Making The Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir

Making The Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir

by Jonathan Sanger


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The true story of John (Joseph) Merrick—a.k.a. the Elephant Man—has captured the imagination of generations of audiences, critics, actors and filmmakers. In 1978, producer Jonathan Sanger received a screenplay from two unknown writers about a hideously disfigured man who refused to fall victim to despair and instead exemplified human dignity. Reading it (twice), Sanger was determined that Merrick's story would be told.
This book is Sanger's unvarnished first-person account of how The Elephant Man (1980) was made. His adventure in filmmaking—itself a study in triumph over despair—involved special effects nightmares, scheduling conflicts, location issues and many risky decisions. Assembling a team that included Mel Brooks (executive producer), David Lynch (director) and actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, Sanger persevered in making this inspiring, award-winning film.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476666624
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 11/30/2016
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Preface 1

1 The Babysitter's Boyfriend's Script 3

2 Mel Comes on Board 9

3 Jimmy Stewart on Venus 17

4 "This is Pinocchio" 25

5 Principal Casting 31

6 The Green Light 40

7 Finding Allies 49

8 Live Human Freaks Required 58

9 "The darkest times of my life" 65

10 Meeting John Merrick 71

11 Shooting Begins 80

12 "This is going to work" 91

13 Happy Every Hour of the Day 105

14 Post-Production 111

15 First Audiences 124

16 From Disaster to Triumph 133

17 "We got eight!" 147

18 Life Lessons 159

Afterword 166

Appendix: A Pictorial Storyboard of The Elephant Man 173

Chapter Notes 190

Bibliography 193

Index 195

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Making The Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
Luck plays its part when the author of a script is friends with the producer’s babysitter. Skill plays its part when the written page captivates and enthralls the man who will bring it to the screen. Knowing the right people helps a lot—choosing the right people, giving the right people freedom to make their own choices… making friends, being ready to forgive and try again, staying loyal, being kind… together all these skills combine to make a wonderful movie and an intriguing book. In Jonathan Sanger’s memoir, these skills come together to inform, inspire and entertain the reader in a tale that’s enjoyably readable and accompanied by well-chosen photos from the movie and from behind the scenes. Making the Elephant Man invites readers into and behind the film set, telling the story from concept to completion, and including a wealth of fascinating facts, vignettes of well-known characters, information about filming method, the tasks of producers and directors, the making of masks, and even the choice of which scene should be filmed how and when. I really enjoyed the insight into a world I shall never know. But I also enjoyed the sense that these lessons could be applied elsewhere in any creative endeavor. As an English American, I loved the contrasts between our countries too. Now I want to watch the film again! Disclosure: I was given a copy by a marketing company and I offer my honest review.
JeanKatherineBaldridge1 More than 1 year ago
Making The Elephant Man, A Producer's Memoir by Jonathan Sanger The story of The Elephant Man, John Merrick, is well known, and remains famous long after the film was nominated for eight Oscars in 1980. The Elephant Man was a man found living in a freak show in London in Victorian England. Seriously deformed (primarily by neurofibromatosis, a condition unknown at the time), he was taken under the wing of a doctor who began to realize he was not only a freak, but a man with a beautiful spirit. The story is true. Jonathan Sanger made the film for love, but each person he involved in the making of it joined in, completely enthralled by the feeling of the script and the story. The script had been discovered by Mr. Sanger two years after a babysitter had left it with him. Written by Eric Bergen and Chris Devore, it instantly drew him to it. Once he had Mel Brooks on board, he choose little known director David Lynch to add to the scrip and to direct. Although the film was initially brought to life in California, it was shot and wrapped in Great Britain. Jonathan Sanger lived in London for a year working on The Elephant Man, with his team. The book discusses the fascinating way that actual Victorian streets were used for some of the shots. The photographer was able to provide just the sort of atmosphere Mr. Sanger and Lynch wanted. The editor, hand picked by Sanger, made sure the dailies were perfect as well. Some of the people this great producer discusses in this fascinating memoir include director David Lynch, Mel Brooks (uncredited executive producer), John Hurt as John Merrick, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, and Wendy Hiller. The trials and the frustrations of making The Elephant Man are addressed frankly (I would love to share the make up story with you but I won't--it's too unbelievable! You must read it for yourself!). However, more than the hardships are the magnificent heights this memoir of making The Elephant Man rises to. Mr. Sanger, who oversaw all aspects of production from start to finish (including music and costumes) shows the viewer how noble we can be if we choose to be. He teaches the reader why and how looking up at the stars and feeling the magic of the everyday world are something we all should be grateful for. If you read this book, make sure you go back and buy or rent The Elephant Man. It is one of the most beautiful films ever made. After you read Making The Elephant Man, A Producer's Memoir, by Jonathan Sanger, you will clearly see why.