What Went Wrong:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
By Shalimar Sahota
January 5, 2011
This column will go into spoilers, so if you haven’t seen The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, then you might be better off reading the graphic novel.
“In the end, retirement is too damn much fun.” Thus came Sean Connery’s reply on whether or not he would be appearing in Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He had mentioned that it would have to be something “monumental” to get him out of retirement, and many thought Indiana Jones would have been it. His response stems from the film that drove him to quit acting; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. “It was a nightmare,” said Connery in an interview with British newspaper The Times. “The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.” Notorious for being a troubled shoot, Connery didn’t get on with his director, Stephen Norrington. “On the first day I realized he was insane,” said Connery.
Producer Don Murphy had brought the rights to Alan Moore’s graphic novels, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, both for 20th Century Fox. However, it was with the latter, LXG (as it was referred to in the trailers and on the posters), which Murphy was most excited about, developing the film before the graphic novel was even published, which would explain some of the differences between the two. “The more British I could keep this, the better,” said Murphy; so in an interesting move, he hired British comic book writer James Dale Robinson (known for DC’s Starman) to script the film. The beginnings of why the film didn’t work would probably start with Robinson and the pressure he was under, revealing that the script was going through “serious plot changes,” having written 20 drafts (early drafts had the film set in America).
The film begins with a masked villain, The Fantom, attacking Britain and Germany. With both countries now blaming each other, they are close to all out world war. Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) is recruited by the mysterious figure M (Richard Roxburgh), to join a league of extraordinary individuals to stop The Fantom from carrying out his next attack in Venice. He is introduced to Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), a pirate with marital arts skills and a huge submarine, the Nautilus; Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), an invisible man; and Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), a vampire bitten by Dracula himself. Together they round up Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), an immortal who never ages; Tom Sawyer (Shane West), an American Secret Service Agent; and Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), a doctor who can transform into his giant alter-ego, Mr Hyde.
Robinson had added the character of Tom Sawyer at the request of the studio, so that the film could appeal more to American audiences. Highlighting the addition, Robinson said, “I think 20th Century Fox felt more comfortable making a movie that was very expensive knowing that there was a young American character.” In keeping it British, Murphy also picked Stephen Norrington to direct the film; famed for his adaptation of Blade.