Based on the novel by
Running time: 130 minutes
In 2002, Roman Polanski released his award-winning film of "The Pianist," an
amazing story of suffering and pain in the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. It is also a
story of survival.
When Polanski completed "The Pianist" - which was a very personal film for him
because of his childhood in wartime Poland - he was determined to make a totally
different type of movie. He wanted to make a family film aimed, in particular, at a young
audience. Towards this end, he and his producing partners, Robert Benmussa and
Alain Sarde, began to read scores of children's books looking for the right story.
Eventually, it was Polanski's wife who came up with the suggestion to make a
new version of OLIVER TWIST. Polanski quickly discovered that the real Dickens story
hadn't been told on film since David Lean's version in 1948 and Carol Reed's musical
"Oliver!" 20 years later - nearly 40 years and two generations ago. The time was right.
Charles Dickens' classic story of a young orphan boy who gets involved with a
gang of boy pickpockets in 19th Century London seems, on the surface, a long way from
being children's entertainment. But this can be deceiving.
Roman Polanski is convinced that kids will love the fantasy elements contained
within the story. He says: "We are not going to strive for realism, quite the opposite. The
characters in this story are larger-than-life with the emphasis on their glorious humour
and eccentricities. This is a Dickensian tale in the truest sense, which means it is
exuberant, intriguing and timeless. And it is full of incident that is constantly surprising.
"Above all it is a tale for a young audience. My ambition is to make the film for my
own children. I read bedtime stories to them every night and I know what enchants them
and how they identify with the characters. In making OLIVER TWIST it is important I
don't disappoint them."
After an extensive search, Polanski chose 11-year-old London schoolboy Barney
Clark in the all-important title role. A student of The Anna Scher Theatre, a
world-renown community theatre in Islington, London, Barney has previously appeared
in the film "The Lawless Heart," the British wartime television drama "Foyle's War" and
the television Court drama "The Brief".
With Sir Ben Kingsley as Fagin, a host of talented British character actors have
been cast to play some of literature's best known characters: Jamie Foreman is Bill
Sykes, Leanne Rowe is Nancy, Edward Hardwicke is Mr Brownlow, Jeremy Swift is Mr
Bumble, the Beadle, Frances Cuka is Mrs Bedwin, Michael Heath and Gillian Hanna are
Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, Alun Armstrong is Mr Fang, Andy De La Tour is the
Workhouse Master with Peter Copley as his assistant, Liz Smith plays an old cottage
woman and Mark Strong plays Toby Crackit.
Among the boys, Harry Eden plays the Artful Dodger, Lewis Chase plays Charley
Bates, Jake Curran plays Barney and Chris Overton plays Noah Claypole.
The very experienced crew, most of who worked with Polanski on "The Pianist,"
include director of photography Pawel Edelman, production designer Allan Starski,
costume designer Anna Sheppard and editor Herve de Luze.
Directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Ronald Harwood, the film is
produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde and Roman Polanski. An independent
co-production by RPFilms of France, Runteam II Ltd of the UK and Etic Films sro of the
Czech Republic, "OLIVER TWIST" started principal photography at Prague's Barrandov
Studio in July, 2004 and is scheduled to complete filming at the end of October.
Co-produced by Timothy Burrill (UK) and Petr Moravec (Cz), the film will be
distributed in America and Canada by Tri-Star Pictures and territory by territory in the
rest of the world.
OLIVER TWIST (1838) - Historical Background
When Oliver Twist first began in serialized form in the monthly magazine
Bentley's Miscellany in 1837, its subtitle was "The Parish Boy's Progress." For the
first few instalments, Dickens' intention was to describe for his readers what it was like
to be a "parish boy" in the years following the passing of the new Poor Law Act of 1834.
Dickens would have seen the bill being hotly debated when he was a parliamentary
reporter for the Morning Chronicle, and he would continue to attack it in his fiction and
journalism for the rest of his life.
Prior to 1834, poor workers were given a tiny sum, or "dole," by their parish to
keep them from starvation on their fixed agricultural wages. It was intended as
emergency funds to tide people over until they could get on their feet again. The infirm
and unemployable were also the responsibility of each parish. While there were many
problems in the old system that the new legislation was intended to redress, many
people felt that the cure was much worse than the disease. The new act, designed to
prevent idle people from living off the community, grouped parishes together into "poor
law unions" and established "workhouses" (which became known as "unions"); here,
people with no other home or means of support were housed and put to work for the
Roman Polanski's new version of Charles Dickens' OLIVER TWIST is more of a
children's story. Polanski and scriptwriter Ronald Harwood have retained the
larger-than-life characters and the humour from the original novel and it remains a
thrilling tale of good fighting against evil, packed with suspense, vitality and drama with
a young boy at its centre. In the end, good triumphs in the face of great adversity...
Brought up in a pauper's Workhouse, orphan Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) and the
rest of the boys are starving and cast lots to decide whom among them will ask for more
gruel. Oliver is chosen. At supper that evening, after the normal allotment, Oliver
advances to the Workhouse Master and asks for more.
Branded a troublemaker by Mr Bumble (Jeremy Swift), the Workhouse beadle,
and the Board, Oliver is offered as an apprentice to anyone willing to take him. After
narrowly escaping being bound to a chimney sweep - a dangerous business where
small boys are routinely smothered being lowered into chimneys - Oliver is apprenticed
to the undertaker, Sowerberry ((Michael Heath).
Oliver fights with Noah Claypole (Chris Overton), another of the undertaker's
boys, after being provoked about his dead mother. Unjustly beaten for his offence,
Oliver makes his escape and runs away to London.
On the outskirts of the city, tired and hungry, Oliver meets the Artful Dodger
(Harry Eden) who offers him a place to stay in London. Naive of life in London's seedy
underworld and unaware of their real trade, Oliver is thrown together with a band of boy
pickpockets run by the sinister Fagin (Sir Ben Kingsley). He also meets the brutal Bill
Sykes (Jamie Foreman), his girlfriend Nancy (Leanne Rowe) and his dog Bull's Eye.
One morning Oliver innocently goes out with the Dodger and Charley Bates
(Lewis Chase), another of Fagin's boys, and witnesses their real business when the
Dodger picks the pocket of a gentleman, Mr Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke). When
Brownlow discovers the robbery in progress Oliver is mistaken for the culprit and, after a
chase which comes to an end when he is felled by a hefty blow to the head, Oliver is
caught and taken to the police.
While being questioned by the stern Magistrate, Mr Fang (Alun Armstrong), a
witness proves Oliver's innocence and the kindly Brownlow takes him to his home to
recuperate. His accuser becomes his benefactor and Oliver is treated well by Brownlow
and his housekeeper Mrs Bedwin (Frances Cuka).
Meanwhile, Fagin and Bill Sykes are concerned that Oliver will betray them to the
authorities and they are determined to track him down and bring him back to Fagin's
Convinced of Oliver's honesty, Brownlow sends him on an errand to pay a local
merchant five pounds and to return some books. But he is abducted by Sykes and
Nancy in the street. Brownlow, thinking that Oliver has run away with his money,
concludes that Oliver was a thief all along, as suspected by his friend Mr Grimwig (Paul
Back in the den of thieves, Oliver is tricked by Fagin to describe Brownlow's
house and its valuable contents. Sykes and fellow criminal Toby Crackit (Mark Strong)
force Oliver to accompany them on an armed robbery at Brownlow's house. They need
a small boy to enter a window and open the front door for the housebreakers. The
robbery is foiled when the household is alarmed and in the ensuing confusion, Oliver is
shot. Bleeding badly with a bullet in his upper arm Oliver is carried away by Bill Sykes
who has every intention of throwing him into the river. But it is Sykes who slips and falls
into the fast-flowing water.
Toby takes Oliver back to Fagin's where he is nursed back to health. Bill Sykes
struggles back to his place full of fever after his struggle in the river. He tells Fagin that
they must get rid of Oliver or all their lives will be forfeit. A sympathetic Nancy, fearful for
Oliver's life, makes contact with Brownlow and arranges to meet him beneath London
Bridge. But Fagin has had Nancy followed and in a fit of rage Bill Sykes kills her.
Nancy's friend Bet (Ophelia Lovibond) discovers the body and informs the police.
The hunt is on for Bill Sykes.
Brownlow is concerned for Oliver's safety, even more so when he discovers that
the police have tracked Sykes and Oliver to Toby Crackit's house in the London slums.
As the police move in, Sykes, using Oliver as a shield, scampers over sloping roofs
pursued by the police and a hostile crowd. Suddenly, distracted by his dog, Sykes slips
and accidentally hangs himself...
Some time later, Oliver and Mr Brownlow visit Fagin in Newgate prison where the
thief-maker is rapidly losing his mind. Despite all that has happened, Oliver feels
sympathy for the wretched man. Fighting tears, Oliver offers up a silent prayer before he
and Brownlow leave on a coach travelling towards a rising sun and the promise of a
bright new day.
Production designer Allan Starski's has the responsibility of providing
director Roman Polanski with all the visual elements against which this classic story
could be told. His spectacular composite set of mid-19th Century London streets,
constructed on the studio Back Lot, is amongst the most ambitious ever conceived for a
The enormous set contains five major streets and numerous market
squares and side streets. There is a slum area known as Jacob's Island and a more
up-market section called Pentonville - both of which existed in Dickens' time. The
principal thoroughfare, Kings Street, contains a number of shops, seven of which still
exist in London today. They are ‘Paxton and Whitfield' (Cheese Makers); ‘James Lock
and Co.' (Hatters); ‘John Lobb' (Boot Makers); ‘Berry Bros. and Rudd' (Wine
Merchants); ‘Floris' (Perfumiers)l; ‘David Salmon' (Fine Furniture); and ‘Robert Lewis'
(Tobacconist) - the first five are still entitled to display above their doorways the
prestigious sign ‘By Royal Appointment.'
Because of strict copyright laws, all the above-named shops had to give
permission for their names to be used in the film. Needless to say, all were delighted
and most of them offered the production genuine items of the period from their archives.
Starski and his supervising art director, Keith Pain, were fortunate in obtaining a
map dated 1835 which contained the names and business of all the main shops of the
time. They also found a number of paintings that clearly showed the look of the period.
Although the story is set around 1837, Starski and Pain extended the period by a few
more years, to the start of the Industrial Revolution, so that they could put more into it.
Three months of research and design were followed by another three months of
construction by a skilled team of carpenters, plasterers and metal workers. A further two
weeks were required for painters to finish the job.
The set looks magnificent even when empty but when full with costumed extras
(800 on several occasions) and many horse-drawn carriages it really comes to life. It is
in this myriad of streets that Oliver watches the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates apply
their pocket-picking talent before being chased through the crowded streets by Mr
Brownlow and an angry mob. Oliver is later treated with kindness in Brownlow's grand
home at Pentonville.
In stark contrast to the opulence of Pentonville and the crowded grandeur of
Kings Street, is the stench and squalor of Jacob's Island, a slum area of London's
dockland where Toby Crackit lives. It is over these rooftops that Bill Sykes tries to make
his escape after killing Nancy and where he meets his just reward.
The interior sets, too, are full of character. The most impressive is Brownlow's
house with its grand style and genuine antique furniture. The bureau in the living room
is genuine Georgian worth about $50,000 (£28,000).
Then there is the interior of the workhouse, with the large dining hall to feed 100
boys, a dormitory area, a huge workroom where men, women and children spend hours
separating oakum from old rope, a boardroom and corridors.
Fagin's room is an attic at the top of a once splendid mansion that has now fallen
into decay and disrepair. The plaster from the mouldings and the architraves is chipped
and falling away, the wallpaper is torn and there is dust and cobwebs everywhere.
Bill Sykes and Nancy live on the top of a wooden tenement building in a really
down-market area of London. Bill just about survives by robbing and thieving - and he's
not particularly good at that.
Toby Crackit's lives on Jacob's island in what was once a candle factory. Toby
has moved into the disused warehouse with scraps of furniture he has found along the
banks of the Thames and set it up against a background of candle-making machines.
‘The Three Cripples' pub was initially a bone of contention. Political correctness
of today would not allow such a name but no such awareness was around over 150
The interior of the Magistrate's Court, Sowerberry the undertakers and Newgate
Prison complete the major sets constructed on the Stages.
The Film Makers
ROMAN POLANSKI - Director/Producer
Roman Polanski was born in Paris of Polish parents on 18 th August, 1933. When
he was 3 years old the family moved to Krakow. In 1941 Polanski's father was deported
to the Mathausen labour camp in Austria, his mother to Auschwitz from which she never
returned. Polanski himself was subsequently taken in by a succession of Polish families.
Of this period in his life, Polanski recalls in his autobiography, Roman (1984), that
movies became my ruling passion - my sole escape from the depression and despair
that so often overwhelmed me'. After the war, Polanski was reunited with his father who
later remarried. At the age of 14 Polanski took up acting, appearing in the theatre, on
radio, and later in films.
In 1955 Andrzej Wajda cast Polanski in a small role in Pokolnie (A Generation)
and later in Lotna (1959), Niewinni czarodzieje (Innocent Sorcerers, 1960) and Samson
(1961). He also appeared in several other feature films including Ewa and Czeslaw
Petelski's Wraki (Sunken Ships, 1957), Julian Dziedzina's Koniec nocy (End of the
Night, 1957) and Janusz Morgernstern's Do widzenia do jutra (See You Tomorrow,
1960). During this time Polanski attended art school in Krakow, studying painting and
In 1955 he was accepted on the directing course at the Lodz film school. His first
film, Rower (The Bicycle, 1955), was based on his own experience of being robbed by a
man wanted for three murders. Unfortunately, due to blunders at the laboratory only half
the film stock was processed and the project was abandoned. Two years later Polanski
created a stir in the school with a sensational one-minute short, Moderstwo (A Murder,
1957). This and another sketch, Usmiech zedbiczny (Toothy Smile) presaged the more
disturbing themes of Polanski's outstanding films of the sixties and seventies. But his
other short films at the Lodz film school reveal a wider range of subject matter to which
he brought an approach that was often mischievous, witty and reflective. Of these Dwaj
ludzie z szafa (Two Men and a Wardrobe, 1958), a light-hearted avant-garde
masterpiece, he made to order for the Brussels Festival of Experimental Film and won a
bronze medal. However, the most striking aspect of these early shorts is their nostalgia,
often critical, of which Lampa (1959) and his graduation film Gdy spadaja anioly (When
Angels Fall, 1959) are the most outstanding.
Because Polanski did not complete the theoretical thesis required by the school,
he never formally graduated. Nevertheless, ‘Kamera', a production company, employed
him as an assistant director and, because of his fluency in French, he was given the job
of assistant to Jean-Marie Drot, a French director working in Poland, who was making a
series of documentaries on Polish culture. Polanski was also employed as an assistant
to Andrzej Munk on Zezowate szczescie (Bad Luck, 1960).
Between 1960 and 1961 Polanski worked in Paris where he directed and played
in another short, Le Gros et le Maigre (The Fat and the Lean). A year later he returned
to Poland determined to make his first feature film based on a script written by himself,
Jakub Goldberg and Jerzy Skolimowski. But approval by the authorities was delayed by
bureaucratic red-tape and so Polanski made another short, Ssaki (Mammals, 1962),
financed illegally with private money from Andrzej Kostenko, who was also the
cinematographer, and Wojtek Frykowski.
In due course, Polanski started on his first feature, Noz w Wodzie (Knife in the
Water, 1962). Despite restricted domestic distribution and public condemnation by
Wladyslaw Gomulka, the First Secretary of the Polish communist party, the film was a
huge success abroad, receiving in 1963 an Academy Award nomination for Best
Turning down an offer to remake the movie in Hollywood, Polanski chose to
pursue his career elsewhere. In Holland he shot La Riviere de Diamants, an episode of
the portmanteau film, Les Plus belles Escroqueries du Monde (The Most Beautiful
Swindlers in the World, 1964). It was the first time he collaborated with the writer Gerard
Deeply impressed by Noz w Wodzie, the producer Gene Gutowski tracked
Polanski down in Munich and persuaded the young director to follow him back to
England. In 1965, financed by Compton Films, Gutowski produced Polanski's first
English language film, Repulsion, from a screenplay by Polanski and Brach. The movie
won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and propelled Polanski into a director of
Next came Cul-de-sac, a pet project of Polanski and Brach, shot on location on
Holy Island, which in 1966 won the Golden Bear in Berlin. This was followed in 1967 by
an Anglo-American co-production, a pastiche of vampire horror films, The Fearless
Vampire Killers also known as Dance of the Vampires. Polanski himself was brilliant in a
cameo role and the film starred Sharon Tate whom he later married.
Despite the movie being re-cut by the American co-producer and re-titled,
Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, and failing at the US box office, Polanski
was approached by Robert Evans, the newly-appointed vice-president in charge of
production at Paramount Pictures, to direct Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. Released in
1968, the film is one of Polanski's finest and certainly one of his most commercially
Tragedy struck in August 1969. Sharon Tate, then heavily pregnant, Wojtek
Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring were senselessly and brutally murdered in
Beverly Hills by the Manson gang. In mourning and deeply distressed, Polanski was
unable to focus on work and so abandoned a United Artist project, Day of The Dolphin,
and the development of the French novel, Papillon.
But in 1971, he returned to directing with Macbeth from a screenplay he had
written with Kenneth Tynan. The film was more successful in Britain than in the US, and
Polanski resolved to remain in Europe to direct Che? (What?, 1972), produced by Carlo
Ponti. The film failed both critically and commercially but Polanski followed it with his
most critically acclaimed movie, Chinatown, (1974), starring Jack Nicholson. The film
received 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Director. Robert Towne won
an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Polanski's next project he describes as ‘a flawed but interesting experiment', The
Tenant (1975) based on the novel Le Locataire by Roland Topor. Polanski not only
directed but also played the tortured central character, Trelkowski, a Pole with French
citizenship, who indulges in transvestism and whose descent into madness ends in
suicide. The film is still the subject of controversy, but regarded by many as a
On his return to the United States, Polanski was embroiled in a scandal in which
he was accused of having ‘unlawful intercourse with a female under the age of 18', He
pleaded guilty and was committed to a diagnostic facility for psychiatric assessment.
After being released and without being sentenced he left the country.
Polanski settled in Paris and decided his next movie would be based on Thomas
Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Tess (1979), starring Nastassja Kinski, is the
story of innocence betrayed, seduction and of human behaviour governed by class
barriers and social prejudice. Recreating Hardy's Wessex in France, Tess proved to be
an outstanding critical and commercial triumph, earning 6 Oscar nominations, again for
Best Director, and winning for Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design.
A long absence from the cinema was ended in 1986 when Polanski directed
Pirates with Walter Matthau, a comedy swashbuckler, which proved to be a dismal
failure but he followed it with Frantic (1988), a thriller set in Paris, starring Harrison Ford
and Polanski's future wife, Emmanuelle Seigner.
