Our local art house theater just had a screening of The Last Unicorn. Peter S. Beagle himself was there to sign books and he did a Q&A session before the meeting. I was so thrilled to share this movie and this story with my daughter. Peter S. Beagle signed my battered copy that I had when I was my daughter’s age and a new copy for her. The legacy continues.
You guys, I have to tell you that I was so excited to meet Peter S. Beagle that when I finally got to meet him I became completely incoherent. He actually had to say to me, “Can I sign that for you, dear?”
Here’s just a few highlights from the Q&A:
What does The Last Unicorn mean to you now that it didn’t when you wrote it?
The only person who predicted what would happen to this book, which I was so desperate to get finished, was the writer Robert Nathan…who told me, “This is going to be the book that everyone knows you wrote, even if they don’t know you wrote anything else…I’m coming to realize on this tour, and over the last several years, that the book means things to people that I never imagined it would. When enough people have come up to you to say, “Thank you for my childhood”, you start to feel like Schmendrick, the first time in the outlaw camp, when he actually makes something happen, and he picks himself up slowly, and says, “I wonder what I did? I did something!”
What inspired you to write The Last Unicorn?
It had nothing to do with inspiration. It came from sharing a cabin with an artist friend. We had grown up together, and he was always the artist, and I was always the writer. We decided to share this cabin for the summer as a working vacation…he would go out everyday and paint, and I would think of something to write. I couldn’t think of what to write. And finally, out of pure desperation, I came up with the image of the unicorn going somewhere with a companion. And I wrote the line, “The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone”. OK, now what?” Apart from the first draft, which is totally different from what you know, I was pretty much making it up as I went along.
What was your experience of writing the screenplay for the movie?
My 100% contribution was that I wrote the script. And, for the most part, they filmed it exactly as I wrote it. Beyond that, my major contribution was that just almost all of the actors involved knew the book and loved it. No one had to be asked twice to be in the cast. And some, like Rene Aberjonois, forced there way in, by insisting that if he was not given a part, any part, he would be on the producer’s doorstep every day and make a nuisance of himself. So I was complemented enormously, and felt valuable.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while working on the novel?
Well, finishing it, for one. And figuring out..I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have any idea where the unicorns where for a big part of the book. and I certainly didn’t know what Schemndrick was going to do to rescue the unicorn from The Bull. Another major challenge was realizing that I was writing a novel that was both a fairytale and a spoof of fairytales. Which is very difficult. I can only think of a few books like that, the major one being The Princess Bride. The other part was making it look as though I knew what the hell I was doing all along.
Is there any part of the movie that you don’t like?
I’m really not crazy about the over-buxom tree. The dialogue was actually pretty much the same as it was in the book. But I always squirm a little bit, I have to admit.
The Last Unicorn Tour is happening all across the country and it was not only thrilling to meet Peter S. Beagle and hear the Q&A session, but it was also thrilling to see the movie on the big screen. And it had that excited, communal experience that fan experiences tend to have. In the lobby we met this cosplayed, who is online as Cspranklerun – isn’t she gorgeous as Lady Amalthea?
If you’re curious about the movie from a kid’s point of view, here’s a capsule review from my ten year old consultant: ”It’s really exciting and fun. I really like the animation of the Red Bull and the Unicorn. I didn’t like the animation at the credits but the rest was good. The storyline is really good and lastly I really love how it talks about the unicorn as this beautiful, wonderful; precious thing. Last but not least, I like the butterfly!”