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A Fortunate Set of DVD Events

29 Apr, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

It all comes back to death and unhappiness — that's what Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is all about, from the books to the making of the film, said Daniel Handler, author of the “Unfortunate Events” book series.

Handler, channeling his sardonically grim alter ego, Lemony Snicket, joined the film's director, Brad Silberling, and executive producer Julia Pistor for a Hollywood Master Storytellers' screening at the ArcLight theater in Hollywood, celebrating this week's DVD launch of the collector's edition DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Handler is working on the 12th installment of the 13-book series about the orphaned Baudelaire children left to ward off the nefarious traps set by their guardian, Count Olaf.Highly stylized and anachronistic, the look of the film had to be intense and artistic to take the storyline from feature to fable, Silberling said. Otherwise, he joked, “you wind up with a movie about child abuse.”

There was no better actor to cross that fantasy line than Jim Carrey for the film's over-the-top character of Count Olaf, Silberling said.

“[Carrey's] psychotic,” Silberling joked. “He's schizophrenic in the best sense of the word.”

Silberling worked closely with Carrey to hone Count Olaf's characterization. One of the treats included on the DVD is footage Silberling filmed in hair and makeup trailers, testing looks for Count Olaf and interviewing an improvisational, in-character Carrey.“A lot of that stuff actually got into the film,” Silberling said.

The closing credits feature an intricate and gothically expressive animation sequence that also was strategically incorporated into the look of the DVD menus, Silberling said. Silberling and Handler both provide commentary tracks on the DVD.

The director said working closely with Handler was invaluable and the author's input yielded several monologues for Count Olaf and the Lemony Snicket narrator character, voiced by Jude Law.

Handler, with deadpan sarcasm, likened his contribution to the filmmaking to using slightly bad milk in your morning cereal or coffee — not sour enough to make you sick, but enough to leave an uneasy twinge for the rest of the morning.

“I don't think I was a very big help, though I was asked my opinion a lot, and I would give my opinion,” he said. “Then there would be this horrified silence, and you would just know, ‘This isn't going well.’

Silberling read the books during a press tour for Moonlight Mile, during which Dustin Hoffman hit him up for a part in the eventual film. Silberling created a cameo appearance for Hoffman that turned into a DVD extra.

“Dustin didn't know who Cedric the Entertainer was, so we put them next to each other [in a scene],” Silberling said. “You see more of that on the disc, some of Dustin riffing with Cedric.”

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