Next came Bitter Moon (1992) based on a novel by Pascal Bruckner,
uncompromising, candid and funny, followed by the critically acclaimed Death and the
Maiden (1994) adapted from Ariel Dorfmann's highly regarded play. In 1999, Polanski
directed a thriller, based on Arturo-Perez Reverte's El Club Dumas. Re-titled The Ninth
Gate, the film starred Johnny Depp.
Having a decade earlier turned down an offer to direct Schindler's List, Polanski
happened upon a memoir of the Warsaw Ghetto by Wladislaw Szpilman entitled The
Pianist. An autobiographical account of courage and survival in the face of inhuman
conditions, The Pianist allowed Polanski to explore his Polish roots and his own
childhood experiences. Unsentimental and objective, the film was universally acclaimed,
winning many awards including three Oscars, Best Actor for Adrian Brodie, Best
Adapted Screenplay for Ronald Harwood and Best Director for Roman Polanski.
ROBERT BENMUSSA - Producer
One of Europe's most distinguished movie producers, Robert Benmussa has
been involved in many successful international films as either producer or executive
producer. His list of credits are as follows: Oliver Twist (2005) (producer), Mariage Mixte
(2004) (producer), Haute Tension (2003) (producer), Entre Chiens et Loups (2002)
(producer), The Pianist (2002) (producer), nominated for an American Oscar, and a
European Film Award and won a BAFTA Film Award and a Polish Eagle Award for ‘Best
Film,' Là-bas... Mon Pays (2000) (executive producer), Les Enfants du Siècle (1999)
(executive producer), K (1997) (executive producer), Les Menteurs (1996) (executive
producer), La Vengeance d'une Blonde (1994) (executive producer), Les Marmottes
(1993) (executive producer), Le Grand Pardon II (1992) (executive producer), Bitter
Moon (1992) (executive producer), Après l'Amour (1992) (executive producer), Pour
Sacha (1991) (executive producer), Gaspard et Robinson (1990) (executive producer),
La Baule-les-Pins (1990) (executive producer), L'Union Sacrée (1989) (executive
producer), Man on Fire (1987) (associate producer), Paroles et Musiques (1984)
ALAIN SARDE - Producer
The most prolific movie producer in France, Alain Sarde has been in charge of
over 200 feature films, including the following: Oliver Twist (2005) directed by Roman
Polanski, The Pianist (2002) directed by Roman Polanski (Nominated for an Oscar and
a European Film Award and won a BAFTA Film Award and a Polish Eagle Award as
‘Best Film'), Bitter Moon (Lune de Fiel) (1992) directed by Roman Polanski, The Tenant
(Le Locataire) (1976) directed by Roman Polanski.
Life is a Miracle (2004) directed by Emir Kusturica, Vera Drake (2004) directed
by Mike Leigh, Confidences Trop Intimes (2004) directed by Patrice Leconte,
Mulholland Drive (2001) directed by David Lynch (AFI Film Award: ‘Movie of the Year'),
Straight Story (Une Histoire Vraie) (1999) directed by David Lynch, La Pianiste (2001)
directed by Michael Haneke, Ponette (1996) directed by Jacques Doillon, Nelly &
Monsieur Arnaud (1995) directed by Claude Sautet (Nominated for a BAFTA Film
Award as ‘Best Film not in the English Language'), Une Histoire Simple (1978) directed
by Claude Sautet, La Crise (1992) directed by Coline Serreau, Nouvelle Vague (1990)
directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Prénom Carmen (1983) directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Un
Dimanche à la Campagne (1984) directed by Bertrand Tavernier (Nominated for a
BAFTA Film Award as ‘Best Foreign Language Film'), Le Choix des Armes (1981)
directed by Alain Corneau, Buffet Froid (1979) directed by Bertrand Blier, Barocco
(1976) directed by André Téchiné
TIMOTHY BURRILL - Co-Producer
One of Britain's most experienced producers, Timothy Burrill earned his spurs as
production manager, production supervisor and associate producer on many
international movies before progressing to the top job. His credits over the past three
Oliver Twist (2005) (co-producer), San Antonio (2004) (co-producer), Double
Zero (2004) (associate producer), Swimming Pool (2003) (co-producer), The Pianist
(2002) (executive producer), nominated for an American Oscar, and a European Film
Award and won a BAFTA Film Award and a Polish Eagle Award for ‘Best Film,' Vatel
(2000) (co-producer), Mauvaise Passe (1999) (co-producer), Bitter Moon (1992)
(co-producer), L'Amant (1992) (co-producer), The Fourth Protocol (1987) (producer).
Supergirl (1984) (producer), The Pirates of Penzance (1983) (co-producer), Another
Time, Another Place (1983) (executive producer), Tess (1979) (co-producer),
nominated for an American Oscar for ‘Best Picture,' That Lucky Touch (1975) (associate
producer), Alpha Beta (1973) (producer)
PETR MORAVEC - Co-Producer
Petr Moravec is the Managing Director of Etic Films which was founded in 1992
and is based at Prague's Barrandov Studio.
Etic Films have been involved with many international production over the past
twelve years including, in reverse order, "The Brothers Grimm," "Chasing Liberty," "A
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" - Trailer, "A Sound of Thunder," "Hart's War," "A
Knight's Tale," "Affair of Necklace," "Ravenous," "Les Miserables," "Eighteenth Angel,"
"Snow White in Black Forest," "Stand Back," "Young Indiana Jones - Series III,"
"Underground," "Die Jahre der Maurer," "Hey Stranger," "Young Indiana Jones - Series
II" and "Young Indiana Jones - Series I."
RONALD HARWOOD - Screenplay
Born in South Africa, Ronald Harwood moved to London in 1951 to pursue a
career in the theatre. After attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he joined the
Shakespeare Company of Sir Donald Wolfit, one of the last British ‘actor-managers'.
From 1953 to 1958, Harwood became the personal dresser of Sir Donald. He would
later draw from this experience in his play "The Dresser" and write a biography "Sir
Donald Wolfit CBE: His Life and Work in the Unfashionable Theatre."
In 1960, he started a new career as a writer and would prove to be quite prolific,
penning plays, novels and non-fiction books. He also worked often as a screenwriter but
he seldom wrote original material directly for the screen, rather acting as an adapter
sometimes of his own work.
One of the recurring themes in Harwood's work is his fascination for the stage, its
artists and artisans as displayed in the aforementioned "The Dresser," his plays "After
the Lions' (about Sarah Bernard), "Another Time" (about a gifted piano player),
"Quartet" (about aging opera singers) and his non-fiction book "All The World's a
Stage," a general history of theatre.
Harwood also has a strong interest in the WWII period, as highlighted by the
films "Operation Daybreak," "The Statement," "The Pianist" and his play turned to film
"Taking Sides." Based on true stories, the last two films feature once again musicians
as their main characters.
Other screenplays penned by this distinguished writer include: "Private Potter,"
"A High Wind in Jamaica," "Drop Dead Darling," "Diamonds For Breakfast,"
"Eyewitness," "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," "Operation Daybreak," "Evita
Peron" (TV), "The Doctor and the Devils," "Mandela" (TV), "The Browning Version,"
"Cry, The Beloved Country," "The Statement," "Being Julia" and, most recently, "The
Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
His many awards include an American Academy Award for "The Pianist", as well
as nominations for a BAFTA Film Award, a French ‘Cesar' Award, a Golden Satellite
Award and a Polish ‘Eagle Award for the same film. He was also nominated for an
Oscar, a BAFTA Film Award and a Golden Globe for "The Dresser" and a BAFTA FILM
Award nomination for "The Browning Version."
Harwood was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1974 and
Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1999. He was president of the international
PEN Club from 1993 to 1997 after presiding the British section during the previous four
His comedy, "Quartet," performed at the Albery Theatre, was nominated for a
Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2000 for ‘Best New Comedy.'
PAWEL EDELMAN - Director of Photography
Award winning cinematographer Pawel Edelman was born in Lodz, Poland and
made an immediate impact when his second film "Kroll" won the ‘Best
Cinematographer' award at the 1991 Polish Film Festival.
He furthered his reputation in his native Poland with films such as "Kroniki
Domowe" (1997), which again won him the Polish Film Festival's ‘Best
Cinematographer' award, and "Pan Tadeusz" (1999) for which he won the Polish ‘Eagle'
His international reputation was firmly established in 2002 when he lit "The
Pianist", Roman Polanski's harrowing story of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.
For his work on this amazing film Edelman was nominated for an American
Academy Award, a BAFTA Film Award and a prestigious American Society of
Cinematographers (ASC) Award for ‘Best Cinematography.' He also won a French
‘Cesar' Award, a European Film award and a Polish ‘Eagle' Award in the same
His most recent credits include "Zemsta" ("The Revenge"), shot in the USA, a
Television production of "Hamlet" and the film "Ray."
ANNA SHEPPARD - Costume Designer
An established costume designer in her native Poland where she worked as
Anna Biedrzycka through the 70s and 80s, Anna Sheppard moved to England in the
late 70s. After working with Anzieska Holland on "To Kill a Priest," she became
internationally recognised when Steven Spielberg chose her to costume "Schindler's
List," for which she was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA Film Award for Best
This painful period of history was revisited more recently when she designed the
costumes for Roman Polanski's award winning "The Pianist," her work being recognised
with a Polish ‘Eagle' Award and nominations for an Oscar and a French ‘Cesar' Award.
Since "Schindler's List" her career has been largely in the West, achieving a
range of credits including "Washington Square," "The Wisdom of Crocodiles" and
Michael Mann's contemporary drama "The Insider" starring Russell Crowe. She
returned to the subject of World War II when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks asked
her to design the costumes for their mini-series, "Band of Brothers." Her recent credits
prior to "Oliver Twist" were "Sahara," "Shanghai Knights" and "Around the World in 80
Days", the last two with Jackie Chang.
ALLAN STARSKI - Production Designer
A hugely successful production designer in his native Poland, Allen Starski still
resides in Warsaw from where he travels the world to lend his talents to international
In 1993 he designed the sets for Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," for which
he was awarded an Oscar, a BAFTA nomination and the Los Angeles Film Critics
Association Award for Best Production Design.
In the past decade he has designed the sets for numerous international movies,
the most notable being "Washington Square," the Polish film "Pan Tadeusz" for which
he won the Polish ‘Eagle' Award, "The Body" and "The Pianist", Roman Polanski's
award-winning story of courage and survival in the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. His
work on this production won him a French ‘Cesar' Award and another Polish ‘Eagle'
His recent credits prior to "Oliver Twist" were "The I Inside" and "Eurotrip".
HERVE de LUZE - Film Editor
Entering the film industry as assistant to Henri Langlois at the French
Cinematheque, Herve de Luze became director of newsreels and short films for
Gaumont Newsreels and, later, music supervisor and music editor for an historical TV
series made from stock-shots and produced by Gaumont et Telecip.
He was sound editor on features: MARIE POUPEE (Joël SERIA), DIABOLO
MENTHE (Diane KURYS), MAIS OU ET DONC ORNICAR (Bertrand VAN
EFFENTERRE) and TESS Roman POLANSKI).
Following his work as film editor on numerous short feature films for directors
Gérard MARX, Olivier ASSAYAS, Jacques RICHARD, Arthur JOFFE, Jacques
ROBIOLLES, Bogena Horackova, Pascal KANE, Robert SALIS, Julien RASSAM and
Virginie DESPENTES, his feature film credits as film editor are: LA VILLE BIDON
(Jacques BARATIER), ECLIPSE SUR UN ANCIEN CHEMIN VERS COMPOSTELLE
(Bernard FERIE), TESS (Roman POLANSKI) recut of the final version and sound
editing, JE VOUS AIME (Claude BERRI), 2 HEURES MOINS LE QUART AVANT
JESUS-CHRIST (Jean YANNE), LE MAITRE D'ECOLE (Claude BERRI), TCHAO
PANTIN (Claude BERRI), JEUX D'ARTIFICES (Virginie THEVENET), PIRATES
(Roman POLANSKI), JEAN DE FLORETTE (Claude BERRI), MANON DES SOURCES
(Claude BERRI), TO KILL A PRIEST (Agnieszka HOLLAND), URANUS (Claude
BERRI), CITY OF JOY (Roland JOFFE), BITTER MOON (Roman POLANSKI),
GERMINAL (Claude BERRI) nominated at the French Césars in 1996, DEATH AND
THE MAIDEN (Roman POLANSKI), LE GARCU (Maurice PIALAT), LUCIE AUBRAC
(Claude BERRI), ON CONNAIT LA CHANSON (SAME OLD SONG) (Alain RESNAIS)
French César for the best editor in 1998, ZONZON (Laurent BOUHNIK), ASTERIX AND
OBELIX AGAINST CESAR (Claude ZIDI), THE NINTH GATE (Roman POLANSKI), LA
DEBANDADE (Claude BERRI), LE GOÛT DES AUTRES (THE TASTE OF OTHERS)
(Agnès JAOUI) nominated at the French Césars in 2000, ESTHER KAHN (Arnaud
DESPLECHIN), LIBERTÉ OLÉRON (Bruno PODALYDES), LOIN (André TÉCHINÉ),
THE PIANIST (Roman POLANSKI), nominated at the Oscars and the French César
2003 for best editing. Golden Eagle Award in Poland. 24 HEURES DE LA VIE D'UNE
FEMME (24 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF A WOMAN) (Laurent BOUHNIK), CORPS A
CORPS (BODY SNATCH) (François HANSS), LE MYSTERE DE LA CHAMBRE
JAUNE (Bruno PODALYDES), PAS SUR LA BOUCHE (Alain RESNAIS), nominated for
a French César Award in 2004 for best editing, BIENVENUE EN SUISSE (Léa FAZER),
LES SŒURS FACHEES (Alexandra LECLERE), LE PARFUM DE LA DAME EN NOIR
Author and director of a short film in 1984: POSTE RESTANTE (Prix de Rome in
Author of two scripts of features: WAKJUNKAGA, original script written in 1987,
and THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND, adapted from a novel by Richard Wright
Director of commercials: CHEVIGNON, NOUGARO "MADE IN USA".
SIR BEN KINGSLEY - Fagin
Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley, who received his knighthood in
2001, plays one of literatures most controversial characters with the role of Fagin in
Roman Polanski's new version of "Oliver Twist."
Born in North Yorkshire, England, Sir Ben became a member of the Royal
Shakespeare Company at the age of 24 performing important roles, including Demetrius
in Peter Brook's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which he reprised for a
tour of US cities in 1971.
After making his film debut with a role in "Fear is the Key," he returned to the
stage with a two-season tenure with the National Theatre, working with Peter Hall on
productions of "Volpone," "The Cherry Orchard," "The Country Wife" and "Judgement."
His first major screen role, "Gandhi," brought him the ‘Best Actor' Academy
Award and a host of offers. He went on to appear in the film version of Harold Pinter's
play "Betrayal," followed by his first TV-movie, "Camille" (CBS), and the title role of
"Silas Marner," a BBS production which aired on PBS' ‘Masterpiece Theatre.'
In his first US film, "Without a Clue," he played Dr Watson to Michael Caine's
Sherlock Holmes. He also starred opposite Helen Mirren in "Pascali's Island," a tale of
intrigue set against the fall of the Ottoman Empire. After earning a ‘Best Supporting
Actor' Oscar nomination for his role of Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in "Bugsy," he
played ‘The King' for a Phillips recording of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The
King and I" opposite Julie Andrews.
After receiving a BAFTA Film Award nomination as ‘Best Supporting Actor' for
his performance in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," he went on to deliver an
exceptional portrayal of the physician who once tortured Sigourney Weaver's character
in Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden."
More recently, he received another ‘Best Supporting Actor' Oscar nomination for
his acclaimed, scene-stealing performance as a British gangster in "Sexy Beast" and
was nominated for an Emmy Award with his role of Otto Frank in the ABC mini-series
"Anne Frank." He also narrated the Steven Spielberg directed sci-fi film "A.I. Artificial
In 2003, he co-starred with Jennifer Connelly in "House of Sand and Fog" as an
Iranian immigrant and received Academy Award and SAG nominations for ‘Best Actor'
as well as a Golden Globe nomination for ‘Best Actor in a Dramatic Role' and an
Independent Spirit Award nomination for ‘Best Male Lead.'
He recently completed leading roles in "Thunderbirds," "Suspect Zero," "A Sound
of Thunder" and "Mrs Harris."
BARNEY CLARK - Oliver Twist
11-year-old Barney Clark was born on 25 June 1993 in London, England. He still
lives there with his Australian mother, his English father and younger brother. He holds
Barney showed an early interest in performing, particularly when he was bought
a puppet theatre for Christmas at the age of three. He enjoyed telling stories and
creating his own shows for family and friends. At nursery school he had his first taste of
greasepaint when cast as the woodcutter in "Little Red Riding Hood." The immortal line
"Chop, chop, chop" comprising a first public-speaking performance. At primary school
he showed an increasing interest in drama and appeared in school nativity plays and
other class shows performed for parents. He was offered the part of Prince Charming in
"Cinderella" but chose to play instead the evil stepmother because he thought it would
be more fun.
To enrol in The Anna Scher Theatre, a world-renown community theatre in
Islington, London, is very difficult due to overwhelming demand, even to attend summer
holiday workshops. So Barney's mum placed his name on their waiting list when he was
only two years old. At the age of six, in summer '99, he was invited to try-out for an
initial week but ended up doing four consecutive weeks because he enjoyed it so much.
He also attended the following three summer schools prior to being invited to join a
regular evening class in 2002.
A friend of the family co-wrote and directed the film "The Lawless Heart" and cast
Barney in the role of James, the son of the lead character, played by Bill Nighy. This
took him on his first location shoot in Essex during the winter of 2000. Although only a
small part - the main spoken phrase being "I want chips" - this fired his enthusiasm for
more proper acting roles.
It also led to interest from an agent and various castings, particularly being
considered for the part of Reece Witherspoon's son in a film version of "Vanity Fair."
Unfortunately, Barney was considered too "sweet" for the role, a bit of a brat. His
parents were keen for him not to be involved in commercials or advertising - although
he was offered auditions - primarily to maintain his privacy and allow him to enjoy a
natural growing-up experience.
In the spring of 2003, Joyce Nettles, a director of the Anna Scher Theatre, was
involved in casting the wartime television drama, "Foyle's War" for ITV, starring Michael
Kitchen. She visited one of the children's classes Barney attended and picked him to
audition for a part in an episode called "War Games". He was cast as Tim, a lively and
cheeky boy who, along with another child, is taken under the wing of the character
played by Honeysuckle Weeks. The boys became embroiled in a storyline that uncovers
a German spy operating as a businessman. The climax of the drama sees the boys
being chased and savaged by dogs while trying to climb a wall and escape from the
spy's house where they had discovered incriminating papers. Barney did ten days
filming in the summer of 2003 and the series aired in a prime Sunday evening slot
during November of that year. Following the broadcast, Barney was offered a number of
auditions on the strength of his performance.
