Articles & Reviews: Around The World In 80 Days



TV Guide: Long Dazed Journey Into Primetime

April 1989

 

—Michael A. Upton

How does Pierce Brosnan keep his cool? As Phileas Fogg, the literally dashing young hero of NBC's miniseries Around the World in 80 Days (April 16-18), Brosnan travels by boat, train, airship, land schooner, rickshaw and elephant—and barely breaks a sweat.  There he is in Calcutta (above),
having just rescued a beautiful Indian princess (played by Julia Nickson, right) from being burned
alive in a Hindu ritual.

The immolation scene was piercingly hot for cast and crew  It was actually shot in Thailand on a
day when the mercury soared to 120 degrees—and that was before they lit the pyre. When the
filming was over, every one made for the shade. Except for a hundred Indian extras—and Brosnan.
whom they insisted on teaching some of their native dances. In exchange. Mr. Cool taught them
how to dance La Bamba. 

Not so cool and calm was John Hillerman. That's him peering over the palm fronds (right) as Sir
Francis Commarty, one of Fogg's traveling companions. Sir Francis is fretting over how Phileas is
going to snatch the princess to safety. What worried Hillerman, though, was how were they then
ail going to scramble up the back of their getaway elephant (above left)—without falling and
breaking their necks? Hillerman and company did it perfectly on the first take. His secret? "All I
could think of is that I only wanted to do this once."

Far riskier was a scene in which Fogg's flying machine. Purple Cloud (above), takes off from an
ancient Mediterranean arena First, Fogg, his valet, Passepartout, and Lucette,  a comedy French stowaway (played by Arielle Dombasle, above) were filmed in the gondola as it began to rise.
Next, a stunt pilot went up alone. He'd just cleared the arena when an unexpected burst of wind
sent the airship crashing back to earth. The pilot walked away unscathed.

 "Is this any way to run a railroad?" That's what Passepartout (Eric Idle, above) seems to be
asking—and for good reason. The scene: Nebraska, where Fogg's train comes under siege by
Indians. Passepartout accidentally uncouples the locomotive from the passenger cars. Shooting
in Yugoslavia, the filmmakers instructed the engineer to be sure to back the engine up to the
same spot after each take.  But each time it would continue to surge forward, leaving the rest
of the train—and film crew—further and further behind. "No, no, no! Go back!" the producers kept shouting. "The train can't go back," the engineer finally told them. "Why not?" "This train," he
explained, "only goes in one direction," Welcome to Yugoslavia!

All the producers' problems should have been as easy to solve as this one: how to film Lee
Remick (below) in a bathtub - tastefully. The lovely Ms. Remick has a cameo as the divine Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Europe. And, apparently, the cleanest. An impertinent
Fogg bursts into her stateroom and finds the great lady holding court in her ornate iron tub he
modestly averts his gaze.  Viewers, of course, won't. Hence, the great Sarah Bernhardt coverup.
"Being the authentic realists that we are," says producer Renee VaJente, "we decree that bubble
baths were in vogue in the 1870s." What would author Jules Verne have made of this scene,
which isn't in his novel? We haven't the foggiest.




Calhoun Times: Pierce Brosnan gets around

By: Laurie Werner

April 8, 1989

 

The man of 'Steele' goes 'Around the World in 80 Days' next week

Pierce Brosnan hasn't had the best of times since the rise and fall of TV's Remington Steele. The series' cancella-tion in 1986 let him accept the movie role of James Bond; the series' tempo-rary resurrection forced him to publicly, bitterly, give 007 up.

So he made ministries like Noble House and movies — Nomads. The Fourth Protocol, Tqffin, The Deceivers — which bombed in theaters.

The Irish-born, London-raised 35-year-old plans more movies; he expects his wife and three children to live like nomads the next few years, away from their homes in Malibu and London. The family globe trotted for his newest project. Around the Worid in 80 Days. The NBC miniseries, in which Brosnan stars as adventurer Phileas Fogg, airs next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Remaking Around The World In 80 Day seems a gamble. People are so familiar with the classic which David Niven played the globetrotting English gentleman. Did that worry you?

