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'V for Vendetta' still behind mask

Fans of the graphic novel must wait till March for the troubled film, delayed by the London terror attacks.

August 30, 2005|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

"I don't think you will ever see a film made there again," Lloyd said with a sigh.

With the March release date now in place, the film may have an extra cushion of time that will soften any linkage to the attacks in London.

The Wachowski brothers, who wrote the screenplay, saw a cut in recent weeks, after which it was returned to the editing process -- but it isn't clear whether that means the excising of particular screen moments that might hit too close to reality's home. (The Wachowskis declined to be interviewed.)

The postponement did undercut a nice nuance of the film; the November day that had previously been circled is Guy Fawkes Day in England, the traditional day to shoot fireworks in honor of the explosion that didn't happen back in 1605.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 30, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
"Vendetta" headline -- A headline on an article in today's Calendar section about the movie "V for Vendetta" says the film's release was delayed by the London terrorist bombings. The release date was delayed because of post-production work.

If the release delay does give the movie some breathing room, it might be the first time "Vendetta" has enjoyed fortuitous timing.

The movie stars Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and John Hurt and was filmed in Berlin and London. It was directed by John McTeigue and reteams the Wachowskis with some of their "Matrix" brethren, Silver and Weaving.

It was an unexpected reunion.

British actor James Purefoy, who portrays Marc Antony in the new HBO series "Rome," was initially given the part of V. Four weeks into film, he parted ways with the production.

"It wasn't working out," Silver said. "There was some problems. We went into a different direction."

The "different direction" was Weaving, the Nigerian-born actor who is perhaps best known as Agent Smith, the computer-generated heavy in "The Matrix." The Wachowskis drafted Weaving.

From his home in Australia, Weaving said he had barely any preparation for the role, and had never read the graphic novel. "They were familiar with me and my capabilities, what I can and can't do. I understand them and they understand me. I read the script twice I think. The real challenge is acting beneath that mask."

Still unclear is whether the movie can get past the criticism leveled by Moore (who, like the Wachowskis, is press suspicious). He has asked that his name be taken off the credits and any checks (he said Warner Bros. should give Lloyd all the money for the story rights).

An elusive figure who cooks up intricate tales of mythology and the fantastic, Moore has been burned again when those creations have ambled off the printed page on to the screen.

"Swamp Thing," "From Hell" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman" failed miserably to match Moore's words. And his masterpiece, "Watchmen," made history in comic books but has changed hands as a movie property repeatedly since 1980s and been treated brusquely along the way.

Moore himself despises Hollywood now.

He told the BBC in a rare interview that an ugly legal spat that followed the "Extraordinary Gentlemen" experience sealed his opinion of Hollywood. He told the interviewer he couldn't have suffered worse treatment if he "had sodomized and murdered a busload of children after giving them heroin."

Comic book fans revere Moore, so his disdain is a troublesome point. At the San Diego International Comic-Con, it was a point that came up during the premiere of the film's trailer and the subsequent question-and-answer session with Silver, Lloyd, executive producer Grant Hill and Portman.

Luckily, if Moore is a hero to the all-important fanboy audience, Portman is its pinup.

"Yeah, this is my crowd," Portman said backstage. "They're really wonderful to me."

That's because Portman grew up in front of them as Princess (and then Queen) Amidala, the poor little royal who had perfect skin but bad taste in men. Mrs. Darth Vader showed up in San Diego with a barely-there dress and buzz haircut -- her tresses had been shaved for "Vendetta."

She portrays Evey, the true emotional heart of the film. After she is nearly raped by a group of government agents, she is saved by V and whisked away to his shadow gallery, a lair that resembles the Batcave if it had been designed more for a cabaret singer than a crime fighter.

The relationship between Evey and V veers from captor and prisoner to an almost father-daughter affinity. It also undergoes some jolting plot twists that Portman said attracted her to the film.

Portman was born in Jerusalem, the daughter of a doctor and artist. That tandem had an impact on her; besides her career (and strong reviews for recent work such as "Garden State") just before San Diego she was in Peru where she has been doing charity work to improve hospital care in troubled areas. She abhors violence. In the film, her character must decide whether V is a hero or villain.

"The freedom fighter or the terrorist," she said, echoing the common plot motto associated with the film. "Most people agree that there is a point in time where violence is acceptable. If your child is in danger, would you kill? What if -- as a leader of a people -- you begin to believe your people are your children. Is it OK to kill then? And what does violence do us after we embrace it?"

Portman predicts the film's story will carry past the bumpy road its ridden to date.

She also shrugged when asked if it was hard to play opposite a masked man whose inner actor changed from scene to scene. "The mask is covering an idea, not a person. That's the mask come off. Hugo is a great actor but really, it didn't matter at some points who was under the mask. We're under the mask."

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