With a perfect attendance record at the weekly classes and his development as a
young actor, Barney was invited to join the Anna Scher Young Professional classes in
September 2003. The young professionals are those actors identified by teachers who
would benefit from additional classes to develop the necessary craft-skills and attitude
to guide them on a route to professional acting. The classes are conducted twice weekly
and require complete commitment. Barney was amongst the youngest children invited
to take these classes and enjoys them immensely, although his current acting role in
"Oliver Twist" precludes regular attendances.
"Oliver Twist" - First Audition: This came about when Barney's mum received
a phone call from his agent inviting him to audition for a film version of "Oliver Twist" to
be directed by Roman Polanski. On 16 December 2003 at the Pineapple Dance Studio
in Covent Garden, London, Barney attended the casting session. Nothing is heard and
a further TV drama beckons.
Once again Joyce Nettles is instrumental in a casting, this time for a new ITV
court drama called "The Brief", starring British actor Alan Davies. The following day
Barney is offered the part of Zak Farmer, Alan Davies' son, in the four-part series.
Simultaneously, Barney is offered a major role in "Rose and Maloney", another ITV
drama, playing the part of the murdering lead character as a child in flashback
sequences. Barney declined the role as he was already committed to "The Brief."
Ten days filming on location in London culminated in his theatrical fall from the
upstairs window of a Dockland flat onto the Thames riverbank below. This was the first
occasion where barney has a stunt double so he didn't have to lie in the freezing winter
mud and then attempt his lines through chattering teeth. Another make-up job sees him
in hospital with a broken leg, the cast for which he still keeps at home. "The Brief" aired
in April 2004 to one of the best audiences for a new TV drama and prompted many calls
from friends and acquaintances praising his rapidly improving acting presence.
"Oliver Twist" - Second Audition: In late February 2004, a call came through
asking Barney if he remembered the Oliver audition before Christmas, which he
obviously did. They said they would like him to come in for a second audition at the
home of the casting director. So, on a freezing cold day after school, Barney and Mum,
with little brother in tow, trekked across London. They were late and Barney hadn't
learned his lines for the new audition. Surprisingly, this was just what the casting
director wanted; she said he would look more natural if he wasn't word perfect. The tape
would be sent off to Roman Polanski and we would hear back in two weeks.
"Oliver Twist" - Screen Test: Two weeks to the day the call came saying
Barney was in the frame for the role of Oliver and could he please go to Prague to meet
with Roman and do a screen test. He left on April 1st for Prague - could this have been
an elaborate ‘April Fool's' joke? He returned to London the following day excited and
brimming with stories of his adventures on set. They had cut his hair very badly, the
authentic poor Victorian boy look. He had been pushed through a window on the set so
they could get a close-up of his face. The way he described this to his parents the more
apparent it became that he was in with a serious shout for the main part. No time for
dwelling on the matter, his parents told him to assume nothing: the next day was the
start of a family holiday and he needed to get his hair re-cut properly so people wouldn't
think he had cruel parents.
"Oliver Twist" - Cast as Oliver: Barney went on a family holiday to Phuket,
Thailand on Saturday 3rd April. For the second time in a year their baggage was lost in
transit, ironically going by mistake to Sydney, Australia - his mother's hometown. Two
days later, on Tuesday 6th April, the lost luggage eventually arrives and the vacation
starts with a vengeance. However, that evening there is a call from Barney's agent. He
has been offered the part of Oliver. The shooting will be over the summer but first the
producers would like barney to come to Paris and allow Roman Polanski to introduce
his Oliver to the world's press. Barney accepts the part, hardly a surprise, and his
parents agree to finalise details when they return to England two weeks later. On their
return, a deal is quickly agreed between the producers, Barney's agent and his parents.
"Oliver Twist" - The Paris Press Conference: Barney and his father travelled
to Paris on Sunday 25th April and meet for tea with Roman Polanski, the producers and
their publicist. It is agreed they will meet at Roman's office the following morning prior to
walking to the press conference at a nearby hotel. Monday 26th April and at Roman's
office he shows Barney a gold statuette and asks him if he knows what it is. Barney
replies he thinks it is an Oscar. Roman says he'd like Barney to win one of those.
The scene is set and for the first time the enormity of the role and the potential
change in Barney's life became apparent. The press conference is a photo call followed
by a question and answer session with Roman and Barney. Roman tells the assembled
press the film is to be for children, something his own kids will love, and that it will be
shot mainly at a studio in Prague. It will be colourful, joyous even, and the main actors
will be British. When Barney is asked whether he has read the novel, Roman tells the
press that a child of eleven cannot read and enjoy Dickens. Barney confirms this,
although he has read a children's version of the story and watched the film musical
version from 1968 starring Mark Lester.
"Oliver Twist" - Rehearsals in Prague: Barney goes to Prague on Tuesday 6th
July to meet other cast members for a first script reading and have final costume fittings.
On the Thursday he returned to London. Friday 9 th July was his last day at primary
school; he'll go to secondary school in the autumn, and he left with his shirt signed by
the whole class. He also goes to what will be the last of his classes at Anna Scher's until
filming is over. On the Saturday he said farewell to friends, some of who promise to visit
him in Prague. An early night beckoned in preparation for an early Sunday pick-up to go
to the airport.
"Oliver Twist" - Filming: Sunday 11 July and Barney left London for what is
planned to be 15 weeks away from home. His father accompanied him, along with
suitcases full of the bits and pieces important to any eleven-year-old; his Playstation,
favourite DVDs, toys and a large number of schoolbooks - this will allow him to keep up
his studies in preparation for when he goes back to school. Monday was the first day's
filming and began with making himself at home in his studio dressing room - complete
with magnetic dartboard and computer.
Filming started in earnest with the scene where Oliver arrives at the workhouse
with Mr Bumble, the Beadle, to be paraded before the gluttonous board of directors. The
set looked fantastic and the crew made him feel at home. His schedule will be intense
but, unlike Victorian days, child employment laws are now strict. He will be chaperoned
constantly and have a maximum number of daily working hours, with regular breaks.
Each day he calls home and his family and friends visit each weekend.
Barney proposes to keep a daily journal during the filming in Prague.
JAMIE FOREMAN - Bill Sykes
Following in the footsteps of such distinguished actors as Robert Newton, Oliver
Reed and Tim Curry, the villainous Bill Sykes is now being played by Jamie Foreman,
one of Britain's foremost character actors.
Forman has made guest appearances in all the leading British television series
as well as dramas like "First and Last," "Love Story," "Without Motive," the roles of
Ismail Kane in "Micawber," Jim in "Out of Control," Keith Phelan in "Danielle Cable:
Eyewitness," Dave Cutler in "Family" and Marky Brooker in "Family Business."
On the cinema screen he has been seen as the Earl of Sussex in "Elizabeth," the
thuggish constable in "Sleepy Hollow," China MacFarlane in "Saving Grace," the record
producer in "Remember a Day," Brian Maitland in "Breathtaking," Tony in "Goodbye
Charlie Bright," Mickser in "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," and the taxi driver in "The
Football Factory." His most recent appearance was in "Layer Cake."
MARK STRONG - Toby Crackit
Born in London, Mark Strong originally intended to pursue a career in law but
after studying for a year in Munich he returned to London to study English and Drama at
university before attending the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He has appeared in
many British stage productions, including several with the Royal Shakespeare Company
and the Royal National Theatre.
His numerous appearances in television drama include the roles of Inspector
Larry Hall in three series of "Prime Suspect," Tosker (Terry) Cox in "Our Friends in the
North," Mr Knightley in "Emma," Oblonsky in "Anna Karenina," Len Davies in "The
Jury," Dr Tolkin in "Fields of Gold," the Duke of Norfolk in "Henry VIII" and Harry Starks
in the recent successful television series of "The Long Firm."
His recent big screen appearances include roles in "To End All Wars," "Hotel,"
"Superstition," "Heartlands," "It's All About Love" and the recently completed "Tristan &
Isolde," in which he plays the part of Wictred.
LEANNE ROWE - Nancy
Stepping in the shoes of such performers as Kay Walsh and Shani Wallis,
Leanne Rowe is the latest actress to play the role of Nancy in Roman Polanski's new
version of Charles Dickens' classic story.
Following appearances on British television, some at a young age, Leanne came
to prominence with the role of Harriet in a 1996 episode of Enid Blyton's "The Famous
Five" called "Five on Finniston Farm."
This led to her being selected by director Franco Zeffirelli to play the role of
Helen Burns in his 1996 film of "Jane Eyre."
Taking time off for scholastic studies, Leanne recently returned to acting with the
role of young warrior Siora in "Boudica" ("Warrior Queen" in the USA) and a major role
in an episode of the successful TV series "Where The Heart Is."
HARRY EDEN - The Artful Dodger
14-year-old Harry Eden made a remarkable movie debut two years ago with the
role of Paul in "Pure," a performance that won him two prestigious awards - The
Manfred Salzgeber Special Mention Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and
the British Independent Film Award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer.' He was handpicked
from more than 2,500 boys for the role of Paul after auditioning 14 times.
He followed this with the roles of Russell Wade in the television production of
"Real Men," Nibs in the film "Peter Pan" and Ben Heywood in "The Lazarus Child."
He was previously seen on TV in episodes of "Lock, Stock... "and "Helen West."
Harry received some training as an actor at the Sylvia Young Theatre School for
children and, coincidentally, knew he wanted to be an actor after watching a
performance of Lionel Bart's musical, "Oliver!" and being inspired by the role of the
EDWARD HARDWICKE - Mr Brownlow
The son of celebrated actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Edward Hardwicke received
his dramatic training at RADA and made his motion picture debut at the age of eleven
with the role of George in the 1943 production of "A Guy Named Joe."
In a versatile acting career since then he has successfully divided his talents in
film, on the stage and on television in equal proportions. A one-time member of the
National Theatre, he has appeared in London's West End on numerous occasions as
well as starring in many television dramas.
He quickly established a reputation as one of Britain's finest character actors in
films such as "The Day of the Jackal," "Shadowlands," "Richard III," "Photographing the
Fairies," "Elizabeth," She" and "A Lonely War." His most recent role was that of Sam's
grandfather in "Love Actually."
MICHAEL HEATH - Mr Sowerberry
Michael has 25 years of acting experience. Leading and supporting roles in
television have included both period and contemporary drama including regular roles in
the series "Prince Regent", "By The Sword Divided," "The Dorothy Sayers Mysteries",
"Love Story," "Through The Dragon's Eye," "Columbus," "Moon and Son" and the single
dramas "Pretorius," "Crisis," "All The Fun Of The Fair," "She Loves Me" and "Henry IV."
Film work includes Les Blair's "The Nation's Health." He has played in several radio
dramas, numerous repertory seasons and a season with the National Theatre in Sir
Peter Hall's Oresteia company. West End productions have included "Nightingale,"
"Blood So Cheap," "Silverlake," "Barnum," "Passion," "Joseph And The Amazing
Technicolour Dreamcoat," "Destry Rides Again" and "Kings And Clowns." A German
speaker, he has also played several theatre seasons in Austria including productions of
"Carmen Negra" and "Cabaret," which he also directed.
Michael is also a successful writer and composer, creating works for both the
theatre and the concert platform. "Lacrymosa" was a play commissioned for the Vienna
Mozart bi-centenary celebrations in which he also played the role of Mozart; his
music-drama "Laura," in which he played the SS officer Strachen, has had two
successful productions and he had a previous portrayal of a Dickens character when he
played Scrooge in his own new musical version of "A Christmas Carol." In addition to
many individual songs and concert pieces, other commissions have included the staged
oratorio "Where The River Meets The Sea," which was written for performance in
London's Millennium Dome, and a choral setting of Martin Luther King's "I Have A
Dream "which is due for performance in Carnegie Hall in 2006. His ‘cello concerto will
premiere in the Spring of 2005, played by the Elgar Chamber Orchestra with Gregory
Bennett Walmsley as the soloist, and he has a new musical comedy, "Silent Star," set in
the twenties with a jazz-age flavoured score, which will star the comedian Bradley
Walsh and open at the end of 2005.
Although he divides his time equally between acting and writing, Michael's first
love is, and always has been, film and it has long been an ambition to work with Roman
Polanski - something he has finally fulfilled with the role of the undertaker in the
forthcoming "Oliver Twist."
GILLIAN HANNA - Mrs Sowerberry
A doyenne of the British stage, Gillian Hanna has appeared with most of Britain's
leading repertory companies following her debut performance at Dublin's Gate Theatre.
This was followed by seasons with Liverpool's Everyman Theatre, the Liverpool
Playhouse, the Sheffield Crucible and starring roles with the Birmingham Rep, the West
Yorkshire Playhouse, the Salisbury Playhouse, the Nottingham Playhouse and theatres
in Newcastle and Leicester.
She made her West End debut in "The House of Bernarda Alba" at the Lyric,
Hammersmith and went on to appear with the Royal National Theatre followed by a
variety of roles at the Royal Court Theatre.
Her many television appearances began in Ireland with Telefis Eireanne before
moving to England where she further established her reputation with leading
performances in TV drama as well as guest roles in more popular television series.
Moving to the big screen, she made her motion picture debut as ‘The Cook' in
"Wolves of Willoughby Chase," followed by roles in "Chicago Joe and the Showgirl,"
"The Woman and the Wolf," "Les Misérables," "Best" and "The Heart of Me."
FRANCES CUKA - Mrs Bedwin
After creating the part of Jo in Joan Littlewood's British stage production of "A
Taste of Honey" in 1958, Frances Cuka went to America and reprised the role at the
Booth Theatre and on a tour of the United States.
An early member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she appeared many
times at Stratford and in London playing leading roles in both classical and
contemporary productions. She regularly appeared at London's Royal Court Theatre
and subsequently became a member of the Prospect Theatre Company and the
Following numerous guest appearances in television drama, she made her movie
debut in "Scrooge", Ronald Neame's musical version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol,"
and went on to appear in "Six Wives of Henry VIII," "Watcher in the Woods," "Mountain
of the Moon," "Afraid of the Dark," "Snow White in the Black Forest," "The Man Who
Held His Breath" and "Swimming Pool."
Fagin SIR BEN KINGSLEY
Oliver BARNEY CLARK
Bill Sykes JAMIE FOREMAN
Artful Dodger HARRY EDEN
Nancy LEANNE ROWE
Charley Bates LEWIS CHASE
Mr Brownlow EDWARD HARDWICKE
Mr Bumble JEREMY SWIFT
Toby Crackit MARK STRONG
Barney JAKE CURRAN
Bet OPHELIA LOVIBOND
Mrs Bedwin FRANCES CUKA
Noah Claypole CHRIS OVERTON
Mr Sowerberry MICHAEL HEATH
Mrs Sowerberry GILLIAN HANNA
Charlotte TERESA CHURCHER
Mr Fang ALUN ARMSTRONG
Bookseller PATRICK GODFREY
Mr Limbkins IAN McNEICE
White Waistcoat RICHARD BURDEN
Mr Grimwig PAUL BROOKE
Parson TIMOTHY BATESON
Mr Gamfield ANDY LINDEN
Old Cottage Woman LIZ SMITH
Workhouse Master ANDY DE LA TOUR
Workhouse Master's Old Assistant PETER COPLEY
Warder RICHARD RIDINGS
Elderly Officer FRANK MILLS
Inspector Blather NICK STRINGER
Magistrate No. 1 JOHN NETTLETON
Magistrate No. 2 ANTHONY NOBLE
Policeman No. 1 ANDY CAMM
Farmer GERARD HORAN
Elderly Man TIMOTHY BATESON
Tom (Boy) LAURIE ATHEY
Boy No. 1 FILIP HES
Boy No. 2 ANDREAS PAPADOPOULOS
Barmaid LIZZY LE QUESNE
Man in Pub JOHN EARLY
Director ROMAN POLANSKI
Screenplay RONALD HARWOOD
Producers ROBERT BENMUSSA
Co-Producers TIMOTHY BURRILL
Line Producers MICHAEL SCHWARZ
Composer RACHEL PORTER
Director of Photography PAWEL EDELMAN
Production Designer ALLAN STARSKI
Costume Designer ANNA SHEPPARD
Editor HERVE DE LUZE
Casting Director CELESTIA FOX
Production Manager ONDREJ NERUD
Unit Manager JIRI HUSAK
Location Manager JIRI KREJCIR
Production Co-ordinator GABRIELA GLASS-BOHMOVA
Production Co-ordinator UK JACQUELINE EDWARDS
First Assist. Director RALPH REMSTEDT
First Assist./ Director CZ OLDA MACH
Supervising Art Director KEITH PAIN
Camera Operator MAREK RAJCA
Script Supervisor SYLVETTE BAUDROT
Key Grip ROBERT LUKOWSKI
Key Grip CZ ROMAN HODEK
Gaffer RONALD SCHWARZ
Sound Engineer JEAN-MARIE BLONDEL
Make-up Artist DIDIER LAVERGNE
Hair Stylist JEAN-MAX GUERIN
Sir Ben Kingsley's Make-up MICHELE BAYLIS
Assistant Costume Designer JANE CLIVE
Property Master BARRY GIBBS
VFX Supervisor DAVID BUSH
SFX WOODOO EFFECTS
Stunt Co-ordinator CZ ROBERT LAHODA
PA to Sir Ben Kingsley ALLISON ADAMS
Stills Photographer GUY FERRANDIS
Unit Publicist GEOFF FREEMAN
"MY PREPARATION FOR THIS FILM WAS PROBABLY
DONE TWENTY YEARS AGO"
Says Sir Ben Kingsley.
"Roman and I know each other quite well," says Sir Ben Kingsley who plays the
iconic role of Fagin in Roman Polanski's vision of Charles Dickens' classic novel. ‘Oliver
Twist.' "I worked with him ten years ago and it was a very enlightening experience. The
intellectual is very thin on the ground," he continues. "We have actually destroyed our
intellectual middle class by allowing extremely mercenary issues to completely
mesmerise us. We look back about sixty years and we had people like DH Lawrence
and his circle of extraordinary companions who held soirees when people actually came
for an evening of conversation. And people listened to them, they were taken seriously.
Now the intellectual voice, the intelligent voice, has been so crushed and suppressed
that people can do things with impunity without anyone saying ‘Just a minute, what you
are doing is utterly ludicrous.'
"I knew that we had to have a director for this film who was an equal challenge to
Charles Dickens. It is no good having a pedestrian director directing Shakespeare when
he couldn't actually spend five minutes in a pub with Shakespeare - he would be totally
crushed and intellectually intimidated.
"I'm sure Dickens was a wonderful man and you have to have a director who still
has this intellectual vigour, confidence, stamina and curiosity. I'm an actor so I can do
anything, fortunately. I can do a film based on a video game and I can do a film of one
of Shakespeare's plays. I'm a freelance - I can actually do what I like. But I do have my
priorities and in order for our cinema not to drift into the abyss we have to treasure our
intellectuals and our great directors.
