SCI FI Wire spoke recently with David Cunningham, director of Fox Walden’s upcoming fantasy film Dark Is Rising. Their discussion turned to a topic that many fans of the book are upset about: that the film takes a few liberties by changing elements of Susan Cooper’s Newbery-winning 1973 novel. However the fans feel, adapting the fantasy book, the second in a five-volume series, called for some rethinking, Cunningham said in an interview on the film’s set in Bucharest, Romania, on May 15.
“Susan Cooper’s world is incredibly rich, and, really, the mythology is the plot in her book,” Cunningham said. “And our goal has been to try and make this story more accessible to today’s audience and introduce a new generation to her work. And what that means is someone like [writer] John Hodge building on that incredible world and creating moments and some interpretations of her book for us to be able to run with it.”
Some changes include: Hero Will Stanton (newcomer Alexander Ludwig) is now 13, not 11, and he is an American living in a small northern English village, instead of a native-born Brit. The character of the Walker (Jonathan Jackson) has been made younger-appearing and given a new story arc involving the loss of his soul. The movie also beefs up the action by adding new special-effects-enhanced sequences to Cooper’s narrative, Hodge said.
In a separate interview, Hodge told them that the spine and spirit of the book remains. Stanton discovers on his midwinter birthday that he is special: the last “Old One,” imbued with special powers and a crucial person in the ongoing battle between the forces of Light and Dark. “He has to find these six ‘Signs’ that are hidden, restore the power of the Light and defeat the Dark … [and] deal with the issues a 13-year-old boy has to deal with,” Hodge said.
Why make Stanton American? Because it’s fitting that he is more of an outsider than in the book, Hodge said. Stanton should be culturally alien to the story’s setting, which compels him to question why is there and doing what he must do, he added.
The film also adds several action sequences, including a chase in a modern mall and a fight among snakes in a medieval church, leading to the discovery of a secret crypt.
As for other changes, Cunningham said: “As the director, [my challenge] is then to try to take all of that rich mythology, all of that rich ambiance and all of that, and try to do something in such a way that translates to film. And what … my attempt has been is to try and do it through a more modern lens, so that the filmic style is much more today, versus much more classical, as many fantasy films are shot. And so we’re really trying to make this ride feel not like a fantasy film, feel very today, like it’s happening to someone you would know and recognize and understand.”
Dark Is Rising is shooting on several soundstages in historic MediaPro Studios in Buftea, Romania, outside Bucharest. It also stars Ian McShane as Will’s mentor, Merriman; Frances Conroy as Miss Greythorne; and Christopher Eccleston as the villainous dark Rider. Dark Is Rising is currently in production, with an eye to an Oct. 5 release. Contributing Source: Patrick Lee, News Editor, SciFi Wire