No, because a whole generation hasn't seen it — it doesn't get trucked out like The Sound of Music. I don't think we're treading on hallowed ground; ours is based on the book, not the film. Our writer, John Gay, has introduced historical characters like Queen Victoria, Jesse James and Sarah Bernhardt, which enhances the story.

You obviously had to travel widely.

We went around the world in 70 days, actually; that's how long it took to shoot. We started in London, moved on to the countryside in England, then Hong Kong, Thailand and Yugoslavia. We had five locations in each country and three different crews. But the nucleus remained me and (co-stars) Peter Ustinov, Eric Idle and Julia Nickson.

Was it dangerous?

It did get a bit hairy. The zeppelin airship, for one, proved a bit tiresome. We were in it, shooting a scene, when the bloody thing came crashing down, dropping 90 feet Luckily, everyone was all right. Then there were the elephants.

You had to ride an elephant?

Yes, and once they start running, you can't stop them. But the worst thing a that happened to my elephant was that he got stuck in the mud while we were crossing the River Kwai in Thailand. He started to sink, slowly, while I was up there, stranded. So the director called lunch break, someone brought me lunch and I sat there and ate.

So much for your glamorous job. Being a star is supposed to have fun, but your movies haven't worked out have they?

No, they haven't clicked with the public. You kind of think, "It was my fault, all my fault." Then you realize that analyzing failure is a real waste of tune.

Have you gotten over the disappointment of of losing the James Bond role?

Well, there's still a little feeling of... what would it have been like? The whole escapade was boring and tedious and hurtful and painful.

What would your Bond be  like?

He would have had humor. You have to have humor in what you do, some wiggle in your work. And that's the direction I'm going in now: light, sophisticated comedy. I'm shooting a caper movie for HBO, The Heist, that's very tongue-in-cheek. One picture that I'm producing and will star in (for 1990) is a Cary Grant picture, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

That probably will solidify your image as a handsome guy with a light comic touch ...like Cary Grant.

There was only one Cary Grant But I realize I have a certain style and audience from Remington Steele. So instead of doing obscure films, I figure I should pick something people want to see. That's exactly what I'm doing.




N.Y. Times: Solid Casting Helps Keep This Phileas Fogg Aloft

By John J. O'Connor

April 16, 1989


Produced by Mike Todd, one of the more irrepressible hucksters in show-business annals, the 1956 film version of ''Around the World in 80 Days'' won a number of Academy Awards, including one for best picture, one for Victor Young's score and another for best script. S. J. Perelman was among the writers.

Produced by Mike Todd, one of the more irrepressible hucksters in show-business annals, the 1956 film version of ''Around the World in 80 Days'' won a number of Academy Awards, including one for best picture, one for Victor Young's score and another for best script. S. J. Perelman was among the writers. I admit right here that I found the all-star extravaganza, running for nearly three hours, a monumental bore, its elbow-in-the-ribs spoofing generally tedious. The spectacle of sniffy David Niven being seduced by Shirley MacLaine's ridiculous Indian princess had its obvious limitations. So, the prospect of still another ''Around the World in 80 Days'' being produced for television was something less than invigorating.

But . . . .

NBC's ''Around the World in 80 Days'' lasts six hours - all right, five hours without the commercials. It is being broadcast in two-hour installments over three consecutive nights, beginning this evening at 9. Adapted by John Gay (''Fatal Vision'') and directed by Buzz Kulik, this version of the Jules Verne novel - filmed handsomely on locations in England, Macao, Hong Kong, Thailand and Yugoslavia - has decided to opt for integrity and stick close to the original source. Considered by many to be the father of modern science fiction, the French writer Verne (1828-1905) managed to transmute his keen interest in science and geography into a series of very successful adventure stories: ''Five Weeks in a Balloon,'' ''A Journey to the Center of the Earth,'' ''Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.'' Published in 1873, his now best-known work originally appeared in English as ''The Tour of the World in Eighty Days.''

