ODEON Magazine January 2017 - Page 17

n 2010, author Patrick Ness was approached by Walker Books and asked to write a novel based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, a British novelist who had sadly passed away a few years earlier. Although initially hesitant, Ness agreed to look at Dowd’s notes, which included an opening, 1,000 words, an idea for a structure and a few characters, and was captivated by her concept. The resulting 2011 novel, A Monster Calls, about a boy, Conor, who receives comfort from an enormous treelike being when his mother falls ill, became a bestseller and winner of several awards. Five years on, this remarkable book is now a major motion picture directed by The Impossible’s J.A. Bayona, with a screenplay by Ness. Here, Bayona and Ness, together with stars Sigourney Weaver (Grandma), Felicity Jones (Mum) and Liam Neeson (The Monster), talk to us about the film, which is a leading awards contender. What attracted you to the project? I saw this as a powerful and important story to tell as a movie – an adventure that anyone can relate to. I read Patrick’s script and found it to be a haunting and moving story. I felt at once that I would be in good hands with this director who could find the balance between the reality of the situation and the fantasy world that Conor escapes into. The story doesn’t pull its punches, but it is also filled with love. Bayona is a real cinema talent. He’s also very sensitive. He takes care of, guides, and nurtures his actors and that’s what I always hope a director will do. With such emotional subject matter, how did you go about approaching the characters? Sigourney and I were very keen to find the nuance in the daughter/mother relationship. What Lizzie wants for Conor is for him to live independently once she is gone. She’s never quite been able to find her freedom independently from her mother, so she wants that for her son more than anything. It was very important to all of us to get it right, to tell this story truthfully and with love and respect, especially for those who will see the movie and who have been through this experience with loved ones. The effects in the film are astonishing. How were they achieved? The giant paw that grabs Conor out of his bedroom, the massive foot he touches, the huge head outside his window – they are all real, including handcrafting work. There is nothing that can’t be done now in visual effects, so I believe it engages audiences more when you go back to how things were done in the first generations of moviemaking. What does The Monster represent for you? The Monster harks back to an English legend called ‘The Green Man’. He’s sort of the landscape personified, rising up to tell stories. He comes from, and is, a great big, powerful force. The Monster also represents that part of your personality which you haven’t yet come to terms with. The film has been lauded around the world. That must make you very proud? We have tried to bring this novel to the screen in the best and most faithful way possible, while at the same time infusing it with our personal vision. [The book is] beloved and iconic... I wanted to do it justice.