Early Man

Monday 9th April 2018

Early Man is the new prehistoric comedy adventure from four-time Academy Award®-winning director Nick Park and AARDMAN, the creators of Wallace And Gromit and Shaun The Sheep. Shot in Aardman's own distinctive style, the film will take audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new world, unleashing an unforgettable tribe of unique and funny new characters voiced by an all-star British cast.
Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Mark Williams, Rob Brydon
Nick Park
Richard Beek, Peter Lord , Nick Park, Carla Shelley
1 hour 29 minutes
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Early Man is the new prehistoric comedy adventure from four-time Academy Award®-winning director Nick Park and AARDMAN, the creators of Wallace And Gromit and Shaun The Sheep. Shot in Aardman's own distinctive style, the film will take audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new world, unleashing an unforgettable tribe of unique and funny new characters voiced by an all-star British cast.

Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his best friend Hognob, as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy, Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

Early Man is the largest production mounted by Aardman in its 40-plus year history. It went into production in May 2016, and finally wound up in the last few weeks of 2017. However, preparatory work began well before the cameras started rolling.

Director Nick Park had been contemplating and refining the idea of this caveman comedy since 2010. Though he has directed short films, including the legendary Wallace & Gromit titles broadcast on the BBC, and jointly directed Chicken Run (2000), and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), this marks Nick's debut as sole director on a full-length feature.

Nick was determined to direct Early Man alone - which meant significant changes in the way the production, at Aardman's Aztec West studios, was organised.

Aardman production veteran Carla Shelley notes that whereas Nick would normally be 'directing the floor,' overseeing and doing the rounds of all the animators creating different scenes, that task was assigned to two other Aardman stalwarts, Merlin Crossingham and Will Becher, who served as animation directors. This left Nick free to direct the voice actors and to keep refining the story as filming progressed, along with writers Mark Burton and James Higginson.

Carla views Early Man as a step forward for the studio: "As elaborate and expensive as other films may have been, this one has been more challenging in some ways. Nick pitched it as 'Gladiator meets Dodgeball'. He really wanted that sort of gladiatorial feel to the stadium and to the football scenes. So there's been a lot of effects work, including computer graphics, creating the huge crowd. If we'd built that football stadium for real...well, we couldn't, it would have been bigger than our whole studio! So there were lots of technicalities in matching the physical and digital elements for the film."

Some of the statistics regarding the making of Early Man are remarkable. Around 150 people have been directly involved with the production, and at its peak 33 animators were working on the film. Early Man has required 273 puppets, made by 23 different model makers over a 30-month period. Every individual puppet was created over a period of more than 10 weeks, with the model making team completing a total of 18 Dug puppets, and eight of each member of the Stone Age tribe. An astonishing total of 3,000 interchangeable mouths were crafted for the film's characters by hand.

As for the sets, Aardman's art department made 60 trees for the Stone Age tribe's forest - each taking about a week to complete. This extraordinary pace was maintained in a gigantic work area. The combined space at Aztec West is approximately 51,000 square feet - roughly equivalent to four Olympic-size swimming pools.

"It has been incredibly intense work," Carla notes. "We've had up to 40 units on this one, working simultaneously. Normally we contain it at out at 35, but at its peak there were 40 cameras on the go at once.

"The reason we've pulled it off is we've got such an experienced team some of whom have worked with Nick for 25 years. All the model makers, set makers, the DoPs and floor crew, know their craft so well and they're the ones who managed to pull it off. There is a shorthand between them and Nick that has been invaluable....

"It's a challenge at this budget level because there's expectation around the production quality of an Aardman film so you can't compromise on that."

Visitors to the set have marvelled at the intricate work done to replicate the prehistoric era.Arguably the 'main attraction' is the Bronze Age city, which includes the gigantic stadium - scaled down to miniature size, while retaining all sorts of architectural detail.

Matt Perry, who designed the sets along with Richard Edmunds and their team, stresses: "We wanted to make the point that these were two worlds colliding - Stone Age and Bronze Age. Cavemen live in a world that's soft and lovely - bucolic with trees. The Bronze Age is the opposite -- architectural and exact. It's technical, industrial, the least hospitable place on the planet, and they're mining for their bronze ore, which is a source of wealth."

