All Things Alice: Interview with Jake Curtis

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have the hilarious and talented Jake Curtis join me as my guest! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.


Frank Beddor  
Welcome to All Things Alice Jake Curtis. I’m interested in your creative journey as a young writer and how one comes to their creative process and aspirations. Where did it all start in terms of writing? Were you someone who loved to write in school?

Jake Curtis
I’ve pretty much always done some kind of performance thing. I come from a big family of writers and artists who are all too loud for their own good. So growing up, you had to learn to talk fast and talk loud.

FB
Was that at the dinner table? Or was that all the time? 

JC
Twenty-four seven. We used to say that everyone was unconditionally loved, but not everyone was unconditionally liked.

I came to performing and writing from improv actually. I started doing a lot of improvised comedy when I was 12-13 and it was huge for me because I’m quite an anxious person in general. I’m an analytical person. So the chaos and acceptance that has to come with improv was pretty huge for me. There’s no second draft. There’s no planning.

FB
There’s no getting out of it. I thought improv was the most terrifying concept I’d ever heard of. I’m not going to get up on stage and then somebody’s going to tell me some little story and I’m supposed to go from there. I admire the chutzpah at 12. But I suppose at 12 it’s like sink or swim. So much stuff is going on at that age.

JC
I was a big lover of live comedy shows. England, especially then, had a really vibrant live comedy scene. Going up to the Edinburgh Fringe at young ages, you see all these shows, and at first, I became obsessed with the idea of an audience. I think that was always the bit that gripped me. It’s not so much the glitz and glamor of a million followers, but it was getting to watch these people who can walk into a room with 20 people and just connect with them and entertain them for an hour. I’ve always approached writing from an entertainer’s perspective. We’re all dancing monkeys making something fun. So I did improv for years and it excited me and I got to go around the world and do shows in Canada and the US.

FB
So there was something more structured than you getting up there as a young person and doing something in front of the class. Were you part of a troupe? 

JC
I was part of a troupe called School of Comedy, which is an amazing company in the UK that gets professional sketch writers to come in, but then they have a troupe of kids to perform the sketches. We did shows up in Edinburgh for two years we would perform around the country at festivals and comedy gigs. That was an amazing experience because we were very much treated like we were a part of a professional show. Like we were an asset and a commodity and a member of the troupe. They were lovely and respectful. But also it was like, you have an expectation. There are people out there who have come to see a show and you are the people to deliver it.

Photograph featuring a marquee for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with pedestrians in the foreground and stone buildings in the background.

FB
How many shows would you do a day?

JC
When we went up to Edinburgh, we would do a show every day for 30 days or for 21 days, which is the length of the Fringe. You’re on a full run there. Then, generally, you’d have a week with a couple of shows or a little run at some theater and then a couple of months without a show. But we were working and it gave you this idea of having to accept how the audience reacts. I think a lot of writing classes and creative media share the message of “Oh, you’ve got to tell the story that’s yours. You’ve got to find your soul or your calling.” That’s wonderful and people need to be told that, but I think it does sometimes remove the audience from the question. It tells you to find the thing you think is funny, but I love performing to live crowds because you’re reminded even if you think it’s funny, it doesn’t really matter that much if they don’t. We’d go into shows where we had sketches that had been written for us and that killed five shows in the last five shows. But you deliver it and the crowd doesn’t like it. You can either just say, “Well, this is my schedule and I’m gonna keep going,” or you can try and change it on the spot, try and work out what this crowd needs from you and the show. 

FB
Obviously, when it’s going well, it fuels you and you can charge ahead and you will take chances and it’s invigorating. When there’s a lull or you feel like the audience’s leaning back and they’re not engaged, for me, I had a sense of panic when I was doing some plays. I went, “Oh, it’s one of those.” I would get into my head on the negative side and trying to find a way out of that into the next moment and being present was difficult. 

JC
I’ve done shows that have bombed and kept bombing. Sometimes you’re in the mud and you’ve got to stay there. In those shows, I would just try and make as much eye contact with the people on stage as I could. You don’t have to look at the crowd, right? And I’d try and tell myself, “I’m here having a good time with my friend, not bombing and ruining these people’s night.” But generally, with the crowd, I always took that as a challenge and it’s a challenge you can win. Especially with comedy shows, people want to come out and have a good evening.  Now working as a writer, all these decisions you make are fueled by “We think these markets might want a script that looks like this.” I hate all of that because it’s not real. You’re like, “Oh, maybe I can do it. I’m a technician.” But when you have a crowd, it’s you and them. It’s head-to-head. My panic mode was usually monologuing. If I’m getting stressed, I’m just gonna keep talking and I’m gonna keep going until I hit something. I’m gonna move faster. I’m gonna go through more ideas until you find a little inkling of a laugh and then just grip onto that for dear life.

FB
Is that what you did with your family? Is that what the competition was, people gripping on for their lives to find a little kernel to be heard? 

JC
One hundred percent. You’re waiting at the dinner table like, “Come on. Someone mention dog. Someone mention dog.” Someone brings up the word dog and you’re like, “That’s interesting! Listen to what happened to me today. I went out and I met three dogs.” You’ve got to take your time when you have it.

FB
Wow, that must have been hard to even get the food and drink down. That’s a diet in itself.

JC
When someone else starts monologuing, you speed eat. I just loved the immediacy of improv and the presentness and the engagement. For me, the joy of making art is making it for a specific person or specific people. 

FB
You were making art in that moment. There wasn’t a committee telling you, “I think this joke will work or that joke will work”. The audience is telling you instantaneously, which you don’t get when you’re writing a script for television. That’s amazing because you’re basically writing on stage as you’re going.

JC
It forces you to engage in the truthful fact that the majority of art is just people observing other people and enjoying it. There’s this top tier of if you can write a sentence so good it is etched into history. If you’re gonna write “to be or not to be,” go for it. But the majority of art isn’t the cleverest thing you’ve ever heard. It’s some people watching, reading, whatever, some other people and trying to enjoy it, trying to have a good time.

FB
It’s the connection to the human experience which is why it’s interesting you’re describing your family because so many stories are about the dynamic of family and it’s very relatable. So when you tap into something like that you’re going to engage the audience in a meaningful way. Your family dynamic sounds really exciting and really competitive and that set you up with the mindset of “I’m being creative all the time, not just when I’m improvising. But my whole family is creative.” Did you have actors in the family? You said writers?

Headshot of writer Jake Curtis, in which he is wearing a blue shirt.

JC
In the immediate family, we have a lot of writers. My sister’s a writer, my dad’s a writer, my little brother’s a writer. My mum was a TV presenter in the 80s, which was cool. She used to do little practice things like she’d be playing songs in the car and, in between them, she’d be like, “Okay, you could introduce this one.” I’d have to be like, “And this next song coming on is a smooth hit from Lionel Richie,” and try to time it to the intro to the song. It was all just fun. Then in the extended family, they’re also very loud. I have like 30 cousins on my mom’s side and we have actors, we have everything. It was just a general feeling of trying to have fun trying to push yourself. I thought if I was going to be able to make a career in the arts, it would be partly from muscle growth. How many reps can I do? How many different art forms? I spent so long doing comedy sketches, I don’t do those anymore, but the experience all of it filters into everything else I do.

FB
Is comedy the genre you’ve started to really hone is comedy, whether it’s television or film?

JC
Comedy is definitely where I lean. That was where all my experience came from in improv. I think these things are muscles, especially comedy. I think people often underestimate how much of a muscle comedy is because people are so naturally funny. But it is a very different thing, being funny to four friends than writing something that can slot into a specific scene in a specific script.

FB
It’s completely different. When you’re with your friends and you’re saying it out loud, it can come or go. But when you write it down, people can judge the rhythm and the cadence of it. Somebody’s got to perform it to really nail that cadence. It’s a lot different putting it on.

JC
I sometimes hear writers, who are great writers but haven’t done comedy, saying, I think I might, for my next script, just do a comedy.” That’s great and maybe it’ll be amazing but I think the reason I’m good at comedy is, I hope, twenty percent something natural in me but I did a hundred appalling improv shows before doing a hundred mediocre improv shows before doing fifty decent ones. I have so many scripts that are so bad and so unfunny, so many files on my phone, stand-up gigs, improv, and freestyling. This is the thing I’ve done the most and I’m still mediocre to okay.

FB
It’s the 10,000 hours. It’s the failing over and over. I don’t know if people realize what a gift that is, as the learning part of the process. When you talk about great comedians and you see their shows, if you see multiple shows, they are so specific night after night. They’re hitting every one of those beats. They’re so worked out. It’s kind of remarkable how specific they are from performance to performance. 

JC
That was a part of why I felt so lucky getting into comedy so early and the fact that my family did treat it as a serious pursuit. I was able to go through a lot of that education and a learning phase while I was at school. Because I think it can be really daunting if you go through life and you hit 24-25 and you go, “Oh, maybe I want to do comedy.” It’s a six-year path to being kind of fine.

FB
Starting at 12 and starting to perform, it’s not dissimilar to sports. If you do it at a young age, it’s so inherent by the time you get to your late teens. It’s instinctual but you need all those reps. Starting that young, the filters are off and so you’re just doing it. It’s not as if you’re 24 and you want to do comedy for your career and you wonder how that’s gonna work out. I think that makes a big difference. With your family being so into all the arts, did you find that to be really nurturing or is there a competitiveness or an expectation you feel moving forward?

JC
Not so much. There’s a competitiveness in my family anyway. I’m one of four kids and we all do very fairly similar things so there’s a bit of a jostling. But no, I think it was very much, “If this is a path you want to go down, go down it.” Me and my siblings do similar stuff but it’s different. My sister writes incredible feminist literature I couldn’t write and my little brother writes very dark, edgy films I also couldn’t write. It wasn’t as much of competitiveness but it was more of “This is a legitimate career and a path you can take. If you’re gonna go down it, take it seriously and put in work, put in the hours. We will drive you to the classes and pick you up but you’ve got to put your practice in and put your head down.” It wasn’t treated as a fanciful thing.

FB
With a lot of creatives, the family or the parents treat it as a fanciful idea and not dependable.

JC
I remember one time when I was 16 we had these national tests and I did really well on the physics one and I suddenly got this brain wave of, “Wait a second, could I be an engineer?” I was like, “Oh my god, this is a radical thought. A steady paying job, career development.”

FB
Nothing like my family. 

JC
I’d become the black sheep.

FB
You’re working for Intel.

JC
It would be bizarre for them. It was always something I just appreciated and kept going and kept trying to see where I could go. I did a lot of improv. I got to do some shows I loved. I got to do two 50-hour-long shows in Canada with the group Die-Nasty, which was a great experience. It was really COVID that ended that portion of my life. I was already writing a lot by then but when COVID happened all improv obviously shut down. More than most industries improv took a really big hit. It turned out the improv theaters weren’t the people with big financial stores and genius financial skills. So improv took a really hard hit there. Then I just dove fully into writing. I’ve always enjoyed performing as an act for myself, but needing to get my face out there was never a priority. So I really tried to dedicate myself to screenwriting as a way of building a career I would enjoy. 

FB
Why did you move from the UK to the US? Was that for educational or opportunity reasons?

JC
I was living in the UK until I was 19 and then I moved to Chicago to go to Northwestern University and study film there. I made the decision entirely based on improv. In the UK, I was doing what is known as Chicago-style improv, which is long form. Chicago is the mecca of that with Second City and the iO. So I Googled best colleges for improv and some dudes’ blogs came up and at number one he had Northwestern and the Titanic Players. I went great. I applied to two schools. I applied to Northwestern and then I applied to Yale because no one in England had heard of Northwestern. So I thought, “If I can get into Yale and reject them, then I’ll tell people I chose Northwest.” Then Yale rejected me so it wasn’t a great plan. But yeah, I went for the improv and it honestly was amazing. I was in this group, the Titanic Players, run by Mike Abdelsayed. It’s an amazing, incredible organization. I got to do so much improv at Northwestern. It wasn’t the worst decision.

Photograph from a show put on by the improv group The Titanic Players of Northwestern University featuring two actors on stage.

FB
Then you had the city so you could go to Second City and you could see some of the best improv in the country. You were getting your fix for sure.

JC
A hundred percent. I go to do shows downtown and they brought in guest improvisers to teach workshops. It was an amazing experience.

FB
Also, it’s a great city when you’re twenty-one years old.

JC
I don’t regret the decision at all. I love Chicago so much. Oddly enough, of everywhere in America I’ve been it’s the place that most reminds me of London. So I felt quite at home there. Lovely people, lovely food, and some of the best improv in the world.

FB
Who were some of the people that inspired you in terms of your comedy? 

JC
The first people were a lot of English comedians and stand-ups that I doubt people listening to this podcast have heard of but there are people like Daniel Kitson and Tim Key. These incredible people who would just do one-person shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Partly due to the financial situation, one person shows basically dominate and it’s amazing because it’s so personal. I love these very personal stand-up shows. Moving to Chicago, TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi are like the greatest duo in Chicago improv history. They’ve been doing the same show for 35 years. They are genuine masters and are so grounded and confident and know each other so well. But honestly, my biggest inspiration was watching American sitcoms. That was kind of why I wanted to come to America. I grew up watching The Office, Parks and Rec, and How I Met Your Mother. All these shows. For one, they’re so phenomenal and they also made America seem so cool. I was like, “This is great. I’m just gonna go to America and meet all these beautiful people and date them. It’ll be great and everyone’s funny and the sun’s always shining.”

Still image from the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" featuring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope.

FB
Did you discover that?

JC
I discovered it was exactly like that. I have not been sad a day since I arrived in America. No, it turns out they’re a little unrealistic at points.

FB
So moving to LA, what was the transition here?

JC
So COVID happened and I was in Chicago and I started writing more. I only had a year left on my visa and I didn’t know if I could stay in the country. So I thought, “If I have a year, I should go to LA, the ‘City of Dreams.’” So I moved to LA and I got a job working for a motivational speaker, which was a weird experience, especially during COVID. 

FB
Why was that weird? 

JC
There was a point where I was locked down in my house and seeing no one. Except once a week, I would drive to this guy’s house, set up a camera, and he would motivationally speak at me for one or two hours. All of his stuff is just down the lens of the camera so I was going from total solitude to this man rambling about the meaning of life, and passion and purpose. Then I was going back to my tiny, empty house, and editing more videos of him talking about the stuff. It was just a bit of a jarring experience, but a wonderful one.

FB
Did any of it stick for you?

JC
It definitely got in there. It’s definitely deep in my subconscious. I can still hear his voice if I close my eyes. But I was doing that for a year and then I was working on my writing, but I felt like I needed more training, especially because so much of my experience had been in performance and live comedy. So I ended up applying to grad schools to do a master’s in Screenwriting. I got into the American Film Institute, and ended up going there, and that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

FB
How was Ed Decter? He introduced us and having him as a professor, what was the takeaway, the one thing you have been able to put into action? 

JC
Two things come to mind. Because I think the first, which was something I really loved from watching Ed, was where you can get to if you put all this time into screenwriting. I had so many examples of these great improvisers I’d seen who have this, it seems like a superhuman ability to improvise. You drop them in a scene and they know where to take it and where to go. It was seeing those people initially that made me want to do improv. I think it was amazing coming to AFI, all the professors who teach there have to also be working writers in LA. Ed Decter, who I was lucky to get in my second year, is a very prolific writer and has written so much stuff in so many genres. We were a class of six writing six very different scripts and watching him have immediate feedback for every single type of script, which ninety-nine percent of the time was immediately correct, was an amazing thing to see. 

We talk about scripts so often like they’re hyper-personal, the story only you could tell, but if you get a really good screenwriter they know the direction a script should go from reading it. Getting to see that up close and getting to see someone be able to latch on to a story someone’s trying to tell, work out the key elements, work out what’s going to translate, work out what’s not translating, and immediately know a direction to go in. That got me excited and inspired because I think it can be depressing as a writer to think your only option for success is writing your soul’s calling. That’s wonderful. I hope to one day write a film that is me in a bottle but that’s a scary prospect. Going to AFI gave me much more of an approach to what a working writer looks like, of what a functional writer looks like, of someone who just gets the job done and who knows what a script needs. 

FB
Ed has written a lot of sitcoms. That’s where he started. So he has experience in sitcoms but the scripts he’s been writing lately have been adaptations of various kinds of mystery novels. He has a broad range of genres that he plays in. A couple of the latest crime dramas he’s written were really startling to me, because, we obviously did There’s Something About Mary together, but also he’s done so many sitcoms. So I can understand why you guys would have bonded. Also the experience of seeing him jump from genre to genre and script to script, I had a similar experience. We put a little mini-room together that he ran to break The Looking Glass Wars novels as a television show. Seeing him run the room was also another aspect of television production, writing, and development that I hadn’t seen before. That was unique for me because I hadn’t had that experience of taking my novel, breaking it up, and saying, “Okay, here’s where we have to get to for the middle of the season. Here’s where we’re trying to get to at the end of this season. Okay, now, let’s reverse engineer it and figure out the best opening.” It was pretty exciting. 

It was not dissimilar to what you did with my world. I asked you to write a lore story and this idea came from you and a number of other young writers that I was introduced to from AFI, who play all these different kinds of games, Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. I looked at all the lore stories that go along with those games and I thought, “Well, I want that.” So you wrote this story, The Brother’s Wilde, which I’d like you to talk about. It’s a lore story, a prose short story. You did an outstanding job. Really brilliant, beautiful job. You used aspects of my universe and you made them feel fresh to me, which was like Santa Claus showing up. 

Graphic featuring knights and a purple skeletal being with the text "Dungeons & Dragons" superimposed over the image.

JC
It was a wonderful experience for me because I’ve played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons for a long time. I love that world and the high fantasy genre, but it never felt like something I was allowed to play in for actual creative work. That was my treat on the side at the end of a long week. So getting approached to write something in a world of high fantasy that already exists and writing backstories was such a treat for me. It felt like getting to my fun times for work. But it was also an odd process. I’ve never really written based on other people’s worlds before and other people’s work. So that was interesting and fun getting into that and trying to see how much I could stretch. The odd thing for me was when I got into it, I was very excited. I’d written out all these plot points and the beats and I was confident in the story. Then literally as I opened up the Word document, I remembered I hadn’t written prose in like seven years.

FB
Be careful what you wish for.

JC
I’d forgotten it was a completely different art form. I got ready to open up Final Draft and then I was like, “Oh God!” It took a little bit of adjusting. The part I forgot was you can’t refer to someone by the same name every time in prose. In the script, someone is their name and it does not change ever. But I was suddenly deep on synonym.com, “I can’t say ‘the great warrior’ again”. The mighty fighter, heroic hero, I was going deep into my vocabulary to try and switch something up. It was an exciting thing to get to work on. I think especially because Alice is a world that is so rich throughout culture. It’s kind of a bedrock piece of story. There are things I brought into the story that are pieces from Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a lot of Alice in Wonderland lore baked into Dungeons and Dragons like Vorpal swords and Jabberwock. It didn’t feel like building on something completely new. It felt like being given a chance to play in a world that is so familiar.

FB
As a Brit too, Alice in Wonderland is probably the most famous piece of literature that you would have grown up with, right? So I can understand that and also the idea that Alice is everywhere. Of course, it makes sense it’s in Dungeons and Dragons. You took what was familiar from Alice’s Adventures, Lewis Carroll’s work, you took elements from my world, but then you brought this brother story together. Tell us a little bit about that part of the story, because you did often reference your younger brother.

JC
I have two younger brothers who got amalgamated in the story. I always try to start from a place of relationship because I think that gives you the most fuel for a story and is the part you can’t retroactively put in. If you tell me this story needs a bigger fight scene, I can go do that at the end. But if a story isn’t built around a relationship, it’s tough to slot it in. So I wanted to build The Brother’s Wilde around a relationship. I was looking at the House of Cards, which was where we wanted to focus the story, and I thought brotherhood made sense. It’s this military organization and the brotherly bond felt like it made sense. I have two brothers who I fight with a lot. So that made that track. 

But then I was interested in this idea of the houses and I loved the thoughts of the personality types associated with the houses. Me and my brothers are very different and if we’re gonna have two brothers in the story, let’s put them in two different houses. Let’s have them hate each other for the very reasons that make them unique. If we’re trying to expand the House of Cards we’ve got to bake it into the DNA of the House of Cards. So I wanted to build around there. Then I came up with these characters who are half brothers from a philandering father, who they both hate and there’s no love between them. At that point, it started to feel real to me and it started to feel fun. It felt like playing because you built this world and we have this amazing world of the House of Cards which has these rituals and dynamics built in. It was such a gift to build these two brothers who hate each other and try to give them a situation to learn why they need each other.

Illustrations by Sami Makkonen of card soldiers for "The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire" by Frank Beddor and Curtis Clark.

FB
You were tasked with an origin story, an early origin story of the House of Cards. They send card soldiers on missions and when they send people on missions, they decide what kind of hand they’re going to deal. So you came up with the idea of “A Hand in History.” The Brothers Wilde is the beginning of the card soldiers going on these various missions when they’re tasked with saving the queendom or battling a competitive state.

JC
I loved the idea of basing it around hands that are chosen and selected because that plays into the joy of Dungeons and Dragons and these old fantasy novels. It’s the idea of “The Party,” the troop. Every story is based around who was selected to go on this journey. That’s what’s so beautiful in a lot of these adventure stories, including Alice in Wonderland, it’s not the adventure that’s enticing, but it’s the uniqueness of who’s gonna solve the adventure.

FB
The skill set they have and seeing how they’re challenged when they use their skill set with these various obstacles. That’s the Dirty Dozen idea.

JC
I think that’s where a lot of modern fantasy and films go wrong. They put a lot of their energy into these big set pieces, these big boss fights with CGI characters. They put a lot of time into the obstacles when actually the thing we care about is the people solving them. In The Lord of the Rings, you care about Frodo, you don’t care that there are nine Nazgul. That’s what makes Alice in Wonderland so beautiful, and your novels, they revolve around the people going through them instead of the giant nature of the battle. 

FB
It’s fantasy but you need to be with the characters and with Alice, it’s so identifiable. It’s a “Who am I?” journey, and she finds agency in who she is and pushes back against the illogical world that she finds herself in. But it’s also very amusing. When were you introduced to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

JC
I couldn’t say an individual date because, especially in England, it was just a part of culture growing up. My earliest memories were of my mum and my dad reading me the book. I must have been 10 or 11. The 1951 film was something I watched a lot. I love animation. I write a lot of animated stuff. The specificity of the visuals and the tone baked into that film was a real inspiration for me growing up.

Still image of Alice and the Mad Hatter drinking tea in the 1951 Disney animated film "Alice in Wonderland".

FB
Why do you think it’s lasted so long? You said it was in culture and this is generations after it was first introduced. Every generation re-interprets Alice. How do you view Alice in Wonderland?

JC
I think the reason it has lasted is there are so many ways you can connect with it. It is such a beautiful human idea, the girl who falls through the looking glass and gets swept away on an adventure. The part I really gripped on to from a young age was the world-building. It was the idea of this world that works, that makes sense. It doesn’t feel like someone who’s picked, “Oh, this would be a fun scene. This is a fun character. That would look good.” 

It lives and breathes like a world. Something that really drew me to it is I think a lot of world-building goes dark, “It’s a grungy forest with scary people in it.” Then obviously some other world-building goes saccharine and we’re in heaven. I love the feeling in Alice that there’s a danger to the world but there’s a wonder to it as well. There’s a whimsy and a seriousness. The world feels like it shifts based on the situation, like ours does. There’s no one thing to it. I just love learning more about the world, learning about the characters who inhabit it, the places to go, and being able to build this kind of escape.

