Who cannot remember watching the award winning film called The Elephant Man, and, if they are truthful, the horrific fascination, and strong emotions it evoked? This is quite simply an incredible film which chronicles the life and experiences of John (Joseph) Merrick, cruelly labelled ‘The Elephant Man’ because of deformities which started to materialise at about 5 years of age, and which he had to live with throughout his short life.
Written by the producer, Jonathon Sanger, this book tells the story of how this film, the first he ever produced, came to be.
From the moment he first read the script Jonathon immediately felt strongly that it was a story which had to be told on screen. With the backing of Mel Brooks who helped finance the film through his new company Brooksfilms, The Elephant Man got the green light and the search for production staff and actors began.
Jonathon’s enthusiasm for this story was infectious, and with the creative and artistic talents of David Lynch as Director, it is fascinating to discover how the film was shot and how they came to cast so many famous actors, and talented artists.
Anyone who has seen it cannot fail to be moved by it. Unusually, for the time it was filmed in black and white, which dramatically adds to the atmosphere. I can imagine anyone interested in the film industry will be fascinated to reading how, through diligent searching and an eye for detail, Jonathon and David managed to find the cobbled streets, and hospital buildings, needed as sets, and learn how with special clever photography they ensured the perfect ambience needed to recreate Victorian London at that time.
Jonathon has, throughout this book been extremely frank about the relationships between production staff, cast members, actors, and crew, in the making and filming of The Elephant Man which is refreshing, and this honesty gives the reader and any would-be member of the industry a glimpse into what life in this line of work is really like.
The impact of this film continues however, past its premier, in that not only has it received many awards, but it has also affected how people perceive disability, and has helped organisations which work with people suffering from disabilities.
Since this, his first production, Jonathon Sanger has produced and directed many films, and also given other film professionals the chance to direct their own films through the Chanticleer Film company.
The testament to this film, and why this book was written has been summed up by the man himself, as he says in the preface, when asked what his most challenging accomplishment had been as a film producer, “it was my first film as ‘producer, The Elephant Man, that set the bar high enough that I felt I could accomplish anything.” After reading this statement, who could resist such an amazing story?
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
About the Author: Jonathan Sanger, an Academy Award-winning producer, film, theater and television producer and director, media advisor, and entertainment financial consultant, has lead initiatives in every sector of the entertainment industry. His writing has appeared in magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and filmmaking handbooks. He lives and works in Los Angeles and New York City.
About the Book: The true story of John Merrick has captured the imagination of generations of audiences, critics, actors, and filmmakers.
In 1988 I received a screenplay about a hideously disfigured man-John Merrick, the Elephant Man-who refused to fall victim to despair and instead exemplified human dignity. The story was so gripping, so moving, the moment I finished the screenplay I began to read it again. I had to produce it. John Merrick’s story needed to be told.
The story of how I got this movie made-the whole, unvarnished, hair-pulling, stomach-churning, adventure-is itself a study in the triumph of dignity over fear. This is the story of my journey to share my love and admiration for John Merrick with the rest of world. It is a story within a story, with scheduling conflicts, location issues, special effects nightmares and many risky decisions. Assembling a team that included executive producer, Mel Brooks, new director, David Lynch, and actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, I stared adversity in the eye and found a way to persevere and overcome my fears. I hope you enjoy this story, my story, of the making of this inspiring Oscar-nominated, award-winning film.
Barnes and Noble in Paperback http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/making-the-elephant-man-jonathan-sanger/1123796281?ean=9781476666624