A Surrey glassblower has had a big friendly meeting with director Steven Spielberg.
Robert Gary Parkes, who owns the Loafing Shed Glass Studio and Gallery in Port Kells, was hired to make six prototype glass bottles and give glassblowing guidance for Spielberg’s new movie, Disney’s The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), which opens in theatres on July 1.
Parkes, 63, never expected to meet the legendary director.
Working with the props team at his studio, he produced six bottles that would later be CGI’d in production and copied into larger sizes to match the “giant” characters in the movie.
After finishing the glassblowing work last summer, Parkes got another phone call – if he had spare time, could he come into a movie studio in Burnaby to finish up some loose ends?
It turned out that actor and recent Academy Award winner Mark Rylance (known for Bridge of Spies) needed advice on the proper moves of a glassblower.
Parkes spent more than 90 minutes with Rylance on the set.
“I really wanted to talk to him about (BBC miniseries) Wolf Hall,” he recalls, but Rylance wanted to concentrate on the task at hand.
Parkes, somewhat taken aback by the inaccurate (curved) glassblowing pipe provided, showed him how the art was “like ballroom dancing” with molten glass – and should be with a straight pipe.
“I’m trying to project the motions – the best analogy I can give him at the time.”
Parkes says the “ethereal” conversation was between two veterans in their respective crafts.
“As long as I’ve been in glass, he’s been acting.”
The film stars Rylance in the title role as an elderly giant who kidnaps orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) to assuage his loneliness and to help him on a mission in Giant Country.
Other actors include Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.
Although Parkes just expected to just talk to Rylance and the props crew, he was suddenly introduced to Spielberg when the director was in between scenes.
The meeting lasted about 15 seconds.
“I can’t even remember what he said to me. It was basically, ‘Hi… great… thank you…’ “
Moved along, Parkes was impressed by the massive scale and atmosphere of the different sets of the sound stage.
During a walking tour, he found himself in Victorian London, complete with gas street lights, puddles on cobblestones and hat shops ready for customers.
Parkes, a big Dickens fan, begged for a few minutes to inhale the scene before moving on.
In another “giant” set, he came upon a doctor’s bag big enough to be a living room.
“It was beyond my imagination. I could have climbed right inside of it.”
Parkes says he appreciates the effort producers went into taking his advice and props in the production, but realizes days of work could just mean a few seconds on the screen.
“I have no idea if what we were doing will actually make it into the movie.”