In Japanese culture, these squat little sculptures (usually ceramic or plastic) are called Maneki-neko, or “Beckoning Cat”. They’re lucky charms. Usually, the cat has one paw raised upwards. You can find them all throughout Asia, often in restaurants or shops.
About 5 years ago, I was flying back from Viet Nam. I was stuck in the Hong Kong airport for about 5 hours, wasting time in the endless shopping malls. One duty-free shop had these bulk-sale packages of plastic Lucky Cats with chocolate inside. You could buy 50 for about twenty dollars. For some compulsive reason, I bought a box of 50 and lugged them back to Los Angeles. I had a film in pre-production (The Unborn) and again, for some compulsive reason, lugged the Lucky Cats to Chicago, where the shoot was occurring. I decided to start awarding Lucky Cats every Friday, to the MVP for that particular week. Sometimes, it was an actor. Sometimes a crew member. It might be the production designer, or it might be a production assistant. Gradually, the crew got into the spirit and started competing for Lucky Cats. It became a ‘thing’. So it’s become a tradition on every shoot I do. We did it on Flashforward and I’ve transposed the tradition to the UK for Da Vinci’s Demons. The first thing I did, upon arriving in Swansea, was to have my assistant track down a box of bulk Lucky Cats. To date, we’ve awarded about 30 of them on Da Vinci’s Demons. I like to joke that if a particular crew member fucks up after being awarded a Cat, I can always take it back. But I never have. Film shoots can be so grueling that you have to do these things to keep up spirits. Lucky Cats and boxes of Krispy Kremes were utilized strategically.
Yesterday, while walking back to my hotel in Soho, I passed by a shop that only sold Lucky Cats. There was a plywood standee in front where you could pose with your face in a Lucky Cat. So I did, and here are the photos.
This past week, I attended the Roma Fiction Festival and presented a ‘master class’ on Da Vinci’s Demons and screenwriting to a local audience. Many thanks to the BBC Worldwide and Fox International Channels for helping pull the Rome event together. The press conferences and master class were enthusiastic, but surreal — when you participate, you have to wear a semi-real-time translation head-set. There’s always this odd time-lag between what you say and when it gets translated and vice versa. The lag makes for some amusing and awkward moments. The Roman audience seemed particularly concerned that we not white-wash Da Vinci’s history. They pointedly wanted to be assured that we would not shy away from controversy.
Since the Italian sites wrote up their stories in, well Italian — Tom Riley and I had fun running some snippets through Google Translate…
On the way back to London, we flew out from the “Leonardo Da Vinci” airport and spotted this larger-than-life Vitruvian Man, which seemed like a nice omen — just another reminder of how much Da Vinci has permeated the public consciousness.
Back in London, I met with our Fox International Channels partners and did some early press. Fox will be rolling out Da Vinci’s Demons in 122 countries and 35 languages virtually day-and-date with our North American premiere. It’s a mind-bogglingly complicated launch.
Next stop is New York Comic Con, where Tom Riley, Laura Haddock, Lara Pulver, and myself will be presenting the first official trailer for Da Vinci’s Demons. If you are in NYC this upcoming Saturday, please drop by our panel.
Elkpen is the pseudonym for eco-themed artist Christian Kasperkovitz, whose work deals with the relationship we have with wildlife. I first saw his artwork at a restaurant in Los Angeles called Lou. There was a large blackboard wall and Christian had done a temporary piece in chalk about the burrowing owl. I have an interest in wildlife and the environment in general, so I tracked Christian down through his website www.elkology.com.
I asked Christian if he would do something for this site — perhaps dealing with an animal that is now extinct. I’ve always had a fondness for Australia and traveled there extensively when I was younger. In particular, I was taken with Tasmania and their various marsupials (the Devil, the Spotted Quoll, etc). If you go to Tasmania, you can order a local brew called Cascade Premium Lager. Their label has the Thylacine on it (otherwise known as the Tasmanian Tiger). The Thylacine was neither a tiger, nor a member of the canine family. But this beautiful and odd animal was hunted into extinction some time in the 1930s. Fuckers.
Anyway, the Thylacine and Christian will be the species and artist in-residence on the site for the next few months. This has nothing to do with movies or TV or comic books or video games. I’ve put it on the site merely because I like it.