FB
I love the whimsy and the silliness of it and it reminded me of another book, The Phantom Tollbooth, which was one of my favorites growing up because of the silliness and the use of language. I really identified with that aspect of Alice. Many people think of it more as more a nightmare because of getting big and small and being stuck in a place where there’s no logic. 

JC
The lack of logic, I love. I know quite a lot of people who I would identify as crazy people. They would as well. We have a lot of fun mental health issues in our family. I always grew up with this acceptance that nothing’s gone wrong. There are crazy people who exist in the world and that’s fine. I think Alice, in a youthful way, takes that on the story. It accepts there are people who are going to make some weird decisions and that’s okay.

FB
It really does capture that. In terms of pop culture, you mentioned Dungeons and Dragons and the references in video games, I’ve noticed there’s a huge through line of Alice. In almost every game I’ve ever seen, there’s some Alice component. Do you have a favorite Alice in pop culture item that you like? 

JC
I enjoy Dungeons and Dragons. I love the video game Borderlands, which has a lot of Alice imagery. I think my favorite is probably the Batman: Arkham Asylum graphic novel, which I just love. It’s this beautifully illustrated graphic novel about Batman going into Arkham Asylum and gradually losing his sanity. It’s very inspired by Alice in Wonderland. A lot of the villains in Batman already are. There’s very much these threads of madness and the Mad Hatter.

Even the Penguin, there’s all this imagery that lines up. So you have this beautiful graphic novel of him just going progressively mad, surrounded by Alice in Wonderland motifs and imagery. That’s what feels so special about Alice in Wonderland, it can be drawn for inspiration for something light for a younger audience but it could also be drawn for a very dark and disturbing graphic novel. And it works the same. It’s just beautiful. I think that’s what happens when you’re able to create something that taps so deep into a human level. It means you can use it in so many different ways. 

Three panels by Dave McKean from the graphic novel "Batman: Arkham Asylum" by Grant Morrison featuring Batman and the Joker.

FB
A lot of stories now are based on IP because people like stories that are familiar and told in an unfamiliar way. On the business side, there’s a recognizable aspect for the marketing. I know this is not lost on you because you’re working on an animated series that’s based on Edgar Allan Poe, but your spin on it is a little different. Can you talk about that?

JC
I’ve been working for a couple of years on a series called A Raven in the Woods. It’s a reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe. I loved Poe as a child. I loved the language, the poetry, the darkness, and, similar to Alice, the acceptance of madness. That’s where they meet in the middle. Poe, like Lewis Carroll, doesn’t treat his mad characters as nothing. They’re just his characters. They’re not irrational. They are just who they are and they are to be dealt with. 

So I loved Poe and felt there was something so visual in his language that would pair well with animation. He writes in this incredibly emotive, twisted world that I thought could be best represented by animation. There are a lot of great live-action adaptations but they’re all dark and gloomy rooms, which is technically accurate. But when you’re reading Poe’s work, it doesn’t feel like a dark gloomy room, it feels like a twisting shadow and peering lights. I thought it worked well with animation but I didn’t want to do a direct translation. Similar to how you engage with the Alice world, I wanted to bring the feeling and the parts of Poe that I love into a new story that worked as a standalone piece of animation for kids. It shows a young Edgar Poe trying to get his brother Allan through the woods before Allan is turned into a raven. Allan’s cursed and as they move through the woods, a lot of the people in the woods have gone mad. There’s a curse on the woods and there’s a big, mysterious overlord. A lot of the “mad” people speak in rhyme and speak in poetry. 

It’s this adventure through the woods and the logic in my head was that this was the real-life adventure that inspired the later Edgar Allan Poe to write his stories. He actually wasn’t very creative at all; he was just mining from two weeks he had as a kid. It’s got a lot of the characters and the elements and the moments of his work, but it’s its own story about a kid trying to deal with a lot of the themes that come up in Poe. Themes of fear, how to overcome that, and how to deal with yourself and the world when everything feels mad.

Photograph of famed 19th-century horror and mystery author Edgar Allan Poe.

FB
Not dissimilar at all to Alice. I think that’s really relatable and answers the question we often get from executives “Why now?” Given how chaotic the world feels, it’s great to deal with stories that are realistic to the anxiety that kids feel, whether it’s the various wars they’re reading about or the climate and the fact that there’s nothing they feel like they can do about it. I’ve noticed that with my kids. So stories that are thematically similar to what you’re talking about answer that question of why it’s important. 

JC
Thank you. I think we need this stuff. We live in a chaotic time and our art needs to reflect that. Thankfully, we’re not the first people to have lived in a chaotic time so there are lovely things from the past.

FB
We’re also trying to get grounded in what’s real. One of the things about Alice in Wonderland, if you look back on it, the question is “Is this a dream? Is this real?” Trying to parse out reality versus fantasy, facts versus fiction, which we’re dealing with a lot of late. That sounds like a really exciting project. 

JC
I’m working with a producer, Rick Mischel, who’s wonderful, and we’ve teamed up with TeamTO which is a great French animation house.

FB
They’re terrific. I love their animation. 

JC
They’ve been amazing so far. Wonderfully French, which has been a great treat. On one of the first calls, the head of finance was just sitting 10 feet away from the camera stroking a cat. I was like, that’s the kind of stuff we need. We’re working with them and a director called Christian De Vita, who’s an incredible director. He’s done a lot of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton stuff. We’re working on putting together a packet for it and then going out and trying to sell it. It’s been a great, great process and hopefully, it will lead somewhere.

FB
Fingers crossed. We’ll want to check back in with you and certainly have you on the show when you need to promote it because it’s coming out. 

I’m curious about the romantic comedy genre. I would imagine that you know something about that and that it’s been lacking. It’s one of the staples and one of my favorite movie genres. Why do you think we’ve lost that? 

JC
It’s a really tough question. My dad has made a lot of romantic comedies. That’s his bag. It’s tough. I feel like there’s very little to be learned from him because the truth about him is that he is literally the sappiest romantic person in the world. It is one hundred percent genuine. That’s how he talks, thinks, and breathes. But I think it’s a really tough thing. One thing, it’s a genre that needs to keep changing. Action is action, and you need to develop it, but honestly, action holds up. But both romance and comedy are things that develop as humans develop. If you are romantic in the way people were romantic in the 1950s, you’ll probably get arrested. If you tell jokes that were funny in the 50s, you are not getting laughs, I promise. I think these are things that need to keep being pushed and reinvented because, with both romance and comedy, it’s the feeling of something new. The feeling of being in love is, “I’ve never felt like this about a person before.”

FB
What about the formula of the meet-cute and the tension of “clearly they’re not getting along”?

Still image from Rob Reiner's 1989 romantic comedy film "When Harry Met Sally" featuring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in a diner.

JC
We got used to the formulas. I think you can get used to the formula for an action film and it doesn’t lessen it. But to me, When Harry Met Sally, feels radical. It’s weird. It cuts away to things, it’s skipping time. I think romantic comedies have to feel unique because it should feel like meeting a person who’s shifting your life. When we get used to the tropes, they can still be good if you want to make The Notebook. That’s proper romance. But I think with a romantic comedy, it has to feel fun and it has to feel fresh. That takes reinvention. 

I think we’re in a weird spot at the moment where no one’s quite cracked it in a while. We’re all just really familiar with the tropes. Everyone watched these films, everyone started acting like the people in these films. There are all these people pretending to be leading men from romantic comedies in the 90s, and 2000s. They’re all on dating apps and it’s horrible. When you go on a dating app you see 200 people’s perceptions of who they are as a romantic lead. You watch everyone label themselves as the Hugh Grant type. Or, “I’m just a witty guy,” or “I’m the Billy Crystal, he doesn’t care.” These things are so played out. You’ve got to find a way of making something feel weird and fresh and new. But that’s really tough when we work in an industry that doesn’t like taking chances on fresh and new stuff. Also, let’s be real, romantic comedies live and die on the stars, on the chemistry. It’s tough to get a weird, new, fresh take that two stars are willing to sign on for and they happen to have chemistry. I think it’s a really tall order. 

FB
I agree with that. With all the dating apps, trying to find a way to make that at all romantic seems to be an impossibility. But also, somebody will do it and it’ll break out and maybe there’ll be a fresh take on it. But to your point, we have all sorts of other genres that people are spending more time on. I just miss the chemistry between two stars. The Notebook is something my daughter has gone back to and it works because both male leads are equally appealing. So she really has a dilemma that you can buy into. But that was based on a novel that was highly successful. 

So the kinds of movies your dad wrote, were his own ideas, right? They weren’t based on anything, your dad had a romantic idea. For example, your dad wrote Notting Hill, which was one of my favorites. There’s an ongoing joke with my stepkids because whenever they say, “What should we watch?” I’m like, “Well, what about Notting Hill?” I’ve been saying it over and over and over so many times that they’re dead. They look at me like, that is the dumbest joke ever. But it’s a good movie. The chemistry between the two leads is so amazing. 

JC
I remember once asking my dad, “Did you know when you were writing these films that ended up being big hits, that they were going to be hits?” He said, “Absolutely not at all. I really didn’t feel it. I just wrote and tried to stay passionate about it.” Then he paused and went, “Actually not Notting Hill. I was sitting at home and I thought, ‘What if a movie star fell in love with a random guy?’ And I went, Oh, that’s a hit.’”

FB
Also, you have Julia Roberts at the height of her stardom with that smile that would just crush anybody. Then you have Hugh Grant, who’s a very contained performer and when those two come into contact, it’s gold. It’s wonderful.

Promotional image from the Amazon romantic drama series "The Summer I Turned Pretty" featuring stars Lola Tung, Gavin Casalegno, and Christoper Briney sitting on a beach.

JC
I think one thing that’s worth looking at is that romantic comedy is being explored in other mediums successfully like the Amazon show The Summer I Turned Pretty. It’s a smash hit for a younger audience and that’s a rom-com, essentially. Even looking at someone like Taylor Swift, her songs are romantic, amusing, and comedic at points and that has gripped people. Obviously, people want these kinds of things. I think it’ll just take someone breaking a new way of doing it in movies.

FB
Certainly in television. My daughter keeps telling me “Dad, it’s one girl, two guys. That’s what you need to do. Just focus on teenagers. Two guys, one girl. That’s the formula.” She’s watched all those shows you’ve talked about. 

You have a funny story about your grandmother knowing the Liddells, Alice Liddell, which you have to share with us. That’s the first time I’ve come into contact with somebody whose family member knew the literal muse for all things Alice, for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for my books, for your writing The Brothers Wilde

JC
It’s a bizarre and wonderful story. My grandmother, my mum’s mum, Lady Jill Freud, is an amazing woman. She’s 96 or 97 right now but World War II broke out when she was little, six or seven. She was living in London at that time with her family and they knew London was going to be bombed ruthlessly. So the British government enacted this thing they called “the evacuation,” which was an insane thing to happen. It could never happen nowadays. They literally took every child in London, took them to a train station, put a number around their neck, and put them on a train somewhere. They literally just shipped them off. When they arrived at these stations, people from the local towns came to the station and just went “Yeah, I can take two,” or “I run a farm, I can take two young boys to work there.” These kids just got rehoused for what was, at that point, an indefinite period of time.

So my granny was sent to Oxford and taken in by this family, the Butlers. Mrs. Butler was 100 and wasn’t allowed to know there was a war on because they were worried it would scare her. But the house was run by these three Butler sisters. Two of them were university professors and they were three unmarried older women. They had been three of the kids that Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson, had taken down the Isis River in Oxford when they were younger. He’d done these long boat journeys down the Isis and he would read them stories every night. He would come up with stories and a lot of his early things were first tested out on these little girls. So my grandmother lived with the Butlers and they had these toys from their time with Lewis Carroll he had actually made by hand. He was a great craftsman and he had made these toys.

Black and white photography of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll.
Sepia-toned photograph of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in the 1865 novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

So every Sunday afternoon, my granny would be allowed to go into the drawing room and play with these Lewis Carroll’s toys. It was this incredible time in Oxford where all these great writers and poets and people who were allowed to not fight in the war for academic reasons would write. So she lived with the Butlers and she met Alice Liddell. Alice was close with them and would come over and she was this sort of enigmatic figure known and revered around Oxford. She had tea with J.R.R. Tolkien. By her memory, he was a friendly guy. 

So it was just this amazing time she was around Oxford and absorbing it. But also it was a time of war and chaos and people dying. When she talks about it it’s this very mixed feeling of this beautiful time but so underpinned with fear.

FB
Was she there for the entire war?

JC
She was there for the entire war pretty much I believe. She was there for five years of the war. By the time the war ended, she was 16-17 and had been at C.S. Lewis’ house for a bit and she stayed on to manage his estate for another year or two, I believe. Then at the end of that, she was accepted into RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but couldn’t afford to go and C.S. Lewis paid for her entire education. He covered it and she went on to become an early movie actress.

FB
What an amazing story and an amazing life.

JC
At that time in Oxford, there were so many incredible people, incredible minds all talking to each other. These were discrete authors. They all knew each other and they had writing groups.

FB
Could you imagine those writing groups? Wow, that would have been intimidating.

JC
“Yeah, I don’t know if this White Rabbit character is really working for me.”

FB
“I don’t think a closet is where you want the kids to go through. No one is gonna buy that.” The video you sent me of your grandmother, what’s that from?

JC
She’s an incredible woman with incredible stories. A few years ago, I sat her down and we talked through her life and everything she’d done. It was a really wonderful experience. It was something I wanted to do, obviously to have the footage, but also it is such a privilege to get to talk to someone who’s lived through wars and everything. I mean, ninety-seven is a lot of years.

FB
You’re very fortunate in terms of being surrounded by so many creative minds and creative family members and having a template on which you can base your creative aspirations. It’s been really delightful to listen to you articulate what you’ve experienced so far, in your life and I really, I really appreciated you working on this project. I didn’t know you very well and you delivered. I think our listeners are really going to enjoy hearing this.

JC
They’re good, fun people. There’s a quote from a Madness song written on our wall at home that says, “There’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud.” That summed up our family well.

FB
That’s great. I hope you’ll come back when your show is produced.

JC
Thank you so much for having me. This was such an absolute treat for the day and just fun to get into all this and chat about comedy and things

FB
Thanks a lot, Jake. Bye.


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All Things Alice: Interview with Eshel Ezer

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have my dear, dear friend Eshel Ezer join me as my guest! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.


Frank Beddor  
Eshel Ezer, welcome to the show. I’m really excited to be talking to you today. You are a photographer. You’ve worked on There’s Something About Mary, you did Wicked and worked with Julia Stiles, you did the art in Birdbath, you took photos at my first wedding, and you did a colorful piece of art for my parents’ 50th anniversary.

I have really strong memories of the There’s Something About Mary job. When I first went to the marketing department, they were really excited about the movie and there was a lot of pressure to deliver really great marketing materials. We had to have a photoshoot with Cameron Diaz, so I put my hand up and said, “Hey, I have a photographer who would be great. I believe he’s worked with Cameron.” The head of marketing said, “If you can get Cameron to sign off on it, then we can hire him.” And you had done a job with her before and she was excited to work with you again. 

Still image from the 1998 comedy "There's Something About Mary" featuring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz.

Eshel Ezer
I don’t know how old she was when we first worked together but she was extremely young. She was a model then and I shot her a few times. We shot for a hair magazine, a big editorial with some famous hairdressers. It was for Modern Salon or American Salon, one of the two big trade magazines in the hair industry. They always used to do just hair, regular photoshoots. This fashion editor had a vision and we hooked up and I told her, “If you want us to do photo shoots together, let’s be creative. Let’s try and give another dimension to what regular hairdressers used to do.” So we came up with more of a fashion concept story and connected the hair into a bigger story with more body and action. The hair is part of a scene. I think that was the first job I did with Cameron. 

We came up with a crazy scene. We shot it at a historic hotel in downtown Los Angeles. She was the star model in the editorial. It came out phenomenal. So beautiful. The hair was great. It was not cheesy or corny.

FB
She is remarkably photogenic. When you see her in real life, certain angles are magnificent. Then there are other angles that sometimes you go okay, she looks like a regular person. But when you take a photograph of her or she’s filmed in a movie – just stunning.

EE
She’s a professional. It’s not just how she looks. It’s her energy. She brings something with that smile, in her eyes. She’s a free soul. A Southern California girl who got hooked up in this fashion scene when I met her. We liked each other. She loved the photos. I liked the way she was not complaining about anything. Crazy hours, lava lights, and very specific directions.

She came to my apartment on Kings Road and I did a photo for her. It was beautiful. I shot her behind one of our windows, which was an old Los Angeles window with the squares. She just looks so innocent. So I think we had this thing. My mom was visiting when I was doing that shoot. It was more than just a young model. There was a connection.

Cover of July 1990 issue of "Seventeen" magazine featuring Cameron Diaz in an American flag jacket and wearing American flag earrings.

FB
No wonder she was so interested in working with you. I didn’t realize at the time. I knew you two had worked together before but I didn’t know it was so successful. The same chemistry seemed to be there when we shot the poster photos for There’s Something About Mary

Just to go back, she is a relentless worker and she never complained on Mary. She didn’t complain when she came to that photoshoot. There was no prima donna posing at all. She just got right to it. But I remember the concern was her skin had broken out and we really needed to do a good makeup job. I thought we might not even be able to do the shoot but the makeup artist did a fantastic job and then you guys went to work. What do you remember about the photo shoot? Do you remember the shot that ended up on the poster? 

EE
We had a creative meeting right before the shoot at Fox. We were meeting with the head creative director, Tony Sella. We sat at his office and the advertising agency brought over 70 different layouts and you could tell that he’s not flipping over anything. I sat quietly. Let them do the talking and I’ll shoot it. But then Tony looked at me and said, “Eschel, what are you saying?” I didn’t know how to say none of what they showed was good.

FB
You were trying to be diplomatic.

EE
I was. I said, “I think I know what we need to do.” But the other people kept on talking. Tony Sella said, “Guys, the photographer’s talking,” and everybody became silent. I said, “She’s so innocent, she’s so beautiful, and she has this incredible free spirit. We need to capture that so everybody can relate to her.” Tony Sella said, “Meeting over. He knows what he’s doing.” 

So on the shoot, Cameron was in makeup for three and a half hours. The makeup artist did a great job but it was killing our time. Then they wanted to have hours on styling. Then her manager said “Guys, that’s it. She has to go, you have half an hour.” I said, “Let’s stop it. I cannot shoot it.” We spent five hours on prepping and it’s super important – hair, makeup, styling. But now I need the equivalent amount of time to shoot it. Tony Sella arrived and he negotiated with the manager. Cameron was unbelievable. She was, “Let’s have fun. Let’s get the best out of this day. I don’t want to leave so don’t tell me to leave.” Her attitude was in our favor for getting the best shoot done. 

Still image from the 1998 comedy "There's Something About Mary" featuring Cameron Diaz.

Now, I knew that I was gonna have a problem in a technical sense. It was before digital so everything was on Polaroids. I knew that the first Polaroid had to be beautiful because if the first Polaroid was horrible, she would lose it. After so many hours, she knows her limitations, and it kills your confidence. She was an actress by then she wasn’t a model anymore. We built a crazy lighting setup. I’ll never forget it. We had so many lights. It had to be smooth but with contrast at the same time so it wouldn’t be boring and flat and the photo would have some depth. 

I did the first Polaroid and it was amazing. Not for me but it was amazing enough for her to say “Wow, it’s beautiful.” But for me, it was not and I knew I had to work on it because when you put so much makeup on and then add the lights, you’re gonna see the difference between her skin color on her neck and her face. So you need little touch-ups so it’s not gonna look like she has a mask on her face. Then you need to work with the lights and everything is going to be nice and smooth. Then Tony Sella said, “Eschel,” and he stood like an inch away from my face. Tony said, “Make all America love her.” In my entire 25-year career as a fashion photographer, I never had more difficult creative direction than that. 

When we started, she started to loosen up and she felt amazing. With the direction, it was to try to get her not posing. We used the wind machine just to have the hair blowing. Nowadays, with digital touch-ups, you can do it right away. You go to the computer and say, “We have the shot.” But when it’s on film, it needs to be processed. So we kept on shooting. I knew we had shots that could be the one. Sometimes the first one is the best but you just cover more. You take more film and shoot more. The bending, chin-up look, and smile is such a simple photo. I think that’s why all of America loved her. It’s a simple photo, nothing looks made up.

Poster for the 1998 comedy film "There's Something About Mary" featuring Cameron Diaz in a pink dress, photograph by Eshel Ezer.

FB
It captures what Tony was asking. You fall for her because she is the All-American woman – the haircut, the pose, and the kind of whimsy that she communicated. You feel the joy of the process. 

What is your technique to bring out that with models and subjects? Is it different each time? Is the physicality a big part of it? Is it about the story and trying to tap into the character? Because you’re not going to say to her, “Hey, America needs to love you.” You’re just going to say, “Be who you are because we love you. I love you. Everybody loves you.” 

EE
There is a technique. Every successful photographer has his own technique on how to connect. Throughout the years, I’ve learned what I have to do to create this connection. So later on, when it’s show time, you get more out of the shoot than just a photo, you get feelings, emotions, and connection. What I did with her was exactly what I was doing, just on a more appreciative and sensitive level because of who she was. Our past connection, for sure, helped. And yes, the moment she knows you’re not just using words when you say “You’re beautiful and I easily fall in love with you.” If she knows you’re not just bullshitting her because you want to get the job done and leave which, technically, this is what happens. But it’s telling a story to her. The story is so important, especially because she’s an actress. The story is so important. It has nothing to do with the movie. It’s the story of the photoshoot. Who’s the character? What are we doing here? What are we doing together? What kind of feelings and emotions would we like to capture for her? At a certain moment, all barriers were off and something amazing happened.

FB
I love that guy, Tony Sella. I remember from the first meetings when they put all the different posters up, he had a real sense of the artist. The art had a little Steve Jobs in terms of the aesthetic. I certainly did not hear that he shut down the room. Those are the talking heads. They’re the same people from different departments giving notes over and over. They end up diminishing the idea by little paper cuts. But Tony recognized one, the photographer who’s actually going to grab the shot is speaking, and two, once you said what you said, he cut the meeting off, knowing that you have to execute. 

I remember the manager throwing his weight around and Cameron standing up because that’s who she is. It was a very stressful shoot because there was a lot at stake. We knew it was going to be a successful movie and we were rushing to come out in the summer when we were originally supposed to come out in the fall. Then right at the end, I snuck in and said, “Hey, Cameron, let’s do some photos.” You did the same technique on me and I have some of the goofiest photographs of all time. But there was Cameron Diaz and so they all look pretty amazing because she’s amazing. So I had the glow. I printed out some where I had at least a decent expression. But in looking back at some of the stuff we did, I was going “Oh, no wonder I never printed that.” Trying to dance. It was deeply embarrassing.

Four images of Frank Beddor and Cameron Diaz from a photoshoot for the marketing of the 1998 comedy film "There's Something About Mary", photographs taken by Eshel Ezer.

EE
It’s embarrassing to stand in front of a camera when that’s not your job. 

FB
But those are some of the best photos I have of being on that movie because it was just a camera, myself, you, and Tony, there was nobody else. You nailed it. Every time I see the poster, I’m exceedingly proud of our collaboration.

EE
That poster, the real size, hangs in my studio in Tel Aviv. Everybody saw that I was so in love with the movie and they’d ask, “Why do you have these?” “What do you mean why? I shot it.”

FB
You shot Cameron when she was 16 and you also ended up shooting Julia Stiles for my movie Wicked, when she was 16. Both movies came out around the same time. Wicked went to the Sundance Film Festival in January 1998 and There’s Something About Mary came out in July 1998. What I discovered on Wicked was that I thought Julia Stiles was a movie star in the making. She was remarkable in the film and she was very photogenic. I told her I was going to pretend she was already a movie star and put her solely on the poster in the same way we did with Cameron Diaz. But I needed some really great photos so you and I went to work on that. Let’s talk a little bit about that shoot.

