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Sprinkling Fantasy Stardust on the Con

One thing The Lord of the Rings has wrought is a spate of period fantasy projects.

Dibonaventura_gaiman_1 Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura (left, with writer Neil Gaiman, right) moderated the discussion of Matthew Vaughn's currently filming Stardust, adapted from Neil Gaiman's graphic novel, which looks promising indeed. In his producer mode, Vaughn originally wanted Terry Gilliam to direct Gaiman's 1998 Victorian graphic novel, but Gilliam didn't want to do another period fairy tale right after his long trudge through Brothers Grimm. Vaughn was saving Gaiman's Snow White novel (Snow, Glass, Apples) for his directing debut, but then he directed Layer Cake and when he walked away from X-Men III, he called Gaiman and said he wanted to do Stardust instead.

(According to Gaiman here at Comic-con, Terry Gilliam is back on the parody novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch — that's he and Terry Pratchett's story about a satanist nun involved in a baby swapping scheme that goes awry. "But (Gilliam) hasn't paid us the option fee, which is one groat each, or about four pence," said Gaiman, "available on eBay.")

Once Vaughn secured Paramount, Di Bonaventura and a final Vess_goldmanJane Goldman script, he assembled an amazing cast. It includes Sienna Miller, David Kelly, Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, Ricky Gervais and last but not least, Michelle Pfeiffer as a wickedly winsome witch. Charlie Cox is the hearty young swain who starts out awkward and winds up a hero.

The movie looks gorgeous and fun—with magic, romance,  adventure and whimsy along the way. It has a whiff of The Princess Bride or The Sword and the Stone about it. Our hero tries to cross a mystical Wall between his real village and the magical world on the other side, where one can find witches and a unicorn and falling stars and the Seven Lords of Stormhold. "Every once in a while there was a moment on the stage when I felt like I was stepping into my own imagination," said Gaiman. "It doesn't look like I imagined it, it looks cooler." Goldman, who sports hot pink Manic Panic tresses, confirmed that they would like to have Tori Amos voice the tree if they can negotiate a deal.

The novel's original artist Charles Vess (above right, with Jane Goldman) was so excited to finally see the Stardust set that he repaired Coraline_poster_1to the art department tent and drew a new cover for DC Comics' hardcover reprint that will accompany the movie in March 2007. (Vess's pencil sketch went to Danes which prompted the crowd in Hall H to let out a collective groan.)

Gaiman's other projects include: Coraline, which Henry Sellick is making as a primarily stop-motion animated movie slated for 2008 starring Dakota Fanning in the title role; Sandman is "floating in the void," he said, "I'd rather see no movie get made than a bad movie"; American Gods is a  movie Di Bonaventura might try to get made, Gaiman noted; but The Death Movie, he said, is back-burnered. "It's not dead yet."

Gaiman promised to return next year to sign for fans and hawk Bob Zemeckis's latest performance capture extravaganza, Beowulf, due November 22, 2007. "It takes the technology farther than you'd ever imagine," he said. "It's a cheerfully violent, very strange take on the Beowulf legend, faithful but deeply weird."

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