in Britain there is something more. Several years before his death in 1937, Sir James Barrie donated all rights from Peter Pan to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The charismatic boy who would not grow up has been helping to save the lives of very sick children through this bequest ever since.

Built by Dr. Charles West in 1852 with just 10 beds, Great Ormond Street Hospital was London's first hospital specifically designated for children. Charles Dickens lived nearby and read a chapter from A Christmas Carol on the front steps to help raise funds for expansion. The hospital was able to buy the house next door, doubling its size to 20 beds, and it has grown from there to 350 beds.

A National Health Service hospital, GOSH is funded by the government for day-to-day operations, but not for its many critical care speciality areas. "We get the sickest children, if their own doctor and district hospital can't help them; it's a place of last resort," explained Kit Palmer, who looks after Peter Pan rights issues for GOSH. "We have 22 different specialities and offer the widest range of paediatric specialities under one roof in the U. K. Most patients see at least two specialists, some as many as five.

"The message of the play is eternal," Palmer continued. "Who hasn't worried about growing up and what the world has in store for us? This play has something to say to any nation, any individual.

"We at the hospital had always hoped to have the classic Peter Pan on film, based on Barrie's original work. The timing is so wonderful, so now I hope we'll have another hundred years of sharing this film.