Tuesday, August 18, 1998

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Kalaupapa resident Richard Marks, second from left, shares
a moment with "Father Damien" actors, from left, Sam Neill,
Aden Young and David Wenham. The group was at a news
conference this morning at the Queen Emma Summer Palace.

‘Father Damien’
film crew visits
historic Honolulu

They'll use the Falls of Clyde
but not Iolani Palace

By Mary Adamski


A group of well-known people sat down for tea at the Queen Emma Summer Palace today.

There was "Jurassic Park" star Sam Neill and British theater giants Derek Jacobi and Leo McKern, best known to American viewers for title roles in "I, Claudius" and "Rumpole of the Bailey" television mini series.

Never mind their famous faces. What palace curator Leiana Woodside and collections director Victoria Koch watched was their handling of the Spode china and silver tea set, all gifts from England's Queen Victoria.

The actors are in Honolulu this week to appear in "Father Damien," a movie by Belgian company ERA Films.

The movie "has been the best thing that happened to Kalaupapa in years," said Richard Marks, tour operator at Kalaupapa, where filmmakers have worked for the past 10 weeks. "I think we'll have to hanai the whole group."

Marks, one of several leprosy patients to play roles in the movie, sat in the midst of the top-caliber movie lineup at a press conference this morning outside the museum. Also meeting the press were Belgian producer Tharsi Vanhuysse; Australian director Paul Cox; Australian actor David Wenham, who plays Damien; and actors Aden Young and William Lebus.

The largest historical object they've been permitted to use is "The Falls of Clyde" sailing vessel at Pier 7, depicting the ship used to carry leprosy victims to the banishment isle of Kalaupapa in the mid-1800s.

What they were not allowed to shoot was Iolani Palace, which producer Vanhuysse called "a personal disappointment." He said he gave up after more than a year of negotiations with the Friends of Iolani Palace. "It would have been good to have authentic scenarios."

Vanhuysse said the production is under its $10 million budget. It will be released in the United States and abroad in February.

"I found the atmosphere very spiritual," Jacobi said of Kalaupapa. "My first impression was of great awe and great humility. It was an experience to become part of a community that is so linked."

He described his role of Father Leonor Fouesnel, one of Damien's church superiors, as "a smiley villain. He was envious of Damien, political, snide."

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