I've had to keep so much to myself about Panda Eyes, because of the embargo on any news coming out of the set. But the embargo has been lifted, and now I can tell everyone about the wonderful day I had on the Cardiff set of the film. You know, everyone told me that when your book is picked up for film, you can say goodbye to it. Take the money and run, they said. That's not been my experience. From the very beginning, I was kept in the loop, and I have to say for a long time it seemed it was not going anywhere. Then just three years ago, two producers, Rebekah Gilbertson and Nicole Carmen Davies were given the book and loved it. They passed it on to a fabulous Spanish director, Isobel Coixet, who read the book on her way back to Spain, and she loved it too. They had always wanted to work together and this was to be there project. My book! And since then it has been like a snowball gathering speed.
The cameras started rolling in late November and I was invited down to see the first weekend's filming. The first scene I watched was in the school library, when Fay,played by the beautiful Sophie Turner, walks in and the librarian is puzzled to see her, sure she has only just left. The beginning of Fay's haunting, just the way I had written it in the book. I watched that scene being filmed from one direction after another while Isobel, who not only wrote the screenplay but directs the film as well, carries the camera on a special hook strapped to her back, or is wheeled round on a 'rickshaw'. The actresses repeated their lines over and over and I was amazed that each time seemed as fresh as the last.
Isobel even called the librarian, Mrs. MacPHail, my little Alfred Hitchock moment!
I was really keen to meet Jonathan Rhys Meyers who plays the drama teacher in the film. 'He's very intense' I was told. So I was a bit apprehensive to meet him. The scene they were filming with him was another straight from my book. He is giving out the parts for the school play, MacBeth. The young actors and the extras sat in a circle in the school auditorium waiting for the star to arrive. In he came, and I have got to admit even in real life, he is drop dead gorgeous. But better than that...he's really nice! He stepped into the circle, and shook hands with every young person there. Making them all feel at ease. He did so much adlibbing, and after each take he would ask Isobel if the scene had worked for her. What a star. But among the adlibbing he kept to the script as written, and finally when there was a break, he came across to where I sat. ' I'm Cathy,' I said as he shook my hand. Then as he turned away someone told him that I was the one who wrote the book. He swung back. 'Wow! we'll have to talk later, get a photograph...maybe even a smooch.'
Well, I would have been up for any of them! And he was true to his word, he didn't forget. Near the end of the day's filming, he called across to where I sat. I looked behind me to see who he was waving at, and it was me! ' Come on, get a photo!' He even insisted I get a photo sitting with the cast, holding the clapper board that proclaims. PANDA EYES. TAKE 1
But though Jonathan's fans love hearing about him, it's Gregg Sulkin who impresses the younger ones. He's the werewolf in Wizards of Waverley Place and a gorgeous young man too. I had lunch with him, sitting in a damp cabin eating stew! It was great.
I was amazed that the filming went so smoothly, but I was told that Isobel had insisted, that since there had been so many times they thought the film would not be made at all, then the shoot itself was going to be fun. It was certainly fun for me.
'You've all made me feel as if I am so special,' I told Nicole and Rebekah, and they said the most wonderful thing for a writer to hear.
' If it wasn't for you, none of the actors would be here, the crew, the director, everything stems from you. You are the seed, Cathy. If you hadn't written your wonderful book, none of this would be happening!'
I'm going to dine out on that for years!
I haven't told you half of what happened that day, meeting the wonderful cinematographer, Jean Claude, seeing the rushes from the previous day, watching a creepy moment from my book come alive on the screen. But more blogs will come. I will keep you posted.
Oh, and I did get my kiss too!