To celebrate the return of the forum here are the interview words arranged in a different order.
Interview with Garth Jennings (9th May 2006)
Now we are a year past the release date of the film how do you look back on the project?
Very fondly, it is a lovely rosy memory now, anything that was difficult or bad is long forgotten.
When did you actually get the script and start to work on the film?
We got the script in February 2003, and started storyboarding, doing eight months hard work before it was greenlighted. [Rumours of their involvement started around June of that year, with the official announcement in the October].
You used a Wiki to allow the art department to liaise with some of the guys from The Digital Village. Is that saved anywhere?
I don't know - not on this computer - maybe on my laptop. I think it was enormous in the end, art, props, everyone tapped into it. It was Sean, Yoz, Jim and Tim from TDV who were a great help.
Press interest was pretty intense, and the Leicester Square premiere was beyond what I expected. How was it for you?
I can honestly say I had no idea it was going to be like that. No idea it was that huge. I got out of the car with my wife and heard my name announced on a PA system, and looked around for someone to tell me what to do. My family was ushered past me with their jaws on the floor. It was bamboozling being in the middle of it.
How about the party?
I didn't stay very long as at the time we had a week old baby, and I didn't want to be away too long. If I ever go to a party I like to wander around and chat, but at this one I had to talk to 7 million people and it was too much. Some egos were running high about the way that things had been announced at the premiÃ¨re, nothing to do with me, and it all got sorted out the next day but after about an hour I left which was disappointing. My grandma was slaughtered on the blue cocktails. My mother-in-law, who is err, quite a straight lady, was dancing with Vogons until two am - extraordinary. I saw lots of pictures the next day which was good.
Robbie Stamp has talked about getting particular words into the interviews he did to promote the film. Did you do anything similar?
You do try and spice things up, as you have to keep your brain awake. I did 60 TV interviews in one day, all just five minutes long, with someone sitting next to you with a stopwatch keeping the interviewer to time. I tried to look like I have never been asked that question before, and give myself marks afterwards. That was a good game.
Critical reaction and fan reaction was mixed. Did you read any of the positive or negative coverage?
Yes it was mixed, but great on the whole. Positive from most papers, The Guardian gave it three out of five stars, but wrote a 4 star review. Negative reviews were expected, generally coming from people who either loved a particular Hitchhiker's incarnation, or hated Hitchhiker's before they saw the film. I tend to look on the bright side. The positive ones picked up on the things we were trying to achieve which was good.
It is a fun film to see in a group.
Yeah. It played at Glastonbury, Dom [Dominic Leung - second unit director] was there, and after Cold Play people were heading back to their tents and it started up. [It was scheduled at midnight on the Saturday].
Did you look at things like the list of goofs on the Internet Movie Database?
No, I didn't. I am sure that there are some.
The cameraman is apparently reflected in a teapot.
Filming teapots is difficult. You do worry about that at the time. I am 99.99% sure the cameraman was under a sheet. I used to look in Star Wars for George Lucas reflected in C3PO's head. Gaffs go with the territory. You can watch a scene many times in the editing suite, and then you see it on a big screen and notice something for the first time.
I read that Ant and Dec were offered parts in Hitchhiker's. Is this true?
Were they? No one in my camp ever offered them a part. They would have been good as the mice. We are big fans. [The Daily Telegraph (15/03/06) reported "They turned down roles in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Shaun of the Dead before deciding that Alien Autopsy was the right calling card into Hollywood."]
You and your sister played the mice in the end.
That was fun. Speeded up - it makes no difference who it was. I get on really well with my sister and knew we could get it done quickly, and that she would get the "take his brain" line right. We tagged it on to one of Stephen Fry's recording sessions.
How many tests did you do for the part of the book? Oliver Postgate and David Attenborough were mentioned.
Sir David was my first thought. I wrote a letter and he wrote back saying he was very flattered, but it was not really his sort of thing. It was a good idea in theory. Having David Attenborough telling you about Vogons would have made it sound very true. I am glad I asked him, and it was great to get a nice letter back.
Oliver Postage was Joby Talbot's [the soundtrack composer] idea. He was watching Bagpuss with his son, when he phoned me I could hear it in the background. We had this lovely meeting at his house where he has all his bits and bobs, and talked for ages about animation - his way of working is so inspiring. He is a great storyteller, but the humour of the narration was getting lost.
Stephen Fry just came in and nailed it on his first take.
Did you do things just to be different from the TV series?
We did not set out to react against the TV series. We started from scratch with everything, so did end up with some similar things and others being completely different. I read the book and listened to the radio series for preparation, and started to watch the TV series but stopped after ten minutes. The guide animation was so great on TV, ahead of its time, and it captured the humour so well. Shynola knew they would have to do something special.
Were there any potential cast members that you would have liked to have got but didn't?
Lots of people get talked about in the casting phase. You end up meeting people even when you have others in mind, just in case. Robert Downey Jr. was the first choice for Zaphod. We had a great day meeting him in his own music studio, the grooviest thing ever, but he had to pass as couldn't leave the country. I think it was a blessing in disguise as we had already met Sam Rockwell, for Ford, but saw he would be good for Zaphod. We had a few happy accidents - when we didn't get what we wanted we got something better. Hitchhiker's is such a great thing that people were eager to get on board.
Deep Thought with a woman's voice was a bit of a shock.
It could have been a voice like Sir Ian McKellen. We wanted someone regal, someone that could belittle Zaphod, and that works better coming from a woman. There are so many men in Hitchhiker's anyway we wanted to get some balance.
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
900 million things! I am very proud of it. The things I would change don't kill the film. The biggest is probably Viltvodle. It could have been better. There is a quote about George Lucas that his only direction is "faster and more intense". I should have done that with that scene. I shot loads but it was slow. It should have been a shock for Arthur his first time on an alien world. I did shoot a sequence of him running around from the perspective of his feet. That took a long time and was expensive. One thing I was disappointed about was not getting all the extras onto the DVD.
The Dentrassi Cooking Show?
We talked about that, and were going to do it in post production, but never got round to it. The Vogon's letter home to his aunt was shot, and there is a monologue from Gag Halfrunt. Jason Schwartzman read all the books and combined it all into a great speech.
Would you be up for Restaurant at the End of the Universe?
There won't be a sequel. We were all signed up, but it didn't make enough money. It might be a blessing in disguise - it would not have been easy - especially without Douglas.
It made over 100 million dollars at the box office
I think 120 million in total - it wasn't a loss. It did well for an eccentric piece of work. It might get dusted off - I might still be contracted to do it! The title would look great onm the posters.
Is there any news on the Directors Label retrospective DVD of Hammer & Tongs music video work?
I don't think that is happening now. Again, the first ones in the series did well, but not well enough to extend them.
What have you been doing post Hitchhiker's?
Three music videos and some commercials to keep the company going. [The videos are: Supergrass - Low C, Beck - Hell Yes and Hot Chip - A Boy From School]. Now we are working on our next film Son of Rambow.
With a W?
The kid spells phonetically, and it keeps the lawyers happy to spell it that way, plus it makes us laugh.
I have seen it described as a "coming-of-age comedy about two very strange children making a sequel to Rambo". It is autobiographical then?
It is based on my experiences as a kid but expanded upon. It was a mad time: catapults, airguns, French exchange students and an enormous video camera making sequels to Rambo. We were working on it before Hitchhiker's (it has been in development for six years) and had got as far as casting. We saw the kid who went on to do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now we are doing it again. When I get off the phone I will be back storyboarding, and tomorrow we have the second casting call-backs.
Thanks very much and good luck with the new film.