"I immediately felt that Roman could spend time with Charles Dickens and have a
wonderful evening and a great laugh. We can look at ourselves ironically and laugh at
ourselves, caricature ourselves in a way that actually is still empathetic and
compassionate but now we have a tendency, not only to crush the intellect but also, in
some societies, have a really good try at crushing success... and that's lamentable. So
here's Roman, who is still at the peak of his powers and newly awarded an Oscar for his
brilliant re-examination of the holocaust through one man's eyes ("The Pianist").
"This film is Roman's gift to that next generation who are starved of any kind of
historical depth and historical density. The context is how we got from Dickens' London,
which was appalling, to our London which, in part, is equally appalling. The children of
Dickens' London were alcoholics and prostitutes - there were 80,000 prostitutes in
London at that time, and London was a lot smaller then. Whole streets were given away
to brothels. Child abuse, child prostitution and murder were probably equivalent to the
street kids in Rio de Janeiro today... and the life expectancy was about the same.
"What we don't have in the UK today is a Charles Dickens who will say ‘Come
over here, go round that corner, there are three kids who are playing truant and sniffing
glue... and one of them will be dead by the afternoon!' This is what Dickens did. He
actually had the guts. Because there were people living in Hampstead who didn't know
what was happening in Moss Side in Manchester. And this is the same today. It's the
same dynamic but you don't have the great intellectual overview. You have a lot of
posturing and speech making but you don't have someone like Bertram Russell.
Nobody is answerable to anybody is what I'm saying. We can get away with crap but
nobody says ‘This is enough.' So Roman looks at how we continue to squander the
great wealth of children and he will show us that through his perception of Charles
"Roman has such an irony and a wit and a perception of human behaviour and
human types and human categories that he's able to caricature those extraordinary
characters from the novel They are absolutely vivid, remarkable people - the beadle, the
undertaker, Mrs Sowerberry, Noah Claypole, Toby Crackit. Bill Sykes, Nancy and, of
course, Oliver, the Artful Dodger and the other boys. They all look operatically
extraordinary. It's a method of telling a story in the way that a child perceives adults -
because children look at adults in a different way. If you ask a child to draw somebody
they will draw all those features that the person hoped hadn't been noticed. Dickens had
the same pureness. He managed to write people's monstrous attributes as perceived
through a child's eyes... which is baffled and curious at the same time. So the screen is
going to look like that. And unless you have that perception by the director of a Dickens
novel, it won't work. The poor little mites were dying every day.
"Fagin is there, in that mould, for a reason. He has been marginalized and
therefore forced to exploit. I had to create a portrait that you can connect with as a
member of the audience. I start off by putting brush to canvass and add more paint as
the film progresses. Roman knows why Fagin is there. It's very baffling because there is
a side of people who will say ‘Look, without Fagin these children would be dead!
Without Fagin, they would starve to death.
"Fagin is my portrait. It's very intuitive, it's not an academic exercise. As Roman
is collaborating with everybody, he will position Fagin in the right place for the right
reasons in order to highlight Oliver's predicament. That's the important thing - it's how
Oliver sees this man.
"My interaction with Roman is as good as it was when we worked together on
‘Death and the Maiden.' We have both changed but hopefully we have changed in the
same ways. We've maybe had a parallel growth that's allowed us to communicate now
as easily as we did ten years ago. I think that is the test of a good working relationship.
Roman is in a quest and therefore he insists, in a very detailed and caring way, on the
audience being presented with a flawless equation of human behaviour so that they can
discover for themselves the cause and effect. Roman is brilliant on ‘cause and effect'
and this is what interests me in Fagin... it's all ‘cause and effect.'
"I have been asked how I prepared for such a role, did I watch other screen
Fagins? Well, I dipped into the novel but now I'm in the novel I don't dip into Dickens so
much. I've read Ronnie Harwood's script a great deal. I enjoy reading it and having little
lights go on in my head. I'm interested in the period. It's my second major Dickens - the
first was ‘Nicholas Nickleby' for the Royal Shakespeare Company - and I was fully
immersed in the period then. It is an historical period that already intrigues me. If an
actor has no concept of what was going on in London at that time and how people
addressed each other and what the language was like, it's very hard to interpret the
role. I had fifteen years doing classical theatre. My preparation for this film was probably
done 20 years ago.
"I collaborated very much with Roman, French make-up chief Didier Lavergue
and my own make-up specialist, Michele Baylis, to find the right look for Fagin. I asked
Michele to get photographs and sketches and the final look is very much what I wanted.
I have some very fond childhood memories in Manchester of a man who ran a junkshop
with mountains of umbrellas and pots and pans. And I remember looking at him when I
was Oliver's age and being fascinated by this man who wore a coat tied together with
string - and my Fagin wears a coat tied together with string.
"That's not research, it's mosaic. I get this bit from here and that bit from there
and you step back and you have a mosaic made up of little bits of observations when
growing up. I want the camera to see what Oliver sees - how Fagin must have appeared
"FAGIN'S BOYS PROBABLY DON'T KNOW WHAT A
NORMAL LIFE IS"
Says Barney Clark, who plays Oliver.
Barney Clark is an 11-year-old schoolboy from Hackney in north London. He was
plucked from hundreds of applicants by Roman Polanski to play the role of Oliver Twist
in a new version of the Charles Dickens classic.
"I was really thrilled to get the part," says this talented youngster whose previous
acting experience had been comparatively limited. "It all started when I got a call from
my agent telling me that I had an audition for ‘Oliver Twist.' I went to a big London
warehouse with lots of other boys going up for Dodgers and Olivers. We all read some
lines from the script and afterwards they asked me to stay behind to do a little bit more,
just to see what else I could do. Some days later I was called back to the casting
directors house where I read another part of the script but this time I was just by myself.
Then I came to Prague for a screen test and that was when I first met Roman.
"There were four of us and we all came up to his hotel room. There was me,
Harry (Eden) who plays Dodger, Lewis (Chase) who plays Charley Bates, and another
boy going up for Oliver. Roman just sat us on a sofa and talked to us about what we
had for dinner and casual things. It was some time later that I was told I had the part of
"Oliver is an orphan who was born in a parish farm and taken to the Workhouse
by Mr Bumble, the beadle, when he is ten. He's got a horrible life really and when he
draws the short string and asks for more he is considered a troublemaker and they try to
sell him to a chimney sweep. But he cries in front of the judge and they let him off and
he goes to live with Mr Sowerberry in the undertaker's house. That's where he has a
fight with Noah Claypole and runs away to London.
"When he arrives he collapses on some church steps because he's so
exhausted. His feet are bleeding because he has walked over 70 miles. A boy walks
past and spots him. He's the Artful Dodger and he takes Oliver back to Fagin's place
where he meets Fagin and all the other Fagin boys sitting there smoking and joking.
"I think Sir Ben Kingsley is really funny as Fagin. He's always making jokes even
when we're not filming. He would come onto set always in character, stooping and
talking in the Fagin voice. I didn't recognize him at first, I didn't think it was Sir Ben.
Even on the second day I found it difficult to believe it was really him - he looks so
completely different. His teeth look so real with all the gums and everything. It takes him
almost two hours every day to get ready with his beard and everything. It's amazing.
"Fagin trains the boys to be pickpockets but they enjoy it, they do it for a living.
But they probably don't know what a normal life is - to be a family - ‘cause Fagin has
brought them up and Fagin is their dad. When I think about it I suppose Fagin is bad but
I see him as a funny and a good character because he's just picked up these boys and
they're making all this money for him, which is quite funny. It must have been horrible to
be an orphan boy back in those days. They lived with rats and with so many people in
one room. They spent all day peeling threads from old rope to make all those things that
the Workhouse masters want.
"When I got the part, I read the short version of the novel, about twenty pages,
loads of times. Then I read the shortened down children's version which was about a
hundred and fifty pages - not as long as the full Dickens novel. I have watched both
films and really enjoyed them (David Lean's ‘Oliver Twist' 1948 and Carol Reed's
musical ‘Oliver!' 1968).
"Roman told me that he didn't want the story to be dark and he wanted Oliver to
be more brave than in the other films. When he asks for more, for example, he's not as
scared as other Olivers have been. And in this film Oliver has fights and stuff... but he's
still scared of a lot of things ‘cause he would be. He's an orphan in the Workhouse.
"At the beginning Oliver is in rags and it's horrible but I must sat they are quite
comfortable, more comfortable than the posh clothes that Mr Brownlow gives him. They
are really tight and I wear braces (suspenders) with a little waistcoat and jacket. At one
point Oliver doesn't even have any shoes. He walks so far to London that his shoes fall
apart. He meets a few people on his way to London - a kind little cottage lady and a
bad-tempered farmer whose dog chases him away.
"Roman is very helpful on the set. Sometimes he tells me to stand next to the
camera and watch as he shows me what he wants me to do. He's really focused and
actually edits the film in his head. It's really amazing how he does it.
"A typical day for me starts when I wake up in the morning, have breakfast and
then have lessons for about an hour and a half or two hours with my tutor until my call
time. Then the car takes me to the studios where I get into my costume. Sometimes I go
for a rehearsal first or I go to make-up. Then I shoot, have lunch, do more some
shooting in the afternoon and finish about seven. They are long days and quite tiring -
but it's fun.
"I became good friends with Harry (Dodger) and Lewis (Charley). We met at the
screen test in Prague and started playing together straight away. We play a lot of cards
and go swimming a lot at the hotel and just have fun playing around. Harry and I had
pickpocket lessons in Prague with this great magician who also taught us card tricks
and stuff. In one scene, Dodger sticks his hand out the back of his coat and shakes my
hand. I found that really great, when he steals bread the same way.
"The sets for the film are amazing. When I first saw the London Streets set on the
Back Lot I had to knock on everything just to make sure it was fake, ‘cause it looked so
real. I would touch it and it would be plaster. And all those extras - I don't know how they
make so many costumes. And each extra is playing a part. One day there were eight
hundred extras in the main street scene and each one of them had a costume specially
fitted for them.
"Part of the challenge for me was that I had to talk with a slight Birmingham
accent because Oliver is originally from the West Midlands and he walks about 90 miles
to London. It was quite hard but the dialect coach showed me how to position my mouth
and it kind of works by itself. It's really weird ‘cause you don't even have to think about
what you're going to say - you just position your mouth and it just comes out.
"I enjoyed working with all the other actors in the cast. There was a point at the
beginning when I would work with a different actor every day and they are all
well-known and very good actors. Most of the time I was with Fagin or Bill Sykes or
Nancy or the Dodger or Mr Brownlow and they were all really nice people and we
became good friends.
"I have two favourite scenes. One is where I have to beat up Noah Claypole,
which was really good because I got to do my own stunt. I could put my foot on the chair
and jump across a table and punch him in the face. The other is climbing on the
rooftops with Bill Sykes. That was really fun. We've got harnesses on and they're green
so later on they just push a button on the computer and it wipes out the harness and
they can fill in the background.
"Working with Bull's Eye was fun too. But the trouble with working with a dog is,
halfway through a scene, he will get bored and just get up and wander off - with the
owners shouting words in Czech trying to make him go and sit down again.
"I've always been interested in acting ever since I went to drama school
workshops in the summer holidays. I really liked it so I kept on going the next summer. I
went for two weeks and after that I went for four weeks, then two again. After that I was
invited to two classes a week as a YP - Young Professional.
"I was surprised when I heard the film was going to be made in Prague because I
thought surely of the story is set in London it should be filmed in London. But Prague is
a lot like old London - even though it's all filmed in a studio. Prague has a lot of old
buildings and they've still got boats on the river that are really old. So it looks a bit like
"During the filming of "Oliver Twist", I kept a daily diary. Each day I tried to write
about half a page. Some days I got back really late and didn't have time so I wrote more
the next day. This is an example: -
"The first day: Today my dad and I went to the set for the first time. We unpacked
all my stuff and played on my first laptop for a bit Then we asked for a nail in the wall so
I could hang up my dartboard. I was then told I had to get into costume and go to the set
but I was left waiting fifteen minutes before I went on. I think they were using my
stand-in to line up the cameras. Then they called for me and I rehearsed the scene
where Oliver is first presented to the Workhouse board. They did it from loads and loads
of different angles ‘til lunch, then more angles after. Because Oliver has to cry, Roman
spoke to me privately and told me to think of something sad and they gave me some
things to make my eyes water."
"Another example: -
"Oliver wants some more and he goes up in front of the Workhouse Master and
asks for more. Today we are with the hundred and seventy-five extras for the
Workhouse scene. Because we didn't finish the scene yesterday we had to do it again
today. We then filmed in the dorms where Tom had to say he was so hungry he might
eat the boy next to him."
"This example is when we move to the country for another scene with the cottage
lady when Oliver is walking to London: -
"Today we moved location to the countryside for the cottage scenes with Liz
Smith but luckily I had to sleep in one shot and it was good because I woke up at four
thirty in the morning so they could get the right kind of weather."
"This is the day of the market scene - with Roman's party after: -
"Today there were eight hundred extras in the market scene, plus forty
horsemen, twenty carriages and thirty horses. It's when Oliver first meets the Dodger.
This evening we were invited to Roman's birthday and I got him a fart machine, an
exploding fag and fly ice."
"I remember Roman's birthday on the set when all the extras started singing
Happy Birthday, eight hundred of them. And Morgane, Roman's daughter, walked down
the middle singing Happy Birthday with a band behind her. It was really good.
"Here's another extract from the diary when Bill is loading the gun before we go
out on the burglary: -
"Today we were on stage shooting the scene after Nancy brings me to Bill. I
learn how to load a gun because Bill had to load a gun with powder, a bullet and a bit of
old hat for wadding."
"And a final extract from the diary: -
"Today is just a little bit to sum it all up and just say how good it's been. It's nearly
the end of the shoot. I've learnt loads from Roman. Everyone's been really great. The
best part of the shoot was on the roofs with Bill and the worst part was Oliver walking to
London when he sleeps in hayricks with fake rain all over him. I'm looking forward to
going back to school and seeing all my friends."
"BILL SYKES REMINDS ME OF A KILLER SHARK"
Says Jamie Foreman, who plays Bill Sykes.
British actor Jamie Foreman was chosen by Roman Polanski to play the role of
Bill Sykes in his new version of Charles Dickens' classic novel about poverty and
survival in 19th Century England.
"Bill is the catalyst for everything that happened in the movie," says Foreman.
"The difficulty is to give Bill a little bit more life, a little bit more depth than in previous
movies. With the musical Bill was a very one-dimensional character - it was written that
way, it was required to be that. With the David Lean version it was Robert Newton. God,
you know, to be following in those kinds of footsteps is something very special as an
actor. But also it is dated.
"I found that he was unrelentingly awful. Bill is a very strong character and he's a
real survivor. In a lot of respects he reminds me of a killer shark and I've tried to convey
that with a lack of anything going on behind the eyes - which I know sounds quite weird
for an actor who always wants to project with his eyes. And I think it works when I see
the playbacks on the set. I don't watch the rushes (dailies) but I find playbacks are very
helpful and give you a feel if you're on the right direction in a specific scene.
"I found that his eyes were very dead so a picked up on that quite early and it
was something that I was instinctively doing. And Bill has that survival instinct - kill or be
killed. It's that kind of world they were living in and the period they were living in. He was
pushing the envelope all the time. He could hang for near enough everything he does,
or be transported - which was still around at the time. So to be the kind of character he
is, he had to be very strong, very selfish, very confident in his own abilities and very
disregarding of anyone else's emotion or feelings. He's totally driven.
"When I was approaching the role, it was very difficult to breath some kind of life
into him, to show another side to him, which you have to do with every character you
ever play because you've gotta like him. You've gotta find something in you that really
relates to the animal that you're playing.
"And he's not just one-dimensionally aggressive and growly and horrible. There's
a man in there trying to keep his life together, keep on the move, and keep safe. People
often love playing the bad guy but the bad guy's hard work. You can't always be just
unrelentingly bad and awful and terrible and aggressive towards everyone. You have to
find something else to make you just want to keep watching him and to wonder what
he's going to do next and to keep the audience guessing. When I looked at the other
interpretations of him, I found that there was room for me to bring a little more of
something else to him.
"I think everyone of a certain class had a bad childhood in those days. If you
were born in a metropolis in that period of history, you know, life was tough. There are a
lot of parallels with inner city children of today and that is what will become evident with
the film. There are a lot of parallels to be drawn. The children were totally and utterly
abused. They were Workhouse children. Poverty was rife in those days so the children
were the first victims. If a family couldn't feed themselves, how could they eat?
Contraception wasn't available so if you couldn't feed yourself how could you feed the
eight brats that you had. To give them a chance in life, a lot of families would put them
in the Workhouse just so that they could have some kind of chance of surviving.
"So, for the children, it was all about living on your wits and they fell prey to all
manner of terrible experiences. Child prostitution was rife in that period. The whole
concept of the Fagin character having this band of kids that goes out and steals for him
every day and creates this sort of camaraderie through all the wrong things. Anything
you did to survive - as with Bill -and to get through the day and to put food on the table
was what you had to do. It is relevant to children of today in the inner cities - this sense
of hopelessness, of not having any opportunities, not having any future. Bombarded
with attitudes, with images of what they should be having and what life should be like.
"When Oliver comes across this happy Mr Brownlow, this kindly, very affluent
gentleman, it's Christmas. It's a dream come true. It's everything that he's ever wanted.
And that sort of permeates through the gang as well. In terms of the life of a child in
those days it was absolutely horrendous.
"In the film, Bill first arrives when Oliver's been arrested and there's this fear that
he'll pitch on the gang, which means he'll inform on them to the police. So Bill, being an
integral part of the whole set-up, decides that he's gotta be brought back into the fold
and thereafter Bill Sykes is involved with Oliver, which becomes the catalyst for the
movie as I see it. It's purely out of self-survival and self-protection that Bill and Oliver
"I always imagined myself as the Artful Dodger when I was younger. For drama
school I actually did Dodger's speech describing Bill's death from the book... ‘And there
he hung, and swung.' I'm plagiarizing the life out of it now but it was something along
those lines. Suddenly, you realise you're too old and now you are being asked to look at
Bill and approached to play what I think is the ultimate British gangster. Playing Bill
Sykes, for a London actor, is a dream come true.
"I was sent some pages from the book to have a look at and I laid a two-minute
screen test down. I gave it my interpretation and I had to appreciate that I was laying a
tape down for probably the best living director for whom I had such respect. I then spent
a month wondering if I should have done more. But I honestly felt that if I had what
Roman was looking for then he'd see it. The man has such vision and such a great eye.
Eventually I received a phone call saying ‘You're Bill Sykes.' And then I got drunk for
two days to celebrate.
