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About The Production (Cont'd)
"If Hermia is crying, which is something she does quite frequently, I cry for real," says Anna Friel, "because these characters are very real

"If Hermia is crying, which is something she does quite frequently, I cry for real," says Anna Friel, "because these characters are very real." Her character has a right to cry: After starting off in the enviable position of being chased by two suitors, Hermia finds that she has been suddenly and inexplicably dumped by both of them for her best friend, whom she was feeling sorry for only a short time ago.

Calista Flockhart plays Hermia's friend Helena, who pedals after Demetrius when he follows Hermia into the woods. "People call Helena obsessed," says Calista Flockhart, "but I like to think of her as hugely determined. I think she knows that, somewhere inside him, Demetrius loves her and she just has to get his attention -- that's what gives her confidence."

"She's not only obsessed with Demetrius," clarifies Flockhart. "She's a little obsessed with her bike. It was a bit heavy, which was great, because it gave me an incredible obstacle to work with."

The director says that the bike also proved useful in delineating Helena's character. "It ends up symbolizing all the things she mythologizes about herself which make her a victim," he says, "like the idea that she's not pretty enough or good enough or lovable enough. It becomes this thing she carries around with her, like all the negative concepts of herself that she is eventually able to get rid of."

Helena's obsession seems to have been transferred to the director: During filming at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Michael Hoffman was often seen personally testing the antique bicycles that were used in the film, making sure that the brakes and other equipment worked before turning them over to his actors.

As rich in comic and dramatic meaning as the bicycles turned out to be, he says, they started off as a solution to the practical problem posed by the film's limited budget for special effects: "Puck says things like, 'I go, I go, look how I go/Swifter than an arrow from a Tartar's bow' and 'I'll put a girdle round about the earth/In forty minutes.' And I thought, what am I going to do with that?" Then it occurred to me, maybe the turtle gets swapped for a bicycle. And what if Puck has never seen a bicycle?"

That led to an inspiration for the film's opening that helped solve what Hoffman considered the biggest challenge in filming "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream." "The hard thing for me was always the fairy world," he says. "The make-up department created creatures that penetrate a lot of the conscious levels of defense and look a little like something you've seen in your dreams. But how do you move from the concrete world of real rocks and stones to this remarkable set full of nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, Medusas and two-faced creatures?"

So, during the film's opening panorama of a bustling Tuscan town square, filled with 300 extras dressed by costume designer Gabriella Pescucci in turn-of-the-century costumes, sharp-eyed spectators will spot satyrs in street clothes who sport horns under their hats and little satyr feet, carting off spoils to adorn the fairy kingdom from which they come and upgrade its technology.

"We used the same russets, ochres and burnt siennas for that scene that we see later in the Magic Forest, to marry the two worlds," says production designer Luciana Arrighi. "Montepulci


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