Part One

On Sunday, April 28, 2002, we chatted with Gavin Scott, the creator, producer and writer of "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne". 

rebeccasdisciple: Welcome fans of THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE.  Gavin Scott, Creator and Head Writer of our beloved show, has graciously agreed to join us again today, even after we drowned him in questions the last time!

odensdisir : Oooh!  Oooh!  Gavin!  Jonathan Walker suggested we ask you about the SAJV movies!!

GAVIN:  I'm more than happy to talk about THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE movies in the sense that that is where the whole thing started.  My original script was a movie script that I wrote way back in about 1988-89 called NEMO AND ME, about how Jules Verne met Captain Nemo and his daughter, Laura.  And, that led to me writing a second Jules Verne screenplay, which is called RING OF FIRE.  Parts of that story appear in the trilogy LORD OF AIR AND DARKNESS, SOUTHERN COMFORT, and LET THERE BE LIGHT.   The screenplay was optioned and Peter MacDonald was attached as director for it, but it never got made.


rebeccasdisciple:  Be warned that we never forget what our generous guests say, Gavin.<eg>   So, you had mentioned last time that you'd be doing a bit of research into the Fogg Family archives regarding the um, interactions among Erasmus, Rebecca, and Phileas.  A bit of competition between the brothers for her affections, perhaps?

GAVIN:  I think so, but the thing is, I think Phileas, as a young man, so admired Erasmus that he felt that if Erasmus and Rebecca were going to get together he, Phileas, should step aside and it was the sense of Phileas' admiration for Erasmus that produced some of the effect of Erasmus' death on Phileas' relationship with his father whom, of course, he blamed for that death.


keltic_rayven : Would you consider doing Around The World IN 80 Days?

GAVIN:  I feel that AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS has been pretty thoroughly done.  It was one of the two great Jules Verne movies of the 1950's that I hugely enjoyed as a child and I think that David Niven as Phileas Fogg and Cantinflas as Passepartout and then every star in the world who seemed to be in that movie just did it to perfection.  So, I think that in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS clearly inspired our Phileas and his airship and our whole world that's created in the SECRET ADVENTURES.  But, in terms of actually redoing that particular story, I think that the movies have nailed that one pretty well.


odensdisir : Fannish question, Gavin:  In the recent versions of preliminary pitch packages that we have seen, Erasmus was Phileas' older brother; and yet in the series as it developed on screen it seems that Erasmus was Phileas' younger brother.  Is there a Definitive Creator's Answer to whether Phileas was the elder brother, or the younger brother?

GAVIN:  Yes, as far as I'm concerned Erasmus is Phileas' older brother, full stop, and I think it was transcription in the course of the development of the script that led him to appear to be Phileas' younger brother.  It was an error that should have been caught because I think the psychological significance of what happened to Erasmus is much more potent if he was the older brother. 

cindy_s_roberts : Journey to the Center of the Earth would be a terrific one to redo.  

GAVIN:  BTW, someone said that the JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is one that should be remade.  I completely agree, because that's one of the less satisfying of the movies.  It's got wonderful things in it, but I think it's got enormous potential to be remade. 

e_universe_1: It is a very accessible book.
With the CGI available now it would be cool!
daurmith: The novel is much more interesting
daurmith: Poetic license!

GAVIN:  The problem with it, of course, is the fact that we now know what's at the center of the earth in terms of a molten ball of iron and that's not quite so exciting to visit.  Having said that, when I say we know what's at the center of the earth, the reality is that it's all totally theoretical.  I think that the extent of our drilling beneath the surface of the earth is the equivalent of going through the width of a postage stamp.  If you stuck a postage stamp on a basketball, that's how deep we've actually gone into the earth, everything else is theoretical.  But, I think you have to modify what [lost the rest-white noise only on the tape]


odensdisir : Perhaps Verne's novel was a description of the imaginative journey that the protagonists made under the influence of subterranean fumes, as at Delphi.