"Bill's the ultimate villain. He's the grandfather of them all, which, for me, is a
great opportunity - seeing I've played quite a few in the past. There's nowhere else I can
go after this. Perhaps there is one other movie that I'd really love to do, which is a very
personal one for me. I would love to play my father in a film. He's very much a modern
"I didn't actually meet Roman until I arrived in Prague for a screen test to find
Nancy. We had three wonderful young actresses who all did exceptionally well with
three different interpretations. As always in these situations, which are very tough on the
two who don't get it, is that it's a question of balance and overall look and feel. So we
went with Leanne Rowe, who is far from being inexperienced but new to this level of
"Roman didn't really change too much of my interpretation. He helped me along,
told me where to dig deep. Bill is way and above anyone else that you'll come across.
There are very few roles that require this level of depth or self-belief or strength. I've
played a lot of powerful men and I've never come across anyone like him. It's very
difficult to maintain the performance. I've found it very difficult to be unrelentingly awful
all the time. As a man, I'm forty-six now, you strive to become a better person and a
more rounded man. To return to those emotions in yourself is going to be very tough.
"The older I get the harder it's becoming to dig that deep. That weight of
aggression and strength and power that is Bill is a lot to carry around. Obviously,
Roman is not striving for reality here; he's looking for larger-than life. But you have to
find the reality of the character before you can start caricaturing him or making him a
little bit larger than life. Else he becomes a cliché and boring and he becomes comical,
and this is certainly anything but that.
"The whole feel of this movie is so realistic and I hope contemporises it for a new
audience, a new generation of children and young people in there twenties. The last
production of this was done in the sixties (the musical) and people still love it and still
talk about it. So now we have a new vision of it and a new interpretation of it, especially
in the hands of such a master. I think it's important that you really understand these
people and find the reality base of these characters before you start laying on the
larger-than-life, the look or feel of him. That's what's going to give Roman exactly what
he wants at the end of the day.
"I was surrounded by Dickens when I was a child. My second school was the
Charles Dickens Primary School. I was brought up in the area that's synonymous with
this story, in particular The Borough, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, all around that sort
of area of London was my stomping ground as a child. My father owned a public house
on the street where Dickens' father had a house outside the debtor's prison where he
was incarcerated. When they pulled the house down, the worker sold my father the lock
from the front door, which we had on the wall in the pub. My father had silhouette
caricatures of all the Dickens characters all around the pub walls.
"I love all the Dickens books. I read them at school and did pieces from them. I
also did essays on them. In respect to Dickens' timeless qualities, you could set his
books against today and they wouldn't be out of place. What Roman and Dickens had in
common was that they shared the same kind of childhood. Dickens had a very unhappy
childhood. His father was a scoundrel who was always in trouble. He never paid his bills
and was always in debt. Dickens had to survive the best way he could. Roman's life
story is very well documented with the tragic childhood he had in the Warsaw ghettoes
of World War II. There is a simpatico there straight away.
"There is a very strong sense of Oliver in Roman and Roman recognizes a lot of
Oliver in himself. That's my interpretation. The more I'm working on the project, the
more I understand Roman. I can see more and more of Oliver in him. He's still this
wonderful imaginative child himself, you know, even at this stage of his life. To come to
this project was inevitability for him, I think.
"Anna Sheppard is an amazing costume designer. We came to this costume
within fifteen minutes. The hat was the first hat I was handed from a total of fifteen on
the floor. The rest of the costume was just as easy to select. Bill has a very specific
shape. Whenever you see him on the screen he has a sense of foreboding about him.
When Bill turns a corner and walks into view, you go ‘Oh, what's going to happen? What
mood is he in? What's he going to do?' He's a very dynamic character. He drives every
scene that he's in along because of his energy and power. So to get the costume and
the walk and the feel of it right is imperative. And with the stick and the dog it's a
"When I was first approached for the film I thought Sir Ben had all the problems
because Fagin is one of the most iconic roles in cinema. But I came to realise that Bill,
too, was an iconic character. Bill has a real something going on with woman that is very
interesting, I found out talking to people. There's something about the scoundrel in him
that women apparently find attractive. It's a little bit more complicated than that because
when you're with a man like Bill you're protected. Nancy can only be sixteen or
seventeen realistically. He might have met her when she was about fourteen, which
wasn't uncommon in those days. But when you're under the patronage of a man like
Bill, you're safe and you have a sense of security. You have a roof over your head and
food on the table. You have a man who's going to protect you against all the villains out
there. Bill offers that.
"It all comes tumbling down though when he feels betrayed. That's the rub. It's
the sense of betrayal that drives him to do what he does to Nancy. It's not like with
Oliver who he thinks is a threat that might pitch on him and get him hanged. It's a lot
deeper with Bill and Nancy. It's about the fact that he's looked after this kid or even
loved her and he feels that she's betrayed him.
"Bill's relationship with Fagin is a love/hate relationship. They both need each
other. A good thief always needs a fence and Fagin is the ultimate fence. So there is
always this sort of need for each other. And Bill really knows Fagin, he understands
him. He's the only one who can handle him and keep him in his place. Bill has wonderful
lines like ‘Light him down the stairs Nancy. It's a pity he should fall down the stairs and
break his neck without anyone seeing it.'
"To have the opportunity to work with an actor of Sir Ben's calibre is just
incredible for me. I think he's still going from strength to strength as an actor. And he's
fabulous on the set with the children. He comes on set in character and he plays and
jokes. He's very giving and very sharing, he's a lovely man to work with and he's very
supportive. We're both very experienced, we've been doing this a long time and we both
have a deep-rooted passion for the work we do. When he looks at other actor's
performances on set, he'll give you a smile or a little wink that says ‘That was nice, what
you did.' We sort of bounce off each other and it's just fascinating to watch a great actor
in progress so up close.
"The oldest adage in show business is never work with children and animals, and
we've got them in abundance. But Roman has the most wonderful eye for new talent
and young Barney Clark has landed on his feet. He just steps into the role so naturally.
He's an amazing boy, very quick on the uptake and very professional. He's also very
dedicated - always better on his lines than I am. Harry Eden, as the Dodger and little
Lewis Chase as Charley Bates are wonderful, as is the youngster who plays Noah
Claypole. All good actors and great fun to be with. They keep the energy going - I wish I
had half their energy.
"I loved the book as a child and the story has lived with me for ever. And now, as
an adult re-examining it, I'm just as hooked on the grown-up side of it as well. So
hopefully the audience will like it too. It's got something for everybody. I know it's an old
cliché to say that about a movie but it really has got everything you could ever wish for.
In the hands of a man like Roman Polanski, with his eye for detail and the passion that
he brings to this movie, I definitely want to go and see it."
"ROMAN WAS QUITE SPECIFIC ABOUT HOW HE
WANTED NANCY TO LOOK"
Says Leanne Rowe, who plays Nancy.
In keeping with tradition, Roman Polanski has chosen yet another unknown who
is destined to make a huge impression on the cinema-going public. This time it is British
actress Leanne Rowe who Polanski sees as the perfect person to portray the role of
Nancy in his new screen version of the Charles Dickens classic, OLIVER TWIST.
"I first became involved in March of 2004 when I met casting director Celestia,"
recalls Leanne. "She recorded me playing a scene from the script and sent the tape to
Roman in Paris. After seven weeks of silence I was convinced I hadn't got it and tried to
forget about it but I really though damn, that would have been a damn good part to get.
"But then I got a call to see Celestia again and to record another scene. Similar
scenario, I heard nothing for five weeks this time. Then I got a call to come to Prague in
the Czech Republic for a screen-test opposite Jamie Foreman who had already been
signed to play Bill Sykes. It was a very nerve-wracking experience but I consoled myself
by thinking, at least, I've had a day working with Roman Polanski and not every actor
can say that. I had the screen test on a Thursday, flew back to London the same
evening and, after a nail-biting weekend, was told I had the part on Monday morning.
"The scene for the screen-test was one of my favourites. Nancy hears Bill and
Fagin talking about getting rid of Oliver and she knows she has to warn Mr Brownlow
that Oliver is in danger. But Bill stops me leaving the house and there is a big kafuffle
during which Bill has to drag me into the kitchen by my hair. It was a really good gritty
Bill and Nancy scene, which I enjoyed. We were both in full costume and make-up and
filmed the scene on a specially built set.
"Roman was quite specific about how he wanted Nancy to look. We would try
stuff with loads of white powder but Roman would be like ‘No, no. You look like a model.
She has to be vulgar.' We eventually found the look that satisfied Roman and we started
filming. As the story progressed and Nancy became more depressed, she wasn't
worrying about her appearance so much and the make-up got a bit less as the film went
"With regard to the costumes, I had me first fitting in London before the
screen-test, before I got the part. I tried on a green dress and Anna Sheppard, the
costume designer, was so delighted that someone fitted this dress because it's an
actual dress from the period. It's like a hundred and eighty years old and was in
someone's collection that Anna had bought. They cut the neck to make it more suitable
‘cause it was a bit too demure for Nancy and we rolled up the sleeves. It was so delicate
and had no Lycra or stretch in it so they backed the dress underneath with a net
material to give it extra lining.
"That's the dress Nancy wears when she goes to see Mr Brownlow in a posh part
of town and when Bill and Nancy snatch Oliver off the street. Her make-up is toned
down and her hair done nice and she's got a pretty bonnet on. She looks a lot better
than in the bright red dress that she wears around her part of town.
"Nancy has another dress, a brown one, which is also quite demure. She wears
this when she goes to the magistrate's court looking for Oliver when she pretends that
he is her brother. But my favourite is the red dress - it's just Nancy's dress. The one she
wears to work or if she goes to the pub with Bill. It's her main dress and one that
everybody knows Nancy has.
"Getting the right accent was kind of fun. I made myself sound completely
different from how I normally spoke. I would drop more T's than I usually would. I had
sessions with the dialect coach just to make sure that even though I was dropping the
T's you could still understand what I was saying. We were striving for a real London
accent without playing on the Cockney bit. It was a case of just speaking slower - ‘cause
everything in that period was slower - and articulating so that the American audience
can understand what you're saying, else it could get totally lost. I just made myself a bit
more common in my whole demeanour. Nancy is very confident and hands-on-hips -
she has to be to cope with Bill. She is probably the only person with balls enough to
stand up to Bill.
"Roman very much wanted people to connect with his characters. With Bill, you
want to love to hate him, and you're rooting for Nancy because she tries to help Oliver,
and everyone has to love Oliver because, you know, he's Oliver. The Artful Dodger is a
cheeky chappie so the kids in the audience might associate with him being a bit
mischievous. And then there is Fagin. Roman has given him a lot of humour, which kind
of softens his villainy, and you actually feel sorry for him when he begins to lose his
mind in the condemned cell of Newgate Prison at the story's end.
"The exterior set they built on the Back Lot of Prague's Barrandov Studios was
just amazing. It was like being in London in the nineteenth century. You walk along
cobbled streets and go in and out of all the shops. There is a butcher's with carcasses
of real pigs hanging outside, which wasn't too pleasant but authentic. There was a
scene when Fagin and Nancy walk through the market and I come out of the butcher's
with my sausages before we go on to buy some wine.
"The slum area where Bill and Nancy live is very different. It is very run-down
with posters on the wall advertising boxing matches. Toby Crackit's house is on a place
called Jacob's Island, surrounded by an inlet of the River Thames. So they built a big
kind of ditch and filled it with water - it all looks so authentic.
"The interior sets were equally as impressive. Bill and Nancy's place is tiny and
everything Nancy owns is in her little corner on her little dressing table with her little pots
of rouge and lip rouge of that time. They must have done a lot of research to get it so
"Nancy first meets Oliver in Fagin's place when she walks in and there's a new
boy there. She doesn't know anything about his history and asks him what his mother
thinks about him being there. Oliver replies that he hasn't got a mother, he's an orphan.
When she first meets him he bows to her, which she finds endearing, and she kind of
takes him under her wing. She teaches him how to play cards and gradually, as the
story progresses, she grows more fond of him. She can tell his not like the rest of
Fagin's boys. It's not in him to steal.
"Although she wants to help Oliver, she would never betray Bill. When she
sought out Mr Brownlow to tell him of the danger Oliver was in, it was never her
intention to mention Bill's name. Nancy loves Bill, or she wouldn't still be with him the
way he treats her. And she knows that Bill loves her in his own way. Every now and
again he'll say something nice but then he has to follow it up with something horrible
because he feels he has let his guard down. She knows Bill wants to get rid of Oliver
and, much as she wants to protect Oliver, she doesn't want Bill to hang for killing a child
- so she was trying to protect them both really.
"What is Nancy going to do without Bill? In those days if you had someone like
Bill to look out for you, you were okay. Bill was providing for her and they helped each
other to survive. But Fagin had sent The Artful Dodger to dodge (follow) her and Bill
gets to hear of what he considers her betrayal - with dramatic results.
"Barney Clark is an amazing kid. I first met him when I flew to Prague for the
read-through. As soon as you see him you know he is the one playing Oliver. He's only
eleven and he's really bright. He's a really clever kid and he's such a joy to be around.
It's lovely being around all the kids because it lightens the mood. At the end of the day
they're kids and when they're between ‘Takes', they're back to being themselves. But in
front of the camera they are all very professional. Watching Barney, you forget that he's
only a child of eleven because Roman will ask him to do something and it's done. He
only has to be asked once.
"The same with Harry Eden, who plays Dodger, and Lewis Chase, who plays
Charley. They only have to be asked once. Watching Roman with the kids is great. He
has two young children of his own and one of them is about Barney's age so he totally
connects with them. He knows how to get what he wants out of them. He talks to them
on their own level, not down to them like children. They all have a really lovely
relationship with Roman.
"Sir Ben Kingsley has the biggest transformation. He looks totally different as
Fagin. With me, I'm Nancy, but you can still see it's me. It's the same with Jamie and the
kids. But if you didn't know it was Sir Ben under the make-up you would never recognise
who it was. His hair, his beard. He's got false teeth that changes the shape of his
mouth, changes the way he speaks. He walks differently, with a constant stoop - it must
play havoc with his back - totally different in every way.
"He'll laugh and joke as Fagin but it's still Sir Ben's wit underneath. He was the
only actor in the film who remains in character the whole time he is on the set, which is
really good actually as you've got that rapport before you've even started. As soon as
I'm around him and he's Fagin, then I slip into Nancy and Jamie slips into Bill and when
the cameras roll we are already in character.
"Sir Ben is really lovely to work with and very generous as an actor. He offers
good advice without being condescending and is very respectful to everyone. I have
learned a lot from him by just sitting and watching him at work - just as I have from
Jamie and Roman. With this movie I'm just watching everyone and I know I will take
away a great deal that I can use in other jobs."
"LEARNING TO BE A PICKPOCKET WAS FUN"
Says Harry Eden, who plays the Artful Dodger.
Fourteen-year-old Harry Eden is no newcomer to the acting game. Two years
ago, with his first film, "Pure", Harry won two prestigious awards - The Manfred
Salzgeber Special Mention Award at the Berlin Film Festival and the British
Independent Film Award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer.'
He was inspired to become an actor when he saw the screen musical "Oliver!" as
a young lad and was struck by the mischievous antics of Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger.
Now, several year later, he has the chance to shine as the Dodger in Roman Polanski's
new screen version of Charles Dickens' classic "Oliver Twist."
"Roman told me that the Dodger was very clever, very street wise and very quick
with his hands," remembers Harry. "So I had to practice that. I started learning about the
art of picking pockets about a month or so before filming began when a magician came
to Paris during our script read-through. Then another magician came over to Prague
during the filming to give us more pocket-picking practice. He also taught us many card
tricks so that our hands became clever and quick. It's been lots of fun. Roman said the
pick pocketing scenes should feel like a dance because they do it so perfectly - and
that's what he wanted us to do.
"My costume is wonderful. I have pockets inside my jacket for concealing the
things I steal, like wallets and silk handkerchiefs. Whenever I put on the jacket and the
hat it actually helps to get me into the part. The magician also helped a lot with the hat
because I had to do loads of tricks with it.
"The Dodger first meets Oliver after Oliver has walked over seventy miles to
London. He's tired and is lying on the steps of a church. Dodger is on the look for
potential victims when he sees the boy and gets him to come with him to Fagin's place
where all of Fagin's boys live together. Fagin tells the boys what to nick and how to do it
without getting caught.
"I've enjoyed working on the film, especially the scenes where Dodger fights with
Bill Sykes and when Fagin asks him to dodge (follow) Nancy. There were several
scenes where the boys are seen smoking clay pipes but we're not actually smoking the
real stuff - it's herbal tobacco that tastes terrible but does you no harm.
"We all had a good time away from the studio too. All the boys used to hang out
together, swimming and go-carting. Leanne Rowe, who plays Nancy, is the youngest of
the adult actors and nearer our age. She used to come to our hotel quite often and we
all had dinner together many times.
"This is my fifth film and it is much bigger than the rest. Roman has been a great
help to me. Whenever I have a big scene to do, he reads about five previous scenes so
that I am aware of what is happening. He also taught my mate, Lewis Chase, who plays
Charley Bates, how to laugh in a couple of scenes. Roman is very good at fake
"I hope I get to keep the costume. I'm not sure if I will, but hopefully the jacket,
the shoes and the hat. Definitely the hat…"
"I'M THE JOKER IN THE GANG"
Says Lewis Chase, who plays Charley Bates.
Thirteen-year-old Lewis Chase makes his motion picture debut in the role of
Charley Bates, one of Fagin's boys and a close friend and partner-in-crime to The Artful
Dodger. Lewis had never appeared in a movie before so how did he get selected by
Roman Polanski to play such a key role in such a big international movie?
"I had an audition in London at a place called Pineapple Studios and, to be
honest, I didn't think I'd get the part. Six months down the line I got a phone call saying
‘Hi, Lewis, can you come for a screen-test?' I was shocked and I thought ‘Okay, cool,
I'm going for a screen-test.' So I went to Prague for the screen-test and I got the part,
and I was just amazed.
"In a gang there's always one joker," he claims. "I'm the joker in the gang and I'm
enjoying it. I've read the book and seen the old film a few times, so the story's not new
to me. It's about a young boy who gets put in an orphanage, comes out, gets put up in a
rough gang of pickpockets and thieves and is found by a man called Mr Brownlow, who
really looks after him. It's a story with a good ending - so there you go.
"Fagin is like the ringleader of us little thieves. He's a funny old chap, always
telling us what to do and that. But the gang's like me and a few boys: Dodger and the
rest of Fagin's boys and we go out doing little thefts and stuff. I walk down the street and
I see a pocket so we lift one of them. We had a pickpocket teacher I called James and
he just showed us the techniques of how to snatch people's stuff. It's cool. It wasn't too
hard and was fun to learn.
"Roman Polanski is like one of the world's greatest directors, okay, and he
showed me what he wanted for the movie. He said ‘This movie is not OLIVER TWIST.
