Saturday, January 06, 2007

Making of Love in the Time of Cholera

He made Hugh Grant a floppy-haired trans-Atlantic star and teenage Harry Potter a screen hero. Now British director Mike Newell faces the greatest challenge of his career: bringing a masterwork of 20th-century Latin American fiction to Hollywood from a land better known for drugs and guerrillas.

Newell just wrapped filming for Love in the Time of Cholera, the first English-language screen adaptation of a work by Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

From the two-year struggle to acquire film rights from the notoriously protective author to the commercially risky casting of foreign lead actors to crises in filming on location, the making of the movie has been anything but easy.

Then again, neither were the 51 years, nine months, and four days that lead character Florentino Ariza famously waited in the novel for his true love. In the end, it was worth it for Ariza, and Newell and Hollywood producer Scott Steindorff are betting their travails will pay off in the authenticity of the adaptation – and at the box office.

For the last three months, Newell, Steindorff, and a polyglot cast and crew have taken over the steamy Caribbean port of Cartagena, a little-known colonial gem of leafy, hidden patios and turreted city walls where a great part of the novel is set.

They transformed cobbled squares into painstaking re-creations of the 1880s and the 1930s. They turned a commercial tugboat into a replica of a 19th-century paddle steamer. They designed makeup to span five decades and withstand 32 C heat and humidity.

There were times – when the city flooded from torrential rainstorms or less-hardy crew members dropped out – when it looked as if it wasn't going to come together.
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