13 Riotous Facts About V For Vendetta
Based on the classic dystopian graphic novel series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, V for Vendetta starred Hugo Weaving as V, a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing anarchist intent on destroying British Parliament in a totalitarian England of the future. Along the way he saves Evey, played by Natalie Portman, and successfully draws her into his revolutionary plans.
Here are some facts about the movie to remember, particularly on the fifth of November.
1. THE GRAPHIC NOVEL WAS INSPIRED BY MARGARET THATCHER.
“Our attitude toward Margaret Thatcher’s ultra-conservative government was one of the driving forces behind the fascist British police state we created in Vendetta,” illustrator David Lloyd explained of his and Moore’s original story, which was written in the early 1980s. “The destruction of this system was V’s primary reason for existence.”
2. THE WRITER OF ROAD HOUSE GOT THE FIRST CRACK AT ADAPTING THE STORY.
Hilary Henkin (Road House, Romeo is Bleeding) wrote an early adaptation of the graphic novel, which was singled out as one of Hollywood's best unproduced scripts in a 1993 Los Angeles Times article. Her script was described as a “wild, over-the-top saga” and a cross between Les Misérables and A Clockwork Orange. In 1998, Henkin was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Wag the Dog (1997).
3. ANDY AND LANA WACHOWSKI WROTE A SCRIPT FOR V FOR VENDETTA BEFORE THEY WORKED ON THE MATRIX TRILOGY.
The Wachowskis acquired the rights to V for Vendetta in the mid-1990s, then promptly wrote their own screenplay. After directing the three Matrix films, the Wachowskis weren’t interested in returning to directing right away, but they did make alterations to their Vendetta script, including moving the story forward in time and making Evey older.
4. IT WAS JAMES MCTEIGUE'S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.
James McTeigue was first assistant director on the Matrix movies, as well as on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and was picked by the Wachowskis to take charge. "A lot of the filmmaking process is about trust, and at the point that those guys said, 'We want you to direct it,' they were about trusting me to go off and give it the vision it needed to be directed with, so they kind of left me alone," said McTeigue. "They were there if I needed them, and sometimes I’d go, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' and they’d put their two cents worth in, and I could either take it on board or leave it at the door."
5. ALAN MOORE DECLINED TO WATCH THE FILM, OR BE CREDITED ON IT.
Moore had read the screenplay and considered it “rubbish.” Moore believed DC Comics and the film industry had knowingly stolen from him. Conversely, David Lloyd praised the movie moments after he had seen it for the first time, declaring it a “fantastic representation” of the work they did, according to McTeigue.
6. JAMES PUREFOY WAS FIRED AS V THREE WEEKS INTO FILMING.
James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, Resident Evil) was allegedly not a “dynamic enough presence” for the filmmakers. Purefoy denied rumors that his departure had anything to do with being uncomfortable wearing a mask all the time and swore that “it was genuine creative differences.” He was replaced by Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Matrix), who broke the ice with Natalie Portman over a “very nice Thai meal.”
7. NATALIE PORTMAN AND JAMES MCTEIGUE DID SOME HOMEWORK.
McTeigue studied Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1966), which dived into the Algerian revolution against the French. Portman watched the documentary The Weather Underground (2002), about the late 1960s/1970s American radicals, as well as read the autobiography of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who was shaped by his imprisonment by Soviets, as well as Antonia Fraser’s Faith and Treason, a book on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
8. IT WAS MOSTLY FILMED IN GERMANY.
Producer Joel Silver claimed moving most of the production there was economically advantageous for the studio. V’s “Shadow Gallery” was filmed at Babelsberg Studio in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam, the site of Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927). John Hurt, who played High Chancellor Adam Sutler, found it “strange” to play an Adolf Hitler-type character in the middle of Berlin, sometimes in locations where Hitler gave speeches.
9. THE FILM RECEIVED UNPRECEDENTED PERMISSION TO CLOSE DOWN DOWNING STREET.
It took nine months of negotiating with 14 government departments for the filmmakers to gain permission to film on Whitehall, London's famous thoroughfare that runs from Trafalgar Square to the Parliament Buildings. The film shot three nights in a row between midnight and 5 a.m.
10. PORTMAN’S HEAD-SHAVING SCENE HAD TO BE SHOT IN ONE TAKE.
McTeigue utilized three cameras for the scene. "It was a one-shot deal, and that was the most stressful thing about the experience," said Portman. She also claimed that her shaved head made her more recognizable to onlookers.
11. THE CINEMATOGRAPHER DIED BEFORE THE FILM'S RELEASE.
Oscar-nominated cinematographer Adrian Biddle (The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise) passed away on December 7, 2005, at the age of 53, following a heart attack. V for Vendetta, which was released in the U.S. on March 17, 2006, was his last movie.
12. IT TOOK 200 HOURS TO BUILD THE DOMINOES.
13. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO COME OUT IN TIME FOR GUY FAWKES DAY.
The plan was to release the film on November 5th—early trailers said to “remember, remember the 5th of November”—before it got delayed in post-production. Instead it came out on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and was number one at the box office, making over $25.6 million in its first few days.