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Maureen Russell with Anthony De Longis - The Best Of Highlander

Maureen RussellMaureen opened her first session on the Friday afternoon with greetings from Bill Panzer, who has asked her to convey his good wishes and to let us know that the film is going well. She said that the Best Of Highlander project has been conceived on the cruise in 1998 by Peter Davis. The inspiration had come from the USA Network's Top 10 poll, which had produced a list not to everyone's taste. A poll was carried out on the Highlander website, which produced not a top 10, but a top 13 - after all, how can you split "Something Wicked" from "Deliverance"? Peter Davis had envisaged a small audio project and a book, but Maureen had told him that it had to have video, to which he'd replied, OK, speak to Bill. Maureen spent three months with a film crew filming interviews in Vancouver and Los Angeles and carried out an audio only interview with all four Horsemen at Chronicles '99. She ended up with 45 hours of tape, something she says that Bill Panzer is not going to let her live down in a hurry. For each of the 13 episodes, they have included an additional 20 minutes of supplementary material. The episodes include "Band Of Brothers", "Legacy", "The Samurai", "Methos", "Something Wicked", "Deliverance", "Homeland", "Methuselah's Gift", "End Of Innocence", "Comes A Horseman", "Revelation 6:8" and "Duende". Maureen then showed us a compilation of the additional material, to which Anthony de Longis added some comments as we went along. Maureen said that Bill Panzer had referred to this as "Highlander - Under The Kilt". (Maureen and Anthony's comments were made in person, the rest were on video.)

We started with "Band of Brothers" and David Abramowitz talking about how they had wanted to make Darius ugly, but with great soul. He said that Werner Stocker had been perfect once cast for the part. Stan Kirsch introduced the joke played on him during the training sequence on the island, which he talked about at Chronicles '99, where one of the crew dressed up as a bear and crept up behind him during the log spinning scene.

For "Legacy", David Abramowitz said that they wanted to introduce a back story for Amanda. He said that people brought up in poverty can never have enough and this was part of his view of Amanda's motivation. He said that Amanda brings a lightness to Duncan's life. Maureen showed us a clip of Luther, showing how they had had to overdub the French actor's voice with a Canadian doing a Jamaican accent, in order for it to be able to be understood internationally. I have to say that I understood Emile Abossolo-M'Bo's accent quite easily.

Moving to "The Samurai", we saw some footage of F Braun McAsh in Griffiths Park with Anthony de Longis. Braun had flown in from Canada for two days to film for Maureen with Tony and review the fights that he had put together for the series. They recreated the fight from the end of the show, where Duncan disarms Kent by clapping his hands on the blade. Braun had a friend rehearse this several times, to make sure it was feasible, but not, as he put it, really recommended. He said that Duncan's style was more Korean than Japanese, as he often uses a reverse grip, but in the flashback, Braun had adhered to the traditional Japanese techniques. Robert Ito had martial arts experience, which had made things easier.

For "Methos", David Abramowitz said that they had wanted another Darius. Peter Wingfield said that he was a wise old guy - not - and that the first time we see the world's oldest man we're treated to a kid eating pizza and drinking beer. He felt that Methos' appeal was that he didn't have all the answers, (like he says to Richie in "The Messenger"), but that he was definitely unwilling to die. F Braun McAsh said that the fight with Kalas in the flashback had been carefully worked out to take account of the position of the chandeliers, but when they got to the location, someone had waxed the floors....

Next up, we see Bill Panzer saying that the director caught him on a weak day - he had flu - and he thought, well, how could he screw it up? The episode in question was "Homeland" and the director? Adrian Paul. Ken Gord said that everything that could go wrong did go wrong and that filming the Scottish sequences in British Columbia had been plagued by bugs. Roger, (pronounced Ro-jay) Bellon said that it was Bill Panzer's idea to use Bonny Portmore in that episode and that it came as close to being Highlander's hit song as anything.

From "Methuselah's Gift", we saw scenes from the train fight with Elizabeth looking exhausted. For "End Of Innocence", Stan Kirsch said that Richie's position mirrored his own, as he had become distant from the show. Jim Byrnes said that Joe's attitude through the story drew on some of the Marine ethos, about never leaving your buddy. From "Duende", we saw more of F Braun and Anthony reviewing the fight at the end.

That concluded the video and Maureen said that Bill Panzer had been expecting something reasonably light, not War & Peace. Asked who was the most difficult to interview, she said that they were all such sweet people. Originally, Anthony and Braun in the park should have been an afternoon, but it turned into two days and, at the end, they were desperately filming as time ran out and Braun had a plane to catch. Maureen said that Peter and Jim were funny together, but that Peter and Valentine were worse. She said that she had showed the temptation scene from "Armageddon" on the cruise and that it was the first time that Peter had seen it. He was sitting at the back with Jim and that it got to Jim a bit. The funniest interview she had done was with Roger Daltrey and he audio tape of the interview has her in fits of giggles all the way through. Asked about releasing the set on DVD, she said that Adrian had done his comments in preparation for a possible DVD release, as he had done commentary over the show which could be listened to on multiple tracks, but that nothing else had been done yet. Asked about a second set, Maureen said we should e-mail Bill. (Put the first set on PAL first, Bill, then we can talk!) Maureen said she is meeting Bill Panzer soon about a "Making of Highlander 4" book.

That's not my picture!She showed us the book that accompanies the "Best Of Highlander" and Anthony de Longis saw that they had replaced his photo - with one of Duncan! He said that there had been no photographer on the set for some of the time, as they had only hired a photographer for two half days. However, a TV magazine had been doing an article on him and Donna Lettow had been able to track down the photos taken on set. Maureen said that Bill Panzer had wanted a coffee table book, as the Watchers Guide had not been big enough, but that the publishers had decreed that the bookstores were expecting a certain size and price for a book of that type and that was that.

She said that they had ended up with 8 hours of sword footage, ("we're erudite" quipped Anthony), from Braun and Anthony's afternoon in the park, and we saw the edited highlights. Braun had used Anthony's swords, to avoid complications with bringing swords across the border, and we started with a shot from "Duende" - "I was doing so well…" said Anthony, ruefully. They had filmed without a script or rehearsal, allowing Maureen to film two days of improvised swords. Anthony said it had only been possible because he trusted F Braun McAsh. "We rehearsed for years", he said, "we just hadn't seen each other."

We saw Anthony upstaging Braun whilst the latter was explaining about the bridge fight from "Something Wicked", but Braun got his revenge with Anthony getting thrown about as Braun hooked his head, reprising how Duncan threw Coltec off the bridge. Braun said that Kronos' sword was designed around the image of a Viking helmet, with the barbs in the "eye sockets" designed to lock a sword in and with a spike in the pommel. He demonstrated a talent for understatement when he said that "Kronos is a nasty man". Anthony added that he had written some parts of the new Watcher CD under the name of Charles Anthony.

We turned, almost inevitably, to "Duende", and saw them sparring, building up speed. "I won - I shouldn't have gloated", said Anthony. The Thibaux diagram was painted on plywood and Braun had asked for sand to be mixed into the paint, which didn't happen. Tony's blade was steel, as they couldn't reproduce the spiral in aluminium, which could have been quite dangerous. There was a reverse angle which wasn't used, as Tony is quite audibly cursing as he falls. The location for the fight was chosen because the Eiffel Tower should have been visible in the distance - which it was on one shot we saw in a later session - but visibility was down to 60m during the filming of the fight itself.

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