The Pillars of the Earth
Created by: Ken Follett
Directed by: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
Written by: John Pielmeier
Cast Members: Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen, Hayley Atwell, Natalia Wörner, Rufus Sewell, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, Alison Pill
Released date: July 23, 2010
Episode(s) Number: Appeared in all episodes
Genre: Drama / History / Romance
The Pillars of the Earth is a sweeping epic of good and evil, treachery and intrigue, violence and beauty. This sensuous, spirited and passionate story is set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles which tears lives and families apart. In that time, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge.
Facts & Trivia
- The reenactments of scenes from The Prince and the Showgirl were filmed on the very same soundstage that the original was filmed on.
- Colin Clark (1932-2002) was the younger brother of the British Conservative Party MP Alan Clark (1928-1999).
- Scarlett Johansson was approached for the part of Marilyn Monroe but turned it down.
- Dame Judi Dench who portrays Dame Sybil Thorndike, actually met her several times in real life. The first time was in 1958, when Dench was in Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic. “She came round to see us afterwards and was so charming. We were young actors and she was lovely to us and strongly encouraging and gentle. I think they got very, very close to how Dame Sybil was in the script.”
- According to director Simon Curtis (in his DVD commentary), Judi Dench was unavailable for the principal photography period, and her role had to filmed about two weeks before the rest of the production. Throughout the film, Dench and Michelle Williams are never seen in the same shot, including one in which Dench shakes hands with (seemingly) Williams’s arm being extended from off-screen. Adam Recht’s deft editing gives the illusion that Williams and Dench are being filmed at the same time.
- Colin’s car is a classic MG TC Midget roadster.
Quotes From Eddie
On how his hair was an important part of his character
His flaming red hair is quite a prominent part of the story and so there’s these hilarious moments when you first come up to production and you have seven producers, directors, costume designers, and they’re all standing there and they’re not looking at your face, they’re looking at your hair,” he laughed. “They’re sort of frowning and you suddenly start taking your hair really personally. You’re like ‘Oi! Don’t be rude about my hair!’
About learning from his co-stars
When you’re working with actors of Ian’s caliber and Matthew Macfadyen … you try by osmosis to pick things up.
About filming Pillars
The shoot was about six months. We shot it all in Hungary and then in Austria, and it was kind of dumbfounding. When you’re working on something for that long there’s an intimacy you get amongst friends, and it was a really eclectic cast of Brits, Canadians, and Germans, all based out of Hungary. There is a kind of summer-camp feel to it. [laughs] You’re all living in this wonderful city away from home and you develop close friendships. And its rare that you get to work on something that everyone is deeply passionate about, and there’s something about the story of “Pillars.” Most people who read [the novel], including Oprah [who selected it for her book club in 2007], have become so devoted to it as a story that we really wanted to serve the book and the story as well as we possibly could.
About his castmates and the range of experience on the set
What was lovely is on the one hand, you have Sam Claflin, who plays Richard — who’s now, like, the lead in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, and Hayley Atwell [Aliena]. Sam had literally just left drama school and his career is just starting and is about to explode. And then you have Rufus [Sewell] and Matthew Macfadyen, who are wonderful British actors who have had these fantastic careers, and right up to Ian McShane and Donald [Sutherland]. We felt like at every level you had people to aspire to, or to learn from. There was a collective passion for it. We all really, really cared about the story, and the man helming it was a guy called Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who was Spielberg’s first for many years. He’s such an ingenious talent. As you saw, the scale of it is so epic that to keep the momentum and the energy up for six months worth of shooting every day was kind of formidable. So we were all behind him as well.
His thoughts about his character Jack
What I love about him — and actually why all the characters and the fabric of the piece works so well — is that they’re all flawed human beings. Jack is, maybe in some ways, the hero, but he does start mute. He’s woven into the story gently as he’s gaining confidence and passion, but he also retains his flaws throughout the piece, right up until the end. Whether it’s his ambition for his art or his family commitment, I think that tempestuous or wild quality that he has from the outset is something that I wanted to [bring out]. So I suppose what attracted me to the part was that he wasn’t your typical hero. He was flawed, he was eccentric in some ways, and that was kind of amazing because it’s rare that you get to read that sort of character. But also it was a massive challenge because, as I say, you were shooting for six months. At one in the morning you could be playing Jack when he’s 17 years old and then in the evening playing him when he’s 35 years old. [laughs] And you’ve got thousands of these scenes and you’ve got this wealth of material and you have to definitely be on your guard as to where, exactly, you are within the context of the story.
July 23, 2010
The succession to the crown of England is in doubt and causes King Henry’s daughter and nephew to compete for the throne. Church politics see Philip, a monk, elected the new prior, which leaves him indebted to Deacon Waleran.
July 23, 2010
A fire destroys Kingsbridge church, giving Tom, son Alfred and stepson Jack the chance to build a new cathedral. Prior Philip learns the power of politics when he gets caught between Bishop Waleran and the Hamleighs’ quest for Shiring Castle. Kingsbridge is rocked by the accusation of Ellen being a witch.William takes Aliena and Richard by surprise in a brutal attack. Aliena makes a promise to her father.
July 30, 2010
Aliena protests her father’s imprisonment. Prior Philip and William find themselves in a standoff over access to stone in the Shiring quarry. Jack’s artistic talents take hold as he begins to carve a statue to honor the cathedral relic. King Stephen visits the cathedral worksite, but collapses in a fit of terror. Aliena starts a fleece business to help earn money for Richard’s chance to become a knight.
August 6, 2010
William applies to have his father’s title of Earl transferred to him, and discovers a mysterious knight is also a rival for the Earldom. King Stephen, frightened by Jack’s appearance, orders an assassin to kill him. The battle between King Stephen and Maud sees each side’s leader being taken hostage. Philip is tortured into a confession when Waleran tells Maud that he is the man who betrayed Earl Bartholomew.
August 13, 2010
Waleran and Regan engineer the prisoner exchange so that they remain on the winning side of the war. Tom wants Jack and Alfred to be friends, but their rivalry over their work lives and Aliena is too intense. Meanwhile, William decides to attack Kingsbridge as a way to stop the fleece fair and Aliena’s success. The Hamleighs and Prior Philip are granted rights to Shiring land, but it comes with a price.
August 20, 2010
Richard returns from war to find his sister penniless, with no more money to support his knighthood. Alfred offers himself to Prior Philip as master-builder. Aliena has to choose between her love for Jack and her oath to her father. Regan forces Waleran to speak to the King about William’s long-delayed Earldom. A disaster at Kingsbridge becomes a way for Waleran to remove Prior Philip from his position.
August 27, 2010
As a result of his journeys, Jack has learned how to fulfill Tom Builder’s dream of a cathedral filled with light. Aliena tracks Jack by following the trail of his carvings. Waleran offers Philip a new position, but it means that Philip must always obey Waleran. Kingsbridge becomes prosperous again which infuriates Regan and William, who plan an attack that is met with resistance from Richard, Jack and Philip.
The Work of Angels
August 27, 2010
Eight years later, Jack’s fixation with the cathedral leaves him little time or energy for anything else, while Aliena’s fixation with the distant Earldom of Shiring has married her to Alfred, a man she hates. Waleran and Alfred develop a plot to get rid of Jack for good and it seems to be working until evidence comes to light that makes all wrongs rectified.