Wicked is a murder mystery that takes place in a gated community. Julia Stiles basically takes over her mother’s role when her mother is killed. So it’s a little bit of a Lolita-esque story. We needed to find the right balance of seductress and thriller. She had some really great costuming so we brought some of that in and we went with some All-American jeans, a t-shirt, and then some nightgowns because of the dynamic with her father. It’s no secret she wants to take over her mother’s role in all capacities. So walk us through what it was like working with Julia in comparison to the There’s Something Mary shoot and some of the choices you thought were important to capture the essence of the film and who she is as an actress.

EE
It’s a totally different agenda when a person is just a model or it’s an actress. You basically have to shoot for a very specific assignment with a very specific name. So it’s not just to capture the beauty, “Let’s make you beautiful and do it in the desert or the beach or in a convertible.” That’s how you come up with stories for editorials. When you shoot editorial, just a story and a beautiful model, then you just go and perform. She’s a good model and you’re a good photographer, so you create whatever you want. 

When it’s a movie, and it’s an actress what I have to do is hit right on the complexity of the characters. With Wicked, it was like a week-long job we did in one day. I remember we shot in the studio and we went on the rooftop and we did a lot of stuff on the rooftop in many different styles. The movie is called Wicked and Julia’s the lead part so we tried to bring out the wicked part of her personality.

Photograph of Julia Stiles for the promotion and marketing of the 1998 thriller "Wicked", photograph taken by Eshel Ezer.

FB
We were looking to bring out three things, the danger, the vulnerability, which you also capture, and the seductress part of it. Remember, we’re talking about a 17-year-old, so it felt a little daring walking the line with her parents there. But Julia, like Cameron, was completely up for it and wanted to take a lot of chances.

EE
She is, and I will never forget, extremely smart. Her IQ is way above average. Usually, we say “high IQ” for somebody who needs to go to a different profession. But, with Julia, I think it enables her to play different characters very easily. There was 100% cooperation with whatever we said and wanted to do. She was jumping in and out of different characters when we wanted to bring the softness and the purity. But then there were the twisted colors and the shadows. The wicked side.

FB
Didn’t you use certain filters to get some of these crazy backgrounds from the sky? 

EE
Many times I use colors on lights to control and get the right density. But these are manipulations of the film that I knew would bleach out skin. The photo will come out like pure porcelain with this coldness and if we’re going to use the red lipstick it will pop because I knew what this manipulation of the color is going to do. It’s like skin dyeing. 

Photograph of Julia Stiles for the promotion and marketing of the 1998 thriller "Wicked", photograph taken by Eshel Ezer.
Photograph of Julia Stiles for the promotion and marketing of the 1998 thriller "Wicked", photograph taken by Eshel Ezer.

FB
Explain to me why the film is so different in the photographs for Wicked and the technique you used.

EE
First of all, there is a format difference. When you blow up certain formats you will hold the grain. In film you speak about grain, in digital you don’t have grain. If you want grain you need to create. Back then, with film, different types of films had different sizes, different densities, different contrasts, and different ways the film would react to different lighting and exposure. What I wanted was to have the technique help us go all the way to the extreme. It’s mind-blowing to see her expressions combined with the lighting, the unique processing, and her look with the makeup. It changes so much. It’s really mind-blowing to see because you see the complexity of the character. She has so many different sides. It’s wicked. 

FB
Your passion for the work and the idea of creating something fresh was ever present when we worked together and now it’s many years later and you have a different career but I can still feel the passion you have for doing quality work. It really comes down to this being your art. 

We met years and years ago.

EE
We bonded over scuba diving.

FB
We bonded over scuba diving in Cozumel. Then I asked you to shoot a poster for a play I did called Birdbath. I was super nervous and really bad. I had to have a few drinks to relax and then we really got into it.

EE
We got into it.

FB
It took a while. But once we got into it, those images were very arresting. 

EE
I remember our conversations to understand the play, what it’s about, and what we would like to capture. “So the poster will show just the actors? No, that’s boring.” We wanted to try and bring something from the feeling of the play. We used overtime exposure and transparent images. Nobody does these things anymore. Now you take Photoshop and “bang, bang.” But it was incredible to create. One of the things that we did technically was, we had to have lights on the outside but we were on the second or third floor in this building downtown and we didn’t have the budget for cranes with lights. We had nothing. I really think we were never prima donnas. Creative people do creative things. We had to bring lights from the windows at night and we pulled these stands and we extended the stands and we tied them to things inside the apartment. We just drove the lights from the inside of the loft and tied them with ropes so it wouldn’t fall on somebody in the street.

Collection of photographs from Leonard Melfi's play "Birdbath" directed by Susan Peretz and starring Frank Beddor and Melissa Tufeld, photographs taken by Eshel Ezer.

FB
What we were doing was, on some level, illegal. Sneaking into the building. Putting up lights. Not asking for permission. Just apologize later.

EE
Let’s go do it. Get it done. Beautiful.

FB
You had an art show that I helped organize and Tony Scott was the first one to buy your art. Tell me that story.

EE
It was a project I started during my second year in art school back in Israel. We got an assignment to shoot something in motion. So I took my brother to the beach in the Mediterranean just after sunset. I used a strobe flash and I was holding the camera and he did something in the water with the sun behind him. The manipulation of the colors of the film created magic. It was stunning. Then I had the final exam and exhibition at the end of the second year in school. Then I left Israel and went to New York to complete my studies but I kept on shooting this project.

One of the things my teacher in Israel said was, “This is beautiful. Try to see if you can get closer.” And I kept thinking, “What does it mean to get closer?” He’s in the water, I’m with a camera. It’s not an underwater shoot. How am I gonna get closer? Then it just kind of became a memory. But it was a project I wanted to keep on progressing. It meant something to me. It was a man’s body coming out of the water. I thought, “This is what I want emerging out of the water, man’s creation is from water.” The ocean is my forever love. With my old injury in the army where I shattered my back, I was physically in pain for too many decades. So there was a lot of emotional involvement for me in creating this image of a man’s body coming out of the water with a lot of power, but also experiencing and projecting pain. That was the general idea. Then I had to start seeing what kind of colors I wanted to use and how dramatic I wanted to be. We shot this project every time I visited Israel for 10 years. We kept on taking pictures in the Mediterranean, but also in the Dead Sea, with crazy hours because at the Dead Sea, we had to shoot at sunrise, and at the Mediterranean, we had to shoot at sunset. 

I needed the sun as a background, as my theater. As an artist, nature is a background and if you know how to work with it, you can do whatever you want with the background. You don’t have to be in the studio, you can do it outdoors if you control the lights. So in the Dead Sea, the sun will be behind my model in the morning, and in the Mediterranean, it will be behind him at sunset. I needed the glow of the sun at those times.

Photograph of a man coming out of the water with the sea in the background by Eshel Ezer.

FB
Just the beginning and just the end. 

EE
It could be very apocalyptic. A very extreme environment. You don’t see it with the naked eye. It’s the film that later sees it. So we kept on doing the project. I visited home in the winter and we used to shoot it in January or February in the Mediterranean when it’s 11 degrees centigrade (52 degrees Fahrenheit) in the water and it’s blowing and raining. We used to stand on the beach looking at each other, “We’re crazy, right? We’re not going to do it today. We are going to do it today. No, we are not going to do it. Yes, we’re going to do it.”

FB
You’re saying “We’re going to do it,” because he’s the one going in the water.

EE
We were both in the water. He needed to be underwater. That was the thing my teacher told me, “Try to get close.” So I had a wide angle three feet away when he was coming out of the water, splashing water. I had my camera in one hand with the aperture, speed, and everything set according to what I wanted to achieve with manipulation of the light. In the other hand, I was holding a stove, a flash, with gelatine over it for the color that I wanted to create. He would go underwater and come out, splashing all over the place, and I had to grab the shot and move the camera away. Otherwise, it’s all gonna get wet. So it was just him and me, for years no assistance.

Three photographs by Eshel Ezer of a man coming out of the water.

FB
And how did Tony Scott become involved?

EE
That was crazy. You’re artistic and you’re creative, and you’re an entrepreneur with the way you think and the way you see the future, and your ability to connect to different areas. We were speaking about these photos and we became such close friends, we shared things clients or friends in the business don’t usually share. We said we needed to do something with these photos. They have to be seen. But I didn’t want to do a regular show. I don’t care about going in to schmooze the galleries. I’m a photographer. I have an agent. I have to be nice to everybody and do these political things with the ad agencies and creative directors. I didn’t want to do it in the galleries. So we said, “Let’s do it ourselves. Let’s do two nights. We’re going to use your house. We’re going to show one photo. We’re going to have a party. We’re going to do the first night for friends and we can do the second night for industry people.” We showed one photo and we had a light table with some slides.

FB
That one photo was spectacular. Remember, when you had to go blow it up, how obsessed you were about getting the grain right? Those poor people in the lab. 

EE
It was the biggest size back then. It was museum quality. So it will be preserved for 200 years guaranteed. Who the hell is gonna live to see if the colors stay right or not? So we blew it up and the grain just became like, “Whoah!” 

FB
It was part of the picture.

Photograph by Eshel Ezer of a man coming out of the water tinted in green.

EE
So we hung this huge thing on the wall and we covered it with a very light blue sheet. We hung it in a way that we could pull a string and the whole thing would fall. We had to have this surprise factor. Everybody walked in and there was this huge thing covered. People knew I was a photographer so they thought it was probably some picture. We waited and waited and people were anxious. We pushed it later and later we said, “People are probably gonna leave before seeing it. We have to unveil it.” 

There were two important people I invited. One was a good friend of mine, an ex-model, and actress, Emmanuelle Sallet (Pytka). She was in Under the Cherry Moon, the Prince film, and she did beautiful photo shoots. She had a very famous perfume campaign in Vogue and Elle. She moved to LA and I met her at the agency and said, “Oh my god, I have to shoot this girl. Who is she?” We became best friends. I have amazing photos of her. She got married to one of the top commercial directors, Joe Pytka. Back then he was doing the Pepsi commercials with Michael Jackson. He was the biggest commercial director.

FB
He’s also a wild man and really hard to work for.

EE
Their story is crazy because she worked on the set with him on the Pepsi commercial and he threw her off the set and then apologized and took her for dinner. And married ever after. 

FB
My first wife worked with Joe and he loved her because she was so expressive. But, he was a bear to work with, though if you gave a lot, he loved you and would work with you over and over. I heard stories about anybody who wasn’t in front of the camera, certainly, if you were in front of the camera, you were at risk, but anything around the camera you were definitely a target.

EE
I had never met Joe before but I invited Emmanuelle and I asked her to bring him because I knew who he was. Then, I was standing next to the photo speaking with the people who gave me my first shot in L.A. Tony Lane and Nancy Donald, the co-creative directors at CBS Records. I shot album covers with them. They knew me as a fashion photographer who was shooting rock bands so they were asking me about the photo, “Okay, Eschel, we know you shoot rock bands, what is this?” 

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tony Scott coming in. Tony was a friend because I worked with his ex-girlfriend, Tanya and he loved the photos. I shot crazy photos for some editorial and she brought them home and Tony saw them and said, “I have to meet this photographer.” So Tony and I became friends and I invited him and Tanya to come to our opening. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tony coming with his red baseball cap and I saw him coming closer to the photo and then stepping backwards. Then coming in again and going backward. With his heavy British accent, he said “Eschel, Eschel, what is it?” I said, “Tony, what do you mean? It’s a photo”. He said “No, but what is it? Is it a photo or a painting? I cannot decide.” I said “Tony, It’s a photo.” He said, “So how did you do the grain?” 

He went in and out to see the little parts of how the film was breaking. I shot it on high, extreme grain 35 millimeter film so when we blew it up that big it became like a painting. So Tony asked what I needed to finish the whole show and I said, “Well, I need money.” He said, “You’ll have the money. Let’s have a meeting.” So I went to meet him at Paramount, he was editing Days of Thunder at the time, and he said, “I want to do more. I want to buy it.” I said, “What do you mean you want to buy it? You can’t. It’s Frank’s photo.” That was our arrangement. 

Eight photographs by Eshel Ezer of a man coming out of the water.

FB
I wanted the first one. Remember we framed it and you didn’t sign it? That was so stupid. I should’ve had you sign it first.

EE
We’re so dumb. But anyway, I said, “That’s my friend’s photo. It doesn’t matter how much you pay.” He said, “I need one.” I responded, “Well, I’m not making another one.” So Tony said, “I need to talk to Frank. I want to buy it for Anthony Quinn’s 75th birthday.” He had just finished shooting the movie Revenge with Quinn and Kevin Costner and Tony wanted this photo for Quinn’s 75th birthday. So he flew me to New York and I printed another photo at a different lab. I killed them because they were not used to the size and the preciseness of the colors and the grain and all those things. But we printed it, framed it, and I personally delivered it to Anthony Quinn’s penthouse in New York. The son opened the door and we delivered it as a present from Tony Scott and I left and that’s it. And it remained a great story.

FB
I was also just reminded of the crazy story of when the two of us went to a party and we had just seen Dead Calm, which we were always talking about. “That movie is amazing! The girl is stunning!” 

EE
And she walks in with a girlfriend. Nicole Kidman. Our jaws just dropped.

FB
Well, I had to go talk to her. I was so nervous and I started screwing that up. Luckily you were there. You were calm like, “Yeah, we saw the movie.”

EE
She was so impressed that we loved the movie.

FB
She was so into it because it was her first trip to America. She was stunning. She was engaging. Sweet. Somehow, I got her phone number. I said, “We should go get coffee.” She goes, “Yeah, sure. I would like to.” I’m like, “You would?!”

EE
For us, she was the star of Dead Calm. For her, we were the Hollywood people and she had no clue how to get around in Hollywood. 

I met her again maybe a year later. I shot this little commercial in Miami and then we drove up the coast to Daytona where Tony Scott was shooting Days of Thunder. It was the weekend they did the Daytona 500 scene. Nicole and I had lunch together on the set and Tom Cruise was there. 

Still image of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise from Tony Scott's 1990 action film "Days of Thunder".

FB
I talked to her two or three times trying to set up when we could get together because she had a hard out. She was leaving on a Friday and I’m like, “Okay, let’s try and figure out when we can get together.” She goes, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not gonna be able to get together with you. I’m doing this movie Days of Thunder and I’m flying down Florida and Tom Cruise is in it.” As soon as she said Tom Cruise, I thought, “That’s it. Tom Cruise is going to fall in love with her.” Easiest prediction I’ve ever made.

EE
On the set, Tom had a flu or something and then a few days later Nicole had the flu and everybody knew that they were dating.

FB
That’s funny. 

EE
Insights from Tony Scott and his second assistant director, Scott Metcalfe.

FB
You also do really beautiful black and white photographs. You were kind enough to come to Minnesota and shoot black-and-white photos of me and Sandra prepping before we got married. Then you took a bunch of photos at the wedding.

EE
I used a red filter to get the clouds to pop like crazy. It makes the blue skies extremely dark and the contrast with the white clouds is just unbelievable. It enhances the contrast on the skin. You look amazing, bro. 

Collection of photographs by Eshel Ezer of Frank Beddor and Sandra in a wedding dress and tuxedo.

FB
That’s what 20-year-old skin looks like. 

You also did a photograph in Minneapolis with my two brothers, Steven and David, and my sister Michelle. We wanted to have a photo as a gift for my parents for their 50th anniversary. 

EE
We flew together to Minnesota to shoot it and I had to dig through your siblings for their characters. Who is what? Where is the complexity? Of the four siblings, there is a reason why each one of you is doing what you’re doing. There is a reason why she’s on the sofa like a princess in the front. We worked and we used this technique again so her skin has the same tone as Julia in the Wicked photos.

FB
Completely different from what you did with There’s Something About Mary but it’s a style and a technique that you have used throughout your career.

EE
It was important to bring out the personality. I remember the conversations with each one of you. You look like a Hollywood producer.

FB
I still have that jacket. I wore it two days ago.

EE
That’s crazy. It looks good. There is a reason why he’s jumping in the air. The one you blew up was the one where his legs are spread out and he looks like an X-Wing. The skies are brighter and you can see the branches. With this brother, we did some with the helmet on.

Photograph by Eshel Ezer of Frank Beddor, Steven Beddor, David Beddor, and Michelle Beddor outside and in various poses.

FB
Yes, but my mother would have lost it. She could barely accept that three of us were not smiling, at least Michelle was smiling. My mom hated photographs where the kids weren’t smiling but to your point, it does capture an essence. 

EE
It was a very, very unique, exhausting job to understand the characters.

FB
You have to deal with somebody else’s family. Can you imagine? 

EE
It was a great experience. Everything we did was with a lot of fun and joy.

FB
Then remember you came up for the Seattle Film Festival and shot PR for Wicked

EE
There are shots of Julia lying on the carpet, right? We had to show her and Patrick from above. They can be in any magazine. 

FB
Do you miss it? You’re no longer shooting photographs but I’m really struck by the level of professionalism, passion, and artistry, as if we just did this two weeks ago.

EE
It was a major part of my life for 25 years. But the fact it has been doesn’t mean the stimulation is not sustained. It didn’t fade. It faded as a profession because I didn’t want to do it anymore. I got tired of doing it and, at some point, I didn’t see the purpose anymore.

FB
Also a big physical toll on you.

EE
Crazy physical toll. Big toll on the family. It got to me that I would have to take pictures for the rest of my life if I was gonna make a living. I felt enough was enough. I was in the studio shooting cosmetic catalogs or swimwear catalogs and most of them were always artistic. There was a photo I took in Africa with an American model in a bathing suit holding a cheetah out in the wild. It looks like theater and it’s beautiful. But I started asking myself, “What is it for? What’s the purpose?” It’s a catalog and a catalog is for people to buy. So it’s not really the art of generating something for others. 

FB
We all transition. We all have to evolve. 

Photograph of Frank Beddor and Eshel Ezer looking at pictures and recording the podcast.

EE
I even felt that at some point, most women around the world are not models. When I take pictures that extreme, “Does it do good to women or bad?” I got to a point where I felt it was bad.

FB
People are not that perfect.

EE
Nobody’s that perfect and nobody can be reached or touched like this. It was also the feeling of, when I’m on the set, I know what I want to get and I can get it. Because technically I know what I’m doing. But also emotionally, I know what I’m doing. I know how to talk to the models to get the sensuality or the feelings and emotions I want to get. But when the job is over, I’m done. I walk away. It left emptiness and I needed to move on and do other things. 

To be able to build two good careers is not easy. It’s hard to do one over a lifetime but it’s not over yet. So who knows where we are going? I’m in the middle of a very exciting career that I have become very good at and it’s great to have these different colors inside as a person. 

FB
We’re really taking a step back to a period of time that was really creative for me. I produced two movies back to back. A lot of other opportunities came along through producing those movies and you were right there and I was listening to you and your aspirations. Then I transitioned into writing The Looking Glass Wars series and all the art that came with that. Hopefully, the artistry continues even if the medium changes. 

EE
We’re such good friends and we’ve been friends for decades and it’s crazy. No matter how many years go by, we stay so close. But it has always been your level of understanding the business, but also having the creative eye, and the sensitivity to judge and know what’s good, what’s not good, what you’re looking for. So seeing your artistic side inside your creative way, also as a businessman, I think made it very nice for us and easy for us to connect, because we could speak about things.

Photograph of Frank Beddor and Eshel Ezer.

FB
It’s about choices. When you’re making creative choices, some are elevated, you hope they’re elevated, but you’re still making a choice. So when you point to this one photo, where I put a dot and you put an “X” was because we both went, “Yeah, that is a choice.” We want to use those choices. We’ve had a lot of creative choices. Whether it was There’s Something About Mary, working with Julia for Wicked, doing Birdbath together, or something very personal like my first wedding.

EE
It’s funny, my oldest son is sitting next to us and hearing stories that he has never heard before. I have to tell you we always had crazy laughs and hit it off together on a crazy level with where we could go as friends.

FB
You were my first male friend, my first guy friend, that I felt was an intimate relationship in the sense of, I’m letting my guard down. That is where the artistry comes from, the vulnerability. We’re making choices, some good, some bad, and we did that for very many years. To your point, coming back here and having this conversation is crazy. So thank you for spending some time with us and sharing your stories and creativity.

EE
What a great idea. It was fun being here. Thank you.


For the latest updates & news about All Things Alice,  please read our blog and subscribe to our podcast! If you’d like to hear Gerard’s excellent narration of The Looking Glass Wars, click here!

All Things Alice: Interview With Jared Hoffman

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have the hilarious and talented Jared Hoffman join me as my guest! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.


Frank Beddor
Welcome to the show, Jared Hoffman. I’m happy to have you on. I wanted to chat with you about your background and your aspirations. My friend Ed Decter was on the show and he was your professor at AFI. He called and suggested we work together, which has been a fantastic collaboration because you bring a unique sense of humor to the blogs that I don’t have. Whenever somebody has a unique voice, I always like to exploit it for as little money as possible and I feel like I’ve done a really good job with you. But it turns out that I pay you more for blogs than anybody else. 

Jared Hoffman
I’m glad you’ve also said that now so that everyone can resent my blogs.

FB
I wanted to go back to your pilot because it was a very funny take on high school, which is a genre I’ve played around in a little bit. Tell me about your experience at the American Film Institute. I’m imagining they said to write something personal or meaningful, something you know a lot about. Is that why you wrote that pilot? Or was there something you were working out that you didn’t work out with your therapist?

JH
I’m always working stuff out with my therapists. That’s an awful process. But in my first year at AFI, the things I wrote weren’t necessarily personal things. Everything I write has some kind of personal flair to it but there was no real connection. And there was no “Why are you writing this?” It was mostly just, “Oh, I liked the idea. It seemed like a fun thing to chase.” But when I was going into year two, I realized that while I had samples that I liked, there was nothing I was really proud of besides a spec script I wrote, which is only useful for writing contests right now. They’re not used at all in the industry anymore. Unless you write a 9/11 Seinfeld episode.

FB
Do you mean that in terms of television or that you can’t sell a spec script?

Still image from the Netflix animated comedy series "Big Mouth" featuring the characters Nick, Andrew, and Jay.

JH
A TV spec. I’ve noticed the term, for some reason, keeps changing but in my first year, we had a TV comedy writing class and a TV drama writing class. I wrote a Big Mouth episode. We were writing an episode of an existing show. That was really the only thing that I was like, “This is good.” It was the only thing that was actually based on any kind of truth about me. Once that clicked for me, it was like, okay, everything has to be incredibly personal for it to be good, at least at this point in my career. So going into my second year, I knew I had to write something personal, specifically for Ed’s group because Ed wanted us to have some ideas coming in. 

Ed handpicks his group based on what everyone else has written and because of their personal stories. Ed’s awesome and he’s very aware of what will help you find success in the industry in the sense, especially as a young writer. I could write some crazy fantasy, high-concept thing that has nothing to do with me and it’ll end up in the pile of high-fantasy concept things that a bunch of other new writers have and no one’s gonna take a second glance at it.

FB
Right, right. 

JH
Ed wanted a paragraph pitch on what you wanted to write about. Also, I knew Ed before going to AFI. He’s actually the one who convinced me to apply to AFI. I remember in the first class he said, “Just so you know, Jared is friends with my daughter, proceed.” Then John, one of your assistants, pitched an idea about a knight because he has a history background. I think he got to the second sentence before Ed interrupted him and said, “No to all of that.” Then we just went to the next person. I was like, “Oh, cool. You said that we know each other. That’s great. Now everyone hates me.” I think Ed only passed two out of the six ideas to go on to the next steps. It took people weeks to get past even the idea phase to the beat phase of the script. 