This is THE OLIVER TWIST. Okay? I want a lot of energy and fire in every actor. I want
you to be, you know, always laughing and joking. I want Dodger to be like serious.'
Everyone's got their own individual part and it mixes great. And it's just like wow, you
know. It's just THE film, THE OLIVER TWIST.
"After costume and make-up, you really do feel the part, you know, you really feel
like you are Charley Bates. Lewis? Who's Lewis? Oh, I'm Charley Bates.
"The sets are great, especially on the Back Lot where we do the outside scenes.
I walked on and I thought wow, this is weird. I mean, from the back it is all just wood
with stands and stuff but you get in the front and you feel like you're in there with real
buildings. You just walk around and you don't know the difference. It's quite freaky
actually. We didn't film in London, we were in Prague, but with the great set directors it
looks real. It looks real cool too.
"It was terrible to be an orphan at that age. They made you work all day long.
You would get nothing basically of feed, but soup once a day. You'd be worked and
worked and worked, and punished. You wouldn't be able to step one finger out of line.
Painful. And to get away from that would be amazing, you know. That would be like a
dream to just get out of the Workhouse for a few days. And that is really what
happened. So this is why it's such a great movie.
"I like the other boys very much. They're very good characters even when they're
not Oliver and Dodger, you know, and they're really funny and stuff. A bit cheeky
sometimes, but there you go. What do you expect? I mean Barney's a really good
friend, you know. He's just loyal whenever you need a friend. And Harry, you know, has
a bit of a laugh - just The Dodger basically, off-set as well as on.
"When Sir Ben (Kingsley) arrived on set for the role of Fagin it became really like
we were actually there. For me and the other boys it just really felt like we were at home
doing our normal things that we did every day - like thieving in this case. So it was
great, it really was cool.
"Sir Ben is a great actor and it was really cool working with him. This is my first
movie and Sir Ben has done many films so working with him was a pleasure. I couldn't
find Fagin scary at all. I think of him as a kind guy, a little bit of a crook sometimes and a
little bit cheeky, if you get what I'm saying. A little bit sly and stuff but I don't think of him
as a criminal.
"When we weren't in front of the camera and Sir Ben was in costume and
make-up he wasn't Sir Ben anymore, he was Fagin - and that's really important to keep
in character. As soon as they say ‘Action!' you're in character already, there's nothing to
change. It was great to experience it."
"When we first get on the set each day, we do a rehearsal. We just run through it
and Roman sees what he likes. He tries a few different techniques to see if he prefers
something else and then he makes a choice. You rehearse that three or four times, and
then you go into shooting. Then you get a few various ‘Takes' and the one he likes,
bingo! Sometimes, I really think Roman is the character, ‘cause he's a really good actor
too and when he shows us how to do it you really pick on it easily and you know what
he is looking for. I have to laugh a lot in the film and it's really quite hard for an actor to
laugh - it's like one of the hardest things to act right. So when you're doing a close-up
and no-one else is on shot, everyone's just making faces and putting on silly hats and
you can't help but to laugh. It actually becomes funny for real and you don't need to
pretend to laugh ‘cause you are laughing naturally, like you should be - which really
makes it real.
"A typical day for me, if I am on call, is to wake up about quarter to eight, go to
breakfast, have two hours of tutoring in the morning, get picked up, come to the studio,
get into costume, have your make-up done, sit around until they need you, do your
rehearsal, shoot, go to lunch, do more rehearsals and shoot scenes, get out of costume,
get back into the car, go back to the hotel and relax.
"My favourite Charley Bates moment is when I get introduced, when Dodger says
‘This here is Charley Bates.' I reckon from then on I'm the one who's playing around in
the house, which just makes you laugh and, hopefully, you'll enjoy it. Although we can
enjoy ourselves in the house, it's a different matter with Bill Sykes. He's a mean
character - a big criminal and very strong. When he is on set, everyone is scared of him.
It's different again with Nancy. When she is on set she is very happy and the
atmosphere is a lot better. All the characters are different and they seem to be mixed
around. You could go from being happy, cheery and laughing one minute and the next it
could be very serious. So there are lots of twists in the movie, which makes it really
"I considered being an entertainer about six years ago when I was seven. I don't
know why, it's just I always loved to entertain people and when I get reactions from
people I am like happy and stuff. And I thought wow, I mean I could be a performer and
I could make people feel happy through me just doing what I like to do. What a great
work is that? How better can a job be?
"This experience has been like a dream. I've only been a serious actor for about
eighteen months and to get something like this is amazing. I might never do something
like this again in the rest of my life. Even if I did, you know, I'd still look back in years to
come and think wow, what an achievement."
"TO ANYBODY OF MY GENERATION, ROMAN
POLANSKI IS A LEGEND"
Says Edward Hardwicke, who plays Mr Brownlow.
Edward Hardwicke, who plays the role of the kindly Mr Brownlow in "Oliver
Twist", is the son of the late celebrated actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
"I love this role," he says. "Brownlow helps rescue Oliver from the horror of
London's East End and takes him to the more reputable area of Pentonville, which
makes me smile because today that is known as a prison.
"Working with Roman Polanski is indeed an honour. To anybody of my
generation, he is a legend. All the actors on this film are thrilled to have the opportunity
to be working with him and watching him work, which is extraordinary. He is a
perfectionist who gets the most marvellous things on screen.
"Barney Clark is marvellous as Oliver. He's full of energy and full of jokes. He's
been taught how to pick pockets, which is part of the plot, but he also learned a number
of card tricks and he is very good at them - he might end up as a magician. All the boys
became worryingly good at pocket picking. A magician was imported from London to
work with them and that obviously appealed to them - what kid could resist that. I
enjoyed watching him working with them.
"The film boasts some of the most amazing sets I've ever worked in, especially
the exterior set on the Studio Back Lot which represents the streets of 19th Century
London. You only have to walk through this massive composite set and you are
convinced that you are in the centre of London. It's incredible. It is very sad to think that,
at some point, it will all have to come down. One would like it to stay here as a piece of
London in Prague.
"The costumes, too, are magnificent. Mine, for instance, besides being correct for
the period, are also wonderfully comfortable. When you have a whole street full of
people (800 on one occasion) in these costumes it is an extraordinary sight.
"Roman has gathered a cast of really wonderful British actors that we have all
seen do marvellous things on film, stage and television. Sadly, we are not here all at the
same time, which is a shame, but I've got a number of friends and made some new
ones, which is one of the joys of making films. The lovely part of this business is the
camaraderie that exists between the acting fraternities. Working on films has that very
special flavour, particularly if you're away from home.
"I think ‘Oliver Twist' is an extraordinary story. It's the most wonderful book. I
reminded myself by reading the novel again and it's a book that makes you laugh out
loud and makes you cry. Dickens gives a wonderful visual thing as you read it. And
nothing that I've seen of the film so far will disappoint. The story just comes to life. One
of the things about great writing is that it transcends all periods and the story contains
very contemporary themes of innocence and survival. Dickens was incredible at
describing people and you can't help but see all sorts of parallels with today's world. It
just comes right off the page and I think it will work beautifully on film.
"When I was a young actor I used to have a huge complex about my father's
success as an actor. It wasn't quite such a commonplace thing for actor's children to
enter the business. I seriously considered changing my name but I never got around to
it, even though he wouldn't have minded. My father was always very encouraging
which, perhaps was a bad thing. I always think that people whose parents are against
them becoming an actor have a sort of fortitude, which maybe you don't have if you're
encouraged. But my father was wonderful about it... and I think he was quite pleased in
his own way.
"His personal legacy to me was a book, which he called The Birthday Book, he
started when I was about two or three years old. He asked all the really interesting
people he met to write in it advice to a child. When I was twenty-one he gave it to me.
It's fairly intimidating because most of the people day ‘Don't be an actor.' But you never
take anybody's advice, do you?
" It is a wonderful book and I try to keep it going for my children, and now my
grandchildren. The book contains the names of people like Bernard Shaw, HG Wells,
JM Barrie, Einstein, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Henry Ford. It's frightening.
It's my dearest wish that Roman will write in it."
"I WANTED ALL THE CHARACTERS TO BE
Says Director Roman Polanski.
After his sterling work on the multiple award-winning "The Pianist", it might seem
a little strange that Roman Polanski chose as his next project a novel by Charles
"It was difficult for me to decide what I wanted to do," says Polanski. "I thought I
owed my children a movie because they were always very interested in my work but not
so much in the subject. So I started looking around for a children's story and eventually
landed on Dickens. After that, "Oliver Twist" was the obvious choice.
"Dickens always enchanted me when I was a child, particularly "Great
Expectations." And I like the period very much, both on the screen and in literature. The
book of "Oliver Twist" is dense and very long and the novel meanders since it was a
period when the writers wrote for magazines or papers in daily, weekly or monthly
instalments. So the novels of the period don't have that rigid construction which is
required for a motion picture. Our work on the adaptation consisted mainly in keeping to
the spirit of the book with the scenes and the characters untouched but reducing the
construction to something more structured and something that could hold for two hours.
"The story is a series of adventures, or misadventures, that happen to the orphan
Oliver throughout the picture. Not only in London, because the film starts in the country
and he moves through various adventures; but these adventures are more structured in
the film than they are in the book. In the book they are looser and there are many more
subplots. We had to eliminate the subplots and stick to the main plot. We planned it like
a Greek tragedy with three acts and then we tried to stay within that.
"One of the attractions of Dickens is his variety of colourful characters that are
extremely well described in every book he wrote, from "Pickwick Papers" to "Bleak
House." The excitement of reading the description of various persona of that period is
"Finding the right Oliver was paramount to the film's success. Our casting
director Celestia Fox, with whom I worked on ‘The Pianist', auditioned a lot of young
actors. She made the first choice, which eliminated masses of kids, and then presented
me with a list that was still quite extensive. We gradually downed it to some twenty and
then to five. And then came the final choice of Barney Clark.
"I wanted a boy that had something about him that struck you immediately and
we kept eliminating but the tape of Barney somehow always struck me as the most
interesting. In fact, I realised that with these choices you know it right away, even if
you're not aware of the fact, but somehow in your subconscious you have already made
the choice. I was looking for a boy who wasn't too cute but would nevertheless be
attractive. A boy who had certain intelligence and a bit of melancholy, and that's Barney.
"As far as Fagin is concerned, I was thinking which talented British actor would
be the best suited physically and right away I thought of Sir Ben Kingsley, who had the
physique that could be transformed into the character as described in the book. One of
the key scenes for me in imagining who would be right for this role was the scene,
which is not in our script but is very significant in the book, in the magistrate's court
when Fagin keeps repeating ‘An old man, your honour, a very old man.' And somehow I
got an impression of Fagin's physique more than in the traditional illustrations, and that
is how we see Fagin in the film.
"With the other characters, I wanted them all to be memorable, and I think we
achieved that. Ronald Harwood was very much in tune with my desire of having this
multitude of characters in the film because, eliminating certain subplots meant
eliminating many of those sub-characters and I insisted on finding a possibility to keep a
great deal of these characters.
"London is also a major character in the story. London of that time is very well
illustrated, particularly by Gustave Dore, even if his engravings dated ten or twenty
years later. It's more or less the same London. So it wasn't difficult to get it all
documented - and we did a lot of research. There were a lot of artists of the period who
painted or drew the details of everyday life. There was a German artist who lived in
London and was in love with London. He made masses of illustrations that became one
of the main contributors to the look of the film. It's very exciting, if you do a film that is
set in a particular period, to really dig into it and find all the little things that help you to
actually create the scenes.
"There are several levels in the story of ‘Oliver Twist.' There are dark moments in
every Charles Dickens book but, at the same time, there's a tremendous amount of
humour. There's a great deal of irony and sarcasm and a lot of English humour in
everything he wrote, and that appeals to me very much. And I think it appeals to
children, within the scope of their comprehension. There are certain books of Dickens
which are perhaps too much written for adults, like ‘A Tale of Two Cities.' But there are
also books like ‘A Christmas Carol.' I was never afraid of the dark part of ‘Oliver' as far
as the young audience is concerned because they just love the dark stories. The fairy
tales of Grimm and Anderson are quite frightening and traditional fairy tales that are
repeated from generation to generation are usually very dark.
"Every good book ever written appears contemporary, even if it's written in an
archaic language. The themes are usually universal and by that nature they seem
contemporary. An orphan boy in a developing country always seems the same and
always meets the same destiny. Of course, it's incomparable with today's London or
today's Paris but if you think of cities like Bombay or Bangkok, they still have a number
of poor children. There are places that grow fast, like Mexico City, where you have ten
million or so people stuck together.
"London in that period was the biggest city in the world and it was developing
with incredible speed. It had masses of people drifting to the city from the country and
then finding themselves without any means of survival. That is the social background to
the story of ‘Oliver Twist.'"
"DICKENS IS THE GREATEST OF ENGLISH
Says Screenwriter Ronald Harwood.
Ronald Harwood won the Academy Award for the screenplay of Roman
Polanski's "The Pianist" and repeats his association with Polanski with the screen
adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, "OLIVER TWIST."
"Dickens was part of my life when I attended an English school in South Africa,"
recalls Hardwood. "I always thought Dickens to be one of the great novelists in the
English language and now that I have worked on him for the first time I have no doubt
that he is the greatest of English novelists. He is an authentic genius and it makes it
very rewarding to work on him.
"He was in his twenties when he wrote ‘Oliver Twist', an amazing achievement.
He was also very short of money so he wrote it quickly and then had to do other things.
He was a journalist and court reporter and he was always committed to the
underprivileged. Charles Dickens was a champion of the underdog - and there were a
lot of underdogs in London in the nineteenth century when he was writing his social
"And ‘Oliver Twist' is a novel so critical of the poor laws in England at the time -
the workhouses, the way orphans were treated, the way the poor were treated - that's
what inspired him. Dickens himself came from a poor family and he worked in a
blacking factory when he was a child because they needed money. There's a sequence
in the film of which we made something. The boys are made to pick oakum - the fibres
of a rope that had worn. They picked out the oakum so you could reuse the rope. It was
the most awful, painful, agonizing, filthy work. And that's what they put these kids to -
and they put convicts to it in prisons. And he knew all about those things. That's what
was wonderful about Dickens. He was the first real social realist writer of his time.
"He was also a great actor. Dickens filled out vast halls doing readings from his
novels. He had a particular desk on which he could lean his arm and have a book,
which he never looked at because he knew it all by heart. And people were spellbound
by it. Roman has that quality of story-telling also. You get Roman to tell you the story of
‘Oliver Twist' and he would tell it exactly as Dickens told it - and probably invent a few
things as he went along.
"I didn't find the task of adapting the novel at all daunting. It all happened so
quickly that I didn't have time to be daunted. I knew the decision we had to make was
what do we leave out. It's a three hundred and fifty page novel and we were to make a
film of two hours in length. Something major had to go - and that was the only thing that
I hesitated over. I read the book again and thought ‘This is the story we ought to tell.'
Polanski and I had a telephone conversation and he said ‘Yes. Go on, do it, do it.' He
can be very impatient. So is started and worked very hard, about fourteen hours a day.
"But I loved it, I'm not complaining. I loved every second of it. Then Roman read
it and was pleased with it. He made one or two absolutely marvellous changes to do
with the end of the film. I had a rather a soft ending and he toughened it up. We made a
decision to tell the story of ‘Oliver Twist' from the moment he enters the workhouse to
the end of the novel and cut out the subplots, which are very far-fetched and Victorian.
There's a whole family subplot in the story that we lost.
"We tell the story from Oliver's point of view. There are bits where Fagin and Bill
Sykes have to plot and plan but on the whole the story follows Oliver. It's a driving
narrative. The great genius of Dickens is the story-telling power he has. What happens
next? What happens next? And then, and then. It's breathtaking. If I had to sum up the
story in as few words as possible, I would sat ‘It's about a little boy who takes charge of
his own life, escapes from terrible trials and dangers and adventures and emerges
"One of the fascinating things in ‘Oliver Twist', and probably in all Dickens novels,
is that he deals with all layers of English society of that period. In ‘Oliver Twist' it starts
at the lowest level, in the workhouse, with pompous officials like the Beadle, who are
violently cruel to the poor kids. And then he slowly works his way up. The undertaker.
Then he escapes to London and falls in among thieves. Then he meets Mr Brownlow
and is introduced to polite society before being dragged back to the savage world of
Fagin and Bill Sykes. And then there's this curious figure of Toby Crackit, who doesn't
quite belong in the lowest orders, certainly not in the highest orders, but it's another
layer of the English social structure of the day. And Dickens does that better than
anybody. He tells you what it was like to be alive then - which fiction can do much better
"As far as Bill and Nancy are concerned, I'm not an expert on the underworld but
I am informed by present day villains that it hasn't changed. The language is very
similar. To this day, the rhyming slang they used is still the same and the brutality is the
same. The underworld - the villains, murderers and thieves have not been civilized by
the passage of time. And Dickens got it absolutely right. I know a man who has done
time for villainy of that kind and he was amazed when he read the screenplay. It was
modern dialogue and I had taken it straight from Dickens.
"There are very dark aspects in ‘Oliver Twist.' Roman and I agreed that this is the
story Dickens wrote - so this is the story we must tell. I hope we have been faithful to
Dickens' heart. That's the crucial thing in all adaptations - and I have adapted many
books and plays for movies - you have to be true to the heart of the subject matter, and
I hope we have done that. It's very dark in Dickens and we've given it what at first sight
be a dark ending but it's got light. We didn't discuss it; we just knew that this was the
story we had to tell.
"The character of Fagin feels frozen in time. It is hard to imagine him as ever
being young. We talked about his background. He's described as red-haired and we
thought he was probably from the Ukraine because many Jews from that area were
redheaded so that could possibly be his ancestral background. He speaks with an
English Cockney accent on the book, which we do and I'm sure Sir Ben does. So he's
born in England and grew up on the streets.
"The interesting thing is no one ever accuses him of being a Jew. The only real
way we he's Jewish is because Dickens calls him ‘That Jew Fagin.' Nobody makes anti
Semitic remarks but I'm sure there will be concerns about the Jewish aspect of Fagin,
but that's what he is. That was true to the period, true to Dickens. Both Roman and I are
Jews and we have no worries about that. Fagin is what he is, true to the period, and I'm
sure the way we've written it and the way Polanski will film it and the way that Sir Ben
will play it, will be true to the truth
"I was enchanted with young Barney Clark right from the beginning. I was
involved in the screen tests we did with the boys. I used to be an actor and had a
wonderful day playing Fagin and Bill Sykes in scenes with all the boys. Barney was
outstanding. First of all his face is simply glorious. He's bright, he's quick, and he can
act anything. He just has to be told and he can do it. Roman knew at once that this was
the boy he wanted to go with as Oliver. The same is true of The Artful Dodger. You just
knew it. Harry Eden had the look, the cheek and the impudence.
