Monday, February 26, 2007

Toby Stephens in The Wild West - Custer's Last Stand

If you missed this on Friday, I've got a few screencaps to brighten your day.

The programme explored the story of General George Armstrong Custer's final battle against the Native Americans who had settled on land that was thought to be gold rich. As the Indians would not either sell or relinquish the land to the American government, the decision was made to reclaim the land by force; with disastrous consequences for Custer and his men as well as ultimately the Native Americans.

The programme is actually a drama-documentary, which means that the reconstruction- dramatic scenes are broken up by historical experts explaining the situation, the historical context and why the actions of the army and the Indian braves had the outcome that it did.

We start with Custer and his men mounted and searching for the nomadic Indians who they were to later fight. The sky is leaden and overcast and the soldiers look drawn and nervous as does Custer.

The casting of Toby Stephens as Custer really shouldn't suprise anyone when you consider that Toby does actually resemble Custer in a small way. They share the same colouring and despite the sepia picture, Custer looks like he had freckles too! While they both have high cheekbones, Custer has a slightly bigger nose and far more verdant facial hair than Toby does. It is also apparent that Toby's moustache is stuck on. Oops. And he's wearing a wig. But hey, at least it isn't hair extensions.
Custer is leading his small band of men into battle and along for the ride is a journalist called Mark Kellogg. It is his journalists notebook that probably provides the clearest account of what occurred at Little Bighorn. Custer despite being given orders not to talk to journalists, invites Kellogg to come along for the ride. This behaviour is attributed to Custer's self publicising nature.
And if the glory and excitement of writing a sensational story about a famous Civil War hero wasn't enough, Custer both smirks and then tries the old Rochester trick of beguiling Kellogg with his tightly clad thighs. (Sorry, couldn't help myself).

Meanwhile, Sitting Bull, the head of the Indian tribe, performs a ceremony that results in a vision of the attack and he ominously warns of the impending attack and also states that no plunder or booty is to be taken from the bodies of the fallen or bad luck will befall them.

The ceremony is particularly bloody, in Native American belief, all that you own is your body, so therefore to be granted a vison, you must give something that you own to the greater power, in this case flesh was incised over two days (!) before the vision was forthcoming. Sitting Bull's arms ran with blood.The soldiers got ready to do battle and many of them had fine and luxuriant facial hair as you can see. It's nice to see a decent beard on TV occasionally.
Toby meanwhile decided to get rid of his. I like his little smirk here.
Toby has an American accent in this programme and while I'm not qualified to say whether or not it was entirely authentic, to my British ears it sounded quite solid. There were no odd vowel sounds that occur when you assume an accent, and I didn't hear his British accent break through. And Toby also does not sneer at all.

This is Custer and his scout Fallon serveilling an Indian village, Custer's plan being to kidnap the women and children and hold them to ransom. While this sounds like a slightly dishonourable act, it makes a great deal of sense when you think it through. Major bloodshed should be avoided on both sides, the Indians do not attack as they are afraid of harming their sisters and wives, who are venerated as life givers and are protected at all costs, and the soldiers do not attack the Indian Braves as the situation should now be solved by negotiation of the hostages. And this mode of attack payed dividends for Custer previously, and he was very happy to try it again.

(Toby (looking through telescope): "Hey I can see Jane from here...")

A couple of Toby looking good in a hat.

Custer doesn't smile much in the programme, but when he does, Toby looks great and it's a lovely moment.

After the battle, lost in some part due to bad luck: Custer and his men couldn't ford the river to take the hostages and partly due to Custer splitting his band into four sections and not having enough men to fight the Indians. And then when the message came to the remaining men to hurry to his aid, the commander, who was not Custer's greatest fan, instead of riding fast to back up his comrades, ambled along leisurely and arrived too late to save Custer and his section of men.

Thus Sitting Bull's premonition came true and the Indians won, but his warning that nothing be taken from the dead men was not adhered to and the subsequent action taken by the American government meant that despite the victory over Custer, he sadly ended his life in a reservation instead of open land.

In summary: I am not really a history buff, and I wasn't really aware of Custer, but the show was very informative and the actions scenes were suitably gory and despite the small scale, absorbing. The drama of the reconstruction was somewhat diluted by the interjections of the experts, Michael Donahue and Ron His Horse Is Thunder (fab name!), who is a descendent of Sitting Bull. And the narration was beautifully read by Michael Praed.

Note: I have now added tags to all my posts!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Toby Stephens In "Heroes of The Wild West"

For all you Toby Fans, here are the scans of the listings magazines of Toby in full on Western mode. Enjoy!

First the RadioTimes article on the production, I love how Toby gets the biggest blurb on his character (as well he should!):

This is the listing for the show in the RadioTimes:

And this is Toby eloquently (and humourously) discussing the foibles of his horse:

And finally, this is what the TVTimes had to say about the show, though it is not clear if that is the same horse that had to be sedated:

Edited to make the pictures actually open in a new window (duh!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ruth Wilson Interview On BBC Breakfast

Hope you enjoy this video of Ruth On BBC Breakfast this morning. I had to snip out the clips of the programme to make the video fit on YouTube!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Picture of Toby.