I always said, “Ed bullied me into writing well.” He didn’t really bully us, but sitting in the beat phase was probably the most frustrating thing ever for everyone in that class. Everyone was just like, “I just want to figure it out on the page.” And Ed was like, “I don’t want that. That’s not how this works.” I came up with an idea based on my therapeutic boarding school when I was 16 and the idea was a kid starts hearing the voice of Christ, but he’s basically at a place where if you were to say that you’d end up in the padded room. So it evolved from back to my original high school. I’m not going to say the name but it was a madhouse. I have really fun stories about that place. It was an all-boys Catholic school and everyone was weirdly really close and very touchy when there were no girls around.

FB
That’s scary territory for me for a couple of reasons. One, I went to an all-boys Catholic school for my freshman year of high school and then St. Margaret’s, an all-girls school, merged with mine. I’m going to go back and just quickly take issue with the notion that Ed was bullying you because that’s what my kids say. I have a senior and a sophomore and they talk about their teachers being bullies at school. I said, “You are being teased. Bullying at school is when you come home bloody or the gym teacher has a paddle with little holes in it or you get hit on the hand by a nun. That’s bullying, not somebody teasing you for making a stupid comment.”

JH
Oh yeah. It was not actually bullying. I remember, after the first class, when almost everyone’s ideas were shut down, most of them weren’t something that was going to stand out. I remember someone said, “You’re gonna be alright because Ed likes you.” I go, “Oh, no, Ed knows me. That just means he has my cell phone number and he’s going to call me and tell me to fix things. I have more classes.” He was a great teacher. I really wanted him. It’s known that Ed is one of the harder teachers at AFI and some people were afraid of that. I dropped out of college, so when I was at AFI, I kind of felt like the dunce. But it was like, “I’m here. I’m paying all this money. This is graduate school. I don’t want the easy teacher.” There were no easy teachers at AFI but I would rather have someone who would force me to be better.

Image of the Warner Bros. Building on the campus of the American Film Institute Conservatory.

FB
It’s not just being tough on the story and tough on the writing. It’s the preparation for life in the business. I’m curious now that you’re out of school and you’re trying to make your way in terms of selling your projects. The pilot I read that you wrote at AFI was such a great concept. What have you learned from Ed? What was unexpected as you’re going through this as you’re going down this path of trying to get projects, meeting with producers, writing spec scripts, and trying to get jobs? 

JH
The most unexpected thing was a vast majority of people who go to AFI don’t outline, and I was one of them. That’s how I can tell if someone is serious about writing. I’ll be like, “I’ve been outlining for the past couple of weeks”. And people are like, “Oh, I don’t do that.” You don’t have to but it’ll be better if you do. So that’s one thing I learned, how important the outlining phase is. 

I grew up in the film industry. I always say that I’m nepo-adjacent. My father passed away 17 years ago and my mom was a makeup artist. All of those connections more or less dried up in one way or another. I’ve gotten this far in the career not for lack of trying to use the connections that I gained through my family but, actually, the only success I’ve found has been through connections I fostered myself. Or being lucky enough that Ed is friends with you. The only reason he found out that we lived close to each other at the time was because I was late to class one day and the gate wasn’t working. I sent Ed a picture and he immediately goes, “Is Frank your neighbor?”

FB
That’s funny. I didn’t know that.

JH
Navigating the industry has been really interesting coming from my perspective, especially growing up in it and seeing how it worked as a kid and now trying to figure it out on my own with how much it has changed. There would be times when they would just be like, “Okay, so this is something that isn’t done anymore.” Just trying to figure out what is actually useful. One of the shocking things is how much truth there is to a lot of the jokes about the industry in shows and movies. I had a meeting and I learned that someone doesn’t read. I was just like, “Oh, I thought that was not real. I thought that was a joke.” Right? But, they don’t read. Someone else reads for them and tells them. I was like, “What? How can they make any good decision?” Well, they do. I guess, at this point, they’re in a part of their career where they don’t have to read. Or, something else I realized is you have to write a lot of “Thank You” letters. I’m not the best at writing thank you letters. I’ve always found them to be a little kiss-ass-y.

FB
I haven’t received any myself.

JH
Sorry, Frank, I have yours in the mail. I promise.

FB
In school, I’m assuming there were pitch meetings and learning how to pitch and how has that translated to you? Talk about the ways you’re trying to get out into the world and take meetings. When you do have opportunities, what happens? I know you had a meeting for that game you love so much, Warhammer

Illustration of an Ultramarine in blue and gold power armor holding a battle standard with a blue flag, topped with a gold skull, inspired by the miniature tabletop wargame "Warhammer 40,000."

JH
I didn’t have a meeting for that actually. I asked my manager, “Is there any way you could get a meeting for this?” She said, “I’ll look into it.” She emails me back the next day and goes “You don’t have a sample for this.” Warhammer is high fantasy and sci-fi and very serious. All I have are jokes. She said, “I can send your stuff, but I’m gonna look stupid doing that.” I was like, “Yeah, no, that makes sense.” Now I’m trying to push the fact that I’m helping you with The Looking Glass Wars lore.

FB
You’re so into the lore of Warhammer. It’s the idea of “Get me a meeting because I am so deeply seated in that world. I get all of it. I have the books. Let me just tell them all the great things about it. If nothing else, they’re going to feel good about their show coming up.” Yeah, exactly.

JH
Exactly. So my manager and I made a deal. I’m going to write a 10-15 page sample based on that universe. Luckily, there is no shortage of stories in that universe that I can take inspiration from. I’m gonna give that to my manager. I was hired to write a treatment for a producer over the holidays and just finished that a week ago. So now I’m finally able to sit down and write my own stuff again. There are a lot of things I want to get done because right now I only really have one sample that’s being sent around to get meetings. Luckily, it’s the sample you read that won me the AFI contest as well. So I’m going to send that to her to have a little bit more leeway getting in the door. But I believe, with Warhammer, they’re actually making a movie first.

FB
So they’re not putting a room together, which is what you would be ideal for.

JH
Exactly. I believe they’re going to make a show based on how the movie does. It’s Amazon, MGM. Henry Cavill, and then Games Workshop, or maybe Citadel. So I’m just trying to navigate that. I’ve never written something specifically to get a job.

FB
It’s a very good idea. Because it’s hard to know what’s going to work and everybody will say,  “That’s never going to work. This is how you have to do it.” But there’s no rhyme or reason to it. If it’s a good piece of writing and it connects and it’s about the subject matter, people will respond to it. I’ve told the story a million times about the World War II feature I wrote. It’s about the skiing and climbing troops who fought during World War II. I wrote a treatment, a short story, and I thought would be The Dirty Dozen on skis. I knew nobody but ended up getting it to Kennedy/Marshall and getting a deal at Paramount. By the way, I sent a letter. Everybody really laughed at me. That’s when there was snail mail.

JH
I feel like with email now, it’s become really easy to ignore emails.

FB
It’s like vinyl. It’s nostalgic to receive a letter. 

Where does the writing talent come from? Your mom’s side, your dad’s side, or both of them? Neither?

JH
My dad passed away when I was nine. He only was a dad. I never got to know him as a person. That being said, my mom does say I am a lot like him. I’ve always been someone who likes to tell stories and luckily I’ve had a very interesting 27 years here so far. Or at least interesting enough to get adults’ attention. When I was a kid, I always wanted to talk to adults and have them actually pay attention. I realized the first time someone really paid attention to me was when I said something funny. So, starting from that, I was always trying to crack jokes. I was never a class clown. I talked a lot during class, but I was never the funny kid at school. I was always good at getting essays done. Everyone else would always be like, “I’ve been working on this essay for a while. How are you?” I would say, “I’m gonna write it tonight.” And I’d do well, depending on how good the spelling was which, as you know from reading my work, is not good.

FB
Even with spell check. So I don’t know what you were doing way back then.

JH
Here’s the thing. I’m so bad at spelling that spell check has no idea what I’m getting at. But I would turn in these essays and get passing grades. Then I realized if I spent a little bit more time on it and got better grades, I was going to go to college. I didn’t feel like I was ready yet. So I took a gap year and I lived in Indonesia for a while. I went through a program that set me up with families to live with, but one part of the deal with the program was I had to write articles about what I was doing and stuff like that. I remember reading other people’s articles and I thought, “Oh my god, what?” I just watched a South Park episode last night where they’re in San Francisco and everyone is smelling their own farts because they’re so pretentious and so smug. 

But I was reading these articles and thinking, “Who are these Hemingway wannabes with their flowery language? You went for a walk.” So I started teasing these other articles in mine and they got attention. I would tease the reader. I was like, “Why are you reading this?” I wrote one where I said, “This is about cars. If you don’t like cars, don’t read this. I don’t care.” I’m not going to talk about brindled dogs. I still don’t really know what brindle means. That was when I fell in love with writing funny, sarcastic things.

Still image from the 1998 thriller "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and Patrick Muldoon

FB
You did an amazing job. You did what you just described in the blog where we played around with the upcoming movie Wicked, the musical supposedly, and my movie, Wicked, that I made years and years ago starring Julia Stiles. One of the things I was asking you to do is do a comparison of the two trailers. But what that morphed into was the idea of having a musical come out, but hiding the fact it’s a musical in the marketing for the film. You did a very, very good job, very sarcastic and funny. I really love that piece, which people can read on the website. 

I wanted to go back for a second because I wanted to tell you a little story. You didn’t mention your dad’s movies. I don’t know if you know this story. Years and years ago, these two filmmakers came into my office and they showed me five minutes of a horror movie. 

JH
I have a feeling I know where this is going.

FB
I was like, “Wow, this is kind of amazing.” I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the time but I definitely knew I wasn’t going to have the money to help them complete it, which is what they were looking for. Years later, I met Oren Koules. who was a producer and was interested in something of mine. We went into his office and he told me he had just produced this movie, and it turns out he produced it with your dad and a guy named Mark Burg. It turned out to be the first Saw movie, which has gone on to be probably the most successful independent film series of movies. Do you have any recollection of your dad making Saw

Still image of Billy the Puppet riding a tricycle in the 2004 horror film "Saw" directed by James Wan.

JH
It’s burned into my mind. They shot the first Saw it in two-ish weeks. It’s wild. I believe the total budget was $1.4 million but the shooting budget was actually only $800,000. The extra $600,000 came later for marketing. I remember my dad telling me a little bit about the movie. I was six or seven. I remember going on set. It was shooting somewhere in Burbank on this tiny little soundstage. I just remember the brick. The outside was brick. Before going in there, I remember my dad sat me down in the car and said “I’m shooting a horror movie. There’s gonna be a guy in the bathroom.” The police station was right behind the bathroom and then there was a bedroom. It was all very tiny, shared walls.

FB
Minimal sets constructed to maximize the production values and minimize the cost. Your dad, Oren, and Mark saw more than I did. Boy, do I regret that decision. I should have put my house up and thrown down the cash for that.

JH
I remember my dad saying, “There’s a guy on the floor and you can see his brains and there’s a big pool of blood. Then there’s two guys chained up.” I was there when they were shooting the scene where Cary Elwes cut his foot off. I was sitting behind the monitor watching it. I was so interested. As a kid, that could have been potentially scarring. But the thing is, I was so interested in how they did it and how they made it look like he was doing these things that it didn’t freak me out. I was much more interested in how they were hiding the fact he still had his foot. The only thing that scared me was Billy, the doll. Everything else was not scary to me. And there was a toilet that was filled with gross stuff.

FB
Dolls are always the scariest. 

JH
I’m seven. I’m a boy. I thought that was the funniest thing in the world. My dad’s making a comedy. I was on that set a lot growing up. I think James and Leigh were younger than me now when they shot that.

FB
The director, James Wan, that guy has gone on to do some huge movies.

Image of "Saw" and "Furious 7" director James Wan, wearing a blue shirt and black jacket, standing in front of a promotional marquee for the 2014 supernatural horror film "Annabelle".

JH
He’s everywhere. James and Leigh wrote it. James directed it and Leigh acted in the first one. I remember my dad having a meeting with James once. James was so young and he came to our place and I was so little. I was like, “Cool, this is a guy to hang out with.” My dad was gonna have a meeting with him and I was like, “No, you’re coming with me.” I dragged his hand and we just hung out.

FB
He seemed like a high school kid when I met him. 

JH
He was in his early 20s when he shot that, so yeah, younger than me now. 

FB
Exactly. In the short, they had a few scenes which were really great.

JH
The scene in the short was the bear trap scene, which is now very famous. Oren is actually the body that Amanda has to get the key from, which is kind of funny.

Before Saw, my dad worked at Disney and I remember we went to Australia because he was shooting George in the Jungle 2

FB
That’s a better movie for a six-year-old. 

JH
That set was amazing. George’s treehouse was fully functioning and I got to play in it. For a five-year-old at the time, that was fun. There were trained birds. It was a great time. I remember when Saw became what it was because it always felt like a little movie that could. It was shot in two weeks. Then there was a newspaper article and my dad was in the newspaper. This is when being in the newspaper was still a big deal. They misspelled my dad’s name. He had two G’s for Gregg. I remember it just all kind of changed, overnight, it felt like.

FB
It was a sensation. The box office performance was a big surprise. Now, micro-budget horror movies take off all the time but Saw just came out of nowhere. It’s rare that a couple of producers and a manager would throw their own money into it, which was a ballsy move. It’s one of the rare success stories where the original creators still own their own creation. 

Still image of Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, sitting in a grungy basement staring at a saw, in the 2004 horror film "Saw".

JH
It’s really an amazing thing. It’s one of those things that just doesn’t happen. It’s wild. I have so much love for the Saw franchise. Even though they’re not getting a Pulitzer, they’re just fun. I think that’s something people want, just something enjoyable and kind of crazy and out there.

FB
Over time as they tried to heighten the gore factor it was called torture porn. Which is legit, on some levels. But as the franchise evolved, they’ve found ways to develop more interesting storylines. The visceral thrill of that first one was extremely intense. Have you written any horror?

JH
I’ve written one horror sample. It’s okay. It’s not the greatest thing in the world. I do love horror, just as a genre. As a comedy writer, people always say horror and comedy are two sides of the same coin. I think there is always a pull for me to write horror and I have some more ideas that I’m going to play around with soon. Horror doesn’t get as much awards love, except recently, thanks to Jordan Peele and Ari Aster. It’s starting to get taken more seriously. People are starting to realize horror isn’t just for teenagers. It can tackle really serious topics in an approachable way. It’s the same with comedy. If it’s done correctly, it makes serious topics approachable. It also makes it feel like you’re not being hit over the head with a message.

FB
You’re right. Jordan Peele really elevated the genre with his movies. They’re really enjoyable and scary, but they have something to say, which is great for any genre. That distinguishes it. Then you have a broader audience where people are like, “Hey, there’s something else going on here.”

JH
Exactly. I think have to trick people into listening if you really want to say something. We’re inundated with information. We’re inundated with people posting on social media about something happening somewhere and how you should care about this thing. It’s almost like a care fatigue after a certain point. Everyone’s always telling me to be upset about something. If you really want someone to listen, you have to kind of trick them. If you’re posting it on social media, the only people who are going to listen are the people who follow you. They’re following you, most likely, because they agree with you or they’re friends with you. You’re not really saying anything, anyway. It’s just shouting into an echo chamber.

FB
Which is why storytelling is so powerful. You want people to be entertained and captivated but at the same time, it’s your chance to say what you want to say. If you do it subtextually they’re going to feel it. It’s going to be communicated because you’ve felt it and thought it when you put the words on the page. Then if you make the film or the TV show in a way that lets that subtext come out, people are going to get what it is you’re trying to share so badly.

This is a podcast about Alice in Wonderland so I’m curious, before you started working for the Frank Beddor Wonderland Factory, what was your experience with Alice in Wonderland growing up or in pop culture?

Still image of Alice and the Mad Hatter from the 1951 Disney animated film "Alice in Wonderland."

JH
I mentioned my dad worked at Disney when I was a kid. So I had all the Disney VHS tapes. My initial introduction to it was the Disney animated movie. I’ve mentioned it in some of the blogs that I’ve written, Alice in Wonderland is not pop culture, it is pop culture. It’s become a part of our language. Before I started working with you, I didn’t actually notice it as much. I would notice it if there was a specific reference or something like that. But through working with you, I’ve seen how it’s just everywhere. It’s to the point where people don’t even realize that it is an Alice in Wonderland reference. It’s been really intriguing and eye-opening to me. I feel like I took the red pill.

FB
One of the first blogs you did for me was Alice in Wonderland in politics. I don’t know how many cartoons I’ve seen with Donald Trump as the Red Queen saying, “Off with your head!” They use “down the rabbit hole” in these political cartoons. They often talk about the Mad Tea Party. They’ll put a lot of political people around the Mad Tea Party and start cracking jokes about the absurdity of what they’re doing. So to your point, it’s the perfect reference in that context. But then you might go over to music and you’ll get a Taylor Swift song that’s talking about a breakup and there will be lyrics about stepping through the looking glass and going down the rabbit hole of love. It really is everywhere. I love that blog you did and I know that that was one of the early initiations into, “Oh my god look at all this Alice stuff.”

JH
I remember when I turned that in to you, my first thought was “Okay, I just got this job and now I’m gonna get fired.”

FB
What was it about the blog that made you think that?

JH
In the introduction, I made jokes about how you were keeping me in a cage and forced me to write these blogs. Or how you were beating the blogs out of me. 

FB
Because we had just started and you were making fun of me. 

JH
I thought, “He’s either gonna get it or he’s not gonna want to work with me anymore.” But I figured, “Well, this is my style of comedy.” I do love writing these blogs. They’re a lot of fun to write. They’re always interesting to come up with and I always can go on some weird rant.

FB
Sarah sent me links to all of your blogs so I could reread them. We haven’t been working together that long but it’s such a big body of work already. I think it’s 16 or 17. 

JH
I have a file just called “Frank” on my computer and it has folders inside of it to break up all the different things that I’ve done for you. 

FB
You’ve done a series of blogs comparing IPs, the clash of the IPs. You’ve written about Alice in Wonderland versus Star Wars. Alice in Wonderland versus Lord of the Rings. Alice in Wonderland versus Harry Potter. You’re very funny in those because you’re writing it so you’re the judge, jury, and executioner. You’re like, “Oh, I think Alice wins this one.”

JH
I think I mentioned in almost every single one of them, “This is an Alice in Wonderland-themed website. Who do you think is gonna win?”

FB
Tongue in cheek for sure. It’s interesting because you think about the impact of Star Wars, which is so deep with publishing, theme parks, video games, TV, and of course, films. But then you look at Alice in Wonderland and you talk about how it’s been around 150 years, how it’s one of the most quoted literary works, the phrases that are used every single day. It’s a fun way of letting people compare and contrast Alice to other properties and enlighten them as to how much their favorite stories last and are in our pop culture. It’s the lasting impact that is so remarkable about these particular stories. What do you think it is about these stories, as a writer and somebody who wants their stories to live on? What do you think it is about some of these genres and stories that allow them to last for so many years? 

JH
I think specifically with Alice in Wonderland, it’s political satire. 

FB
On one level, for sure.

JH
But it’s also political satire that’s a children’s story, as well. 

FB
It’s also a fantasy.

JH
It’s also fantasy. It’s imaginative. It’s the perfect storm. It has just a little bit of everything to keep any kind of reader interested. As I was saying that, I was thinking of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. Those movies’ audience ranges from kids to grownups. It’s because it has a little bit of everything. They’re a little scary. They’re a little funny. It’s enough to keep everyone entertained. That’s the most important thing at the end of the day, that we create entertainment. If you manage to capture someone’s imagination and take them on a journey successfully, it’ll endure the test of time. 

Still image of Totoro, Satsuki, Mei, and two other spirits from the 1988 Japanese animated film "My Neighbor Totoro," directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

When I did Alice versus The Lord of the Rings, it was interesting because the Tolkien estate owns the word “Ent.” Just think about the words that were created. It’s the inventiveness of it. What was Tolkien on? It’s the same thing with Lewis Carroll pushing the limits of the human imagination. Putting something that inventive onto paper draws people in no matter what. Same thing with Star Wars or Dune.

FB
It seems to me that these stories communicate and tell a story that feels fresh, but are grounded in something familiar. Star Wars did that. The Lord of the Rings really did a deep dive and made you feel like you’re in an alternative world. Harry Potter in the same way. Alice in Wonderland, Carroll was writing it for himself. That’s the best kind of work. There are so many genres of publishing now, whether it’s picture books, young adult, or middle grade. It just goes on and on. It’s all in these categories and then it’s okay, “What do I want to write? Where does it fall?” Somebody else tells you where it falls but if you write from the heart and it’s something you care about, hopefully, it comes through.

JH
I think that goes back to what we were saying in the beginning. They were writing for themselves. The Lord of the Rings was actually a bedtime story Tolkien would tell to his kids. It comes from a place of not telling a story because you think that there’s going to be an audience for it. If it’s good enough, an audience will come. It doesn’t matter. 

These are worlds that very creative people have managed to invent, and through that, other people were like, “How did you come up with this?” I think that’s why they’ve managed to endure, it’s just the inventiveness. With Star Wars, even though the story beats are ancient, it’s the world that drew people in.

FB
They’re classic though, the reluctant hero. That’s a classic trope. How you tell that story is the most important thing and Lucas told a reluctant hero story in a way that no one had ever seen before.

JH
Exactly. At AFI, they said there were only really six stories. Man versus man. Man versus the World. Man versus Nature. If you boil every story down, there are actually only six. It’s just how you tell all of those six.

FB
By the way, you’ve not only written blogs for me, but you’ve written some lore short stories set in The Looking Glass Wars universe. I knew you were a little bit nervous about writing prose when you first started because your mom told me you were nervous. 

JH
I was nervous about writing prose. Because my writing style is not that of a proper essay writing style. Those who have read my stuff will completely understand. I like to write like I’m talking to you or you’re in on the joke with me. So when I was writing these lore stories in the universe that you’ve created from Alice in Wonderland, there’s a lot of whimsy but there’s also some seriousness to it. I wanted to treat your material with the respect it deserves and give you a good product. I was nervous, but in the end, I was really proud of what I came up with. When you called me and said those nice things when I’d sent it to you, I was like, “I have no idea.”

Front and back depiction of a Card Soldier by artist Doug Chiang, inspired by "The Looking Glass Wars" series by Frank Beddor.

FB
I genuinely really, really loved it. The stories are meant to go along with a card game and you’re deeply seated in the tabletop and gaming world. You’ve also been very helpful and instrumental in helping shape that game along with Sarah my producer’s partner Marco, who’s taking the lead on creating this tabletop game. These all have this kind of collective energy, especially all of you writers from AFI that I’ve been introduced to and trying to shepherd, between the lot of you, some product that I can make some money off of. 

But it’s really trying to shepherd that creative, collective team energy to create this game. It’s really enjoyable to have fresh ideas and creativity and have it all come together for a reason. So your lore stories are for a very good reason. That’s to broaden the world of The Looking Glass Wars and the Card Soldier premise. I’ve really enjoyed it and you’ve done a fantastic job. But before I let you go, I’m going to ask for your favorite Alice reference in pop culture, if you have one. It can be the Disney animated film, because your dad worked at Disney, which is a pretty cool job if you’re a kid, for sure.

JH
As a kid, but now as an adult, I’m like, “Oh my God, my poor father.” 

FB
If you were a character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, who would you be? And why?

JH
Well, probably the March Hare. I think he’s interesting. I remember as a kid I always thought, “Who’s this rabbit sitting next to the Mad Hatter, who’s just as crazy?”

FB
I don’t think you hear about the March Hare as much because that’s how crazy the Mad Hatter is.

