Based on the classic dystopian graphic novel series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, James McTeigue's V for Vendetta starred Hugo Weaving as V, a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing anarchist intent on destroying British Parliament in a totalitarian England of the future. Along the way he saves Evey, played by Natalie Portman, and successfully draws her into his revolutionary plans.
Here are some facts about the movie to remember, particularly on the fifth of November.
1. The graphic novel was inspired by Margaret Thatcher.
“Our attitude toward Margaret Thatcher’s ultra-conservative government was one of the driving forces behind the fascist British police state we created in Vendetta,” illustrator David Lloyd explained of his and Moore’s original story for V for Vendetta, which was written in the early 1980s. “The destruction of this system was V’s primary reason for existence.”
2. The writer of Road House got the first crack at adapting the story.
Hilary Henkin (Road House, Romeo is Bleeding) wrote an early adaptation of the graphic novel, which was singled out as one of Hollywood's best unproduced scripts in a 1993 Los Angeles Times article. Her script was described as a “wild, over-the-top saga” and a cross between Les Misérables and A Clockwork Orange. In 1998, Henkin was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Wag the Dog (1997).
3. The Wachowskis wrote a script for V For Vendetta before they worked on The Matrix trilogy.
Lana and Lilly Wachowski acquired the rights to V for Vendetta in the mid-1990s, then promptly wrote their own screenplay. After directing the three Matrix films, the Wachowskis weren’t interested in returning to directing right away, but they did make alterations to their V for Vendetta script, including moving the story forward in time and making Evey older.
4. V for Vendetta marked James McTeigue's directorial debut.
James McTeigue was first assistant director on the Matrix movies, as well as on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and was picked by the Wachowskis to take charge. "A lot of the filmmaking process is about trust, and at the point that [Lana and Lilly] said, 'We want you to direct it,' they were about trusting me to go off and give it the vision it needed to be directed with, so they kind of left me alone," McTeigue said. "They were there if I needed them, and sometimes I’d go, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' and they’d put their two cents worth in, and I could either take it on board or leave it at the door."
5. Alan Moore declined to watch V for Vendetta—or to be credited on it.
Alan Moore had read the screenplay for V for Vendetta and considered it “rubbish.” Moore believed DC Comics and the film industry had knowingly stolen from him. Conversely, David Lloyd praised the movie moments after he had seen it for the first time, declaring it a “fantastic representation” of the work they did, according to McTeigue.
6. James Purefoy was hired to play V—then fired three weeks into filming.
James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, Resident Evil) was originally cast as V, but reportedly turned out to be not a “dynamic enough presence” for the filmmakers. Purefoy denied rumors that his departure from the film had anything to do with him being uncomfortable wearing a mask all the time and swore that “it was genuine creative differences.” He was replaced by Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Matrix), who broke the ice with Natalie Portman over a “very nice Thai meal.”
7. Natalie Portman and James McTeigue did their homework for V for Vendetta.
McTeigue studied Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1966), about Algerian revolution against the French. Portman watched the documentary The Weather Underground (2002), about the late 1960s/1970s American radicals, and read the autobiography of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who was shaped by his imprisonment by Soviets, as well as Antonia Fraser’s Faith and Treason, a book on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
8. V for Vendetta was mostly filmed in Germany.
Producer Joel Silver claimed moving most of V for Vendetta's production to Germany was economically advantageous for the studio. V’s “Shadow Gallery” was filmed at Babelsberg Studio in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam, the site of Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927). The late John Hurt, who played High Chancellor Adam Sutler, found it “strange” to play an Adolf Hitler-type character in the middle of Berlin—sometimes in locations where Hitler himself gave speeches.
9. V for Vendetta received unprecedented permission to close down Downing Street.
It took nine months of negotiating with 14 government departments for the filmmakers to gain permission to film on Whitehall, London's famous thoroughfare that runs from Trafalgar Square to the Parliament Buildings. The film shot three nights in a row between midnight and 5 a.m.
10. Natalie Portman’s head-shaving scene had to be shot in one take.
McTeigue utilized three cameras for the scene. "It was a one-shot deal, and that was the most stressful thing about the experience," Portman said. She also claimed that her shaved head made her more recognizable to onlookers.
11. Adrian Biddle, V for Vendetta’s cinematographer, died before the movie’s release.
Oscar-nominated cinematographer Adrian Biddle (The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise) passed away on December 7, 2005, at the age of 53, following a heart attack. V for Vendetta, which was released in the U.S. on March 17, 2006, was his last movie.
12. It took 200 hours to build V for Vendetta's dominoes.
13. V for Vendetta was supposed to come out in time for Guy Fawkes Day.
The original plan for V for Vendetta was to release the film on November 5th, for Guy Fawkes Day, and the early trailers said to “remember, remember the 5th of November.” But then the film got delayed in post-production and came out on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. V for Vendetta landed the top spot at the box office during its opening weekend, where it earned more than $25.6 million in its first few days alone.