GAVIN:  That is fascinating, isn't it?  I agree.  When I read those stories about the fact that they've now discovered that there are chemicals in the rocks underneath the [temple at] Delphi, which explains how people who went there might have come across priestesses who were literally hallucinating because of the chemical effects of what was in the rocks.

When you think of the influence that these prophecies of the priestesses of Delphi had on the ancient world, it's quite extraordinary.  It makes me wonder how many other ancient belief systems were based on completely misunderstood natural phenomena.


treehugger20170: Well, Beer was invented near Eden (the Plains) in Mesopotamia
e_universe_1: There  is a goddess of beer

GAVIN:  I didn't know that beer was invented on the plains of Mesopotamia.  I suppose that makes sense.  There's actually a fascinating correlation between Noah, who was credited in the Bible as having survived the flood as well as being linked with wine, and Dionysus, who is also supposed to have survived a flood and is also, clearly, the god of wine.  It makes one wonder whether there wasn't some Ur figure that inspired both of those characters who did have something to do with those two phenomena, the flood and the invention of fermentation.  I think there's another one.  I think there's an Egyptian mythological figure who has something to do with alcohol and the flood.


odensdisir : Technically speaking, barley-based beer was invented in Mesopotamia.  Corn beers, rice beers, and other grain-based beers were invented spontaneously in various areas.
odensdisir : (home brewer here)
e_universe_1 : bread was invented as a use for the lees left after brewing beer
treehugger20170 : Bread was unleavened prior to the starter from beer

GAVIN:  I'm going to have to check out that statement that bread was invented as a use for the waste products of brewing beer.  That is certainly such a wonderfully outrageous statement.  It may well be correct.  I'm fascinated. <laughing>


odensdisir : And the next question is, would Phileas Fogg rather die, than drink (shudder) beer?

GAVIN:  I think Phileas Fogg would drink a pint of warm British beer in the local Inn with the locals who worked on the estate.  He wouldn't enjoy it, but he would know how to sink a pint with the local people, because he is a person who understands how to be the lord of the manor.  It's not that he wants to be, but he has what it takes.


rebeccasdisciple: SOUTHERN COMFORT-It quite looked like Rebecca was considering kissing Phileas on the lips before she kissed her palm and smacked the kiss onto his cheek, instead, and then went off on her horse for the troop train.  Was that ever considered?

GAVIN:  In relation as to whether Rebecca was ever going to actually kiss Phileas on the lips in SOUTHERN COMFORT, if I think about it, it would not have been the moment, because she was already aware of his feelings for Saratoga.  I think that that would have meant-and she was happy for him to have found that relationship-so, I don't think she would have kissed him on the lips.  She may have thought about it and changed her own mind.  That may have been the way it happened.


rebeccasdisciple:  Yet, Rebecca doesn't ever refer to Phileas' GRIEVING, but only his "being full of anger" and to his self-indulgence.  Do you think that is because she really didn't want to acknowledge that he was actually in love with Saratoga rather than, perhaps, in lust with her?

GAVIN:  No, I think Rebecca did recognize that Phileas loved Saratoga and she was OK with that.  Partly because she realized that she and Phileas could never sort of, they were both too volatile and like each other to make a man and wife, so to speak.  They were a great team, but not that kind of team.  So, no, I think she knew that he loved Saratoga and she realized that it was devastating to him.  However, of course, she is fairly-not hard-hearted, hard-headed-realistic about it. Once that he does start indulging in grief to too great a degree she simply wants him to snap out of it.


rebeccasdisciple : Don't your think that Phileas would have been bored with Saratoga in a heartbeat if she hand't died

GAVIN:  That is a very good insight that Phileas might well have been bored with Saratoga, but he would have been far too much of a gentleman to show it.  Yes, I suppose that in relation to Saratoga, Phileas is a little bit like the guy in GONE WITH THE WIND.  The Clark Gable character in GONE WITH THE WIND, whose name escapes me at the moment.  I can see that he might well have had enough of her.  And it's that classic thing that she died-it was a good career move that she died.  She left herself as the perfect image in his mind.

ephialv : Gavin, I received an email from someone in Tunisia yesterday who wanted to know something about the Spartacus miniseries you wrote. Anything you can tell us about that?