Nick discussed with Matt and Richard the notion that everything in the Bronze Age had to be 'branded,' as befits a ruthless, ideological society. So there are designs of sharp, hard, spiky helmets everywhere - even the arches of the stadium. The other recurring visual emblem in the Bronze Age city is the football, with its distinctive hexagonal patterns. It's even on its soldiers' shields. The city's team, Real Bronzio, is just about unbeatable - it's a symbol of the city's power.

Most members of the all-British cast playing characters in the lovable but dim-witted Stone Age tribe were played by actors who were newcomers to Aardman. The three most prominent roles went to actors with a high profile, for whom voicing animated characters was a completely new experience.

The key role of Dug, the teenage boy who inspires his tribe to fight for their future in their valley they all love, is played by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor® for playing Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything. But Nick Park was already aware of him, well before he won his Academy Award®.

"I'd seen Eddie in a film called Black Death, in which he played a young monk in the Middle Ages," Nick recalls. "He had a sort of vulnerable feeling, which I really liked. I was looking for someone to play a teenage caveman, who is boyish and eager - but not necessarily confident.

"That vulnerable side of him really worked. The first time I met him and we worked on Dug's voice, he said to me: 'How about if we go a bit younger?' I was amazed by how he played Dug as a dishevelled 15-year-old, and it really appealed to me."

Goona, the feisty young teenager girl who inspires Dug and the tribe to fight for the valley, is played by 20-year-old actress Maisie Williams, whose debut screen role as Arya Stark in the hit TV series Game of Thrones launched her career in spectacular fashion. "We needed a female character," says Nick, "and I wanted her to be the expert -- the best footballer of them all. Someone who could teach this bunch of idiotic lunkheads in the tribe how to play.

"And Maisie turned out to be great casting. She's an ideal Goona."

The third major role is a character who is not in the tribe, but its sworn enemy - the dastardly Lord Nooth, overlord of the Stone Age people. He is played by Tom Hiddleston, best known to cinema audiences as villainous Loki in the Marvel Comics movies, but also acclaimed for his lead role in the TV drama series The Night Manager. Tom plays Nooth with a comically exaggerated French accent. Nick hit on the idea of casting Tom as Nooth when he saw him on the BBC's Graham Norton Show, doing a brilliant impersonation of Robert de Niro - with de Niro himself at the other end of the sofa. "You wouldn't expect him to play that role," Nick says. "It's all in fun. Tom himself said the accent was a bit 'Allo! 'Allo! And you don't expect that from him either. He's the quintessential English gent."

One notable non-newcomer to Aardman was Timothy Spall, who plays Bobnar, the tribe's kindly but cautious chief. He had already worked with Nick on Chicken Run, voicing the character of Nick, a rat who is an expert smuggler. "Tim was always very obliging, and I really wanted to work with him again," Nick says. And I love the quality of his voice and his London accent. He's perfect for that role."

Comedian-impressionist Rob Brydon did double duty, voicing both the TV commentators at the Bronze Age football matches; they're inspired by real-life soccer pundits John Motson and Alan Hansen and also the Message Bird, mimicking the voice of Queen Oofeefa.

The rest of the tribe include actor-comedian Johnny Vegas, who plays Asbo, a caveman who rushes around energetically to little purpose. Mark Williams (TV's The Fast Show, Mr. Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films) is slow-witted Barry the Brummie, whose best friend is... a rock, to whom he talks. Selina Griffiths plays Magma, a cheerful, strong-minded northern woman, always up for a good fight. Versatile actor-writer-director comedian Richard Ayoade is Treebor, who looks tough but is inwardly more fearful; while Simon Greenall voices Eemak, a Geordie; he speaks but no-one can understand a word he says. Comedian Gina Yashere is Gravelle, a hypochondriac tribe member who likes to share details of her ailments.

