Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement
Race Against Hate: Ricky Byrdsong’s Legacy
The Week Ahead, June 17-23: Juneteenth, Summer Solstice and Pride Celebrations in Chicagoland
Evanston Environment Board drops fossil fuels divestment, recommends updates to leaf blower ordinance
Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins
Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award
District 65 School Board votes to close Dr. Bessie Rhodes School
Kathryn Hahn declares class of 2024 “worthy of celebration” in commencement address
Advertisement
Perry: A little humility goes a long way

Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

June 13, 2024

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Tewaaraton Award

May 30, 2024

Advertisement

Campus Kitchens fills plates and hearts

NU Declassified: Prof. Barbara Butts teaches leadership through stage management

Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

Space cases

Director Garth Jennings is fully aware that some people might wander into theaters to see “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on April 29 and not understand what they’re walking into. After all, the musical number featuring flying, singing dolphins escaping Earth before its impending doom might raise a few eyebrows.

“Whatever your expectations are, if you’re still there at the end of the dolphin sequence then we’re probably going to be alright,” Jennings says with a laugh.

The euphonious dolphin number (in which the farewell message to people — “So long and thanks for all the fish” — is misread as a “surprisingly sophisticated” jump through a hoop) is the litmus test for audience acceptance, as it establishes the absurd, yet strangely logical (in a word, British) humor of “Hitchhiker’s Guide.” Because in this world, large slug-like aliens called Vogons induce limb-gnawing by reading awful poetry, robots can be cheeky yet terribly depressed and super computers constructed to answer life’s ultimate question prefer to watch cartoons instead.

This is the world of Douglas Adams, the British author who began the epic as a radio play for BBC Radio 4, and after its ensuing popularity, wrote several books documenting the outlandish characters and deeply philosophical ideas. From that spawned various other media, including a television show, but producer and close friend Robbie Stamp says ultimately Adams wanted the story to make it to the big screen.

“His life goal was to have it be a movie,” Stamp says of the author, who died in 2002. “Douglas always wanted to be a scriptwriter. The loneliness of being a novelist got him down.”

Stamp says the notorious procrastinator was nothing of the sort while writing the script for the film incarnation, as he constantly revised it before he passed away. Everyone involved in the production emphasizes the British nature of the story, and several references have been made to “Monty Python”-era humor. But of the four main characters (who constitute an intergalactic “Oz” expedition of sorts), only one is British, the former star of “The Office,” Martin Freeman. Rapper Mos Def, the spritely Northwestern alum Zooey Deschanel and the smooth-talking Sam Rockwell round out the cast in what has traditionally been labeled a British phenomenon. Jennings, being a Brit himself, says the American cast does nothing to dilute the nation’s characteristic humor.

“The script is so Douglas, and Douglas is so English,” Jennings defends. “You can’t get much more English than Douglas, and you’d have to try really hard to destroy that.”

As the lone Brit carrying the cast, Freeman, who plays “the most ordinary man in the universe,” Arthur Dent, says that while there’s a definite “British flavor” to the humor, ultimately “they’re aliens, so anything goes.”

But what the Americans lack in citizenship they make up for in quirks. Mos Def masters his character’s fascination with towels, and Rockwell nearly steals the film as the eccentric president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who prances around in “shiny shorts,” a chain mail fingerless glove, a cape and black nail polish. Rockwell says Zaphod just wants to be a rock star.

“Vince Vaughn is a friend of mine, and he does this Elvis Presley, and I kinda took that and elaborated on it,” Rockwell says. “Zaphod is kind of like Bill Clinton and Elvis, with a little bit of George W. Elvis and Bill Clinton are very charismatic, and Zaphod needs to be this guy that everyone likes.”

Like Zaphod, all the characters in “Hitchhiker’s Guide” have strongly defined personalities, and they’re the bread and butter of the movie, as a driving plotline takes a backseat to social commentary and droll nuances. Even the aliens — who in current cinema would be giant, computer-generated creations, but in “Hitchhiker’s Guide” were life-size puppets — have a tangible sense to them that Deschanel says allowed her and the cast to act comfortably with imaginary beings.

“The people working all of the creatures are really good actors,” she says. “They would improvise in between takes. I actually heard one of them hitting on Anna Chancellor as one of the Vogons.”

Die-hard “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fans might notice material they’ve never seen before, but much of the it was written by Adams himself in the several drafts he constructed before he died. Stamp says they tried to stay true to Adams’ vision, but that the author himself was open to (and often in favor of) addendums to the “Hitchhiker’s” universe. But a paradigmatic moment in the film that exhibits their dedication to Adams’ ability to balance humor, philosophy and poetry, is when the Infinite Improbability Drive turns a missile into a whale in mid-air. During its two-minute freefall, the whale contemplates its sudden birth, its existence and the world around it; consequently it’s Jennings and Stamp’s favorite vignette.

“There’s no plot relevance to it,” Stamp says, with admiration clearly on display in his eyes. “It’s pure ‘Hitchhiker’s.'”

Communication junior Lindsay Sakraida is the PLAY editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Space cases