Terry Pratchett (The Colour Of Magic) Interview

Following the critical and commercial success of Terry's Pratchett's Hogfather, Sky One now brings to brilliant life the first two Discworld novels, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, starring David Jason, Sean Astin and Tim Curry.

Can you tell us a bit about The Colour Of Magic and The Light Fantastic?

The Colour Of Magic is the first book in the Discworld series and it's basically a buddy movie. You have a cowardly wizard who can't do magic and an innocent tourist who has a very romantic view of fantasy. He thinks it's fairies. He doesn't know that it's about big, serious drunken men hitting one another with big swords in bars. The pair are thrown together and it's up to the wizard to continually save the life of Twoflower the tourist, who actually returns the favour quite a few times.

It hasn't got too much of a complex plot, so when The Colour Of Magic and Light Fantastic came up, we realised that we could actually extend one plot through two books quite well. The Colour Of Magic is a series of humorous interlinked stories, and Light Fantastic has a struggle for supremacy at Unseen University and an enormous red star is getting closer to the Discworld, threatening to burn everything up. It's a peril a minute.

Tell us about the screenplay...

I didn't write the screenplay as such. Vadim put it together and then we spent a whole day going through it and putting in new bits and hacking here and there. I'm quite vicious when it comes to chopping my own stuff. It's amazing how much of both those books could be lost, while still keeping enough to make it worth filming. It's nice to be flexible. For example, when we had the first read through, I put in a few more lines for Death, who traditionally gets the laughs in Discworld books. There's the opportunity to tinker even while the thing is actually moving, which is rather nice.

And the edge of the Disc...

I didn't think they'd ever get it quite as rough and quite as deep and quite as long. This is the edge of the world and if you hang over it you can actually see the turtle's flippers four thousand miles down. So you're not really going to get quite that experience even in Niagara Falls, or anywhere on Earth.

It always amuses me that when you go and watch something being filmed there are people standing around and everything is happening, but what comes out on the screen looks so clean. You know that two feet in that direction there are a couple of guys standing talking and some cables and a fire engine, but magically that's gone and you just have the purity of the scene.

Vadim Jean...

Sometimes he's too respectful. He says, "We've done it like this because that's how it is in the book." And I have to say, "Yes, but if I'd have been doing it like a movie I would have done it this way. So you don't actually have to stick to the book all the time."

The picture imp...

It's simply what you might expect a camera to be if you didn't know about technology. You would think there was a little man inside painting the pictures. And so in Discworld, that's what you get. A little man inside painting the pictures and he will complain if he runs out of a particular colour and if he's overworked.

In fact, in one of the later books, Moving Pictures, Ankh-Morpork does experiment with its own cinema industry, which still uses little men painting, but they paint a lot faster, obviously.

How do you feel about Discworld fans?

Let me tell you about fans... Fans will hack it to pieces as fans do, because it is there to hack to pieces. They'll complain about the fine detail - that's the wrong colour of blue, etc. It's amazing what some Tolkien fan-sites found to say negatively about Lord of the Rings when it first came out.

Fans get very protective of something that they see as belonging to them and I think I understand that. When we took some early parts of the Hogfather along to a Discworld convention a few years ago the fans were on their feet, crying and laughing, and it was great.

But it didn't stop them afterwards saying that actually it wasn't quite right. Some things aren't going to be quite right. Some characters aren't going to look as some fans expect them to. There will be some differences and some loss of what I call texture, because even though you've got quite a lot of time to do this in, you can't get in every detail - you do have to chop things out of the books. What you try to do is keep the soul and I hope we've done this.

Fans can further explore the magic of discworld at Sky One's dedicated website sky.com/magic, featuring exclusive cast interviews, downloads and videos.