The tribe is rounded out by Hognob, Dug's pet pig and sidekick. He communicates exclusively in unintelligible noises. Hognob is voiced by a certain Mr. Nick Park.

Never a man to pass up the chance of making a joke, Nick Park refers to his caveman film, set in prehistoric times, as 'a mammoth production!'

Yet in terms of scale, execution and preparation time, 'mammoth' is an accurate definition. As Nick tells it, the idea for Early Man has been on his mind since 2010. "It's been on the back burner for many years now - the writing alone has taken more than three years. Mark Burton started writing it with me, then went off to do Shaun The Sheep, and came back again.

"It's just the way we do it at Aardman - We cut the storyboards together first, for the whole film, then edit it, add the temporary music and voices. We've written and re-written everything 100 times, it seems. We'll decide a scene isn't funny enough or simply not working. And that goes on for two years before we even start filming. I feel like I've made the film twice! But it's worth it." Filming actually started in May 2016, but as Nick points out: "We've still been re-writing as we're shooting."

Early Man marks Nick's first directing work since the Wallace & Gromit short A Matter Of Loaf And Death (2008). Before that he jointly directed two feature-length films: Chicken Run (2000) with Peter Lord and Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2005) with Steve Box. Why did he decide to go it alone on Early Man?

"I just wanted to try it, really," he says. "I'll always be grateful to Peter and Steve, and I enjoyed directing with them. But I just wanted to be at the reins more."

He hasn't always found it easy: "It's been good to do it, but this way is a re-structure. If it's just me at the top you have to have other people you trust on the floor. I haven't been able to spend all the time with animators I'm used to. Merlin and Will have done all that.

"I've had some time on the floor, but not as much as I'd like. It makes a difference being in touch with the animators yourself." He laughs: "I can be more of a control freak! Obviously I trust Will and Merlin, they do a great job. They've been my eyes and ears on the floor. And I still have all the fingers in all the pies."

To those outside the animation business, of course, it all seems like an incredibly slow process. As Nick puts it: "If we get three seconds (filmed) at the end of a day, and if it's good, that's very satisfying. And if we're creating more than a minute a week? Well, in animation terms, that's rocking."

Going feature length, he says, "gives you more to think about - it's a big statement, a bigger scope, a bigger crew. For me, it's also being involved with the design of each character so they all look as if they're from the same stable."

He thinks of Early Man as "a story that's epic in style, with a prehistoric twist. It's about this one little guy who decides to save his tribe. When the Bronze Age people come into their valley, take it away from them and banish them to the badlands, Dug fights to get it back. He knows from cave paintings that his tribe played football, which is now almost like a religion in the Bronze Age, so he brings a football home and trains his tribe to beat them."

Nick isn't interested in football himself: "I've always supported my local team (Preston North End) out of loyalty, but that's it. And I feel as an outsider I can tell a story other people can also relate to. There are parallels in Early Man about money changing the game. But really it's not about football at all. It's about a tribe that has the right spirit."

Nick also felt his story was ideal for working in clay: "It felt very earthy. I'm a clay man myself, so I felt my style would lend itself to clay animation. It's human and there's a charm to it. I feel something of yourself comes through. It's very hands-on, quite literally, and there's a lot of nuance and expression: you're imbuing the puppets with life. I think the real strength of Aardman films is subtlety in characters -- which is where clay comes in."

He also broke ground by voicing a character himself - Dug's sidekick, the pig called Hognob. "I did it just for fun to start with, but I got voted in," Nick admits. "He's got a little bit of Gromit about him -- but he's more of a pet."

He found the hardest part of Early Man was 'creating new worlds - the badlands, the valley, the forests -- in model animation, in a way that it all looks good -- not like a train set. We're making an epic movie on a budget here. It's a nod to King Kong and to (animator) Ray Harryhausen's movies." He's particularly proud of the extraordinary Bronze Age city that has been created for Early Man. It's a triumph for Aardman's art department - and Nick revealed that every member of the team got to design a house within the city that will appear on screen - a kind of 'signature' for each one. The film's settings, he adds, "were all based on research from the Bronze age world." He smiles: "With a bit of artistic licence!"

