About The Production
The story of how "Madeline" finally came to the big screen is ironically appropriate: over five years ago, producer Allyn Stewart took her godchildren to a childrens' movie and "halfway through, I was dying to leave, it was so dreadful
The story of how "Madeline" finally came to the big
screen is ironically appropriate: over five years ago, producer
Allyn Stewart took her godchildren to a childrens' movie and "halfway
through, I was dying to leave, it was so dreadful. I got back
to my office the next day, and said 'We've got to make a great
children's film.'" When an assistant suggested "Madeline,"
Stewart, who loved the books as a child, felt "there's got
to be some reason why it's never been made, there's got to be
a problem with the rights." But her curiosity had been piqued,
and when she investigated the situation, she found that the film
rights were held by author Ludwig Bemelmans' widow, Madeleine,
and daughter Barbara, and producers Pancho Kohner and Saul Cooper.
Stewart approached Kohner and Cooper, suggesting they join forces
to produce the film for Tri Star. When they agreed, she flew to
New York to meet the Bemelmans over lunch. "I basically said
to them that if we didn't make a great movie, my mother would
kill me," she says with a laugh, and they were sold.
Reading the books again, she was struck by their timelessness
and perfection as the basis for a movie, especially now. "The
indomitable spirit of Madeline is inspiring. Every time I look
at the books, I get this glow. She's fearless. She's not afraid
of the tiger or the villain, Lord Cucuface. Even as an adult,
I think that a little girl who's not afraid, who's the littlest
one of all, is inspiring. So many films of the past few years
are about little girls who are hurt because they're missing their
parents, or finding themselves. In the case of this story, it's
about a little girl who knows who she is and takes you on a wonderful
adventure. I think that's why it's been a classic for so long."
Stewart embarked on the development process and found it deceptively
hard to get the script just right. "The hardest thing to
do was finding a way to tell a story that used elements of as
many books as possible," she says. When Stewart joined Stanley
R. Jaffe's company, Jaffilms, last year, she was "thrilled
to find that Stanley loved the books as much as I did," and
Jaffe became the film's executive producer.
Jaffe agrees that there were real challenges involved in shaping
the script. "This is almost one of the most difficult scripts
I've ever worked on," he says. "It didn't have a beginning,
middle and end, it had six beginnings, middles and ends. It kept
reading episodic. The most difficult part was determining what
a structure could be that would give the fans of "Madeline"
the icons they grew up with, enough so they were comfortable and
yet not read like we'd combined six books."
They found their ideal collaborator when director Daisy Mayer
came on board. "What Daisy brought to it was real energy,"
enthuses Stewart. "She was very tough about making sure the
picture was exciting for children, that it wasn't too precious.
She was invaluable. She really brought a point of view that helped
us get to where we are."
Mayer, whose first film PARTY GIRL is an enchanting fable in its
own right, was the perfect choice to direct MADELINE because she
subscribed to Stewart and Jaffe's basic tenet of having the highest
respect for their young audience. As Jaffe, a father of four,
puts it, "Children are much too sophisticated to t
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