After Hidalgo was released in 2004 I decided to take some time off. The film was arduous for a lot of reasons, I was and my kids were ten and seven. It seemed like a good time. I spent loads of time in Montana hunting dinosaurs, built a backyard treehouse, restored a motorcycle, learned to fly fish and other interesting pastimes. Before I knew it, it was 2008 and my back account was saying it’s time to go back to work.
My agent called with one of those good news, bad news offers. The good news: Universal is replacing the director on The Wolfman. The bad news: You’ve got three weeks of prep before a locked-in start date. Anthony Hopkins, Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt. I think we cast Hugo Weaving in the last couple of weeks, not absolutely sure, but it was a great cast and a chance to work in the UK again. I hadn’t been across the pond since we recorded James Horner’s wonderfully quirky score for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids at Abbey Road in December of ’88.
Virtually the entire three weeks of prep were spent answering thousands of questions from an answer-starved crew. To make matters worse, the Writer’s Guild went on strike right before we started shooting, leaving us with a patchy script very much in need of a rewrite.
We shot the film at Pinewood Studios. That’s where a lot of the Bond films were shot, including my favorite, Goldfinger. In the sequence where Bond has ejected the gunman through the roof of the Aston Martin and is driving through Goldfinger’s facility chased by the thugs in the Mercedes, the production redressed the streets of the studio itself, basically a fairly nondescript row of sound stages, to look like industrial warehouses. The main thoroughfare is called Goldfinger
The earlier car chase through the woods was shot right behind the studio in an area called Black Park. We shot almost all the wolf-in-the-woods material there. In Captain America the army training facility was shot in Black Park.The production had its problems like they all do but all in all, the film was a pleasure to make, beautifully photographed by Shelly Johnson, with a gorgeously atmospheric production design by Rick Heinrichs.
I inherited a fantastic crew all around, and used the very same personnel on Captain America: The First Avenger. Ironically, the offer to direct Captain America came right after I said yes to The Wolfman, before we had even started shooting. Later, when we were on another endless week of shooting all night in a rainy forest (note to self: movies about lycanthropy involves a lot of night shooting.) I was tempted to tell myself, “if I had only waited”, but I’m glad I took the The Wolfman job. There are a thousand things I would do differently if I had the choice, but that’s not the nature of this weird business. I won’t say I quite got to make the film I would have under more commonplace circumstances but it wasn’t a terrible experience. I made scores of permanent friends on the crew and cast, learned some new skills and spent time in one of my favorite places on earth.I had a great apartment above Julie’s Restaurant in Notting Hill, where Natalie Portman had been the last tenant (the rental agent proudly stated). I was something of an insomniac at times and I loved going out for walks at two or three in the morning when the city is sleeping, if you can ever say London sleeps.My turn to geek out. We shot The Wolfman