JH
Exactly. And it’s not necessarily an Alice reference, but my favorite thing I’ve written a blog about was the 1999 Alice in Wonderland TV movie with Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle. When I first got the job here, I wanted to pitch a joke article that was, “I took LSD and watched Alice in Wonderland so that you don’t have to.” But after watching that movie, I don’t need to even pretend to do that because that movie is just so jarringly weird. It’s so odd and interesting. The cast is insane.

FB
Whoopi Goldberg is the Cheshire cat. In that blog, you were casting the remake version, which was funny. So people should check out some of your blogs on frankbeddor.com. Do you have any projects you’re excited about? 

JH
It’s just a bunch of things that are in the works.

The treatment I was hired to do, I don’t know what I can say about it. Lots of comedies coming, which I’m very excited about. One is inspired by when I went to college for five minutes I  joined a fraternity and I was just thinking about hazing. So it’s a comedy about hazing. The whole idea is there are those coed fraternities and they’re technically educational fraternities but are not educational. There’s an honors fraternity, which is coed. They’re not about throwing parties and all that stuff but the idea is that a kid who has just joined passes away and it looks like a hazing death. So they have to hide the body and it turns out all the fraternities on the campus have also killed. They’re like, “Oh, no, we kill a kid like every year.” The best example would be a comedic Pretty Little Liars set on a college campus. There are these idiot frat bros and then this honors society becomes cool because someone’s died.

FB
It’s a send-up of that culture. I’d like to read that. Sounds like a fun read. You could do a version of this that is not that far away from your dad’s movie.

JH
Hazing still exists even if they say it’s not legal. But to me, I’ve always just found it hilarious, to an extent. Obviously, the kids that are legitimately torturing people are messed up. But you could turn that into a thriller. There was the movie Goat, which starred Nick Jonas.

FB
Also maybe focus on the reason people connect in that environment and the longevity of those relationships.

JH
My old roommate went to a very big party school and he’s talked about the hazing he went through. I do think that there is some kind of bonding experience. “We made it through.” It’s that kind of hypermasculinity stupidity. I think, to an extent, guys like going back to caveman brain every now and then.

FB
My son is at the age and he’s looking for colleges and we’ve been talking about certain schools and I’ve said, “This school, you definitely have to be in a fraternity because the whole social structure is based on that.” He’s not into that but a lot of people do it and a lot of people have lifelong friends from it. I suppose you might be right about that. 

JH
That being said, there were a lot of times when the guys I was in the fraternity with would say, “We’re brothers.” I would go, “No, you guys are my drinking buddies.” There are a couple of longtime friends that I did make but there were people I didn’t like here. It’s interesting to look at fraternities. The people who take it really seriously, it’s kind of weird. I was straight up when I joined. I was like, “I’m here because this is how I can get into parties.”

FB
Good luck with it, let me know when I can read it. In the meantime, you’re writing a blog for me so I’ll expect it shortly. already. I think writers who are entering the business write in the mediums that they’re offered. You’ve taken this opportunity to write these blogs and I’m really proud of the work that you’ve done. Seeing it collectively is impressive. I hope we continue but maybe we can transition into some television work and make both of us a little bit of cash eventually.

JH
That’d be fantastic. Thank you for not only having me here but for even taking a chance on me and hiring me. John and I and maybe five other writers from AFI are the only ones who are actually writing. It’s hard. So I appreciate you taking me on and giving me almost too much freedom with the blog.

FB
I’m realizing that now but yeah, live on the wild side. So thanks for coming on, man. It’s been a pleasure to hang out and to talk.

JH
This was great. Bye. 


For the latest updates & news about All Things Alice,  please read our blog and subscribe to our podcast! If you’d like to hear Gerard’s excellent narration of The Looking Glass Wars, click here!

Lost in London: Never-Before-Seen Letters From Alyss’ Adventures on Earth

Back in 2007, we collaborated with noted Alyssian historian Agnes MacKenzie to publish Princess Alyss of Wonderland, a stunning collection of letters, journal writings, and art from Her Royal Imaginer Princess Alyss Heart. These breathtaking documents chronicled the incredible childhood of Wonderland’s exiled heir apparent and future hero of The Looking Glass Wars

Recently, we were astonished to discover a new treasure trove of letters, journal entries, and art from Princess Alyss’ first few years on Earth. This is Alyss’ amazing story in her own words – her harrowing escape through the Pool of Tears, the deep sadness she felt when her imagination began to fade, what it was like to be a princess when everybody thinks you’re just a little girl, her fury at Lewis Carroll for butchering her story, and how she reclaimed her imagination and kept her hope of returning to Wonderland. 

These historic artifacts will be presented in installments over the coming weeks and months. Part One encompasses Alyss’ flight from Wonderland and how she survived her first days on the streets of London. 

(*As always, I am indebted to the tireless and exhaustive research of the eminent Wonderland historian Agnes MacKenzie. Her dedication has helped keep the true story of Queen Alyss alive!)


HALT!!!!

If you have found my journal and intend to read further, BE WARNED that these pages are meant only for those who wish to know the truth. All others are hereby ordered to immediately stop snooping.

HRI (Her Royal Imaginer) Princess Alyss Heart


Illustration by artist Catia Chien of the Birthday Fairies delivering Princess Alyss' birthday cake from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
My squigberry cake and the Birthday Fairies who appear with every royal cake to sing “Deliriously Happy Birthday to You.” I wish I had been able to slice that cake open and discover what surprise the Royal Bakers baked inside (I had hinted at a singing tiara).

August 5, 1861

I am in this world but not of it. My home is in Wonderland and my name is Princess Alyss Heart. Someday I will return to Wonderland to become Queen. This is the story of how I began to find my way back.

Where to begin? Certainly not at the beginning when all was well, but further into my life, to the afternoon when I discovered the golden kitten in the garden. My best friend Dodge and I had just returned from exploring Wondertropolis, a forbidden excursion outside the gates of the palace when we came across the most peculiar kitten. It was wearing a card that read “Happy Birthday, Alyss.” Since it was my birthday and everyone in the Queendom was giving me gifts, it only made sense that this kitten was for me. Unlike most kittens, who only hiss and purr, this kitten smiled. And that is where all the trouble began.

August 6, 1861

It was I who brought the peculiar kitten inside the palace gate. ME!

And then it ran away and hid somewhere in the palace. I tried to tell Mother and Hatter at my birthday tea about the kitten who smiled, but a horrible LOUD, RUDE crashing sound interrupted, and my Aunt Redd, decks of her card soldiers, and a monstrous CAT exploded into the dining room. The kitten had become The Cat! What happened next was very very fast and seems most shocking and unreal.

Mother and I escaped and I thought that we would stay together, but she sent me away with Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan to be kept safe until I was old enough to return to Wonderland as Queen. I begged to stay with her, but she was very firm. I had to leave Wonderland and everyone I ever loved. And I had to leave immediately.

Illustration by artist Catia Chien of the Cat attacking Heart Palace from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
The kitten who smiled turned into a Cat who moved like a soldier and had claws as long as knives.

Agnes MacKenzie

One of our more recent, and more thrilling, discoveries is the bundle of undeliverable letters addressed to Heart Palace in Wonderland and collected by postmistress Annabelle Smith-White of Christchurch, England. The letters were forwarded to the Lewis Carroll estate, but for an unexplained reason they were returned to Miss Smith-White’s district stamped ‘UNACCEPTABLE’. Descendants of the postmistress donated the bundle to this venture with the hope that their great-great aunt’s postal diligence would finally be recognized. 

Image of a letter from Princess Alyss to Dodge Anders, inspired by the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
Image of an envelope addressed to Dodge Anders bearing a drawn Wonderland seal, inspired by the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.

August 10, 1861

When mother ordered Hatter to take me and leave Wonderland, we fled through a looking glass that took us to the Whispering Woods.

Once in the woods Hatter held me tight and ran faster than a spirit-dane. At last, we came to the cliff above the Pool of Tears and looked down into the black water. I had heard that no one ever comes back from the Pool of Tears, but Hatter assured me I would because I would one day return to be Queen. And then we jumped, but not soon enough, as The Cat’s long claws raked out across my birthday gown and tore away a piece. He nearly got me! But before I could scream we hit the water …

Illustration by artist Catia Chien of the Pool of Tears from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.

(continued)

… I know Hatter held me as tight as he could but a tremendous force tore us apart. Poor Hatter! He had promised my mother to keep me safe and Hatters always keep their promises, especially royal bodyguards. I tried to smile to let him know I would be okay, but the water smooshed my face in all different directions and I shot down very, very fast and then I shot up even faster and found myself in this world called London. Alone.

Illustrations by artist Catia Chien depicting Alyss trying to jump into a puddle, from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
I vow to discover the secret of puddle travel! There simply must be a way of knowing which puddle is THE PUDDLE!

August 20, 1861

My arrival in this world called London was sudden and frightening. I shot up and out of the puddle and found myself standing in the middle of a crowded avenue. Everything was spinning and I was cold and lost and AFRAID. Where was my mother? And where was my royal bodyguard? There was no one to help me in this gray, frightening place. All I could think was that I must return home NOW! In desperation, I began to jump in puddle after puddle searching for the way home until I could jump no more. Then I saw a boy watching me and he was smiling and I knew I wasn’t alone anymore. I was about to meet the most honorable Quigley.

Illustration by artist Catia Chien of Alyss meeting Quigley and the other street children from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
I didn’t know anyone could look so hungry!

Agnes MacKenzie

From Alyss’ description, it appears she first arrived in London on Whitehorse Street near the intersection of Piccadilly and Half-Moon. I have proposed that a plaque be mounted here to honor the struggles of this honored visitor from another realm.

As thoughtful readers of Dickens will recall, orphans, urchins, and estranged children were an all too common sight on the sooty streets of nineteenth-century London. It seems from Alyss’ journal that she was accepted into a den of street urchins by the boy named Quigley. While Quigley was an open-hearted generous sort, the others were less magnanimous and insisted Princess Alyss pull her own weight in foraging for food and rags. Alyss’ solution was, of course, to use her imagination.

Illustration by artist Catia Chien of Alyss telling stories to the street children around a trash can fire from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.
They believed I was a real princess!

September 15, 1861

Quigley, in his patched clothes and cracked boots, brought me to an alley where he and a group of other very ragged, thin children lived. Everyone was curious as to who I was and where I had come from so I told them about Wonderland and what it was like to be Princess Alyss Heart. Quigley and the others loved my stories but unfortunately, they couldn’t eat them. What could I do to help? As I was thinking very hard I noticed a sad little flower in a cracked pot lying in the alley. To amuse myself I began to imagine the flower humming and soon it was singing in a beautiful high pitched voice. Quigley and the others were amazed. And then I knew.   

We became street performers. I would imagine the flower singing and Quigley would gather the coins tossed by those who stopped to listen. Our first show was a hit. The next show was even bigger. Each day we made enough coins to feed everyone very very well.

Illustration by artist Catia Chien of Alyss making flowers sing for street crowds from the young adult fantasy novel "The Looking Wars" by author Frank Beddor.

(continued)

And then something extraordinarily horrible happened. My imagination began to weaken. Each day the flower’s voice grew fainter and fainter until it stopped singing and once again there was no food. I could not explain to myself let alone the others how I had failed. My imagination had always been with me. To have it fade was like losing my last connection to Wonderland. To eat, we all had to go back to stealing food from the markets. One day we were caught by a pack of London bobbies. The other kids escaped but I was nabbed and taken to the most frightening place I had ever seen, the Charing Cross Orphanage. I never saw Quigley again, though I still look for him.


*Stay tuned for Part Two, in which Alyss braves the brutal Charing Cross orphanage. 

ALL THINGS ALICE: INTERVIEW WITH GERARD DOYLE

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have award-winning audiobook narrator Gerard Doyle join me as my guest! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.


Frank Beddor
Gerard Doyle, thank you for doing this. It’s really fun to get to know somebody in this format who has done work for me and I just know them through their work. I was, of course, preparing a little bit today and I was so delighted to read about your background in theater and with Shakespeare so I have many questions for you. The most important question is, how would you compare Shakespeare’s work to The Looking Glass Wars trilogy? Are they about the same?

Gerard Doyle 
Apart from the lack of iambic pentameter? Shakespeare wrote some epic plays and some epic battle scenes. I can’t say he was present in my mind when I was recording The Looking Glass Wars audiobooks but the two are not a million miles removed, Don’t do yourself downly. That was a remarkable achievement. 

FB
I’m really interested to hear about the narrations but I do want to start with acting because I had a very short acting career. I studied with Stella Adler at the end of her life and she made us all not only read the whole play but read biographies of the playwrights themselves so we could really understand the connection between their lives and their work and do a better job of interpreting the text. Then she also had us write a scene before the scene that we were performing on stage and that’s what got me interested in writing because I was practically writing a play before the one scene that I was doing in the class. 

I had no experience. I had come from doing commercials for when I was on the U.S. ski team. So my introduction to show business was through commercials and then acting. You’ve done a lot of work in the West End in London and you’ve done a lot of Shakespeare work. I deeply admire people who can make Shakespeare work, get on stage, and make it feel relevant for a contemporary audience. I’m really interested in hearing about your journey. Your work as an actor obviously translates to your audiobooks and narration. First listening to your work on The Looking Glass Wars was a shocking revelation because it didn’t seem like my book. I read it one way and the great thing about great actors is they find their own voice and their own way into the material. You have an extraordinary skill for that.

Illustration of The Cat attacking a group of Milliners from author Frank Beddor's novel "The Looking Glass Wars".

GD
Well, thank you very much. I was very lucky. I was a late starter. I was persuaded to join a local amateur theater company in England at the age of 21. Having done a little bit of theater at school, it was my refuge really. I was quite heavily bullied at school because I was a bit of an oddball and I found refuge in the drama club. I experienced recognition and approbation for my acting in a way I hadn’t before. Being on stage felt very natural. In his autobiography, Patrick Stewart talks about how he felt the stage was a safe space for him. That really resonated with me. They couldn’t get me. I wasn’t being thrown down stairs. It saved me in so many ways. Then, in the way of these things, I dropped it. People said, “Oh, you should go to drama school.” But with my family, the expectations were fairly low in terms of one’s ability to forge any kind of career, especially in the arts. You left school at 15 and got a job. That’s pretty much what I did. Through one of the jobs, I was reintroduced to a girl I was at school with and she said, “Look, somebody’s dropped out of a play I’m doing, can you come?” It was a wonderful French farce called Don’t Listen Ladies. It was a gift of a role. It was the fixer, like the Arlecchino character. 

At that time, all the local amateur dramatic companies supported each other’s productions. So in this tiny theater that held about 40 people with a postage stamp stage, suddenly, on the Saturday night, there were representatives from all these local drama groups. And they all invited me to join their company, which I did. I was so flattered and didn’t like to say no to anybody. But I realized rehearsals were on the same nights and all the productions were within a week or two of each other. So I had to carefully choose and I got it down to three in the end. One of the companies was a group of young people and we did some pretty in-your-face theater. A lot of “nudge nudge, wink, wink” humor. But I was playing to audiences in tiny spaces. The front row was two feet away. It was something I got used to, not being inhibited by the proximity of an audience that you could literally look in the eye.

It was a great education. From that, at the age of 27, I went to drama school in Birmingham, England. It, frankly, wasn’t a great drama school but I left with my equity card. The one thing about it for me was being a little older and more experienced than most other people, I got quite a lot out of it, including being invited to join this little acting company that was striving to get equity cards. 

So I left drama school and got a job as an acting assistant stage manager at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton. They had just finished a production of The Hired Man, which was a wonderful musical based on a novel about the mining and farming industries in the Northwest of England. It was based on real people. The author, Sir Melvyn Bragg, wrote about his family. I played his uncle, who was instrumental in unionizing the mining industry in the Northwest. This was 1984, at the height of the miners’ strikes. So it was pithy stuff. It was a wonderfully close-knit company. There are nine of us who are still in touch. But my education was actually in doing rather than academic. 

My first Shakespeare was actually in Dundee, Scotland. I played Trinculo in The Tempest. I come from an Irish background and I had an Irish accent until I was about five when I was allowed to go out on the streets to play with the other kids and  I lost it very quickly. But I still retained the ability to do the accent. It was thick in the house. So when I first read Trinculo, I thought, “I’ll do him Irish.” But then I started having doubts and I backed away from it. I was having terrible trouble in rehearsal and the director wasn’t really being very helpful. Lovely man but an awful director. I was floundering. Stephano and Caliban were both university-educated actors and because of the absence of direction, they took it upon themselves to direct our little comedy trio bits. I just wasn’t comfortable at all. Finally, on the last rehearsal, with all the tech crew and stage management and everything, the last day before we went into the theater, I thought “Fuck it, I can’t do this.” So at lunchtime, I went back to my original instinct and without telling anybody, very unprofessional, I changed Trinculo to Irish. The difference was just tremendous. But it screwed up everything they had carefully figured out for themselves. They weren’t happy bunnies but we all got over it because it really did make a big difference. 

I was actually reluctant to use my Irish accent but there was a girl who came to that rehearsal to visit her boyfriend, who was also in the play. We were talking afterward and she said that she recognized the accent. She asked, “Are you from anywhere near Kilsheelan?” Kilsheelan is in County Tipperary and eight miles from where my family came from. That was a huge reinforcement for me. 

When I came to doing audiobooks, my very first one was an Irish novel, A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle. I got the job because, at the time, I was understudying two lead roles in a play called The Weir by Conor McPherson, set in an Irish Pub. We were on Broadway and my agent said, “Somebody is looking for somebody who can record an audiobook.” It came down to me and one of the guys I was understudying and I got it. I got an award from AudioFile Magazine my very first book.

The thing was, I’d never heard of audiobooks. So Claudia Howard, God bless her, who ran Record Books at the time, directed me for the first third of the book. Then when I finished it up and she felt I got into my stride, she went off and did more important things. When I finished the whole book, she called me back in for corrections and said, “Look, sit down and listen to the beginning and then listen to the end.” It was chalk and cheese. I was tentative and holding back so she said “I want you to sit down and rerecord the first 70 pages with the same energy that you had throughout the rest of the book.” That got me my first Earphones Award from AudioFile.

Cover image of Irish author Roddy Doyle's historical novel "A Star Called Henry".
Photograph of Booker Prize-winning Irish author Roddy Doyle wearing a brown blazer and checked button-down shirt.

FB
You’ve had so many since and been nominated for so many awards. But going back to that first book, what was the process for getting the job? It was between you and one other person for this audiobook. What did they say? Did you read it? What was the process?

GD
I had auditioned for Claudia three years before, on a recommendation from a wonderful, wonderful Australian actor who had just finished doing The Lord of the Rings trilogy for Recorded Books. I was coming to America to introduce my son to his relatives here and my Australian actor friend said, “Oh, you must visit my friend Claudia Howard at Recorded Books.” So on the basis of his name, she gave me an audition and I was awful. It was absolutely dreadful. Three years later, when I went to audition for A Star Called Henry, she didn’t remember me, thanks be to God.

FB
What was the audition like? Did you have to go in and read from the book cold? 

GD
I don’t think I got any sides or anything.

FB
So it’s a cold reading with prose.

GD
What they’re really interested in is trying to figure out if you can really tell a story. I had no confidence in that because I hadn’t considered acting as storytelling. Of course, that is exactly what we do as actors. I hadn’t the common sense to trust my instincts. So I gave a very stilted reading that first audition. When I came back three years later, I had a lot more experience under my belt and confidence, by that time, in my Irish accent. So when I read, it probably wasn’t all that she was hoping for. Certainly, when I recorded the first chunk of the book, it wasn’t all she was hoping for. But that was good enough to get the job and then she had me go back and match the beginning to the rest.

FB
Because reading or performing dialogue in a play is so different than trying to take a line of prose and imbuing it with the storytelling aspect. But you’re right, we all tell stories. It’s in the way you perform it. But you’re making so many choices. What was so remarkable about listening to your reading of my novel for the first time was how it differed from how I originally had it in my head. 

I would sometimes read the book out loud to see what the rhythm felt like and I knew that I would be not great for doing the audiobook because I was so typecast in the way I looked at the text. That’s why when I heard your version of it, not only is it because of the quality of your voice, but it’s the storytelling and the performance. It’s a performance piece and lines that I did not expect to be particularly thrilling felt really dramatic because they were setting up a moment that felt really suspenseful as you went into a piece of dialogue or a piece of action. It’s its own art form.

Photograph of actor and audiobook narrator Gerard Doyle speaking to a group of people in a classroom while being recorded by a camera.

GD
I’ve come to kind of realize that over the years. It’s amazing how much how much free range one is given. I’ve had direct contact with authors more recently but in the early days, nothing. I didn’t think to ask. So it was all instinct and guesswork, not entirely because you obviously don’t just sit and record the book, you have to prep it and read it. 

The proper way is you read the book first to try and get all sorts of things. Depending on how much lead time one has, sometimes there’s barely enough time to read the damn thing. Then you’re recording against a deadline. But I pay attention to everything an author says about individual characters. I make a note of physical stuff, the timbre of their voice, their accent, whatever it might be. That’s something you have to be really careful with because an author, being the contrary bunch of bastards that they are, will introduce a character on page 15 and describe their bloody voice on page 90. Exactly. If you’ve made the wrong choice based on not doing your job properly or not doing the research, that’s an awful lot of rerecording to do. So paying attention to all those factors flushes out the character for me. 

It depends on whether it’s first-person or third-person narration but for any narration that refers directly to the character, I try to imbue it with the personality I feel that character has. So it sounds like it’s from his or her point of view. It doesn’t always work like that but I’ve become more comfortable doing that in recent years and it seems to work. 

FB
What is the optimal way for you to prepare? I understand there are schedules and deadlines and they’re rushing, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Because then if you go too quickly and you haven’t had a chance to do the research, you’re going to be re-recording. 

When you’re presented with a book and they say, “Okay, do you want a week? Do you want two weeks?” Then in that prep time, you’re making all of these notes. That makes a lot of sense because some of these books, like Eragon, are big bestsellers and you want to get that right. 

GD
I had eight days to prep that. 

FB
That seems short. Is that normal? 

GD
That was pretty short for my first big book, although I didn’t realize at the time how big it was going to be. But there’s a lot of controversy amongst readers who will instantly complain about the dragon voice. Eragon and the dragon Saphira communicate telepathically. So readers ask why I didn’t give the dragon a female voice. The truth is, I was in such a hurry to prepare I forgot they communicate telepathically. I remember Taro Meyer, the wonderful director whom I’ve done all these books for over 20 years, stopped me and said, “Is that the voice we’re going to use?” Rather than picking up on the hint, being young, arrogant, and nervous, I let it go. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time how many more dragons were going to be introduced in the following books and how doing all the voices and trying to differentiate them was going to rip my throat out.

Illustration of the dragon Saphira by John Jude Palencar from the cover of the young adult fantasy novel "Eragon" by author Christopher Paolini.

FB
The director didn’t directly point out to you, “Hey, this is a female voice.”

GD
I haven’t gone back to check, but I’ve been reminded that in the first few pages when Eragon meets the dragon, Christopher Paolini describes the dragon’s voice as being kind of gravelly and growling. Maybe I picked up on that. It’s just so painful to do that I kind of regret I went for that. But a lot of people now seem to like it.

FB
It was such a successful launch and you also won the AudioField Award. It seems like you’ve won AudioFile Awards for all of your books.

GD
Absolutely not true.

FB
Well, you’ve done 400 books.

GD
Wow. Okay. I don’t know, maybe 10% of them have received an AudioFile Award. 

FB
That seems pretty good. I would definitely take that. By the way, The Looking Glass Wars audiobook was one of them. 

You said you got a scratchy voice because of the demands on your voice to do the dragon characters in Eragon. How do you sustain that? How much of the book do you get done daily?

