Sneaking Gnomeo & Juliet
"The thing about Starz that is so great is that they were really ready to give us what we were asking for. I think it's got a richness and depth and sense of reality to it and I think we made it for what it should cost; Starz found ways to make it appear more expensive than it really is: The gardens required simulation and the characters required rigging, modeling and ceramic surfacing. Lighting and rendering. They needed to build the pipeline and have the talent to pull it off technically and on schedule and on budget. I wanted from the beginning that the movie needed to look as realistic as we could get it so the audience would believe these garden gnomes could come to life."
Asbury says the movie suddenly came together when McAvoy adlibbed a line during a crucial exchange with Shakespeare (voiced by Patrick Stewart) about the inevitability of his fate: "You're telling me, it's a tragedy -- it's rubbish!"
"I don't know what ingredient that added except it made us say, 'Let's just be a parody of Shakespeare -- let's not hide from it,'" Asbury adds. "At the same time, we wanted to remain sincere so the audience still cares. I hope we've done that."
Meanwhile, other than opening with "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" during a lawn mower race and a cover version later on of "Crocodile Rock" by Nelly Furtado, the use of John's iconic music is merely hinted at in the score by old pal James Newton Howard.
"When the film was greenlit, we wanted Elton to be one of the cornerstones of the film," Furnish suggests. "Elton has written such an extensive amount of music that has touched so many people's lives… there's a lot of emotional wealth in those melodies. They take you to places right away, even on a subconscious level. So when you evoke 'Your Song' during some of the more romantic moments in the film, you get all of that wealth of history and awareness with it; when you get the 'Tiny Dancer' riff for Juliet and the 'Rocket Man' riff for Gnomeo, again, they are just chock full of good associations and memories for people and a huge likability factor."
As for the two new songs written with long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin, "Hello Hello" (sung by John and Lady Gaga) was conceived for the love at first sight moment between Gnomeo and Juliet, while "Love Builds a Garden" was conceived when they meet the flamingo character, Featherstone (voiced by Jim Cummings), "who's been locked up for 20 years and has been a victim of love going out of someone's life and realizing that it's a very precious, very beautiful thing that should be treasured," according to Furnish.
"There is something for everyone and it's timeless in expressing how we continue to live in a divided and conflicted world," Furnish adds. "Elton and I are great advocates of a world brought together. As Elton always says -- and I think it's one of the reasons he endures today -- 'Life is about building bridges, not walls.'"
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.