Last night, Cornelia Funke and her literary muse Brendan Fraser stopped by Borders Columbus Circle in New York to do a (very) brief Q&A that, ostensibly, answered kids’ questions about Funke’s book Inkheart and the upcoming movie adaptation, starring Fraser.
Though there seemed to be more starstruck adults than children in the standing-room-only audience (enough of a crowd to warrant a pair of bodyguards), Funke and a visibly-shy Fraser gamely answered all questions. They shared the familiarity of genuine friends rather than simply colleagues; it surprised no one to hear that Fraser visited Funke in Hamburg after receiving an English copy of Inkworld (dedicated to Fraser), and that they have remained friends.
Stories about the movie adaptation, four years in the making, were carefully worded to avoid accidentally spoiling the half-dozen children in the audience. Funke did warn everyone, with the pleasant strictness of someone who’s read Lord of the Rings forums and knows what she’s in for: “Have fun with the changes, or you will not be able to enjoy the adaptation.”
Funke glowingly and unabashedly claimed the character of Mo was inspired solely by Fraser; she saw him in Gods and Monsters and The Mummy and said he was perfect for the character, “because I needed a man who could be both a medieval bookbinder and a robber.” (Contrary to what is expected of actors, as she waxed poetic about Fraser’s acting ability, Fraser made faces and stared at the table like a teenager being praised by his mother at a PTA meeting.)
There were several questions from blushing fans about Fraser’s career prior to Inkheart. (If you ever wanted to know how they filmed the tango scene from his romantic comedy Mrs. Winterbourne...you really don’t.) Oddly, only one question was about Inkheart; when asked by a young girl if he would be in the next movies, he said, “I have bills to pay. Yes.” Then, deadpan, he outlined to her the best way to get the next movies made; tell two friends about this movie, and have them tell two friends, and then have all of them go see it twenty-eight thousand times.
Fun fact: The first movie Fraser was in was Dogfight, opposite River Phoenix. The first movie he actually made was a stop-motion version of Star Wars, filmed with a Super-8 videocamera and starring all Fraser’s Star Wars action figures, some clay figures, and a lot of fishing wire. “Lucas was impressed,” he promised, and then added, “I’m sure it’s on YouTube.” (I checked. No dice.)
The other half of the crowd seemed to swoon more for Funke. The best writing advice of the night came in response to a question about writer’s block from a prospective writer in the audience. Funke denied it categorically: “I don’t have writer’s block. I have five books in my head all the time.” She suggested that writer’s block generally comes from one of three mistakes: not picking the right idea, not playing around enough with the idea, or not letting the characters speak to you and tell their story. Funke delivered the advice with the smiling, gentle confidence of someone who has never had writer’s block in her life.
If the Q&A is anything to go by, the movie has been as much a labor of love as the books have been, and it is something for which both of them are immensely excited; if I didn’t want to see the midnight show before, I do now. (Fraser himself proudly listed Inkheart as his favorite movie to make, right behind Gods and Monsters and Encino Man: “The line load was great. [Grunt] Done!”)
[Special photo credit goes to Eugene Myers, who, in the course of obtaining this action shot suffered Frowny Bodyguard Scrutiny. I guess you never know what a Mrs. Winterbourne fan is going to do!]