GAVIN:  Oh, that question about SPARTACUS-yes, that for me is extremely exciting, because I was able to tell a story of Spartacus that has not actually been told in a movie.  Once you did a bit of research, it's a much better story than Stanley Kubrick's movie revealed, so I do hope that SPARTACUS gets made.


ephialv : So it hasn't been filmed yet?

GAVIN:  No they're raising; they're getting the backing, at present, to make that mini-series.


treehugger20170 : What are the chances that the gang will meet Brooke in Sarawak?

GAVIN:  That's a wonderful idea about Phileas and Co. meeting Rajah Brooke in Sawara.   Rajah Brooke is such a terrific character fighting the pirates in the South China Sea.  The White Rajah of Sawara, this wonderful story of a young Englishman who went on holiday, found himself mixed up in a civil war, and ended up becoming the ruler of a large chunk of Borneo, fighting pirates and suppressing headhunters and generally being a pretty cool guy, actually.  I think Phileas Fogg would have enjoyed meeting him and I love the island of Borneo, where I spent part of my youth.


viccivaw : Gavin, are you really going to try and come to one of the conventions where Chris Demetral is appearing?  I'm getting ready to take over the typing and I wanted to get my question in.

GAVIN:  Someone was suggesting that the festival, the convention, in Toronto might be one that would be appropriate to come to and I'm just figuring out in terms of my own timetable whether that would be practical.  I was actually just in Toronto last weekend and had a very pleasant time there meeting with Jonathan Walker, because I was holding a master class in screenwriting at the Toronto Family Film Festival.  So, the idea of returning to Toronto for that convention is an attractive one.

theater3d : What do you think was the turning point in your proposal that get it made to begin with?

GAVIN:  In terms of the turning point in my proposal that got it made, the interesting this is that people were always fascinated when I told them the idea of Jules Verne actually being involved in the stories that he'd make up, that he'd fictionalized, that he hadn't made them up.  People were always fascinated by that.  But, obviously, it was period; it was science fiction and required special effects.  It was a demanding thing.  Americans were saying, hang on a sec, it's a period thing, do we want to show it Prime Time, is it worth the money.  So, although people were always positively inclined toward the notion of it, actually getting them to stump up the money was a challenge.  So, the real turning point was definitely Talisman's discovery of FlashPoint, the company that was able to put up the insurance deal that made the financing possible.  That was the turning point.


lagniappetite : If you had an open pocket book and could no constraints what project would you wish to pursue?

GAVIN:  Obviously a Jules Verne movie would be high on the agenda, but I have quite a lot of projects that I would love to do.  There's my screenplay about Rajah Brooke and Borneo, there's a screenplay set during the American Revolution, there's a movie that I wrote, which is like a sequel to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, and the thing that I'm actually putting a lot of energy into at present is a movie set in New Zealand.  So, it's all kind of committed to projects that I'm trying to make happen one way or another.

Question about a musical version of Jules Verne

GAVIN:  I would love to do a Jules Verne musical.  I think that a Jules Verne musical is great.  It's just extraordinary, as you doubtless know, how many movies one way or another are being turned into Broadway shows and I think THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE as a musical would be completely wonder.  I would love to write the lyrics for that if we can find someone who can write the right kind of music.  But, wouldn't it be wonderful if we had the stage magic to bring the Aurora out onto the stage and, indeed, out over the heads of the audience.  <laughs> The Lion King has just shown what extraordinary things you can do inside the confines of the theatre and Jules Verne would lend itself to that so well.


odensdisir : Is it true that the League of Darkness is responsible for the disappearance of Franklin's last expedition to find the Northwest Passage?

