Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Hatching a Hollywood Fairy Tale: Watching the Filming of His Novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gay Author Gregory Maguire Was Impressed with the Stars-And the Cell Phone. (Television)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Hatching a Hollywood Fairy Tale: Watching the Filming of His Novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gay Author Gregory Maguire Was Impressed with the Stars-And the Cell Phone. (Television)

Article excerpt

My exposure to TV as a child was limited, therefore I love the special magic of made-for-TV movies--the budget-mart sheen of their sets and their themes alike, to say nothing of the artificial plot climaxes when the coitus interruptus of advertising needs to break in. When I heard that my 1999 novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister had been purchased for an ABC TV film, I cherished the slim hope that I too might be invited to the ball--I mean, the filming. I wanted to see the magic close up.

My invitation came in the form of an E-mail communiqu4 from Alliance Atlantis, the company producing the picture. I shopped for clothes with which to make a good impression--mostly mittens, for the filming was to take place in Luxembourg, in what turned out to be northwestern Europe's rainiest, windiest November in the past several decades.

The pumpkin coach was British Airways and then Sabena--actually not coach at all, but business class. When I landed in Luxembourg, a driver from the production company met me and handed me a small plastic implement for my use while in the country.

A cell phone.

I'd never handled one, believe it or not.

The first evening, the executive producer, Ed Gernon (Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows), took me by the elbow and ushered me across the floor of the hotel restaurant. "We're dining with Trudie Styler," he said. "Hi, Trudie!" Sotto voce: "You know who this is, don't you?"

I didn't, and in between the maitre d's podium and the restaurant's best table I could think of no one in Luxembourg to call to find out. Luckily I picked up fairly quickly that this was Sting's wife, and I got around to asking casually, off the cuff--not that it mattered much--whether Sting might be joining us later. (He would not. It wasn't that kind of a fairy tale.)

In my retelling of Cinderella, set in 17th-century Holland, Trudie plays the gypsy queen, a kind of fairy godmother. She is commanding and serene if less portly than your usual fairy godmother. Jonathan Pryce plays the guild portraitist who paints Cinderella in oils. Stockard Channing is Cinderella's stepmother.

Cinderella (in my story, named Clara van den Meer) was brilliantly cast: a young English actress named Jenna Harrison. Possessed of a perfect pout, Jenna is so beautiful that I could almost feel the cameras blinking their lenses in disbelief.

But the so-called ugly stepsisters, Iris and Ruth, make the show. …

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