(Click it to make it bigger)

Not to leave Toby out of this recent Jane Eyre renaissance, I came across this photo of Toby and had to share it. It's one of a character in a play he did called "The Royal Family".

I love it! He looks totally scrummy.

It might be a while before I can post anything else, I have to pick myself off up the floor.

Make That Bonnet Work For You! Or Ruth Wilson's Guide to Surviving a Costume Drama

To mark the DVD release of "Jane Eyre", Time Out asked Ruth to give her top tips for anyone suceeding her as Jane Eyre.
Here they are!

1. Don't do the typical posh thing with your voice. Wilson says that she did her first audition in received pronunciation and the second one in broad Yorkshire. After some debate, the team decided to go with a mixture. "I put a bit of Yorkshire in the vowel sound, which shows she's different from the rest."

2. Remember that once you enter the loo in your voluminous costume, you may not be able to turn around, so go in facing the right direction. "I was wearing layers and layers of petticoats and thermals underneath, so it wasn't very easy. Luckily I managed to go to the loo without needing assistance."

3. Don't overdo it at lunchtime. "If you've got a corset on, you have to remember not to eat too much, or it just won't go down. But if you don't eat enough, your stomach will start rumbling mid-afternoon, which is not funny when you're miked up."

(Not actual corset)
4. If you have to suffer for your art, make the most of it and use the constriction to inform your performance. "I had a corset that was moulded to my body and used to think of as a shell that was holding her in while all those emotions are bubbling away inside her."

5. Jane doesn't have many lines, so know the book backwards and understand the emotions, "I went through the script and cross-referenced it with the book, so I knew exactly what Jane's reaction was to everything, even if she wasn't saying anything."

6. Make that bonnet work for you! "We were very lucky because we had these nice open ones which are like a halo around your head - sometimes with period drama they're a bit like a tunnel around your face."
Sorry I couldn't scan the article in, but there was niece with a nose bleed and well things got a little messy! Don't worry she's fine now.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Jane Eyre DVD

Yay and double YAY! I got my DVD of Jane Eyre today! Oh that rhymes, it wasn't meant to...

Here it is:

Sorry it's a bit blurry! And why am I getting so excited over a DVD?

Talk about a palaver when I was buying it. Being unorganised I didn't preorder and get it delivered, and seeing as I have a week off (that I categorically did not schedule to coincide with the DVD release, it's just a coincidence) I decided to buy it on the day.

Anyway, I ended up buying it from Sainsbury's because I wanted to use some Nectar points up. I don't recommend it. I go to the kiosk to get the DVD's put into the empty case and I get the case back. As I walk out, being incredibly hasty to get my first look at the discs I open up the case and am incredibly confused to see only one DVD in it. Yes, only one DVD that is marked as "Disc Two". Eh?

I go back to the little old lady in the kiosk and ask for both DVD's please. "But there's only one," she replies. I point out the fact that my DVD says Disc Two, so presumably there must be a Disc One to go with it musn't there? As further proof I show her the cover that says: "2 Disc Set". She then decides to shout "Kelly!" for some unknown reason, as Kelly resolutely refuses to appear. She goes back to her little tray and rummages around for a bit before returning and giving me my missing disc. I suspiciously check to make sure she hasn't actually given me two disc 2's or something like that, but I can happily report that I now have a full set of DVD's. As I leave the little old lady screeches "Kelly!" again at quite a loud volume and I scamper off with my DVD a happy bunny.

The special features are ok: a picture gallery, so I expect to see a lot of fan art soon. Audio commentaries on each episode, I haven't had a chance to listen to yet, but expect it to be quite informative. Only about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, I had a quick flick through them and they look quite promising. The only gripe I have is that they look like rushes with the editing timecodes beneath and they are a smallish picture, I would have preferred full screen with a menu at the start, as by the looks of it you can't choose which deleted scene you want to watch, you have to just watch them all. I will watch them all, but it would have been nice to have been able to choose which order to watch them in. The cast interviews look like extended interviews from the ones that were featured in "Reader, I Married Him" which were done by Daisy Goodwin.

There are also the trailers for the series, which makes me wonder, while bashing my head against a brick wall, why I bust a gut transferring them from the tellybox to my laptop, and then sat around for ages while they uploaded to YouTube. I will never do that again. Of course if the producers thought, hey people want to see the trailers because I uploaded them, then great, but I will never know.

These are my first impressions, I'll probably do a longer entry once I've watched all the extras.

And for all the people who were asking why the BBC hadn't released the DVD earlier, say at Christmas, I believe it's due to the fact that a few shops, HMV in particular, are promoting it as one of their range of "Romantic DVD's" in time for Valentine's Day. As a stone hearted cynical pragmatist, I say bleurgh. I'd have preferred it earlier rather than later, especially as the extras aren't that special.