Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pillars of the Earth: Frequently Asked Questions Answered!

We have been getting a good number of questions about the adaptation of bestselling author Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and so I thought I would try and tackle a few of them here...

Where was Pillars of the Earth filmed?

The series began filming in January of 2009 both in Hungary and Austria. The series is produced, in part, by Scott Free Productions -- a company owned and operated by famous director Ridley Scott and his brother, producer extraordinaire, Tony Scott. The filming of the miniseries took 112 days.

How was the fictional Cathedral at Kingsbridge built? What kind of research went into making sure that the building was real-like and true to history?

The Pillars of the Earth sets have shown a rich and dedicated commitment to detail, are believable and  serve well to help construct the world so artfully built by Follett,  from the quarry, to the capital city of Winthrope to the dilapidated Kingsbridge Priory. Asked about the sets Follett has writen that:  "Much of it was plaster, wood and polystyrene, of course, but a considerable part was real stone, and that was enormously impressive. While modern power tools were used in rough shaping for the sake of speed, a good deal of what you'll see onscreen was hand-finished, real stone."

How did Ken Follett feel about the actors who were selected to play the television version of his characters?

Richard Bartha
Follet was quoted as saying: "The people I created in my mind and my imagination are going to be represented by some of the most talented actors around, actors who can make you scared, angry or tearful. From the marvelous Ian McShane as the dark soul Waleran Bigod, who believes he is God's will; the intense and multifaceted Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder—probably the most popular character I ever wrote Matthew Macfadyen, who portrays the complex Prior Philip with unrelenting strength; the highly regarded Sarah Parish as the manipulative and dangerous Regan Hamleigh. Then there's the wonderful young talent: the lovely and truly gifted Hayley Atwell playing our heroine, Aliena and Eddie Redmayne as our hero, Jack, who gives a performance of amazing depth and passion."

What have reviews of Pillars of the Earth been saying?

We wrote about some of the downright depressing interviews that arrived via Entertainment Weekly, Mo Ryan's "The Watcher" and a number of others. Fans of the book nervous about the dreaded curse that surrounds well-liked novels and their adaptation to movie/miniseries might be able breathe a sigh of relief (just not a really big one, let's not get ahead of ourselves...). Daniel Fienberg over at Hitfix.com wrote that, while he had wanted to stop watching the miniseries after the first few scenes, her persisted and writes that mostly pleased that he had. Fienberg writes: " 'Pillars of the Earth" may start off shoddy and silly, but it picks up steam and after three or four hours, I was well and truly immersed in the world created by producers Tony and Ridley Scott, writer John Pielmeier and director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan."

Many of the reviews have tended to agree with Fienberg's where the first two hours of the miniseries are concerned. The general consensus has been that the first two hour installment of Pillars was heavy on the narrative, the events rushed and the character development sacrificed to the sometimes panicked need to fit Follett's thousand-page novel into the allotted eight hours.

A number of critics have written that getting through the sometimes rough first two hours of the series is worth it as the series begins to establish an even pace allowing the actors to shine through. In a relatively glowing review written by David Hochman for TVGuide.com ("Pillars of the Earth: A Towering Achievement") credit is given to Rufus Sewell the actor who portrays Tom Builder. Sewell has so far handed in a performance that has caught the eye of critics, even those critics who could find very few positive things to say about the series.

With the third installment of Pillars of the Earth series to air later this week we here at Loaded Questions have a feeling that the sins of the first two hours will fade into the past as the story and talented cast

In the end, Follett has nothing but good things to say about the Pillars of the Earth series, writing that "authors who see their work adapted for the screen always experience trepidation...will it be true to the book? Will the characters come to life and hook audiences—audiences that include people who have read the book and those who haven't? I have no doubt that you'll be as happy as I am with the result of this adaptation."

How has the Pillars of the Earth adaptation done so far for Starz?  

Well, Deadline.com reported the day after the premiere of the first episode, that Pillars of the Earth debuted last week to a respectable audience. The first two hours of the series pulled in 423K viewers. How does these numbers stack up? Starz doesn't have a lot of data to compare Pillar's debut too as the network has just begun to try its hand at original series programming. The debut of the medieval miniseries was comparable, however, to numbers posted by Starz's crown jewel and break out original series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand which broke the channel's previous debut record with a total of 553K. So Pillars is doing alright with viewers. Once the Starz debut numbers for Pillars of the Earth were added to the series' Encore debut (tricky, tricky!) the network estimates that the debut reached a total of 1 million viewers for debut. What Deadline.com and Starz itself failed to account for, however, was the number of people who have Netflix Instant Watch and were able to watch the debut via their computers or by routing the Netflix service through equipped DVD players, allowing for home television watching. It will be interesting to see how tonight's episode fares -- whether those who watched the first episode will return and even more importantly whether or not they'll drag along fellow couch potatoes.

The NEXT episode (spoiler alert) . . .

If you aren't interested in getting a preview of next episode of Pillars of the Earth, airing this coming Friday  do not let your eye's wander further down. Of course you can always look and then just blame it on me...

Battlefield, Episode #4
Original Air Date: August 5th, 2010 

William applies to have his father’s title of Earl transferred to him, and discovers a mysterious knight is also a rival for the Earldom. King Stephen, frightened by Jack’s appearance, orders an assassin to kill him. The battle between King Stephen and Maud sees each side’s leader being taken hostage. Philip is tortured into a confession when Waleran tells Maud that he is the man who betrayed Earl Bartholomew.

What do you think about seeing the places and characters of Pillars of the Earth on television? Does a particular actor/actress have their role down pat? Share your views by clicking comment!

Keywords: Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett, historical fiction, Pillars of the Earth filmed, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell, miniseries, World Without End, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Ian McShane, Prior Philip, Hayley Atwell,  Kingsbridge Cathedral,


Unknown said...

Previous Ken Follett books have covered such vast terrains the next book Fall of Giants will also likely leave me tired, but can't control myself, have to read it

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Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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