"John Adams" executive producer Tom Hanks and writer David McCullough praised Richmond and Williamsburg for helping bring the historical epic to reality when it debuts on HBO next week.
Curious onlookers crowded the exterior of the tent-enclosed red carpet media gauntlet to get a look at the stars, including an unplanned appearance by Paul Giamatti, who played Adams. He had never been to Williamsburg before the shoot, and said Colonial Williamsburg was fantastic. Colonial Williamsburg lent its experts to help the production nail historic details, from sets to mannerisms."Those guys were all over us," said Giamati. "Those guys were unbelievable."
Attracting interest .
Attracting interest .
After a brief power outage left the Byrd Theater in the dark — and Hanks shined a light into the crowd and implored them in a vintage Hanks comedic fashion not to panic — the key players in the series explained what it meant to them.
McCullough, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the book, said he was proud of the final product."This great work of art is going to reach more Americans with greater effect than anything that's ever been done on our founding time, on our revolution," said McCullough.Executives from HBO and Hanks' production company, Playtone, said the help of Colonial Williamsburg was crucial.
Director Tom Hooper loved that they didn't need to build sets at CW."The joy of Williamsburg is that it has been so beautifully preserved, and we were so lucky to have filmed there," said Hooper.
Historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg have struggled to maintain their peak visitation levels, and attention of tourists. McCullough, known for writing about history in an accessible way, believes the television epic can stoke interest in history."I would be very surprised if it doesn't have a huge impact, and on Williamsburg specifically," said McCullough.
McCullough stressed that parents and the education system have failed to properly emphasize history. Last spring, McCullough brought 24 family members on a trip to Williamsburg for five days."It was one of the best times we've ever had, for the kids and the parents," he said.It was great for the actors to feel the colonial era in Williamsburg, as opposed to the sets built for most of the production, said Hooper."Williamsburg was the one place you could go to where it was completely a 360-degree, three-dimensional experience of the 18th century," said Hooper, who recently won an Emmy for directing the " Elizabeth I" miniseries for HBO
.Hanks said Colonial Williamsburg recognized that the story, and Colonial Williamsburg's role in bringing it to life, would benefit tourism efforts."There's a possibility that people might want to say, 'Hey, let's go see where they shot John Adams, and that's Colonial Williamsburg,' " said Hanks. "I had never been to Colonial Williamsburg, and I immediately said, 'I want to come back here on vacation.' "
Shooting in Williamsburg helped Giamatti feel more immersed in the era. Giamatti said Colonial Williamsburg helped with other details, like how to properly hold a fork and bow correctly. He worked with dialect coaches, and would ask Colonial Williamsburg experts if certain lines would have been said in colonial times."I wanted to swear sometimes and didn't know which ones were the appropriate ones to say," said Giamatti, "and they would say, 'Yeah, you can call the guy that if you want because they would have said that.' "Hanks said there is a fairly easy formula for doing a history movie well. But it's hard to do right unless there is enough time, a luxury he said is available only on HBO."You don't editorialize motivations. You don't turn people into bad guys to move along an antagonist-protagonist dynamic. What you need is time. You need 8 1/2 hours to really understand everybody, and that only happens on HBO."McCullough said studios had optioned his movie before, and he always quickly learned they hadn't read the book. When he first met Hanks, the book was dog-eared, had Post-it notes, underlined, and Hanks was firing questions about obscure details."I've never seen such commitment to doing it right as I saw with this film," said McCullough.
McCullough's book "1776," about the days when Washington was leading the troops — and losing battles — has also been optioned by Playtone. Kirk Ellis, the screenwriter and co-executive producer of "John Adams," said "1776" is a great companion piece to John Adams and would be an "epic war movie." He said shooting it in Virginia is "very much in everyone's mind.""I think all of that we could do here," said Cooper.
Ellis gave an outline to HBO before the recent writers strike, and now it is in full development. He hopes to see it out by 2010. But there still is a question of whether Virginia will have the incentives available to lure the production, which was done with $1.25 million for "John Adams."The Virginia Film Office estimated the economic impact of "Adams" at $80 million in Virginia. The General Assembly is now debating whether the final budget should include incentive money.Gov. Timothy M. Kaine recommended $200,000 the next two years, but the Virginia film industry said the state needs millions to attract some big films where Virginia is a front-runner.Ellis said productions are done somewhere other than the ideal location "all the time" because of financial constraints, making the incentives offered by 42 states important. Ellis said his home state of New Mexico just won the new "Terminator" movie from Hungary — where the last part of "John Adams" was shot — because of the state's very generous program.
"Incentives are very important, because you're always looking to maximize your dollars in the state," said Ellis. "We would love to be back if the incentives are in place and we can maximize our production costs the way we did when we were shooting 'John Adams.' ""It was really about the physical possibilities of what we could do," said Hanks