GAVIN:  This question about the League of Darkness being responsible for Franklin's disappearance in the search to find the Northwest Passage, what not many people realize is that the reason people couldn't find the Northwest Passage is, of course, because they made certain experiments that closed the Northwest Passage up.  There used to be a way to get through the icy North Pole and around into the Pacific until the League of Darkness took a hand and that was a major setback in human history, which has not yet been fully explored.


theater3d : How much of your entire plotline is not in your proposals.

GAVIN:  Here's the thing about the various unmade adventures that are revealed in those proposals that have come to light, which it's fascinating for me to read again after some years.  What I tended to find happen once I started fleshing out a story from one of the ideas in the proposals that led to new ideas and new bits of Jules Verne history, which had not yet been explored.  So, yes there's quite a lot of plot line that's in the proposals.


cindy_s_roberts : We fans believed that the episode of "The Victorian Candidate" should have been longer (going into what happened to Phileas AFTER the bomb was disarmed).  When you wrote the script, was it intended to BE longer?

GAVIN:  Yes, in relation to THE VICTORIAN CANDIDATE, in all fairness to that, we did see the whole thing being worked out within a 45-minute episode.  It wasn't one that we thought of in terms of a double episode or anything like that.  Obviously, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was a major influence on that.  It was just the notion of people's minds being played with that really made it interesting to us.


lagniappetite : The ending always seemed a bit abrupt.

GAVIN:  I think that's a fair comment seeing the ending seeming a bit abrupt.  I suspect that one of the features of the show that I take responsibility for is that I dreamt up some quite complex ideas, which actually needed more than the hour-long format to work out.  They were almost movie length ideas and very often what I think happened in the editing process was that we found ourselves having to jam a lot of material into the end to resolve the story.  Having said that it makes me want to see the things expanded.  Beyond the level of an hour you could actually create the full impact just by telling the full story at leisure instead of rushing at the end.  ROCKETS OF THE DEAD is another good example of that.  And, again, that's the kind of instance where if we were ever able to get this show to DVD and include all the material that was shot, you could have some really interesting stuff.


susanmgarrett : There is an interesting sub thread in the series about fathers and sons - if you look at Phileas and his father, how the real Verne's relationship with his father might have affected this series, Passepartout being raised apart from his father . . . quite a lot having to do with the tension between the old and the new.

GAVIN:  You raise a rather interesting question about this sort of father/son relationship, the themes that appear on that in the course of the story.  In some ways, there's a father/son element in the relationship between Phileas and Jules Verne.  There's also an element, certainly if you read the original script of CARDINAL'S CHARIOT, of a father/son relationship between Alexandre Dumas and Jules Verne, partly because, in reality, Alexandre Dumas was a mentor to Jules Verne and helped to sort of [lost the rest]  There is Count Gregory's attitude toward Jules.  Count Gregory is the "empty" father. So, yes, that question of father and son relationships is a thread that runs through it.


rebeccasdisciple : After just being at odds nearly the whole of ROCKET'S RED GLARE, finally Phileas says "don't you understand, I am trying to save your life" at which comment Rebecca looks less than appreciative.  She later says to Passepartout "I can't let him take over my life"?   What's your take on her comment?

GAVIN:  In relation to this question of Rebecca's remark to Phileas, [rather] her remark to Passepartout, about not letting Phileas take over her life.  I suspect a little focus had been lost there, in the relationship there.  I'm not quite sure what lay behind that comment, to be perfectly honest, because it's not actually, I mean, in some ways, Rebecca is the one who'd trying to influence Phileas' life.  She is the one who has tried to make him the man she believes he ought to be.  So, I'm not quite sure what happened there, how that line got in.  I can't remember now quite how to explain it.  But, no, it's almost, Phileas is the one who could say, Rebecca, I can't let her take over my life, because that's what she, in some ways, is determined to do.


Continued in Part 2

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