GD
It depends on the material but I’ve been known to do 70 or 80 pages, I’ve also been known to do 35. It really depends. As I’ve gotten older, of course, my rate slows down and now for the last 15 years, I’ve been recording at home. So I’m punch editing, rather than continuous recording. So that’s a slower process. It takes me, on average, two and a half to three hours to record an hour. I make a lot of mistakes and I catch most of them, but then I have to edit them as I go.

FB
Then you go back and you redo…

GD
No, I never listen to what I’ve just recorded. I’ve made all the choices. It’s an intense process. I’m the narrator, engineer, and director, all in one, and I’m making those decisions constantly. I make the best choices I can and I tend not to go back. If there are errors that I haven’t picked up on, mispronunciations or whatever, that will come back to me after post-production and I get a voice match. I record it as closely as I can to the original and they just drop it in. 

FB
Do you have to take a day off if your throat gets sore or your voice gets a little hoarse? 

Cover image of the young adult fantasy novel "Brisingr" by author Christopher Paolini, featuring an illustration of the dragon Glaedr by John Jude Palencar.
Cover image of the young adult fantasy novel "Inheritance" by author Christopher Paolini, featuring an illustration of the dragon Firnen by John Jude Palencar.

GD
I’ve rarely ever done that. I’m so lucky that my voice is quite robust. One of the Eragon books, I think number three, Brisingr, took around 110 hours to record the book over two weeks. I was pretty far gone after that. 

The author, Paolini is a blessing. He’s a wonderful guy. He invented three languages for these books and he’s great with providing pronunciations. He has a whole linguistic structure for each language. He’s fantastic at supporting all that. But he’s a mischievous little bugger. Right before I started on either book three (Brisingr) or book four (Inheritance) he said, “By the way, I’ve changed the ending.” This was the night before the recording. He said, “I’ve added another dragon to give Eragon a springboard into a future book, and just for you, I’ve given him an extra deep growly gravelly voice.” I said, “God bless you, Christopher.” Anyway, I couldn’t do it. I was so tired after 100 hours of recording. I nipped upstairs to where they were doing the post-production and I said to the chief engineer, “I know you’re not supposed to do this, but can you do something electronic?” I think he did a good job. I’ve not listened to it, though. I tend not to go back and listen to my stuff at all. I can’t stand to hear my own voice.

FB
A lot of people feel that way, including myself. 

GD
I’m delighted that other people appear to enjoy listening to my voice but for me it’s excruciating.

FB
You’ve worked a lot with the Irish writer, Adrian McKinty. Were you acquainted? 

GD
Blackstone Audio are the publishers and I cold-called them 16-17 years ago and Haley Williams, a wonderful producer there, talked with me for 45 minutes. We hadn’t met. She didn’t know me from Adam. Towards the end of it, she said, “Can you do an Irish accent?” I said, “Well, yeah, actually.” “I might have something for you,” she said. Two weeks later, they sent me one of his books, which was great. I think he liked what I did. That was recorded in the same studio where I recorded your trilogy. Same director, Sue Makowiec, and the same audio engineer Barbara Vlahides. 

Do you remember there was an instance in The Looking Glass Wars where General Doppelganger manifests himself into 10 or 12 doppelgangers? Rather than just duplicating my voice, Barbara asked, “Can we rerecord it?” I think we did seven separate takes of each line and then Barbara magicked it altogether. I thought it sounded terrific. 

FB
That was amazing. I was so excited when I heard that. The whole experience was a little bit surreal because they did allow me to listen to some different voices from the auditions. There were some really good choices but when your voice came on it was, “That’s got to be the guy.” Then when they did that little manipulation with Doppelganger and the multiple voices over and over, I would never have imagined that. It was delightful. Thank you for the creative instinct.

GD
It was a bit of fun, really, but then we realized it was quite a lovely thing. I contacted Sue Makowiec a couple of weeks ago just to say “I’m doing this podcast. Have you got anything?” She said, “I gotta tell you that your characterization of Queen Redd was so close to my own. Every time we finished doing a Redd session, I expected to walk into the booth and find a red corset and a pair of red high heels.” I’m not much of a method actor, but that would have been taking things a little far.

FB
Did you do much cold calling when you were looking for work? 

GD
I was working for an audiobook company, I’m not going to name them because this is illegal, that said, “If you’re working for us, you can’t work for these people.” I stuck to that and when another book came up from another publisher, I couldn’t turn it down so I changed my name. I used my birth name, Michael, and my stepfather’s name, which is Dehee. So I recorded several books for a lovely murder mystery writer named Deborah Crombie under Michael Dehee. I was doing this and I thought, “No, something’s not right here.” Then in AudioFile Magazine, many years ago, I saw that Barbara Rosenblat, who worked for the same publisher I’m talking about, had narrated for a different publisher. What sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So, I called Blackstone. I think that was the only one I called because that was the company Barbara Rosenblat recorded this book for. So I called them and Haley Williams answered and the rest is history. 

FB
And you’ve done 18 of Adrian McKinty’s books. Do you talk to him, having done that many books?

Cover image of the mystery novel "The Cold Cold Ground", the first in the Sean Duffy series, by the Northern Irish author Adrian McKinty.
Photograph of the Edgar Award-winning Northern Irish author Adrian McKinty wearing a black leather jacket and dark tinted glasses.

GD
Adrian writes a great blog. After one of the first few books of his I did he wrote something in his blog that I interpreted as a derogatory comment about my recording. Now having gotten to know him and his sense of humor I realized what it was but, at the time, being a little bit fragile about such things, I took it seriously. Then he wrote this trilogy with all these words he’d invented and I called the publisher who said, “We can’t help you. We can’t put you in touch. Call his literary agent.” I thought, “God, what am I gonna do?” As well as recording 17 books a year, I was teaching full-time. I was sometimes working till two or three in the morning and then getting up and teaching a class at eight. Couldn’t do it now. I retired from teaching last June, thank God. But, anyway, I was at school and I called his literary agent, Bob, in New York, and I said, “Hello, my name is Gerard Doyle. You don’t know me from Adam.” He went, “Oh my Godly fuck, I love you, man!”

It was the last thing I expected. I found out the audiobooks had boosted the print sales. So the agent put me in direct touch with Adrian, who lived in Melbourne, Australia at the time. It was like we’d known each other all our lives. It was extraordinary. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was just so appreciative of what I’d done. So I asked him to explain these pronunciations for this trilogy. He said, “I don’t know. Say what the fuck you like. I just made it up.” That’s all very well, Sunshine, but my name is on this book as well. I need some guidance here. Anyway, he was absolutely fucking useless. Between us, we figured it out. 

FB
I remember sending you a list for The Looking Glass Wars. I can’t remember which words you were asking me about but I tried to be helpful. I also remember going “I don’t know, I just invented it. Can you please help me out?”

GD
With the author’s permission, that’s exactly what I do. But I can’t just assume these things. Mispronouncing a name that’s been invented by the author is one thing but my wife, who’s a midwife, was put off audiobooks because she was listening to her first audiobook and in this book, the narrator mispronounced “midwifery”. That was it. That can make or break a listener’s experience. If they know what you’re talking about and you say it wrong, what’s your credibility? I’m very meticulous. I don’t always get it right but I’m very meticulous. I feel I owe it to the listener. Actually, not so much them, it’s my own self-preservation. I don’t want to get grumpy letters.

FB
You’re sensitive to your own voice and you’re sensitive to readers’ reactions. Why is that? After reading so many books, you’ve won so many awards. Is it that you’re a perfectionist? What is it?

GD
I’ve never lost my insecurity. Do you ever lose your insecurity as an actor? I don’t always trust myself to do it the way it needs to be done.

FB
I can tell that.

GD
I’m not as bad as I was. But I know you trust yourself. 

Concept art illustration by artist Brian Flora of the Pool of Tears from "The Looking Glass Wars" series by author Frank Beddor.

FB
There were some emails back and forth between us with The Looking Glass Wars and then when I listened to it I thought exactly the opposite. I just thought this is somebody who has such a command over their voice and the form. It resonates when you listen. Having been very insecure about my writing, I asked this question because I’m sensitive as well. I had a lot of really bad reviews which I thought was because I was an American and people knew that I worked in Hollywood. I was taking on this iconic literary work, reimagining Alice in Wonderland. There were so many strikes against me heading into it and I had to rewrite it so many times because I was very insecure about it being any good. 

Again, your reading just grounded me. I just felt like, it’s a fucking good book. Listen to this guy. I want people to listen to your book before they read my book because I think it’s a better book. It seems like a better book as an audiobook, because of my insecurity. It’s a collaboration. You’re taking the text and using this extraordinary skill. I double back to the insecurity part because I relate to it. To answer your question, “I think you improve and then eventually, if they’re really snarky, you’re just like, “Fuck off.” 

GD
The most useful words in the English language.

FB
But I’d wake up at 3:30 in the morning and have little night terrors about what a shit chapter that was and how I have to go back and rewrite it.

GD
That’s not something that haunts me, really. Your process is much more protracted than mine. I’m making all my decisions as the words are coming out of my mouth. Nothing is pre-planned. I used to do annotations for every line and it just ruins any kind of spontaneity. So I found the confidence not to do that and to trust myself that I can actually lift the words off the page and do something with them and they come out in the way they come out. I don’t have night terrors about what I have or haven’t done because I don’t leave the booth without feeling I’ve done the best I can with whatever was happening in that session.

FB
But, smartly, you don’t go back and re-listen to it. I have to go back and re-read it. 

I’m curious. I listened to Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and I think it had a cast audiobook. Philip Pullman was the narrator and they had all these other voices. Is that something that’s common? Is that something that you’ve ever done or participated in?

GD
I’ve worked with two, three, maybe four other narrators. But we’ve never interacted. It’s always been separate. In more recent years, I’ve actually sat and discussed things with the other narrators. But again, I was so naive back in the early days. I didn’t want to put my head above the parapet. I just kind of read my bit and hoped that it was gonna fit in with everybody else. It mostly did, apparently. I really enjoy collaboration because I’ve done two books in collaboration with different narrators in the last two years, and it was just wonderful. They were so lovely to work with and we were very supportive of each other.

FB
When audiobooks first started being released it was like, “Well, it’s not real reading. Why are you not reading the book?” It’s like it was cheating in some weird way and now there’s been such a big boom in audiobooks and they’re driving sales of printed books. Why do you think that is? 

GD
People don’t have to lug a Walkman or a boombox around with them these days, that’s one thing. It’s all readily available. I think the word just got out that audiobooks are actually fun, educational, and interesting. I prefer to sit and read a book myself. I’ve got several authors I’m trying to juggle at the moment.

FB
Who are you reading?

Cover image of the international bestselling romance novel "Four Letters of Love" by Irish author Niall Williams.
Cover image of the bestselling historical fiction novel "A Gentleman in Moscow" by American author Amor Towles.

GD
Niall Williams, the Irish author. The man put words together like prayers. 

FB
I would love to have that as a blurb. It’s so great.

GD
I think I’m stealing from a review. I’m also reading Amor Towles. His second book, A Gentleman in Moscow is now a TV series. Wonderful, wonderful storyteller. Each book is completely different. Not even closely related. Completely different context, different parts of the world. 

FB
That’s amazing. I envy that ability. With audiobooks, I find biographies to be ideal in terms of going for a walk and having your headset on. I don’t enjoy audiobooks when it comes to prose. I like to see the words in the sentences and paragraphs and find that rhythm. I’m with you on that but it is quite a booming section, which, anything that gets people interested in stories and books is great as far as I can tell.

GD
Something just clicked when you said that, the rhythms and everything. I think that one of the things I tried to be sensitive to is how can I make this sound as interesting to somebody who’s listening to me as I find it reading it off the page. That’s the process. Elevating it is the wrong word but…

FB
It is elevating it because it’s elevating it in a different medium. 

You narrated one of the novels of a show I’m watching which is Slow Horses. I’m really enjoying the show but have never read the book. Can you tell us a little bit about narrating the novel? Have you seen the show? Did they do a good job?

GD
I started recording the Slough House books in 2016 and I had absolutely no terms of reference, no contact with the author. So I just did what I do, I went with what he was giving me. Then three years ago the series came out and I was reluctant to watch it but finally my wife said, “Oh, come on. It’s Gary Oldman. You’ve got to watch it.” So I did and I was delighted to realize that I wasn’t a million miles away with any of the characters.

Still image of Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb holding an ice cream cone from Season 3 of the Apple TV+ spy thriller series "Slow Horses", based on the "Slough House" series of novels by British author Mick Herron.

FB
That’s so satisfying.

GD
I was very happy. I’m within the ballpark.

FB
That’s so cool. How about Eragon, the movie? That was not as successful. Did you see it?

GD
I saw it but I don’t remember much about it. I know that certain people close to the author weren’t happy with it.

FB
They didn’t quite get that right.

GD
Normally I would record those books every four or five years in a plus studio in New York City with the director, Taro Meyer, and an engineer but this year, with the latest book, the executive producer said, “Look, we’d like you to record it at home and we’d like you to engineer it.”

FB
Do they even pay you extra for that? 

GD
We negotiated something. But not including the engineer? I said, “Absolutely not.” It was a continuous record, which means you have to mark the script and you have to mark it in Pro Tools as well. I have trouble just interpreting the bloody story and dealing with my vocal errors. I absolutely put my foot down. She said, “We’ll get you an engineer from our pool.” I said, “No, my son is a brilliant audio engineer.” So they auditioned him and he got the job. He was sitting right outside my recording booth, managing my temperament and fairly a strong-willed director via Zoom from California and doing all that an engineer does. He was brilliant, not just with engineering, but with diplomacy, as well. It was an extraordinary experience. 

FB
That’s a lovely father-son experience.

GD
They don’t normally put the engineer’s name on the packaging but I asked them and so they they put Aiden’s name, Aiden Doyle, on the packaging.

FB
That’s a perfect button on a fantastic father-son story. Is he going to continue to do other books with you?

GD
As I’ve gotten older and as the market has been flooded with 1000s of young and very talented and very tech and social media savvy narrators, my slice of the work has diminished significantly. I’m trying to reinvent myself as a director working with less experienced narrators. I’ve been thinking of marketing my son, Aidan, and me as a team. He can nurture them through the recording process and I can guide them through the interpretation and various other things. 

FB
That seems like a good idea because he’s quite young so he’s going to know and meet a lot of up-and-coming folks who are looking for narrators, authors, and books.

I wanted to talk about Alfred Bester, who wrote The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man. I wanted to talk about it briefly because many, many years ago I optioned the short story “Fondly Fahrenheit” and I’ve been developing it as a feature since 1995, which shows you how impossible it is to get certain projects going. But I still continue to work on it and my partner, Chuck Roven, just won the Academy Award for Oppenheimer. So hopefully, that might move the ball forward. But I’m a huge Alfred Bester fan. The two books I mentioned earlier are brilliant. They’ve been trying to adapt those into movies for years and years. How did you come to narrate those novels? Had you known about Alfred Bester before the narration? 

Cover image of the science fiction novel "The Stars My Destination" by Alfred Bester, featuring a tattooed man and a futuristic castle in the background.
Black and white photograph of Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Alfred Bester, wearing a suit and tie.

GD
No, I hadn’t ever heard of Alfred Bester. I’m not a big sci-fi or fantasy person. I find it all very hard to interpret because I simply have no connection with it. But there’s a publisher who lives on Shelter Island and I taught his kids at Ross School. He came to me one day and said “I’ve got a couple of books I’d like you to record for me.” It was extraordinary. In The Stars My Destination the writing in the print version is all distorted. One word will take up the entire page. It’s extraordinarily laid out. 

But seeing that visual and trying to translate that orally was a pretty big challenge. But I just went for it really. I have a terrible American accent, my family has completely undermined any possible confidence I might have had in my American accent by guffawing outrageously every time I attempt one. So I had to interpret those books as being for English characters. I was concerned that might have diminished the impact, but people seemed to kind of enjoy the fact these voices weren’t from anywhere they were remotely familiar with. 

FB
I’m looking forward to listening to them. I’ll tell you a quick little story about Alfred Bester. When I read the short story, I was looking to see if there were any heirs and I couldn’t find anything. Finally, somebody turned me on to his editor, a British fellow, and I called him up in the U.K. He said “I have no idea. If I were you, I would call his bartender.” There was a bar he went to all the time outside of Philadelphia. So I called up this bar and the owner came on and I asked, “Do you happen to know the author, Alfred Bester?” He said, “Alfie, oh, Alfie was a good friend of mine.” I said, “Do you know who owns the rights to his literary estate?” He goes, “I sure do. I do.” He willed the entire literary estate to his bartender because he had no family. So I made a deal with his bartender to option this short story. That’s as close as I got to the author himself. But bartenders have a lot of secrets about their patrons.

GD
Isn’t it funny how this profession takes you anywhere? You never ever know. A number of times, I’ve been completely floored by something out of left field that is deeply personal. Case in point, I mentioned The Hired Man earlier. We did that in 1984 into 1985 in the West End. Several years later, I was with the English Shakespeare Company for the second year, and this young lad turned up as our sound engineer. He wanted to be a pilot but was colorblind and ended up doing sound engineering instead. We were on a world tour and he came up and sat next to me on the flight and said “You don’t know me, but you played my great uncle Seth in The Hired Man.”

FB
Wow, that must have floored you.

GD
It was just unbelievable.  

FB
I’m curious, since you worked on The Looking Glass Wars trilogy, a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, what were your experiences with Alice prior to that? When did you meet Alice in your life? Have you done any plays of the Lewis Carroll version? Then when you were reading The Looking Glass Wars, were you making connections? Or was it all fresh?

GD
It was pretty fresh. I hadn’t actually read the Lewis Carroll version all the way through. I’d seen snippets of the movies and cartoons but my experience of the original was pretty much centered around reading it to my kids when they were both young. When The Looking Glass Wars came along, I was recording a book at Gizmo with Sue Makowiec and I was getting ready to go when she said, “Before you go, we’ve got this book we’re looking for people to audition for. Would you like to read?” I said, “Shit, okay.” She had me look through the book and choose a bit, which was the four caterpillars.

Concept art of the Blue, Orange, and Green Caterpillars from author Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars" trilogy.

FB
That was the scene she had you read?

GD
I couldn’t resist because four of them smoking. I had fun doing that and thought no more of it. Then I was absolutely astounded when she came back and said, “You’ve got it.” So, thank you very much. I had so much fun recording all three of those books. 

FB
It really comes through and I’m so happy to connect with you on this podcast and hear your stories and learn more about the process. It’s a collaboration and I have to produce more books for us to collaborate on. I do have a couple of books, the prequels in the series, that I’m working on so I will be able to call you and we can do this all over again.

GD
I’m a little more advanced now than I was then. I was listening to various sections and chapters in anticipation of this and I’m thinking “Oh, God, I let that go.” I’m hearing what I let slip away rather than using it in some way to advance and build. I didn’t recognize it for what it was and I’m being kind to myself and putting that down to an inexperience.

FB
We can all go back. I was doing a podcast and talking about adapting the book for a television show and, in the process, came up with a scene that was so much better than the scene in the book. Then I started thinking about that scene in the book, how illogical it was, and how much more impactful the new scene would have been. So then I gave myself a break saying, “Maybe I can double back and do this in another medium one day.” 

I wanted to mention because I know you are musically inclined and have done musicals in your career, that I have commissioned a British writer to adapt the book into a musical in the hopes of starting in the West End in the same way that I first published my book in the UK. I also have a composer and I have a couple of producers who are interested. So you’ll have to be one of the early listeners or readers of the book because of your background. Maybe there’s a place for you to be King Nolan. I want you to have a beautiful death of some sort, “Off with your head,” along the way.

GD
How lovely, thank you. I’m your fucking man.

FB
On that, I thank you. 

GD
Take care. All the best. Thank you.  


For the latest updates & news about All Things Alice,  please read our blog and subscribe to our podcast! If you’d like to hear Gerard’s excellent narration of The Looking Glass Wars, click here!

Everything You Need to Know About the “Wicked” Movie

Wicked is a pop art murder horror mystery. Scary and funny, youthful and smart, Wicked will keep you guessing, glued to your seat as the mystery unfolds.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a red dress pouring wine while William R. Moses and Vanessa Zima.

The Plot

Ellie is a bored teenager living in Casa Del Norte, a sterile gated desert development somewhere east of Los Angeles, where life is far from idyllic. Mom is screwing erratic next-door neighbor Lawson and her father is carrying on with Lena the Swedish au-pair, which drives Ellie insanely jealous due to her unhealthy and extreme devotion to Dad. Then there’s younger sister Inger, who seems to be an innocent bystander to all this crazy action. Suddenly, Mom is found murdered in the kitchen, and suspicion focuses on the explosive Lawson. Then things start to get really creepy. Ellie begins to assume her mother’s role; not only fixing meals but wearing her revealing dresses…Her relationship with Dad transforms into something rather more lascivious than expected. Meanwhile, the veteran detective has moved Ellie to the top of the suspect list…Not even a man of his experience could foresee the last shocking twist.

The Cast

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a blue button-down shirt with kitchen knives hanging next to her.

Julia Stiles – Ellie Christianson

Julia Stiles is electric in her breakthrough lead role. By turns childlike, bratty, calculating, and lethal, she is a combination of 40’s vamp and 50’s noir. She was totally in sync with Ellie’s wicked behavior. Stiles explained at the time, “Ellie’s got a very twisted view of her own world and will do anything to get what she wants. I related to everything she felt – although,” she insisted, “I really do love my mother.”

The 15-year-old was recommended to producer Frank Beddor and responded to the script with a hand-written letter about how much she understood Ellie. Impressed with the young actor’s commitment, Beddor flew her out to L.A. for an audition with himself and director Michael Steinberg. She blew them away. Her performance in the film was so strong that Beddor put the unknown actor’s picture on the poster and her name above the title. “I treated her like a star because I believe she would become one,” remembered Beddor. 
He was right. Stiles would go on to star in iconic teen films like 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance, spar with Matt Damon in the Jason Bourne franchise, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Emmy for her performance in Season 5 of Dexter.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and Patrick Muldoon sitting across from each other on the edge of a hot tub.

Patrick Muldoon – Lawson Smith

Melrose Place heartthrob Patrick Muldoon joined Wicked right after finishing his work in the Paul Verhoeven cult classic Starship Troopers. Muldoon steals scenes as the sexy psycho neighbor, Lawson. Muldoon made an “out there” character more accessible with his comedic take, likeability, and star quality. Muldoon initially passed on the role but agreed to come to the set to talk about the part after the filmmakers addressed his concerns. “He liked our ideas and we hired him that day,” said Beddor.  

“His life is pretty much over,” said Muldoon about his character, “His wife and kid leave him at the beginning of the movie and he’s completely lost. When his adulterous sex partner next door is murdered – it pushes him past the edge…I liked playing a guy with absolutely nothing to lose.” On Lawson and Ellie’s connection, Muldoon pointed to the trauma both experience in the film, “Both of their worlds have totally collapsed, so they’re like the two lost souls of Casa Del Norte.”
The former Days of Our Lives star continued his eclectic career after Wicked, working with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Val Kilmer, Ed Asner, and Liam Hemsworth. Most recently, he was seen alongside Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger in Neil Jordan’s neo-noir crime thriller Marlowe.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and William R. Moses sitting next to each other on the couch.

William R. Moses – Ben Christianson

Father doesn’t always know best in this suburban-Gothic spin on Lolita. William R. Moses plays Ben, the stressed and crumbling patriarch who has some serious boundary issues. “I think the relationship between Ellie and Ben starts as a strongly bonded father and daughter in a dysfunctional family and that dysfunction just totally takes over,” said Moses. ”The father starts with a basis of good intention and then because of his own character weaknesses devolves into his lowest self. Pressure and guilt completely destroy him and he makes the most destructive choices possible.”