This television version has one fairly consistent virtue. It assumes that the Verne story is something more than a glitzy vehicle for guest-star actors. It's not that there aren't an unusual quota of ''special appearances.'' Lee Remick pops up as the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, complete with a zeez's-and-zoez's accent. Robert Wagner puts in an appearance so brief that one can only assume the pay was irresistible. And the supporting roles are filled by names ranging from distinguished - Sir John Mills and Robert Morley - to reasonably familiar - John Hillerman, James B. Sikking and Jill St. John.

But now for the good news. Pierce Brosnan (''Remington Steele'') plays Phileas Fogg in a slyly attractive manner that makes it easy to see why this Irish actor was once a top candidate to become James Bond. Handsome, almost pretty, Mr. Brosnan takes the clever approach of ignoring his looks and, with a bow in the direction of Cary Grant, showing with considerable charm that he isn't afraid to look silly. The aristocratic Phileas is, after all, very much the cold fish, the finicky perfectionist who will no doubt do tomorrow what he's done today. Headwaiters can set their watches by his arrival and departure. Finding himself falling in love, the emotionally crippled Fogg works himself into a tizzy to confess: ''If I may say so, you are quite remarkable.'' Mr. Brosnan, without compromising for an instant, comes up with a Fogg who is decidedly odd yet always appealing.

Then there are the other principal players. Eric Idle, once one of the regular ''Monty Python'' players, employs a very thick French accent to tackle the character of Jean Passepartout, the servant who is willing to put up with Fogg's idiosyncrasies and even accompany him on the demanding around-the-world trip that has grown out of a gentlemanly bet made at London's exclusive Reform Club. Passepartout proves so loyal and useful that Fogg eventually declares, in an uncharacteristic spurt of feeling: ''I have found your service satisfactory, and I would recommend you to anyone.''

As for the Indian princess, the one Fogg saves from death in a suttee cremation ritual, Aouda is depicted here by Julia Nickson (''Noble House''). Far from being a caricature in the style of Ms. MacLaine, this Aouda is as thoughtful and intelligent as she is beautiful. In Hong Kong, she wonders aloud to Fogg about ''the English practice of invading and occupying countries other than their own.'' With her own strange melancholy, she is the perfect object of Fogg's accelerating affections, making all the nearly-kissing, nearly-declaring-one's-love scenes perfectly acceptable.

Steadily supporting the core trio of Fogg, Aouda and Passepartout is the problematical character of Detective Fix, hired by the Bank of England to arrest Fogg as the primary suspect in a bank theft. Stumbling after, and eventually with, Fogg on his world travels, Fix is portrayed by Peter Ustinov, who, unlike Mr. Idle, invariably goes for the broadest of brush strokes. Mr. Ustinov seems determined to make the rest of the cast, even the off-camera crews, collapse in giggles. With the singular exception of Mr. Morley, he offers a performance that would not have been out of place in Mike Todd's elaborate sendup.

There is still in ''Around the World in 80 Days'' the element of Verne anticipating some of the 20th-century's scientific and technological achievements. Clumsily getting across the Alps in a hot-air balloon prepares us, certainly, for the inevitable appearance of Concordes and spaceships. The whole idea of 80 days being an accomplishment sets the stage for further advancements. But these historical details are not likely to mean much in an age when high-school students reportedly place Nicaragua, if they've heard of it at all, someplace in Africa.

What still holds this romance together is not the plot, which is riddled with improbable twists. It's the character of Fogg, always pushing forward no matter the obstacles and finally realizing that his life has been a total waste, that he has become little more than a punctual machine. His ultimate epiphany: ''There has to be more to life than membership in the Reform Club.'' And it's precisely here that this production, and Mr. Brosnan, succeed best.





