Wrapping Up Filming on The Pillars of the Earth with Ridley Scott
By Ken Follett
December 14, 2009
Author Ken Follett takes you behind the scenes on the set of the movie adaptation of The Pillars of the Earth as filming finishes on the movie, which will air as a limited series on television in 2010.
By the time you read this, the actual production of the television adaptation of my book The Pillars of the Earth will have wrapped. In the end, there were 112 shooting days on location in Hungary and Austria. For the cast and crew, this was a long time to stay fit and focused, but they did it—and wait until you see the footage! I've been able to watch the "dailies," and what I've seen has made me very happy.
I visited the set a second time just before filming wrapped. Ridley Scott, who is executive producer, was on the same plane, so we met in the baggage hall at Ferihegy Airport in Budapest. He is a Hollywood legend, and I was keen to talk to him. "Down-to-earth" may seem a surprising description for the director of Alien and Blade Runner, but Ridley is a regular guy from Middlesbrough as well as a film genius. Like me, he gets inspiration from history; and we both believe that storytelling is fundamental to what we do; so we got off to a good start.
Ridley had just wrapped Robin Hood. The actor who plays the sheriff of Nottingham in the movie is Matthew Macfadyen, who is Prior Philip in The Pillars of the Earth.
Ridley is as pleased as I am with the high quality of Pillars, and he was complimentary about director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who glowed a little, as you may imagine.
We spent a full Saturday at the Astra Studios, just outside Budapest. I always find filmmaking magical. The studio is a vast building that houses three sound stages in which the action is shot. Within Astra, several different interiors had been built so that a wide range of fictional locations could be filmed in the same place. I was able to walk through parts of Shiring Castle, Winchester Castle, Regan and Percy Hamleigh's bedroom, the Bishop's Palace and the Archbishop's Common Room, all within a few minutes.
Once again, I was awestruck by the painstaking detail in the sets, and I was particularly struck by the historical accuracy of medieval furniture made right there in modern Budapest.
I enjoyed watching Donald Sutherland on the Shiring Castle set. He plays Bartholomew, the father of Aliena and Richard. More than 27 years ago, Donald starred in Eye of the Needle, based on my very first best-seller.
Ridley and I gave interviews to a film crew from Associated Press and a prominent UK journalist preparing a feature story on Pillars. During the lunch break, most of the key cast, along with Ridley, myself and the other producers, were herded together to be photographed for what was named "the big picture," set among some of the props. Also filmed that day was the video footage that has been edited into the newest video Web diary now posted on the website. Check it out.
That evening, there was a small party for Ridley and me and key cast and crew, and I said goodbye. It's hard to believe the shoot is now completed for this series. I sat down to write Pillars almost 24 years ago, and now it is being brought alive in a new form, with great actors bringing their own interpretations to each character. I can't wait to see the final result.
I have lots more to blog about as we move into the post-production phase.