"In the book, Oliver is written in a kind of respectable English and it occurred to
me this couldn't be true. He's brought up in a workhouse with other rough lads; he's had
no education, so why should he speak in an educated way. He's always portrayed as
this very polite English lad. So we've roughened it up a bit and I think it works very well.
The Dodger is street-wise and Charley Bates has got a brain - but he thinks too much.
So these are the levels of the crooked kids that are marvellously done by Dickens. We
made a little contribution in roughening up Oliver's voice and accent because it was
always totally unbelievable to me that he spoke in this upper middle-class way.
"There aren't many female characters in ‘Oliver Twist' and Nancy is by far the
most intriguing. Nancy is young - and this is very important. She's about between
nineteen and twenty-one. It's very difficult to be precise about her age. Dickens
describes her as rather plump but we didn't want to go that far. We wanted someone
who wasn't obvious vulgar, sort of vulgar sexy. We wanted a girl with real sex appeal,
which Leanne Rowe has. Nancy has real sexual energy and she's from that
background. She knows it and she understands it. And that's what we needed from
Nancy. The trap with Nancy is either she's too good and has been brought to hard times
against her will or she's a kind of Madonna figure - and neither is what Dickens
describes. What he describes is a tart, a whore. And he's brutal about it, about all those
girls. He talks about two or three of them.
"We have made a few change to the background story Mr Brownlow. The one
thing I introduced was that he's drawn to Oliver just by what Oliver is. That seemed to
me the heart of the matter. Oliver has goodness in him. That's a Dickensian theme of
course. Dickens writes about people who are innately good and Oliver is one of them,
probably the first of them in all his work. Dickens had the view that people are born
innocent and the world corrupts them.
"Our memory of Victorian London is entirely Dickensian. He gave to the English
language a vision of London that was entirely his. I don't know if it was one hundred
percent true but it was his and it's the one we've accepted. We talk of Dickensian
London, narrow streets, dirt, people lying in doorways, buildings bearing down on you.
All that is Dickensian. And we've tried to recreate that in the extraordinary set built on
the Studio Back Lot. It's important that we capture Dickens' view of London. Not the
historical sociological truth, that's boring. Dickens' view is an imaginative, exciting,
thrilling view of London that has captured the world's imagination.
"As a screenwriter, when you're given a book to adapt, all you want to do is
translate that book as best you can into screenplay form so that the director can shoot
it. I don't feel there is any one scene that defines what the film is all about. Of course,
people always remember ‘Please, sir, I want some more' but there are so many stages
on the story. The scene I love best is probably the final scene in Fagin's death cell. It's
dark. Oliver's redeemed and he tries to redeem Fagin. It's a great scene of forgiveness
"THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO BE A BIG EVENT"
Says Producer Robert Benmussa.
Robert Benmussa and Roman Polanski have been friends for 25 years and
producing partners since 1992 when they formed a team with Alain Sarde, to produce
"Bitter Moon." They were still together ten years later when they produced the
award-winning "The Pianist", a story of survival set against the Warsaw ghetto of World
War II which was Oscar nominated for ‘Best Picture,' with Polanski winning the ‘Best
Director' Academy Award
"It was about this time," recalls Benmussa, "that Roman wanted to have a
complete change of pace. He wanted to make a family movie, especially for his
children. So we started reading children's books, scores of them, and many were good
stories but none appealed to Roman as a suitable subject for a film.
"It was Roman's wife, Emmanuelle, who came up with the idea of ‘Oliver Twist'.
At first Roman was dubious. He felt it had been made many times before and he didn't
want to make a remake of a remake of a remake. But Emmanuelle pointed out that the
last feature film was made in 1948. Roman came to realised that, although there had
been many television versions of ‘Oliver Twist', David Lean's production was the last to
be shown on the big screen - other than the musical ‘Oliver!'
"Roman became excited about the idea and he called Ronald Harwood, the
Oscar-winning writer of ‘The Pianist', who was equally as enthusiastic, and it was
decided that ‘Oliver Twist' was to be our next movie.
"Roman's vision was to concentrate on those larger-than-life characters as
described by Charles Dickens together with the humour that was contained in the
classic novel. He didn't want a documentary about life in 19th Century London, he
wanted a fantasy that young children could understand - the good guys are really good
and the bad guys are really bad.
"Finding the right boy to play Oliver was never a serious worry for me. Roman is
the best filmmaker in the world for finding and nurturing new talent. And true to form, he
came up with Barney Clark, an 11-year-old from London's East End who fits the bill
perfectly. Roman saw scores of tapes before making a short list of eight kids which
were then whittled down to four. He arranged for the four boys to come to Prague for a
film test in full costume with make-up and hair. He was looking for an Oliver, a Dodger
and a Charley Bates. Each boy played every role and, on seeing the results of the test,
it was obvious that Barney should be Oliver with Harry Eden playing the Artful Dodger
and Lewis Chase as Charley Bates.
"With the three boys in place, our minds then turned to the all-important role of
Fagin, the most iconic of all Dickens characters. Roman wanted Sir Ben Kingsley in the
role and convinced both Alain and me by producing a regular picture of Sir Ben on
which he drew a face... it was a great Fagin. With the addition of some wonderful British
talent in other key roles, we were feeling pretty confident.
"We knew from the very beginning that it would be impossible to shoot this
picture on location as there no longer exists the sort of city we required. So we had to
build a vast composite set of 19th Century London, containing various streets,
alleyways, market squares, waterways and bridges together with shops, tenements and
slum dwellings. It was a colossal task and we turned to production designer Allan
Starski, who worked with us on ‘The Pianist', to research and design the project. First,
we had to decide where we were going to make the movie. We scouted Europe for a
studio with big stages and a huge Back Lot and eventually settled for Prague's
Barrandov Studio in the Czech Republic.
"With the London Streets set under construction, we then turned our attention to
the costumes of the period. We contacted costume designer Anna Sheppard, who also
worked with us on ‘The Pianist', and she scoured Europe's costumiers for costumes of
the right period. She discovered that there were no children's costumes available so she
had to make hundreds of costumes for both boys and girls personally. This meant
selecting the material, dying it to the correct colour and sewing each individual costume
by hand - a huge task that she completed successfully.
"I contacted other key technicians who worked with us on ‘The Pianist' - people
like Pawel Edelman, the director of photography, the make-up artist, the hair stylist, the
sound engineer, the stills photographer. They know how hard Roman works and they
work hard too. Roman is not the kind of director who sits in his trailer waiting to be
called to the set whenever a scene is ready to shoot. He is very hands-on. He is the first
on set in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. When we had 800 extras on
the set he checked the detail of every costume and even applied make-up personally to
the cut and bloodied feet of Oliver after the young boy had walked nearly ninety miles to
London from the Workhouse in the Midlands of England. Ten weeks into the schedule I
asked him if he was tired and he replied: ‘not at all. When I am not working on a Sunday
I'm just waiting for Monday to come.'
"We decided to make ‘Oliver Twist' as an independent European co-production
and go directly to independent distributing companies all over the world, most of whom
we had a great relationship with on ‘The Pianist'. We very quickly negotiated a deal with
Pathé for France and the UK, followed by Tobis in Germany, Toshiba in Japan and,
through Summit Entertainment our International Sales Agency, we picked up
distributors in other territories. The last to come on board was Tri-Star Pictures and we
are very happy to have a big studio like that involved in the US release. These
companies are not just distributors, they are really partners because they decided to be
involved in the project before seeing any footage - just trusting in the director and the
"BARNEY CLARK IS INCREDIBLE AS OLIVER"
Says Producer Alain Sarde.
Alain Sarde has been involved in over 200 feature films in the course of his
career which began when Roman Polanski assigned him as associate producer on "The
Tenant" ("Le Locataire") in 1975. "Roman, Robert Benmussa and I joined forces in 1992
to produce ‘Bitter Moon' and followed this ten years later with ‘The Pianist,'" he says.
"Roman very much wanted a change of pace after ‘The Pianist' and decided to
make a film for children. After long deliberation, and a certain amount of prompting from
his wife, Emmanuelle, he opted for the Charles Dickens classic, ‘Oliver Twist.' I
remember that Robert and I were enjoying a meal in an Italian restaurant with Roman
when he called Ronald Harwood (who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for
‘The Pianist') and told him of his intention. Ronnie thought it was a great idea... and the
project was under way.
"It was important that we had the right boy for the lead. My worry was the
difficulty of finding a young boy who had the stamina to be there in nearly every shot for
one hour forty-five minutes or so. But I also knew that Roman had a marvellous ability to
find a new face, a new actor. And, after an extensive search and looking at scores of
audition tapes, he screen-tested a handful of boys. It was obvious to all of us that
Barney Clark was ideal for Oliver. He will be a great revelation in the movie, I'm sure of
"Sir Ben Kingsley was always Roman's first choice for the role of Fagin. Roman
has this fantastic talent of knowing in what direction he is going to go even before the
script is written. He could visualise Fagin's look and knew that Sir Ben would make that
vision become real. It is very difficult for the major studios or distributors to read the
script of a Polanski movie and see exactly how the movie will turn out because
everything is in his head. He knows perfectly what his intentions are.
"Roman has cast an amazing group of British actors all of whom have
remarkable faces, something akin to what he did in ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers.' And
all these faces are incredibly British under the period-style hair and make-up - and
Roman knows how to choose British actors better than anybody. He did it for ‘Tess' and
he did it for ‘Macbeth' too.
"Because old London doesn't exist anymore, it was evident from the beginning
that 19th Century London had to be built and we had to find the necessary space to
erect such a mammoth set. We discovered that the biggest Back Lot in Europe was part
of the complex of Barrandov Studios in Prague and that is where old London was
"The creative team that we assembled for ‘The Pianist' was contacted.
Production designer Allan Starski, director of photography Pawel Edelman and costume
designer Anna Sheppard all came on board. Roman likes to be surrounded by good,
creative people with whom he has complete understanding.
"One of several scenes that defines the epic size of the movie took place on the
main street of the 19th Century London set. 800 costumed extras and 30 horse-drawn
carriages packed the street as the Artful Dodger guided an exhausted Oliver towards
Fagin's lair. Traffic police in period costume tried to ease the congestion, much the
same as they do with modern-day traffic. It really showed the scope of the movie.
"Roman is telling the story through the eyes of Oliver. Just as Wladislaw
Szpilman's story was a fight for survival in ‘The Pianist', so it is a fight for this young boy
to survive against what appear to be insurmountable odds, firstly in the austere
surroundings of the Workhouse and then in the seedy side of London's underworld. And
Roman is at his best when he is dealing with characters who have to fight against
"Roman has forged a fantastic relationship with Barney Clark. I think the boy is a
genius. He has incredible talent and has developed an understanding with Roman
which is worthy of a much older and more experienced actor. Although not a girl,
Barney reminds me of Tatum O'Neill in ‘Paper Moon' - the same kind of face and the
same kind of talent.
"Although this story is a period piece, it has very contemporary overtones.
Roman wanted to make a film that would interest an audience of all ages and a story
that everybody could associate with. He wants the audience to feel that they are living in
London at the time and involved with the adventures of this young boy.
"A Roman Polanski film is always an event and one which cinemagoers and
movie critics alike look forward to. I don't think ‘Oliver Twist' will be an exception!"
"WORKING WITH ROMAN IS SOMETIMES TAXING,
ALWAYS EXCITING AND NEVER BORING"
Says Co-producer Timothy Burrill.
UK co-producer Timothy Burrill's association with Roman Polanski began in 1971
on Polanski's film version of "Macbeth" and continued with the award-winning "Tess"
eight years later. Burrill then co-produced "Bitter Moon" and, most recently, set up a
London production company for Polanski's "The Pianist" where he and the late casting
director Mary Selway brought together the extraordinary cast of actors featured in that
film. Burrill and Polanski now continue their association with "Oliver Twist."
"One of the decisions that has to be made on a lot of Roman's films," says Burrill,
"concerns the title role. This was certainly the case with ‘Tess' and I remember the fury
of British Equity when we chose a German actress. However, when I showed the
finished film to the head of the Actors Equity Trade Union in London he had to agree
that we had made the right choice with Nastassja Kinski. Adrian Brodie was obviously
the right choice for ‘The Pianist' - he won the Oscar for Best Actor.
"Casting director Celestia Fox started working in November of 2003 to find the
right boy to play Oliver. She scoured acting schools and preparatory schools in England
trying to find not only an interesting face but a boy with character, because it is no good
getting the right face if the lad can't give a performance. They eventually tested a
number of boys at Prague's Barrandov Studio and I rang Roman later and asked if he
had made a decision. He replied that he was certain he had found the right boy.
"When I subsequently saw the test footage on the screen, Barney Clark's
performance - which the camera encapsulated - was even better than seeing him in real
life. Barney has this incredible presence and complete self-confidence without being
bossy or over-confident. We are very lucky to have him and he has given a performance
which is quite remarkable."
"When you're casting such a critical part as Fagin, inevitably you want an
international actor of some stature, somebody who is not known just as a good
repertory actor in British television. It's very difficult not to recall Alex Guinness in David
Lean's 1948 version - it was such an incredible performance and, for me, a really
"Again, with casting, we all throw our ideas into the ring and a lot of people were
mentioned, even some Australian actors. Roman felt that Sir Ben Kingsley was a very
interesting idea. We sent a tape of ‘Sexy Beast' to Roman and Kingsley's performance
in that was so extraordinary and so strong that maybe it was that that actually tipped the
balance. Roman and Sir Ben had worked together before on ‘Death and the Maiden'
and they had forged a good working relationship. Sir Ben was very excited about the
idea and was determined to do it. That enthusiasm and his passion for the role did a lot
to convince Roman that Sir Ben was the right man for the part.
"One thing that is fascinating, when you look back at all of Roman's movies, is
that all the characters, even secondary characters, are completely memorable. A great
deal of thought is given to each actor who is chosen for each part. In ‘Oliver Twist' there
are so many different characters travelling through Oliver's journey. You have the
characters in the Workhouse, the characters in the village where Oliver is working for
the undertaker, the characters on then road to London and the diverse characters that
Oliver meets in London. A great empathy developed between the kids in Fagin's gang -
especially between Barney (Oliver), Harry Eden (the Artful Dodger) and Charley Bates
(Lewis Chase). They enjoyed each other's company away from the set as well as on.
"We engaged an English advisor for the pick-pocket scenes who has proved to
be an enormous success, not just because he's brilliant at showing the children how to
pick pockets but he also taught them card tricks - and they all became extremely good
"Not only did we have the right people in front of the camera, we also had a great
team behind the camera. It's the same ream that was behind the success of ‘The
Pianist'. Roman likes to have people around him who he knows and with whom he's
worked before. The director of photography, production designer, costume designer,
sound engineer, hair and make-up chiefs, script supervisor (who has been with Roman
for thirty years) and even the stills photographer. It's easier to work with people you
know and whose work you respect. I think every director acknowledges that they draw
from the talent around them.
"One of the remarkable things about Roman is his skill as a technician. He knows
more about lenses than probably most cameramen, so he can automatically select a
lens for any effect he requires. Most camera operators agree that Roman composes the
frame quite beautifully and often, when setting a shot, will suddenly rush forward and
move a book or a bowl of flowers so that the composition of the frame is always done
with consummate skill.
"This same attention to detail can be seen in Roman's relationship with the
actors. He is involved in the development of their make-up, their hair, their costumes -
all of which he will change if he deems it necessary. He is never indecisive, he knows
and get what he wants and this can sometimes be taxing. He's a very hard taskmaster
but the end result is always extraordinary.
"There are many people around the world who look forward to a new Roman
Polanski film because they know they'll see something extraordinary, they know they'll
see something where the performances from the actors are special, where the visual
appearance of the film is amazing. There is never any difficulty getting English actors to
play in a Roman Polanski movie. I get people who have done one day on the film
ringing me to say ‘It's was the best day of my life! I want to go back!'
"One of the important things to remember about a film as opposed to a television
drama is that with a film you have the luxury to spend real time in the editing process.
Probably the first cut of this film will be three hours. That gives Roman the time to look
and see where the film might be too slow, where maybe there is a problem he can
resolve, perhaps by adding an additional line. So we have the luxury during the
post-production period of perfecting the finished film. It is a whole new dimension to
making a movie.
"We have to record the music and add the sounds that existed in London in the
mid-19th Century. Things that you can't get out of a library - we have to create that
sound. And now, with the wonderful quality of digital Surround Sound in world cinemas,
these are important elements... but they take time."
"I TRY TO SHOW MORE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS OF
THE MOVIE BY MY SETS"
Says Production Designer Allan Starski.
Polish production designer Allan Starski, who won an Academy Award for his
work on "Schindler's List" and various nominations and awards for "The Pianist", was
responsible for a host of amazing sets for Roman Polanski's new version of the Charles
Dickens' "OLIVER TWIST". The most spectacular of these was his imaginative
composite set of nineteenth-century London constructed on the Back Lot of Prague's
Barrandov Studios. What kind of discussion did he have with Polanski about the look of
"We first talked about the movie even before he had a proper script," says
Starski. "So we discussed the book and previous screen versions but mostly we
discussed how to make this film as a Roman Polanski film. This was always my
question. Roman was an inspiration because he wanted to show not only the story of
‘Oliver Twist' but also the story of England which at the time was in a transition from an
idyllic England to the age of the industrial revolution.
"It was important for us to show the poverty of Londoners. The city was growing
at an enormous rate and along with the elegant areas there were a number of rundown
slum areas where the poor people survived in their red brick houses.
"The first question was how much of London can we afford to build? I started with
models that grew as we collected more and more images. Then we had to find
somewhere I could build this huge set and Prague fitted the bill perfectly because of the
proximity of the Back Lot to the stages where the interior sets were constructed plus the
skilled craftsmen to whom the studio has access.
"It was a fantastic experience for me to build the London streets on the Back Lot.
It was a vast composite set spread over 40,000 square metres containing many streets
and alleys which were not necessarily geographically linked. Our main thoroughfare,
which we named King Street, was a big elegant street with beautiful shops. And I built
Newgate Prison, which I have never seen in any other ‘Oliver Twist' movie. It's a big
building complex constructed by the Market Square. Then we built part of a smaller
street which led to some slum areas with simple, severe-looking brick houses. They are
connected with some bridges because these houses are part of Thames-side
warehouses inn the docklands area. From these warehouses we go down to the lower
part of the city where Jacob's Island is a really poor, decaying part of London.
"We built this huge complex in three months with an additional three weeks to
age it properly. We used more than two hundred construction workers plus the
workshop people. The studio carpenter shop built all the profiles and the plasterer shop
made all the bricks. I used eleven different types of brick for finishing the houses
because we took some moulds and casts from London and made the copies in Prague.
"We were lucky to have the possibility to use some shops which are still in
existence in London. John Lobb, for example, which is on the corner of King Street, is a
very famous shoemaker which was in the time of ‘Oliver' and is still trading today. There
are other shops that gave us permission to use their names and who provided original
articles from the various brands.