Director Michael Steinberg said Moses’ performance was the “cornerstone” of the film. “This movie is always trying to play two tones together: one is the tragic disintegration of a family with the father at the epicenter, and the other is this absurdly comedic story of what happens when your world gets blown apart and you’re powerless to stop it from getting worse and worse and worse.”
Aside from Wicked, Moses appeared in 140 episodes of the prime-time soap Falcon Crest and played in Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts. He has had guest spots on dozens of TV series including Mad Men, Homeland, and How to Get Away with Murder. Since 2022, he has had a recurring role on the long-running soap General Hospital.

Still black and white image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Michael Parks in a suit and tie.

Michael Parks – Detective Boland

Owner of over 140 film and television credits during a 50-year career, Michael Parks portrays the laconic Detective Boland in a “delicious, stylized performance” that evokes 1950s noir. Boland brings a Bogart-esque cynicism to Casa Del Norte, continuously suspicious of everyone in the seemingly idyllic community. 

Parks said he enjoyed playing the grizzled investigator, describing him as “a man apart from the turmoil. It gives you a different point of view, less conflict in your direction…Boland’s not a voyeur, but he has an objective point of view and gets to look at all the other characters…”
Parks, who passed away in 2017, had a long and varied career including playing Adam in John Huston’s The Bible: In the Beginning… and a disaffected, wandering biker in the NBC series Then Came Bronson. Parks experienced a career resurgence in the early 2000s, most notably working with Quentin Tarantino on the Kill Bill films and Django Unchained. He is the subject of a documentary produced by filmmaker Kevin Smith titled Long Lonesome Highway.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring William R. Moses and Vanessa Zima looking into a grave.

Vanessa Zima – Inger Christianson

Then ten-year-old Vanessa Zima portrayed Ellie’s younger sister, Inger, who by the film’s end evolves from an innocent child to a potential killer in the Christianson family cycle of self-destruction. “She has this mix of vulnerability and sweetness,” said producer Frank Beddor, “…and yet there’s something else going on, you can sense a darker place which made her an ideal choice.”

Zima’s talent was on full display in her portrayal of Inger and the young actor enjoyed the more dramatic requirements of her role. “I thought it was fun to cry at the funeral and then to almost fall into the grave,” she said impishly. 
Zima was hardly a rookie when she showed up on set, having been nominated for a Young Artist Award for playing Peter Fonda’s granddaughter in Ulee’s Gold. She also appeared in the 1995 adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club books alongside Julia Stiles’ future 10 Things I Hate About You co-star Larisa Oleynik.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Linda Hart singing into a microphone in a blue dress and layered pearl necklace.

Linda Hart – Mrs. Potter

Linda Hart portrays the neighborhood watchdog, Mrs. Potter, who entices Detective Boland with her soulful rendition of “I Honestly Love You” at Ben and Lena’s wedding. Director Michael Steinberg wrote Hart a letter pleading for her to consider the role and she blew the filmmakers away with her musical talent. “As soon as she started singing I panicked…” joked Beddor, “…this way too good for what the character Mrs. Potter was supposedly capable of. Only later did I learn that Linda together her Grammy-award-winning family, “The Harts,” had done 14 albums.” 
Other highlights of Hart’s music career have included an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and opening gigs for Hank Williams, Jr. and The Oak Ridge Boys. She has appeared on Broadway in shows such as Anything Goes, Hairspray, and Catch Me If You Can. Film and television appearances have included Get Shorty, Tin Cup, and Desperate Housewives.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Vanessa Zima, Linda Hart, and Chelsea Field.

Chelsea Field – Karen Christianson

As mom and murder victim, Chelsea Field brought real sympathy to the part of Karen. Field says, ”Even though she’s cheating with the neighbor, I think you understand where Ellie’s mother’s frustrations come from when you see the lack of communication between her and her husband. And also, Ellie is a major force to contend with! Karen’s not the ideal mom but neither is she the mom from hell. That would be too easy.” 

Field launched her acting career off the heels of ten years as a professional dancer. With roles ranging from parts in large-scale action movies to heart-warming family films, she has starred in Flipper opposite Elijah Wood and The Last Boyscout with Bruce Willis, and recently had a recurring role in NCIS: New Orleans.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring William R. Moses and Louise Myrback sitting together at a wedding reception.

Louise Myrback – Lena
In her first film role in the United States, Swedish stage actress Louise Myrback portrayed Lena,  the Christianson au pair who falls for, and eventually marries, Ben. But Lena has to contend with Ellie, who presents herself as a rival for Ben’s affections. “It was very important to Lena that Ellie not manipulate her,”  said Myrback, “She knows that if she doesn’t succeed in having power over the daughter, she’s not going to have a chance with the father, because she can see that Ellie has a tremendous amount of power over Ben.”

The Director

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and director Michael Steinberg.

Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg was baptized as a film lover at age 8 after his father took him to see Bonnie and Clyde in their native Rapid City, South Dakota. After gaining recognition with his UCLA student short, Nightwatch, Steinberg teamed with his film school friend Neal Jiminez to direct the drama The Waterdance for Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, The Walking Dead). The film was a festival darling, winning the IFP Spirit Award for “Best First Feature” and the “Audience Award” at Sundance. His next two features, Bodies, Rest, & Motion and Sleep With Me were both selected for the “Un Certain Regard” sections at the 1993 and 1994 editions of the Cannes Film Festivals. 

In approaching Wicked, Steinberg wanted it to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. “What’s interesting is that it ends up feeling real because it’s all grounded in deep-rooted truths about human nature,” said Steinberg. “We wanted people to have fun with Wicked but be disturbed by it too. To get under their skin.”

The Crew

Producer Frank Beddor, dressed in white pants and a white jacket, standing next to a poster for the thriller "Wicked" at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

Frank Beddor – Producer 

Frank Beddor had scaled the heights of professional skiing (as a two-time freestyle world champion) in his early 20s before arriving in L.A. as an actor and film producer. On a chairlift during the 1998 Sundance Film Festival pitched an outrageous comedy feature he had acquired to Fox executive Dylan Sellers. That project was There’s Something About Mary, which grossed over $350 million, was nominated for two Golden Globes, and is on AFI’s list of “Greatest American Comedies”. 

He was first attracted to Wicked, originally titled The Second Wife, due to the character of Ellie, the relationships, the absurdities of the situations, the potential for black comedy, and bending the mystery genre. Since Wicked, Beddor wrote The Looking Glass Wars series, which became a New York Times bestseller and a sensation in the U.K. in 2004. He went on to create the Hatter M, series (six graphic novels depicting the journey of Alyss’s faithful bodyguard, Hatter Madigan) to sate the appetite of his fans and readers. To cross-pollinate the LGW’s universe of content, he also produced original songs, audiobooks, card games, video games, an apparel line, and a proposal for a theatrical musical. Currently, he hosts the All Things Alice podcast and is in pre-production on the near future sci-fi tale The Juliet at Warner Bros, working alongside Oscar-winning producer Chuck Roven (Oppenheimer, The Dark Knight trilogy) of Atlas Entertainment.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles struggling on the stairs with Chelsea Field in the background.

Eric Weiss – Screenwriter

A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, and alum of the American Film Institute, Eric Weiss experienced both resistance and curiosity when shopping his Electra-in-the-suburbs thriller. “When I wrote Wicked people thought I was nuts,” he recalled, “Just completely crazed. I think I would get meetings just because people wanted to meet me.” Producer Frank Beddor and director Michael Steinberg loved the script and worked with Weiss to enhance the mystery elements of the project before production. 

Weiss has also penned the black comedy indie Bongwater, also released in 1998, starring Luke Wilson, Brittany Murphy, and Jack Black. His next project was the 2001 military satire Buffalo Soldiers, adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert O’Connor. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris, was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards and won Best Screenplay at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

Behind-the-scenes image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles, wearing a red top and pink skirt, sitting on a raised platform with a camera and light in the foreground.

Bernd Heinl – Director of Photography

Bernd Heinl had previously worked with Steinberg on the 1993 drama Bodies, Rest & Motion. He used the lighting and the camera angles to convey the changing tone of the film: “Early in the story, we used more fill and bounce light and shot with wide angles, but after the mother died we shot everything a bit closer and went a little more direct, so that there would be more contrast. We also kept the walls darker so they would seem moody and threatening.”

To avoid slipping into the pure horror mode, Heinl said, “We didn’t use light shafts or distorted lenses or too many crazy angles because we wanted to keep the characters more human. Also, colors in horror films are often over the top and our background colors were enough, so I barely put gels on any of the lights. We kept the faces and skin tone neutral in the foreground and played with color in the background.”

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Chelsea Field lying on the floor with Vanessa Zima kneeling over her, both dressed in red.

Dominic Watkins – Production Designer

Wicked was not only Julia Stiles’ breakout role, it also proved to be the breakthrough for production designer Dominic Watkins. In the 26 years since Wicked took Sundance by storm, Watkins has built a glittering career defining the look of major blockbusters such as Bad Boys II, The Bourne Supremacy, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Snow White and the Huntsman

For Wicked, Watkins chose colors that had a dual personality: “In the kitchen, for instance, we used a peachy-orange color to convey warmth and normality, but depending on how we lit it, it could equally go towards red and have more violent connotations. We also put a lot of thought into what Ellie’s bedroom should be like because that was the only space she owned and decorated, and it was quite a contrast from the rest of the spaces. We used a wallpaper with a black base to create an oppressive atmosphere so that when you came out of the room, there was a sense of relief.”

Watkins said one of his points of departure was in researching the gated community. “I guess the planners view them as oases,” said Watkins, “but I think of them as something more like quicksand. What people look for is safety and seclusion but what they end up with is sterility and soullessness. And since so much of the outcome of the story has to do with the environment and the frustrations of the people within it, the setting was very important.”

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a green shirt, pale blue jacket, and blue and green skirt.

Sara Jane Slotnick – Costume Designer

Costume Designer Sara Jane Slotnick is known for her ability to authentically outfit offbeat characters. In choosing Ellie’s wardrobe, she said that she “wanted everything she put on to have a sense that it was completely unique to her.” Ellie’s baby blue leather coat was a key piece of clothing that defined her character, with Slotnick describing it as “her protection against the world – her security blanket.”
 
Since working on Wicked, Slotnick has worked on a wide range of projects including Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog, the 2000 blockbuster Charlie’s Angels, Oscar-nominated films Loving and Blonde, and the Patty Jenkins limited series I Am the Night. Her most recent projects include an adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot from It writer Gary Dauberman and the AMC crime drama series Parish starring Giancarlo Esposito.

The Music

Composer Cliff Martinez working in a recording studio while holding a brown guitar.

Cliff Martinez – Composer

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cliff Martinez has helped define pop culture both on stage and in the recording studio. Martinez’s debut as a composer was Steven Soderbergh’s Palme d’Or winner Sex, Lies, and Videotape. This was the first of 11 collaborations with Soderbergh, including Traffic and Contagion. Other notable projects include Drive, Spring Breakers, and The Neon Demon, for which he was named Best Composer at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. 

From our recent blog on the Wicked soundtrack: “Martinez’s haunting and evocative compositions perfectly complement the dark and twisted narrative, immersing viewers in a world of moral ambiguity and psychological tension. With his trademark blend of electronic and orchestral elements, Martinez creates a sonic landscape that mirrors the inner turmoil and moral decay of the characters, enhancing the film’s suspense and intrigue.”

Cover of the 1999 debut album, "Split," from Canadian heavy metal band Kittie.

Songs

Wicked’s soundtrack perfectly reflects Ellie’s angst and rage with an energetic collection of late 90s alt-rock interspersed with a couple of classic love songs, emulating the film’s blended tone. Artists featured include Julian Hatfield, Kittie, Snake River Conspiracy, The Cranes, Switchblade Symphony, Jack Off Jill, Dusty Springfield, and Olivia-Newton John. 

To further explore the music of Wicked, check out our recent blog analyzing each song featured in the film.

Trailers

Reviews

Image of Julia Stiles, director Michael Steinberg, and producer Frank Beddor standing in front of a movie theater marquee at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Wicked has been praised for its boldness, style, and Stiles’ powerful performance. In his review for the Sundance program John Cooper called Wicked “an exhilarating hybrid that continuously surprises and amuses.” Writing for Variety, Glenn Lovell wrote that the film is “chockablock with nods to Lynch and early De Palma” and “a stylish, dandy nail biter.” While Father Geek wrote for Ain’t It Cool News that Wicked is “a gem of the macabre” and a “perfectly realized slick little flick.”

Other rave reviews for Wicked

Wicked is delightfully derivative: its style, lighting, subject, and especially its penchant for cold distant camera work are so Hitchcockian … ” – James Digiovanna, Tucson Weekly 

“Julia Stiles is destined for greatness” – Brendan Peterson, Film/Tape World 

“Great Movie! A surprising thriller of a “Wicked” little family in a gated community” – Jake Weien, Flagstaff LIVE 

“Visually sophisticated and darkly humorous” – Alison MacDonald, Austin American Statesman

” … Stiles’ performance is so stunning” – David Pfister, Interview Magazine 

“Wicked is a dark sleek film with a hell bent breakthrough performance by Stiles who is destined to grab an audience’s attention” – Jose Martinez, SOMA Magazine 

” … the most stylish suburban thriller in years.” – David Schwartz, World Cinema 

Wicked’s production values are top notch. The movie dances lightly on a tightrope that stretches from melodrama to farce” – The Georgia Straight – Vancouver

Wicked is one of those movies that sucks you into its twisted realm so subtly you don’t realize how far your mind has been bent until you leave the theater. ” – Sandy Gow, Vancouver International Film Festival 

“Stile’s smoldering performance in Wicked, earned her a starring role in the upcoming 10 Things I Hate About You.” – Michael Hogan, Vanity Fair 

Where to Watch

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles lying on the floor and looking underneath a door with an overlaid graphic reading "Julia Stiles" and "Wicked".

You can watch Julie Stiles’ breakthrough performance in Wicked on the following streaming platforms: Amazon, YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, Plex, and Tubi.

ALL THINGS ALICE: INTERVIEW WITH TERESA LIN, PART 3

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have Teresa Lin join me as my guest for Part 3 of our deep dive into our creative process! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.

Image of screenwriter Teresa Lin set against the book cover for the coming-of-age supernatural mystery novel "Static" along with the logo for the "All Things Alice" podcast.

Frank Beddor 
Hey, everybody, welcome back to All Things Alice. Today I’m with my savant, creative wife, Teresa Beddor Lin. Today we’re going to use Alice as a muse, as a metaphor for creativity as it relates to a separate project, Static, which is a book project I’m very proud of. I had nothing to do with the writing of this book but I did have something to do with the publishing of this book. I’ll give you a little background. 

I have a friend, Eric Laster, who’s written a number of books. His first book was published through Simon and Schuster and he had about 90 pages of a young adult paranormal mystery manuscript. I read the pages and I fell in love with the concept. I kept asking him, “Hey, when can I read more pages?” Over time, he would share pages as he felt confident in the work, and at the end of the day, when he finished the novel, I blurted out, “I would like to help you publish this book.” I was working on Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X., at the time and I wanted to start a small publishing company called Automatic Publishing. I decided that Eric’s book would be the first that we would publish under the new imprint. 

It was an amazing creative experience. But at the same time I was working with Eric on the book, I was also thinking about adapting the novel as a television show. That’s what Theresa and I are here to talk about, the process of adapting a literary work and what choices you make when turning it into a viable TV property. The name of Eric Lester’s book is Static. It’s a coming-of-age, murder mystery, young adult novel. Here’s the book jacket description: 

“When Curtis Brooks starts receiving phone calls from his older brother Wilt, who’s been dead a week, he’s sure it’s to help him find evidence that will lead to a murderer’s arrest. But Wilt claims he wasn’t murdered; his calling, meant to help him adjust, is standard protocol for newly deceased at the Aftermart—a kind of inescapable, ever-expanding Walmart filled with discontinued products.

Wilt’s death ruled a homicide, Curtis embarks on a dangerous plan to find the killer, which soon has him scheming against a billionaire and floundering toward love with his brother’s ex-girlfriend Suzy, all while struggling through high school and his single mom’s poor choices.

Why does Wilt help Curtis win over Suzy, even as he organizes a rebellion at the Aftermart? Who’d wanted him dead? Curtis risks his life to answer these questions, in the process forging a bond with his brother unlike any they’ve ever had.”

One of the things that I really fell in love with was the relationship between the two brothers. At the beginning of the book, they’re estranged, and by the end of the book they’ve come to really appreciate and love each other in a much deeper way. Having said all of that, I’m going to let Teresa read you the pitch for the television show. Then we’re going to get into some of the reasons why we made these choices and changes.

Eric Laster, author of the coming-of-age supernatural mystery novel "Static," posing with folded arms in a blue sweater.
Cover of Eric Laster's coming-of-age supernatural mystery novel "Static," depicting an illustration of a smartphone under blue light.

TL
In terms of the brother story, Static the TV show has evolved into a brother-sister story. We wanted to drop in on the point of view of an unreliable narrator, who was Curtis and is now Danni. Danni is 16-years-old and investigates her brother Wilt’s murder so his soul can move on in the Aftermart. We had to really hone in on what the Aftermart was and for the purposes of the show, the Aftermart became a retail way station where souls shop until they find the item that resolves their death. With Danni and Wilt, there are a series of calls that only they can hear and they must work together through absurd comedic and dangerous circumstances to catch the bad guys, bringing the family back together and learning the most challenging lessons about love. When we’re conceptualizing a show, we’re always thinking about the engine. What’s driving the show forward? What are the characters going through that would create an arc for them? How do they change? How are they tested throughout the show? In the book, there were souls were shopping in the Aftermart but then they went to counseling. There wasn’t a way in which the shopping connected to the character’s sense of resolution. 

FB
What you’re talking about is there is a particular item that has a deep resident meaning for each character, which is a clue to why they haven’t left this way station. Resolving that mystery helps them transition to wherever they’re going to transition. One of the big things about the book and the show is setting up the mystery. 

TL
The mystery in both places. When Danni, the 16-year-old sister, digs into her brother’s story, she finds out this whole world and this whole life that her brother had that she didn’t know about.

FB
One of the things that’s not in the book that you introduced, separate from having a brother-sister story, was that Danni is really into murder mystery TV shows.

TL
We really had fun setting up and coloring Danni’s character. In creating the tone for the show, we really wanted to make her an unreliable narrator. Somebody obsessed with solving murder mysteries. Somebody who had been on medication her whole life, and then suddenly decides that she’s going to come off of her meds and she’s gonna take life by the horns and do this one thing for her brother. So through her lens, you have her enthusiastic deep dive into creating a case out of her brother’s death that may or not be real, but as we follow her into the story, the details of what her brother was involved in become larger than life.

Graphic of a chalkboard featuring an interconnected web of suspects from the coming-of-age supernatural mystery novel "Static".

FB
What’s really fun is her two friends who are really supporting her because she’s grieving and they think she’s going through these many different levels of grief.

TL
The seven steps of grieving. They’re trying to name it for her and, of course, she has these severe mood swings and they’re playing along in support of her while they’re on this murder mystery investigation, digging into places digitally and going behind the scenes.

FB
At first, they don’t believe her and it’s really amusing because they’re speculating on what’s going on with her. These are two boys who have a lot of hormones and are not that interested in exactly what she’s interested in. But eventually, they come around to believe that what’s happening is real for her.

TL
There’s a whimsical and mischievous element to the tone of the show. Then on the flip side, with the supernatural or the paranormal, you have the Aftermart that feels as grounded as going into a Target today. It’s a mirror of our world. There’s a hierarchy in the afterlife, with people who are obeying or are working for the Wu, which is the organizing power of the Aftermart.

FB
One of the pieces of feedback that Eric and I would often get when promoting his book at Comic-Cons or school events, was readers were really interested in the Aftermart. They were interested in how it works and the characters in the Aftermart. So in the television show, we decided to explore that and give equal weight to Danni in our world and Wilt in the Aftermart.

TL
In the novel, the Aftermart started as just a place for discontinued items. One of the ways we thought it would make a good engine is if the things in the Aftermart resonated with these characters and had sentimental value to wherever the soul is stuck. It could be an egg timer. It could be an action figure. Something that’s connected to an unresolved memory. So when you find your item, you’re able to flash back into that memory. Then you can check out, essentially.

FB
I still want to find a character whose item is a toilet with a clear back and the tank is an aquarium. 

TL
We had a lot of fun doing research for the show because we got to look up a lot of discontinued items from the 70s and 80s.

FB
There are things that young adults wouldn’t even know about. Certainly, my kids don’t know what an 8-track was. But there are all sorts of funny toys and concepts. That’s been fun, finding shelves for some of our favorite nostalgic items.

TL
It was fun thinking about how the Aftermart would be organized. We came up with the idea that it would be organized by era. I certainly enjoy thinking about the difference between our experience in the analog world versus the digital world and how that’s changed because the only way Wilt and Danni are communicating with each other is through a smartphone. 

FB
Only Danni can hear him.

TL
And everybody else only hears static. 

FB
Hence the title. 

Why don’t you talk about why you thought it would be better to have a brother-sister story versus two brothers? How different might that dynamic be? It sort of plays itself out in the beginning when Wilt is with Suzy, his girlfriend. They’re a couple years older than Danni and they’re completely ignoring her and they have a sexual life together. Danny is coming in and interrupting. It gives it a different flavor. 

TL
Danni has always been on the outside of love. Her obsession in the beginning with solving murder mysteries and reading science fiction and fantasy shows that she’s always been curious about what life feels like for the people on the other side. Even though her brother is one of the most popular kids at school, Danni’s always lived on the fringe. Maybe it’s because of her medication or the childhood trauma she’s been holding on to and has repressed these feelings. When her brother dies she rises to the occasion and starts to feel the need to do something.

There was something interesting for me about her relationship with Suzy. That goes beyond the attraction between them and the attraction to life, to being alive and seen and wanted and desired. I think for Danni, Suzy and Wilt had that meaning for her. She wanted to step into what her brother had and perhaps keep that alive.

FB
One of the other things that we were interested in doing was maximizing the setting. We thought Los Angeles would be a good setting because it’s very diverse. It’s not in the novel but because we’re turning it into a television show, we needed to get real specific.

Collection of four different images depicted the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown, set within a teal border with text reading "Danni's Neighborhood" in the middle.

TL
One of the choices we made was to make Danni and Wilt biracial. So their mom is Korean and their estranged father, who eventually comes back into their life, is African American. I thought it was really interesting to shine a light on biracial families and the coupling between African American and Koreans, specifically in Los Angeles. We have a large Koreatown in Los Angeles and I thought it would be really interesting to have some of the underworld goings-on happen around there and use that to color in some of Danni’s choices and the places she goes to do her investigating.

FB
After working on the outline and conceptualizing these changes, then it’s the writing process. I’m interested in how you brought these choices together when you approached the pilot script.

TL
There were a lot of different evolutions and drafts but the anchor and the primary piece of it has always been Danni and her POV. It’s telling the story through her lens, setting her up as the unreliable narrator and letting us in on her thought process. Being able to see her spying on her neighbors and creating this big story out of nothing. Having her be The Girl Who Cried Wolf one too many times.

FB
You came up with that great scene, which was like a scene from Rear Window, to open up the pilot and it caused a lot of havoc at the apartment complex for her mother and for the neighbor. A detective shows up, who ultimately becomes a love interest to her mom.

TL
There was a lot of that. For me, a lot of what makes a show great is creating characters that people want to spend time with and who people want to root for. If you can create somebody who’s lovable, even though they’re awkward and weird and strange. Especially if they’re awkward and weird and strange, because we all, in some ways, feel that way inside. It makes those aspects of herself feel relatable and accessible.

FB
One of the ways we accentuated the unreliable narrator is that she’s on medication and seeing a therapist. 