New York Magazine: Golden Globe

By: John Leonard

April 17, 1989


"...The mini-series remake of Around the World in 80 Days usually enjoys itself, and so did I. The production is handsome..."

TO BE ABSOLUTELY FAIR TO THE MINI-SERIES remake of Around the World in 80 Days

(Sunday through Tuesday. April 16 through 18; 9 to 11 P.M.; NBC), a more conscientious reviewer would have rented Mike Todd's original 1956 Hollywood version and reread the lutes Verne novel. Bui then there wouldn't have been lime to eat or sleep.

If we can't have David Niven, Pierce Brosnan seems to me to be just dandy as Phileas Fogg, the whist-playing and sexually repressed English gentleman who wagers a fortune at the Reform Club in 1672 on his ability to circle the globe in less than three months. "The unforeseen does not exist," he says.  And "Poetry has never appealed to me." And "I've never given politics much thought." Brosnan has recovered his Remington Steele sense of humor, his lean and sneaky charm, that capacity for well-bred grace in the face of lowbred surprise that was beaten out of him in the heavy-breathing Noble House.

As Jean Passepartout, Fogg's valet/Sancho Panza, Eric Idle is an improvement on Cantinflas. Idle, of course, is best known as one of Monty Python's Flying Circus. He is making fun of Peter Sellers making fun of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series. At one point, he refers to a bird as a "see-ah-goll." At another, as if in homage to the sexual-gluttony scene in Tom Jones, he drinks himself insensible with Peter Ustinov—who's much better as the detective Fix than he ever was as Hercule Poirot. and who seems to aspire to be Charles Laughton. I couldn't understand a word.

There will never be another Shirley MacLaine, but Julia Nickson is lovely as the lovelorn Indian princess Aouda, rescued by Fogg and Passepartout from a brouhaha of Brahmans who want to barbecue her just because her husband is dead. And she gets to make Salman Rush-die jokes about the British empire. For in-stance, when Fogg has a problem eating pigeon: "I've heard that the palate of the English is not very adventurous, unlike your foreign policy."

Otherwise, as in Around the World with Mike Todd, half the fun is spotting the cameos. Lee Remick is wonderfully wicked as Sarah Bernhardt. Robert Morley and Roddy McDowall are unlikely bankers who think that Fogg has left town with their money and send Ustinov lumbering after him. Patrick Macnee. who was John Steed in The Avengers and who would've made a fine Fogg himself, is one of the Reform Club bettors. Jack Klugman, Henry Gibson, John Hillerman, Darren McGavin. Christopher Lee. Pernell Roberts, James B. Sikking, and Sir John Mills all show up. In a very inside joke. Robert Wagner and Jill St. John arc mistaken in Hong Kong for Brosnan and Nickson, and briefly arrested.

Around depends on a shuffling of stereotypes. By channel boat, hot-air balloon, leaky freighter, wild-West locomotive, elephant, and rickshaw, Fogg and Passepartout discover that the Paris Commune is a laughing matter, Italians are in dress rehearsal for a Mussolini operetta, Indians are thuggees. Burmese are pirates, and Americans are Jesse lames. But they themselves are stereotypes and therefore forgivable. The mini-series is an equal-opportunity offender. In trouble in Burma, Fogg and Passepartout are saved by British redcoats. In trouble in the wild West, they're saved by U.S. cavalry bluecoats. (Jules Verne wasn't Victor Hugo.) In trouble with the calendar, they're saved by the international date line.

If it's long (six hours), so was Todd's (167 minutes). If it's pointless, like the novel and the Todd, at least it usually en-joys itself, and so did I. John Gay's screen-play is part Verne, part Todd, all breezy. Buzz Kulik (Brian's Song) directs with a light touch. The production is handsome and expensive, filmed on location in England, Macao, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Yugoslavia. I particularly liked the Purple Cloud balloon and the elephants. But what it should have been is a musical—even if. like Dennis Potter, it had used somebody else's music. That would have been television to enchant instead of, however agreeably, to distract.