"I like all the sets and put all my emotion into making the best sets possible but
the set of The Three Cripples pub was one of my favourite interior sets. Sadly, this set
will not be seen in all its glory because the pub was always crowded and you will see
mostly the people in the pub. But it was designed with great precision and care. The
pub, like Fagin's Place and Bill and Nancy's Place, are like split locations. You have the
front of a building or a staircase leading to some apartment on the exterior London
Streets set and the rest of the staircase or the inside rooms on the studio stage.
"London Bridge plays an important role in the film. It is where Nancy tells Mr
Brownlow of the danger that Oliver is in. It is also the place where the Dodger overhears
the conversation and reports back to Fagin and Bill Sykes. Which results in Nancy's
death. Part of the bridge is built on the Back Lot and a huge part is built on stage.
Mostly in movies, when the camera sees through a window or an open doorway, they
use a photographic background. In ‘Oliver' I decided to build what is seen - usually its
other houses, so I copied the houses from the Back Lot and built them on stage.
"Together with the DoP and the costume designer, we studied paintings from the
period of buildings and costumes, along with sketches and prints. We discussed a
palette of colours, and this is important. When I discuss the colours with the costume
designer we have to be very careful that the colours match together. We are creating an
ambiance, a look for the whole movie. And Pawel Edelman, who really lights this sets
fantastically, is also involved in these discussions. It's a process of finding the aesthetic
and it involves the director, the DoP, the costume designer and me. We have to capture
the right tone of the movie.
"It's also important to use real material, where possible, to furnish these sets. It's
important for the movie but more so for Roman. He's used to real props and he uses
them beautifully. You always see the close-ups with the actors using the props in the
proper way. Because of this, we really tried to get everything real. I was lucky in having
a very good team and my set decorator, Jille Azis, did her job perfectly.
"I knew from the beginning that Fagin's Place was one of the most important sets
for the movie. It's not just one more set, this apartment should show the character of
Fagin, one of the most important people in the story. His living place was an attic, and I
said to myself okay, we have so many different situations and it is a proper attic but for
this man, who is living like a rat, it would be nice if we show him in some abandoned
mansion which is totally ruined but still you feel the grandeur that once was in the
ghosts from years ago
"As I said earlier, I wanted to show the industrial power of a new era and
because of this I wanted the Workhouse to have a factory feel inside, so I built it bigger
than seen on other versions. Contrarily, the villain Bill Sykes' place is small and very
narrow because it's a drama between Sykes and Nancy. And Nancy has a secret. She
tries to conceal the secret but she can't avoid him. She can't hide her emotions because
they are in this very small space. I always try to help show more about the characters of
the movie by my sets. This is my goal."
"THE BIGGEST FUN IS CREATING PERIOD COSTUMES"
Says Costume Designer Anna Sheppard
Polish costume designer Anna Sheppard, who established her international
credentials with such films as "Schindler's List" and the more recent "The Pianist," was
Roman Polanski's first choice to design the all-important costumes for his new version
of the Charles Dickens classic, "Oliver Twist".
"I quickly realised that this movie was very personal to Roman," says Anna. "He
always somehow dipped into personal experiences of being a poor boy during a very
unhappy and dramatic childhood. He used his memories and experience to create
Oliver and that is why his approach to the story is very specific. This is really a story of
Oliver Twist. There are a number of other life stories of other people involved in the
novel but in this film the main subject of everything is Oliver.
"Consequently, we see certain important characters for a very short time - Mr
Bumble the beadle, Mr Sowerberry the undertaker, Mr Gamfield the chimney sweep -
and we have to have essence of the character straight away. You cannot add to the
character during the span of the movie so they had to have immediate distinction. And
Roman wanted to have the crowd or whatever is around Oliver as being true to the
period. He wanted clothes. He didn't want costumes. This is a bit of a contradiction of
course and was difficult for me to divide my approach between characters who are
distinctive in every detail and then dress a huge crowd that is supposed to look natural
and really Victorian.
"Of course, I have been involved with other movies from that period, including
‘Washington Square,' but that film was set in America and concerned a middle-class
family. And here I'm dealing mostly with poor costumes, which, in the main, are more
difficult to make than beautiful costumes. I researched the costumes together with
production designer Allan Starski, who was deciding on the colouring of the sets, and
director of photography Pawel Edelman who was using special lighting techniques. So
we all worked together and made decisions about colours and textures and my research
was just adapting the knowledge I already had of the period to what was needed for the
movie I didn't find that difficult. The biggest pleasure and the biggest fun, if you feel safe
in the period when doing your personal interpretation, is creating period costumes.
"Allan, Pawel and I were complimentary to each other. We really wanted to
create an image that looked like a painting from the period. All the costumes for the
main characters were created from scratch, as were the children's costumes, which
didn't exist in the numbers that we needed. Because of the special requirements of
colour and texture, I made a decision to manufacture the children's costumes of the
whole workhouse scene near the opening of the movie.
"That was the biggest challenge for me when I started the film. The main
characters were in my head from the start so it was a case of just finding fabrics,
dyeing, making, aging, finding the little details like jewellery, buttons, etc. That's the
pleasant part of it. But with a big scene like the workhouse - and no one had used such
a big crowd on previous ‘Oliver' films - we did the entire sequence from scratch in the
Czech Republic. The fabrics came from all over - Italy, London, Prague - and in a little
room at the back of a huge space full of costumes we had the little dying area.
Everyone worked very hard and all the costumes for over 100 children were created in
"Oliver himself had two entirely different sets of costumes. I started with the poor
costumes but his beautiful and rich costumes were, in the end, much easier to make in
Prague. You can see the result of rich costumes immediately, what is right and what is
wrong. You can choose colours and beautiful fabrics. It's just a matter of finding a good
tailor who will make the costumes perfectly. With poor costumes we did a lot of different
shapes and a lot of different proportions between the jacket and the length of trousers
and how big the shoes should be and how distressed the clothes have to be.
"There is also a difference between his first full costume and the costume he's
given at the workhouse. Then there is another full costume given him by Fagin. The
Fagin boys are much more flamboyant in comparison with the workhouse boys. They
were a kind of uniform made with very poor fabrics. And that was difficult. We tried
many shapes which we photographed and we made boards for Roman and there was a
lot of discussion about it because, like the extras, he didn't want costumes.
"Roman wanted something that Barney would feel very comfortable wearing, that
wouldn't restrict him in any way and that he won't think he's wearing a costume as
opposed to everyday clothing. I think we achieved that. Barney was very happy and
wanted me to donate his poor costume so that he could keep it for himself. He didn't
want the beautiful costume, he wanted my rags.
"I've got about twenty photographs of Oliver in different hats. I never realised that
Roman is so incredibly sensitive to the costumes. Sometimes, I was satisfied with the
result that we achieved but he had a feeling that something was missing. That maybe
the jacket should be slightly bigger or the hat should be smaller. Barney only arrived in
Prague two weeks before shooting and, for the first time, I was able to see the way he
walks, the way he sits down or holds his head. All that is important to me. And that is
why we made so many different approaches before finding his ideal hat and his ideal
jacket in the right proportion and his big shoes. Roman called me about those shoes,
which were given to Oliver by Fagin. He said ‘When I was a boy of this age and the war
ended, I couldn't find shoes my size. Somebody gave me a man's shoes. So I turned
my trousers in and put the shoes over the trousers.' And he wanted that same image for
Oliver. That's how he drew from personal experience and memory when creating the
look of Oliver. So suddenly Oliver is wearing shoes that are probably about four sizes
bigger than his feet.
"We did fittings for the extras in the same way we did fittings for the actors. We
then put the costumes aside with the name of each extra attached and we drew from
that fitted crowd to achieve the right costumes for each scene. Fortunately, I'm
accustomed to working on films with big crowds and London is such a fantastic source
for English costumes from that period. They came from three prominent English
costume houses and it wasn't very difficult to obtain them, except I wanted specific
colours. I eliminated certain colours completely and that made it more difficult to
complete the one thousand costumes required for the extras, so we had additional
costumes imported from Vienna. There are very few films being made today that a
costume designer can afford to create the background as well.
"The Artful Dodger wears adult men's clothes so that Harry Eden, who plays him,
can feel very flamboyant. He's always playing with his big coat that is, of course, part of
his character because he puts all his stolen goods into inside pockets that have to be
concealed. He also plays with his hat. But Harry is a young actor who made the
costume his own and it started to become part of the character and part of the acting
and helped him to become the person he was playing.
"Bill Sykes is a very dark character with an iconic image in cinema from the
previous movies. When I met Jamie Foreman, he was such a perfect Bill so it was just a
matter of tweaking colours and shapes. After having created a drawing and knowing
where you're going with the character, it makes it so much easier when you find the
actor fits the image perfectly. After changing the shape of the hat, Jamie loved it so
much he decided to keep it on throughout the whole film. You never see Bill Sykes
without his hat - it became a significant part of his character.
"When I first thought of Nancy I never considered her disguises. I had her
prostitute costume and it later dawned on me that this is not the only costume she's
supposed to wear in the movie. We were lucky to come across an original dress from
the period but people were much smaller in the 19 th Century - women had 22-inch
waists. So I wondered who would fit into that dress. Along came Leanne Rowe, who is
tiny and petite, and we put her in a corset and the dress fitted. She did a screen test in
this dress and was chosen by Roman to play Nancy, so she considers that to be her
lucky dress. We started to think how to incorporate her lucky dress into her wardrobe
and for the scene where Nancy and Bill Sykes snatch Oliver off the street Leanne wears
her lucky dress.
"This is a green printed muslin dress on which we had to put a special net
because the dress was really deteriorating and we were worried that it wouldn't last
even for the two scenes she performed in that dress. Our Czech seamstresses, who are
very precise and patient, dismantled the whole dress, reinforced it and put it back
"Other dresses worn by Nancy include a brown dress - her mother's - which she
wears to go to Mr Brownlow to tell him that Oliver is in danger. I think this dress is
beautiful but Leanne doesn't like it for some reason. I believe it compliments her
colouring and she looks very beautiful in that dress. She really looks like a painting from
"Then there's the red dress which was very difficult to find. I made three dresses
before deciding on the one she's wearing in the film because it's very hard to make
somebody as young and pretty and fair-skinned, to look vulgar. All the other actresses
who played Nancy on film were older - Leanne is only 22 - and making a little whore out
of her proved to be very difficult. But we managed it and I like the red dress now. It
looks really worn but is old beautiful taffeta that catches the light beautifully and adds to
her beauty - adds to her colouring, to her red hair, to her make-up.
"When I started making this prostitute dress for Nancy, I wanted her to have a
dress that used to be very grand and now is really old, like she maybe bought
second-hand from one of those Victorian stands on the street. It took me three months
to create this red dress.
"Luckily, when I started to think about Fagin's costume we already knew it was
Sir Ben Kingsley playing the role. And because I worked with him before on ‘Schindler's
List' I knew him and I knew that costume is very important to him. In the case of Fagin,
he's unrecognisable as Ben Kingsley. I had in mind a character of old Jew but I didn't
design a costume. It was created by finding an original coat, tied together by string, old
waistcoats and old breeches. The only thing I added to it was a hat and his shoes,
because his shoes, again, are much longer than his feet.
"I wanted this exaggerated image for him when he walks and you see these very
thin ankles and the stockings and these long narrow shoes that almost turn up at the
front. I think Sir Ben wanted Fagin to look as children would imagine him as being
somebody from a fairy tale. He wanted to look like he was created by children's
imagination. How they see this distinctive character who is bad and good at the same
time. He never changes his costume; the only thing he takes off is his hat. It was Sir
Ben's idea, saying ‘No, I want to stay the same; like Father Christmas is always the
same, the good character. I want to be this bad character that is consistent throughout
the whole movie so that children will always remember me looking as I look.'
"We all worked together to get the right look for Fagin. Roman saw the costume
and liked it but, being Roman, he invented certain changes. He wanted Sir Ben to look
very thin and long. So I had to adapt the coat, move the shoulder line much higher and
add a hem on the back. Then of course his hair and wig - you have to be careful so the
costume riding up won't ruin the make-up. Michelle, Sir Ben's make-up artist, decided
the hair would be slightly shorter to accommodate the way Sir Ben wore the coat and
the way the collar rode up. And he always looked like that, with the hump and the way
he walked. It was all co-operation between different people creating together the same
"Toby Crackit will be very easily recognizable. He is very colourful and very
flamboyant. The make-up department did an incredible job creating his red curls. Mark
Strong is a very attractive actor and he plays it like Toby Crackit was a playboy of the
times. In his high boots and his long swishy coat and the colours I put him in, he's easily
recognizable and he never changes. That's one of the movie's little secrets - once we
created a character we kept it exactly the same, so there's no mistake. Seeing
somebody even from a distance as a silhouette, you recognise who it is. When they
walk in the fog, Sykes, little Oliver and Toby are such a distinctive trio.
"As far as my favourite costume is concerned, I cannot decide between Mr
Garfield, the chimney sweep and Toby Crackit. The actor who played Mr Garfield (Andy
Linden) gave us an insight into the character and how it should look. I invented this fur
cap he wears and it looks almost like his hair and then suddenly he takes it off and he's
completely bald and you see that his face is black from the chimneys and his hat is
completely clean. And he has become such a dangerous but comical character at the
same time because of the way he looks that it just happened. It was never written in the
script and, just seeing him, we created this funny character. So that's why I like his
costume so much. But Toby Crackit was just fun, with the colours and the shapes. And
no one had really created Toby before in the ‘Oliver Twist' movies. He wasn't a very
visible character before.
"People always expect a Roman Polanski movie to be special. He is a very
talented director and I think his approach to this version of ‘Oliver Twist' is very different
from other ‘Olivers'. How will it be perceived by international audiences? What will they
expect? I am confident ‘Oliver Twist' by Roman Polanski will be a very special movie."
"ROMAN IS A MASTER STORYTELLER"
Says Editor Herve De Luze.
Frenchman Herve De Luze has been associated with Roman Polanski for over
twenty-five years and has been his editor on six previous films, including the
multi-award winning "The Pianist." He was not at all surprised when Polanski decided to
film "Oliver Twist" in stark contrast to the tense story of survival in the Warsaw ghetto of
World War II.
"Roman has always been interested in movies for children," says De Luze. "Even
more so since he became a father. He's fond of British literature, especially Dickens. He
particularly liked this story because it's a tale of a young kid making a journey and it
contains a lot of humour and epic scenes. Roman is shooting it from the child's point of
view, not in terms of storytelling all the time, but in terms of feeling and this vision is
giving a new slant to the classic story.
"The boy is sunk in a world of adults, some very bad and some kind, and he is
always balanced between these people. The book is very rich with so many different
characters, and they are all huge characters that make a great difference to Oliver's life.
They make him suffer, they make him laugh, and they make him happy. And every time
a new character appears it's a new scene. Roman is not aiming for realism. On the
contrary, he wants to be surprising. In terms of editing, it has to be surprising too. We
have to enhance all the humour and the strangeness of the characters to find a way not
to be normal but to be colourful.
"The initial feeling you have with the kids is they are so moving. Every one of
them moves you fantastically. They are not only great actors, they are great persons.
You feel they are very clever. The Dodger and Charley Bates are very streetwise and
Oliver is very smart. They fit together well, both on the screen and behind the camera.
All the cast, not only the kids, are taking a lot of pleasure making this movie.
"Roman is very fond of British actors - he thinks they are the best in the world.
Great Britain is a huge source of actors and he trying a lot of new faces. Maybe they're
well known in some theatre circles but they are not known internationally. In the movie
they are fantastic. People like Mark Strong, who plays Toby Crackit, and Jamie
Foreman, who plays Bill Sykes. They are so surprising and really strong characters.
Every character in the film has this quality to surprise.
"When Fagin makes his entry he brings with him a lot of humour. He's not just
the criminal ready to exploit the children - he's more than that. He's also a kind of father
to them, and you feel that. He is a villain but at the same time it's funny. They're his
children and his making their education and taking care of them in his own way - not in
a gentle way but not in a bad way either. I mean, he's not as bad as Bill Sykes.
"Sir Ben Kingsley is bringing a lot of humanity to the part and a lot of tenderness
at the same time. That comes as a surprise because he looks kind of ugly and mean,
but there's something else. When you see his eyes shining when he is looking at the
children, he's very moving. And his humour is so surprising for the character.
"The greatest challenge as an editor is to maintain the excitement. The story
might be mellow but the way it's told is a constant surprise, you get the surprise of every
new character. Some are frightening - you have to be frightened - and then you are
laughing. All the emotions a kid may have and it's not boring at all. It's changing all the
time and in terms of editing you have to make all these feeling come out on screen. In a
way, every new character is a new chapter. You have to be different to be exciting, as if
you were starting a new story every time.
"My first thoughts when I came on the set of the 19 th Century London streets
were a kind of child's reaction. It was like being in a puppet theatre really. I was
reminded of my childhood and all the memories of going into a puppet theatre and
seeing all the sets and the characters. And I feel this very strongly in the making of this
movie. It's something which comes from far away but every one of us has been familiar
"The theme is timeless because it's really the social dimension of any age. It's
not realism and there is no precise period. It could be in France, it could be anywhere.
But it does have that British sense of humour, which is quite different from French
humour, or American humour. It's very precise and very, very funny at the same time.
"Roman is a master in terms of storytelling and has such a good contact with the
children. He rehearses with all the boys and speaks to Barney (Oliver) for hours, and it's
fantastic to see them together - the relationship is extraordinary. I think it is based on
intelligence and Barney understands so well what Roman wants that it only requires a
few ‘takes' to get the scene shot.
"I have worked with Roman since 1978 and have developed a wonderful working
relationship with him. He is used to working with people he has known for a long time.
It's easier for him also because he appreciates the qualities of those people. When you
have this kind of a family surrounding you don't have to speak. It's immediate.
Sometimes he starts a phrase and I finish it - it's the relationship we have. And it's much
faster because he can be very impatient, so we can work faster this way.
"We have hired a new composer for Roman - Rachel Portman. This is her first
time with him. She was very emotional and thrilled with the footage she saw She has a
huge job to do because the score is very important to this movie because there are
many big parts - such as Oliver's journey to London, which is purely musical really. And
it's not easy to express all the epic feelings of seasons passing by and the emotions of
the kids. The score can't be dark because the film isn't dark at all. The reference we
have in terms of music for children is generally too gentle, so it has to be, at the same
time, very strong.
"We don't know yet the way it will turn out because we haven't really started to
work together yet. But I don't think we will have themes for every character because
that's not the way Roman likes to work. More likely, we will have a theme for Oliver in
some very important situations and then lots of small pieces, which Roman likes a lot,
just to gibe an idea of time passing by and to make the story move forward more
quickly. Music will be hugely important to the movie, I'm sure of that."