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HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, The
(Garth Jennings . 2004)

“Don't panic... don't panic...!” 

THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

 

This is the ninth evolution of The Guide.Not the best...

It began as a BBC radio series in 1978. Then became a record album, novel,television series, computer game, stage show, comic book and, of course, a towel.?

As Douglas Adams wrote for the seventh radio episode, anyone who really had their life in order would “know where his towel is.” He had no idea how his joke would catch on.  After his death, May 25 was established as  Towel Day  - fans carry a towel  all day.  Whatever for?   (Read on). 

More troubled than any of Arthur Dent's adventures in space, the movie spent some 20 years in Development Hell - and looked like it. Trouble was that Hollywood got into an act it never quite understood as The Guide was an hilarious and genuinely quirky sf satire, all very British and subtle in humour and style. (Imagine Mel Brooks filming The Goons!).

A-List Hollywoodens tried tol barge in - 

not because they were fans of Douglas Adams

and his amazing radio show.

They loved the smell of big franchise bucks in the morning.

Alas, the star who was the one true US fan of Adams' marvelous madness, the star who always wanted to be Zaphod Beeblebrox, the star who could have saved the movie...was totally ignored.  Johnny Depp!

The film's major problem was that the cult had begun on radio - where voices, sounds, music, are paramount. Difficult, therefore, to imagine any version of The Guide without Simon Jones as Arthur, Peter Jones (no kin) as The Guide and, of course, “The Journey of the Sorcerer” played by The Eagles. The film had one out of three - the music.

Not enough.

The rights was first optioned in 1982 by producer Ivan Reitman. Adams trawled through three drafts in the '80s for LA.  The idea being...

Bill Murray (or Dan Aykroyd)

was perfect for Ford Prefect.

Aykroyd gave Reitman another script. Whaddyer think of this? Ghost Busters. Great, said Reitman, for you and Murray  And soit was in 1984.

Adams hated the Hollywood plans, When Reitman bowed out, former Monkee Mike Nesmith struck a Disney deal. while working with Adams on another of his magic tales, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

In 1996, Douglas got his rights back and started anew in the UK..   His dream list included the original radio Arthur Dent, Simon Jones, Michael Keaton as Zaphod Beeblebrox, Jeff Goldblum for Ford Prefect.

“And Sean Connery is

the perfect Slartibartfast.”

Suddenly, another deal seemed all but set.   Jay Roach would direct Hugh Laurie  (Arthur), Jim Carrey (Zaphod) and Nigel Hawthorne  (Slartibartfast). This was just before creator Douglas Adams died in May, 2001. Hawthorne folllowed in December.

Jay Roach begat  Spike Jonze  who begat Hammer & Tongs:   rock-videoists Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings.  A new deal was green lit and  filming started on April 19, 2004.

Arthur Dent. Hugh Laurie was seen for what Adams insisted was“the only character who had to be English.” Hugh Grant, another Adams' favourite, was deemed too handsome. Ditto forJack Davenport - so the TV star of Coupling lost to theTV star of The Office), as Martin Freeman  became the “ordinary Earthman” from England, who winds up travelling the galaxy in his pajamas, house robe. And, of course. carrying a towel.  (Now you understand Towel Day!). 

Zaphod Beeblebrox . Jim Carrey, Robert Downey Jr, Will Ferrell, Michael Keaton… Then, Garth Jennings auditioned Sam Rockwell for the sometime President of the Galaxy, who kidnaps himself and steals the Heart of Gold spaceship for his own schemes.  Rockwell said his performance was based on Bill Clinton, Vince Vaughn and… Elvis. 

Marvin, the Paranoid Android. Adams wanted Stephen Moore but the role was divided between Alan Rickman voicing Warwick Davis (Willow) in the robot suit. The two actors are Professors Snape and Flitwick in the Harry Potter series.

The Voice of The Guide.  Hardest character to cast. For 22 years, it had been the impeccable Peter Jones. From the very start, Douglas Adams had asked BBC Radio 4 for “a Peter Jonesy sort of voice.” Various possibilities (Michael Palin, included) passed and the real Peter Jones (Peter Ustinov's former comedy cohort) was approached, agreed and remained baffled by The Guide, the cult and the fans. William Franklyn took over on Peter's death in 2000. Oliver Postgate, a UK actor-writer-director and cousin of Angela Lansbury - was  tested but Adams recommended another pal,  Stephen  Fry, for the film.

Simon Jones had a cameo as a floating head called Ghostly Image and Douglas Adams is... everywhere.  His head is a planet, his nose is the shape of a temple entrance,  he's on a mural and the final improbability transformation of the Heart of Gold is of his face.

“We were all signed up," admitted Garth Jennings. "But...

 

“There won’t be a sequel,

It didn’t make enough money.”

Of course not.






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