TL
Yes. You have her therapist weighing in on her instability and her need to stay on her medication. There is a clear point in the pilot where she flushes all her medication down the toilet and decides to go cold turkey. There’s an aspect of the show that deals with mental health. It deals with grief and it deals with growing up in a broken family. It deals with feeling estranged from your own family and making choices about how to get back to a place where you understand each other. There can be an ocean of division and silence and disconnect between family members, as most of us can understand, at one point or another.

Static is about this disconnection that they’re trying to bridge through solving Wilt’s murder and through connecting with Wilt now that he’s dead and in the Aftermart. Danni wants to do something so his soul can move on and reconnecting with her mother is also a big piece of this. What defines family? What defines that connective tissue between your family members when life has gotten so far away from you and things feel so hard? What are the things we do that bring us back together?

FB
It’s all true in the story. It’s true in the pilot but that’s all subtextual. That makes good writing because you need that bubbly, attractive, whimsy of the Aftermart and the absurdity of the phone calls with Danni and Wilt. Danni’s two friends, Lou and Jeremy, who are in high school and find this stuff funny. The dynamic between Suzy, who’s lost somebody, and mourning, but wanting to post on Instagram about it. There’s a high school coming-of-age angst and comedic element to it. One of the shows that we were referencing in comparison to Static was the Netflix series Sex Education.

Still image of Aimee Lou Wood, Emma Mackey, and Asa Butterfield standing in front of yellow lockers from the Netflix series "Sex Education".

TL
It’s not as raunchy as Sex Education but there are certainly similarities with the tone, the humor, and the melodrama between the characters. There’s a lightness to the way their friends show up for each other. Despite all the dark stuff that they find out in the clues, it’s her getting excited about finding clues that takes us from episode to episode. Those reveals are fun to do.

FB
How about Wilt somehow helping Danni meet up with Suzy? He’s sort of encouraging it. Of course, she’s the most beautiful girl in high school so Lou and Jeremy are shocked when Danny goes and even starts to talk to Suzy. There’s a connection between them, an attraction, which is interesting.

TL
Their attraction to each other, both on soul and gender levels, is really relevant now, talking about, “What is attraction? What’s okay?” 

FB
Because they both loved Wilt. 

You could pitch this as a comedy. 

TL
Absolutely. It’s a drama but there’s definitely a lot of whimsical elements to it. Tonally, we were thinking of the movie Ghost. For those of you who don’t remember, it starred Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Swayze, and Demi Moore.

FB
You have Shawn, the counselor in the Aftermart, who’s very uptight but comedic and trying to control what is uncontrollable. 

TL
Parts of the Aftermart are structured a bit like The Good Place and there’s a certain hierarchy and structure that mirrors the bureaucracy in our world. But for the characters, if you think about Ghost and how funny it was when Whoopi Goldberg was going around hearing ghosts and no one believed her, and she just looked like a lunatic. I thought a lot about her while writing Danni. How convinced she is because she really does hear Wilt and she can’t believe nobody else does. She’s just going for it anyway. That makes her a really lovable character to me.

FB
We’ve spoken to a couple of directors and we’ve landed on one that we’re going to be working with. I haven’t gotten the approval from him to talk about him. 

TL
We’re excited to have a hot director attached.

FB
He brings a look and feel to the project that I think is really unique, especially in the Aftermart. 

Graphic of a Walmart-style department store set inside a teal border with text reading "Into the Aftermart" superimposed over the image.

TL
The director referenced the Meow Wolf exhibit in Las Vegas. The Aftermart has a very similar quality where there are corridors that go to nowhere and doors that open to no place and things are sectioned and recategorized.

And, of course in the Aftermart, there are levels and corridors that lead to another level. You see souls check out from the Aftermart and go beyond it. What the afterlife looks like beyond the Aftermart gives us a great way into the second season. The first season works really well and we love the idea of solving murders and resolving deaths from the other side. So the idea for Season Two is that Wilt and his friends in the Aftermart, stabilize a technology that allows them to connect with the living. So with Danni on the side of the living and Wilt on the side of the souls, they start to solve murder cases from both sides. So we’re very excited about that direction.

FB
With the pandemic and then the Writers’ and SAG strikes, a lot of projects had been put on hold, including this one, and now people are trying to find their way. This is a young adult novel, therefore, it’s a young adult show. I see a lot of those types of shows on Netflix and other networks. We are taking the material with our hot, young, talented director, and we’re gonna go out and sell it. Hopefully, the next time we talk about Static, we’ll be in pre-production or shooting the show. 

TL
I hope to share some more good news with you guys.

FB
If anybody would like to read the novel, you can pick it up on frankbeddor.com. Thank you, Teresa, for sharing your insight.

TL
Always a pleasure. We love talking about our process. 

FB
It’s always fun to talk about getting from point A to point B and trying to make progress as creatives. I guess I’m gonna have to start a new podcast, All Things Creative with Teresa Lin.

TL
We’ll make sure to keep creating things so we have something to talk about.


For the latest updates & news about All Things Alice,  please read our blog and subscribe to our podcast!

Surprising Similarities Between Batman and Hatter Madigan

In the vast realm of fictional characters, two iconic figures stand out for their enigmatic personas and unparalleled skills – Hatter Madigan from The Looking Glass Wars universe and Batman from DC Comics. Both characters share a commitment to justice, distinct styles, and formidable arsenals. In this article, we dive down the rabbit hole into the intricacies of Hatter Madigan’s capabilities, weapons, and magical elements, and then we’ll draw comparisons between the intrepid Milliner and the legendary Dark Knight.

Illustration of Hatter Madigan, left profile and brandishing a blade against the Suit Families logo, by artist Ben Templesmith.
Illustration of Batman on top of a building in Gotham City standing in front of the Bat Signal.

Hatter Madigan’s Mystical Arsenal:
Hatter Madigan, an intimidating figure with a tall and athletic build, dons a captivating ensemble complete with a sentient top hat, versatile trench coat, unique vest, high-tech armor, military-inspired boots, lethal wrist blades, and the complex backpack, known as “The Bug.” Each element of his arsenal is imbued with caterpillar thread, Wonderland magic, and advanced technology, creating a tapestry of unique capabilities.

Top Hat:
Hatter’s iconic top hat serves as more than a mere accessory; it is a semi-sentient sidekick made from Wonderland’s mysterious caterpillar silk. The hat boasts a mesmerizing red bejeweled eye on its “stovepipe,” signifying its sentient nature. It scans terrain, assesses danger, and can even track enemies, analyzing heat signatures, vulnerabilities, and voice recognition to provide Hatter with an overwhelming strategic advantage. With a flick of Hatter’s wrist, the hat flattens into a series of spinning S-shaped blades and is thrown to slice through attacking enemies.

Illustration of Hatter Madigan on the streets of New York throwing his hat by artist Maciej Kuciara.


One of the most unique aspects is the hat’s kinship to its owner. It communicates telepathically with Hatter, establishing a deep bond that goes beyond mere attire. The hat also offers a metal shield, precision aiming, and catching capabilities, showcasing its multifaceted utility in combat scenarios.

But it doesn’t end there. The hat can alter its size, strength, and color, seamlessly adapting to various situations. It is attuned to nature and the laws of the universe, which allows it to maneuver independently when separated from its owner. Further, its reality alteration capabilities, including the projection of illusions to confuse enemies, demonstrate the depth of Wonderland magic woven into its fabric.

Trench Coat:
Hatter’s trench coat, seemingly crafted from a Kevlar-like material, resembles Deckard’s jacket from Blade Runner and is both flexible and durable. It incorporates caterpillar silk, adding magical properties and it’s equipped with slits so blades from Hatter’s backpack can subtly emerge.Vest and Armor:

Vest and Armor:
Hatter’s vest, worn over his armor, features double-breasted Victorian detailing and piping with angled heart emblems. The shiny metal armor inspired by Thor’s armor adds to Hatter’s formidable appearance.

Boots and Wrist Blades
Hatter’s boots seamlessly blend military and equestrian design, showcasing Victorian and magical stitching details. The wrist blades, a departure from typical assassin tools, serve as a warrior’s weapon for parrying and slashing. They can even be used as projectiles over a considerable distance, adding a ranged element to Hatter’s offensive capabilities.

Illustration of Hatter Madigan with "The Bug" backpack deployed on the streets of London by artist Tae Young Choi.

“The Bug”:
The Bug is by far the most complicated part of Hatter’s arsenal. Its extensions, linked together by gears, form arms with various attachments, each reaching a good 4 feet in length. Bringing to mind the machinery of Spider-Man foe Doctor Octopus, the Bug’s arms can retract, bend forward, equip different ends, and unfold with eight points of movement, allowing for versatile combat maneuvers and providing a unique advantage in battle.

It communicates with Hatter and operates symbiotically through imagination, adding an element of wonder to its functionality. The Bug’s arms are complemented by the Arsenal Cube, strapped to Hatter’s back by Jabberwocky hide ‘bladeoliers.’ This cube is a marvel of Wonderland physics, expanding to reveal an infinite interior filled with blades and weapons, following the principles of sacred geometry.

Illustration of Batman wrapped in his cloak on a building in Gotham City.

Hatter Madigan and Batman:
Now that we’ve unraveled the complex components of Hatter Madigan’s arsenal, let’s turn our attention to the Dark Knight of Gotham City. Batman is renowned for his unparalleled detective skills, martial arts prowess, and an arsenal of gadgets.

Detective Skills and Intellect
Both Hatter and Batman share a keen intellect and exceptional detective skills. Batman, known as the “World’s Greatest Detective,” relies on his deductive reasoning to solve crimes and unravel mysteries in Gotham City. Hatter’s telepathic connection with his sentient top hat enhances his situational awareness, allowing him to gather information and make informed decisions.

Combat Skills:
In terms of combat, both characters excel in hand-to-hand combat and strategic planning. Batman’s mastery of various martial arts styles is legendary, allowing him to take on multiple opponents effortlessly. Hatter, with his unique arsenal, exhibits a more theatrical and mystical combat style. The retractable spinning blades, precision aiming, and catching capabilities of the hat, combined with the versatile arms of The Bug, provide Hatter with a dynamic and visually striking approach to combat.

Illustration of Hatter Madigan fighting a monkey against the Suit Families logo by Ben Templesmith.
Illustration of Batman jumping off a motorcycle towards a helicopter above a burning building.

Gadgets and Technology:
While Batman relies heavily on cutting-edge technology and an array of gadgets, Hatter’s arsenal is fueled by Wonderland magic. The hat’s scanning capabilities and reality alteration and the Arsenal Cube’s transcendent properties showcase a magical aspect absent in Batman’s more grounded and technology-driven toolkit.

Stealth and Camouflage:
Both characters are adept at stealth, but Hatter’s top hat takes it a step further with its natural camouflage capabilities. The hat seamlessly blends into its surroundings, allowing Hatter to navigate discreetly, a feature not present in Batman’s typical attire.

Mobility and Transportation:
Batman’s iconic Batmobile and Batcycle are extensions of his mastery of technology and symbols of his ubiquitous presence in Gotham. Hatter, on the other hand, relies on the unique abilities of his sentient hat and The Bug’s arms. The hat can expand into a parachute to help slow one of Hatter’s many falls, while The Bug’s arms can bend and extend, providing Hatter with a distinct advantage in navigating diverse terrains.

Illustration of Batman sitting astride the Batcycle and speaking with a child.

Motivation and Symbolism:
Both characters share a commitment to justice, driven by personal tragedies. Batman’s origin story is rooted in the murder of his parents, inspiring him to become a symbol of hope and justice in Gotham. Hatter’s journey in Wonderland is equally poignant, as he strives to protect Princess Alyss Heart and reclaim Wonderland from the clutches of the Red Queen after she overthrew and murdered Queen Genevieve, whom Hatter was sworn to protect.

Style and Aesthetics:
In terms of style, Batman is often characterized by his brooding demeanor, dark and stealthy costume, and gritty aesthetic. Hatter, on the other hand, embraces a more whimsical and fantastical style, with an almost theatrical flair.


To read any of the Hatter M graphic novels go to our store or Amazon.

What Does Skiing Have to Do With “There’s Something About Mary”?

Almost 30 years ago I was on a chairlift with Dylan Sellers, then an executive at Fox, ascending the slopes overlooking the Sundance Film Festival. I started telling Dylan about a screenplay written by my friends, John Strauss and Ed Decter. It was a comedy about a man who hires a private investigator to find his high school dream girl and it was absolutely hysterical. When we got off the lift Dylan said, “Let’s make this movie.” That movie was There’s Something About Mary

Rereading Christine Dietzel’s piece in Teton Gravity brought back all those wonderful memories of how my skiing career opened a door to the entertainment industry. My success in the skiing world led to work as a stunt skier in films such as “Hotdog! The Movie” and the black comedy “Better Off Dead” starring John Cusack. This led to acting roles and forming relationships with a variety of talented filmmakers. The origins of There’s Something About Mary took place on the slopes (and chairlifts) of Sundance. The thriller I produced, Wicked, garnered rave reviews after its Sundance screening and helped launch the career of our star Julia Stiles. 

Christine’s captivating writing made this an enjoyable rabbit hole to revisit. Read the full piece below or click here for the original version. 

The Wicked Soundtrack is Everything You Want

Cliff Martinez is a luminary in the realm of film composition, renowned for his distinctive and evocative soundscapes that have graced many critically acclaimed films. His work epitomizes innovation and creativity, continually pushing the boundaries of cinematic music. His compositions seamlessly blend electronic elements with traditional orchestration, creating atmospheric and immersive scores that leave an indelible mark on audiences.

Martinez’s collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh has been particularly noteworthy, yielding iconic scores for films such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Traffic, Solaris, and Contagion, among others. His ability to capture the essence of a film’s narrative and enhance its emotional impact with music has earned him widespread acclaim and numerous accolades, including several awards and nominations.

"Wicked" composer Cliff Martinez in his studio, working with a guitar, keyboard, and software interface.

His work on Wicked, the twisted psycho thriller starring Julia Stiles in her first lead role, stands as a testament to his ability to craft a score that elevates the atmosphere and intensity of a film. Martinez’s haunting and evocative compositions perfectly complement the dark and twisted narrative, immersing viewers in a world of moral ambiguity and psychological tension. With his trademark blend of electronic and orchestral elements, Martinez creates a sonic landscape that mirrors the inner turmoil and moral decay of the characters, enhancing the film’s suspense and intrigue. His score for Wicked not only heightens the emotional impact of key moments in the movie but also serves as a driving force behind the film’s eerie and foreboding atmosphere, leaving a lasting impression on audiences long after the credits roll.


The soundtrack for Wicked features a wide variety of enthralling and angsty songs from a collection of talented musicians:

“Bad Day” by Juliana Hatfield is a compelling and introspective track that showcases the artist’s ability to blend raw emotion with catchy melodies. The song captivates the audience with its poignant lyrics and infectious guitar hooks. Hatfield’s distinctive vocals convey a sense of vulnerability and frustration as Julia Stiles’ character Ellie grapples with feelings of disillusionment and disappointment. The driving rhythm and dynamic instrumentation underscore the song’s themes of inner turmoil and self-reflection, culminating in a cathartic and memorable musical experience.

“Trippin” by Kittie is a powerful and assertive song that embodies the band’s signature blend of heavy metal and alternative rock. Released on their debut album, Spit, the song immediately grabs listeners’ attention with its intense guitar riffs, thunderous drums, and visceral vocals. Frontwoman Morgan Lander’s commanding delivery adds an extra layer of aggression as she confronts themes of frustration, anger, and defiance. With its blistering energy and uncompromising attitude, “Trippin” serves as an anthem for empowerment and resilience.

“Casualty” by Snake River Conspiracy is a riveting and electrifying track that captivates listeners with its fusion of industrial rock and electronic elements. Released on their debut album, Sonic Jihad, in 2000, the song immediately establishes a dark and intense atmosphere with its pulsating beats, distorted guitars, and haunting synthesizers. Frontwoman Tobey Torres delivers a mesmerizing vocal performance, effortlessly transitioning between sultry whispers and powerful screams, adding depth and emotion to lyrics of disillusionment and defiance. With its infectious energy and thought-provoking lyrics, “Casualty” is a standout in Snake River Conspiracy’s repertoire, showcasing their ability to craft provocative and unforgettable music that pushes the boundaries of conventional rock.

The Cranes, a British alternative rock band, deliver a mesmerizing and ethereal experience with their song “Adoration.” The first single off their 1991 debut album Wings of Joy envelops listeners in a dreamlike soundscape characterized by shimmering guitars, haunting vocals, and atmospheric synths. Alison Shaw’s enchanting voice floats effortlessly over the lush instrumentation, conveying a sense of longing and introspection. With its hypnotic melodies and poetic lyrics, “Adoration” invites listeners into a world of soul-searching emotional depth, leaving a lasting impression with its evocative beauty.

“In the Night,” another standout track by the Cranes, showcases the band’s ability to blend elements of shoegaze and dream pop to create a haunting and immersive sonic experience. Featured on their 1994 album Loved, the song captivates from the opening notes with its swirling guitars and pulsating rhythms. Alison Shaw’s evocative vocals convey a sense of yearning and melancholy, perfectly complementing the track’s reflective lyrics. “In the Night” builds to a crescendo of intensity, pulling listeners deeper into its atmospheric embrace and transfixing them with its emotional resonance.

“Underwater,” the third Cranes’ entry in the Wicked soundtrack, further highlights the band’s talent for crafting atmospheric and emotionally resonant music. With its lush instrumentation and haunting melodies, the song creates a sense of immersion reminiscent of being submerged in a vast and mysterious ocean. “Underwater” transports listeners to a world of introspection and emotional exploration.

“Clown” by Switchblade Symphony is a haunting and evocative track that showcases the band’s unique blend of darkwave, gothic rock, and ethereal wave. Released on their 1995 debut album Serpentine Gallery, the song immediately captivates with its atmospheric synthesizers, driving percussion, and eerie melodies. Lead vocalist Tina Root’s mesmerizing vocals add an extra layer of intensity, as she delivers the song’s enigmatic lyrics with beauty and depth. “Clown” transports listeners to a world of darkness and mystery, where themes of love, loss, and longing intertwine to create a captivating and immersive experience.

“When I Am Queen” and “Rabbiteen” are signature tracks from Jack Off Jill‘s repertoire, known for their provocative lyrics and distinctive blend of punk, industrial, and gothic rock. “When I Am Queen,” featured on their 2000 album Clear Hearts Grey Flowers, unleashes a torrent of raw emotion and biting commentary. Lead vocalist Jessicka delivers powerful and defiant vocals, channeling themes of empowerment and rebellion against societal norms. The song’s dynamic instrumentation, including driving guitars and pounding drums, creates a sense of urgency and intensity, driving home its message of defiance and independence.

In contrast, “Rabbiteen,” delves into darker and more introspective territory. The track surrounds listeners in a brooding atmosphere, characterized by eerie melodies and haunting vocals. Jessicka’s haunting whispers and soaring cries add to the song’s haunting allure, as it explores themes of identity, isolation, and the struggle for self-acceptance. With its mesmerizing blend of gothic aesthetics and punk energy, “Rabbiteen” stands as a testament to Jack Off Jill’s ability to create music that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.

Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” epitomizes timeless elegance and sophistication. Originally written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale, Springfield’s rendition is nothing short of iconic. With her sultry and emotive vocals, she effortlessly captures the essence of longing and desire expressed in David’s poignant lyrics. Backed by Bacharach’s lush orchestration, Springfield’s cover exudes an irresistible charm and allure. Through her interpretation, Springfield transforms the song into a timeless classic that serves as a testament to her unparalleled talent and enduring legacy in the world of music.

“Busy as a Bee,” as performed by Frenchy, is a lively and infectious track that embodies joy and exuberance. Released as part of Frenchy’s repertoire, the song captivates listeners with its upbeat rhythm, catchy melodies, and playful lyrics. Frenchy’s charismatic vocals shine as they deliver the song’s whimsical verses, painting a vivid picture of a bustling and vibrant world. With its irresistible energy and feel-good vibe, “Busy as a Bee” inspires listeners to embrace life’s challenges with a sense of optimism and determination. Whether it’s the driving beat or the infectious chorus, this track is guaranteed to leave a smile on the faces of all who hear it.

“So Com Voce,” by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton (also known as Thievery Corporation), offers a mesmerizing blend of electronic and world music influences that transport listeners to a tranquil and exotic realm. The song captivates with its dreamy atmosphere, lush instrumentation, and hypnotic rhythms. Sung in Portuguese, the vocals add an extra layer of mystique, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in the song’s rich tapestry of sound. Whether it’s the sultry melodies or the intricate production, “So Com Voce” enchants, showcasing the duo’s talent for crafting genre-defying music that transcends boundaries and captivates the imagination.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” by Thomas A. Dorsey is a timeless gospel classic, offering solace and comfort in times of trouble. Composed following the death of his wife and infant son after childbirth, Dorsey’s heartfelt lyrics and soul-stirring melody resonate with a profound sense of faith and resilience. First recorded by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in 1956, the song has since become an anthem of hope and consolation. With its simple yet powerful message of surrendering to divine guidance and finding strength in faith, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” continues to inspire and uplift generations, cementing its place as one of the most beloved hymns of all time.

“I Honestly Love You,” performed in the film by the brilliant Linda Hart, is a soulful rendition of Olivia Newton-John‘s classic ballad. Released in 1974, the song quickly became an anthem of unrequited love and longing. Pocket Songs’ interpretation retains the emotional depth of the original, with stirring vocals that tug at the heartstrings. Backed by a tender arrangement of piano and strings, the performance captures the bittersweet essence of the lyrics, evoking a sense of vulnerability and yearning. With its timeless melody and heartfelt delivery, “I Honestly Love You” stands as a poignant reminder of the universal experience of love and loss.

Image of The Blue Hawaiians' 1999 album, "Savage Night," featuring a woman's face superimposed on the exterior of a nightclub against the backdrop of a city.

“Second Time Around,” performed by The Blue Hawaiians, is a heartfelt ballad that resonates with themes of redemption and resilience. With its poignant lyrics and emotive melody, the song tells a story of overcoming adversity and embracing the opportunity for a fresh start. Fontana’s soulful vocals convey a sense of vulnerability and hope, drawing listeners into the emotional journey of self-discovery and growth. Whether it’s the gentle strumming of the acoustic guitar or the soaring strings in the background, “Second Time Around” captivates with sincerity and authenticity.


The songs “Bad Day,” “Adoration,” “In the Night,” “Underwater,” “Clown,” “Rabbiteen,” and “When I Am Queen” explore and share the movie’s themes of introspection and emotional turmoil, perfectly embodied by Julia Stiles’ performance. Whether it’s grappling with feelings of frustration and disillusionment (“Bad Day”), expressing devotion and longing (“Adoration”), delving into darker and more introspective territory (“In the Night,” “Underwater”), or confronting societal norms and personal identity (“Clown,” “Rabbiteen,” “When I Am Queen”), each track dives deep into the complexities of the human experience.

These songs vary in musical style and composition, but they share certain sonic elements that contribute to their artistic impact, such as the use of lush instrumentation. Moreover, the lyrical themes explored in these songs, such as introspection, rebellion, and personal identity, resonate with the angst and disillusionment that characterized much of the 90’s alt music scene. Many of these tracks capture that spirit of the 90s with their emotionally charged lyrics and raw, unfiltered sound.

There is an overall sense of intensity, moodiness, and atmosphere in the songs and score used in Wicked. From haunting melodies and brooding instrumentation to evocative vocals and atmospheric soundscapes, each track creates a distinct mood and vibe that draws the audience into the film’s emotional landscape. Whether it’s the ethereal and dreamlike quality of “Adoration,” the raw and gritty energy of “Bad Day,” or the haunting and introspective nature of “Rabbiteen,” these songs exude a sense of depth, complexity, and emotional authenticity that resonates with audiences on a visceral level.