The Tempest

A Conversation With Peter Fonda

You just received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for your performance in "Ulee's Gold." You must have reveived numerous offer to star in upcoming projects. What attracted you to this project?

First of all, I love Shakespeare. Secondly, I doubt I ever would have been offered this kind of role had it not been for "Ulee's Gold." Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, when would I ever get a chance to play a wizard, where i can change people into ravens. I can turn people into snakes. I can create storms for the Tempest. And this broughy me a chance to be invited into millions of homes. I get to go into people's homes for one night and just make magic happen. I can't wait to be in 23 million homes as a wizard. It is great stuff. When else do I get that chance? NBC said "Yes, you can do this" and I thought "Hot dog!" It was just too cool.

How do you think audiences will relate to this adaptation of Shakespeare?

This is fairly on the target of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but set in a different time. But it's very true to the story and the characters. It's not the same thing. But it's true to the struggle, the inner struggle of the character Prospero. Gideon Prosper has the same inner struggles and so forth and now I've exiled myself, so to speak, with the help of my evil brother, wonderfully played by John Glover. We've built this incredible treehouse. And when you really get a chance to see the treehouse, you're going to want to have a room in there.

The Tempest - Promotional Still The Tempest - Promotional Still

The American Civil War makes this more accessible to an American audience. By doing this in a more American idiom, we take the story, and without diluting it, we just changed the surroundings. It has the characters - my name is Gideon Prosper, but that's Prospero. My best pal, yet slave, is Ariel, and Caliban is a man called "Gator Man" In a way, it's doing Shakespeare's "Tempest," but this is NBC's "Tempest." That's the thing about Shakespeare. He was able to, on a stage, include action and drama. And this has both - action and drama.

What was it like shooting on location in a bayou?

We dealt with incredible heat and tremendous humidity. And the most "Action" was called, we forgot about it. It was a great story, and I played a beautiful character. And Jack Bender directed it extraordinarily well. I was thrilled to be with this group. We all put up with the heat and humidity and we did it with smiles and nobody was ever oppressed by it all. We were all so excited.

How did you deal with the scenes where you were blown around and rained on?

It's part of the process. It's part of the story. If I was not into it, I wouldn't have been able to have a moment to fill. So I had to be enthusiastic with junk blowing at me at a hundred miles an hour and it was tough. That we were able to deal with these conditions is why I am so thrilled about the project. And in all of that maelstrom, I have to find a way of making less and having it become more. I love that challenge.

Have we seen anything like this before on TV?

This is going to be much different in its own way than "Merlin," and at the same time, very much similar. It's the same effect house doing our effects. We'll have the same quality of effects. It's sorcery and magic, but they revolve around the elements: fire, water, storms, fog and men turning into ravens. However, we have to end up in a reality situation. And that's how we end it. We end it a little differently than Shakespeare's play.

Would you describe this as an action, drama, suspense or magical movie?

Let me say this about the story. I always am interested in people who can reduce everything to two things. To quote somebody a lot smarter than me, George Bernard Shaw, he reduces art in terms of this saying, "It's either a magic frog in an ordinary garden, or it's an ordinary frog in a magic garden." We, excuse me Mr. Shaw, but, I get to be a magic frog in a magic garden. This is wonderful - to disprove George Bernard Shaw . I'm a magic frog in a magic garden. And I'm still getting paid. Wonderful. Don't let anybody kiss me though - it could change the whole damn thing.

But this also has action and drama. It has all of it. That's the thing about Shakespeare. He was able to, on a stage, include action and drama. And you don't think of a stage play as an action thing. But Shakespeare was able to pull that off.