Nick was determined to create characters from the tribe members that would come from all parts of Britain - Bobnar is clearly a Londoner, Barry (the one whose best friend is a rock) is a Brummie, while Asbo is northern and the incomprehensible Eemack is a Geordie.

"I wanted to show the diversity of Britain," Nick explains. "When you talk about the Bronze Age there'd have been lots of people here of different ethnicity. I also wanted a multi-racial mix, because of the football aspect. I didn't want to end up with an all-white team. Football today is definitely multi-racial."

In the same spirit, Nick wanted a major role for a woman - and created Goona, the Bronze Age raised girl played by Maisie Williams, whose gender disqualifies her from playing football. "It wasn't a cynical move," Nick says. "But women's football has really taken off in Britain recently - and in America teenage girls have been playing soccer for years. It seemed cool to have a female character who's also such a great footballer."

One of Nick's main strengths as an animator is his unswerving attention to detail. As an example, he worked long hours on getting Dug's haircut exactly right. "We would test record Eddie," he recalled, "then take it back to the model. Then we'd change the hair a bit. We didn't want him too clean-cut or neat. The hair needed to be a bit dishevelled. But then again, you want to see his eyes. If you can't see his eyes, how do we light the scene? So you can make one decision and, it affects several other decisions."

Nick also 'acted out' his characters on video, imitating their voices as best he could and suggesting their physical actions. It looks comical, but there's a purpose behind it: "For me to act it out has been a way of putting across to Will and Merlin what I'm thinking."

Eight years is a long haul. Does he feel the time he spent on Early Man is justified? He thinks it through: "It's taken a long time, yes. It has. But that's the amount of effort it takes, really, to do it right."

Now he's aware there are great expectations surrounding Early Man: "But there's nothing you can do about it. Just do my best and hope people like it." He smiles: "I'm going to like it!"

Nothing in an actor's training can quite prepare them for what it takes to voice a character in an Aardman film. For Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams and Tom Hiddleston, the actors who voiced the three main roles in Early Man, it was an exhilarating departure from anything they had ever experienced as actors before.

Eddie recalls: "When I got home and told my family I was getting to voice an Aardman character, I've never known such excitement - from everyone, my parents' generation, my niece and nephew. Everyone was so excited. It was a rare thing.

"When I got a call saying Nick was interested in me voicing Dug, I was convinced I'd screw it up. So I insisted on a workshop day with Nick. For years I'd idolised him and all of Aardman's works. So I didn't want to be the one who came along and screwed it up. That day we had an amazing time playing around, and ever since it's been pure joy.

"I think that's one of the things that Aardman and Nick do so well -- they create a world in which cynicism has been removed. Watching those films, it's like going back to being kids ourselves." As Eddie tells it, he had five or six voicing sessions over a two-year period: "In each session you'd just do a little chunk of the script and find the character. I'd seen a little model of what Nick wanted Dug to be, but I had to find the character in him - and Nick was right there, in the booth with me. He has such a vision, it's amazing. And Nick is the kindest man you've ever met. He has the most generous spirit - along with this beautifully clear vision of exactly what he wants.

"It was such a relief that he voiced Hognob, so we got to voice together, which was great. But we'd do some stuff and sometimes it would be just noises: 'Huh?' 'Uh?' And then he'd come back months later and they've managed to animate that scene in stop motion. Now I'm a deeply unfunny person, but it made me laugh out loud. And I thought: "That's genuinely the funniest I've ever been!"

Eddie became fond of the little character he was playing: "Dug is a plucky, incredibly friendly dreamer. He lives in the valley with his group of cavemen, with Bobnar in charge, and they hunt rabbit. They're a wonderful bunch, lively, eccentric and fun. But they're not particularly ambitious -- whereas Dug is aiming for the stars. He believes they can hunt things bigger than rabbits, and maybe even one day spear a mammoth, yet Bobnar tells him not to aspire so hard. But he won't take no for an answer. There's an underdog vibrancy about him. He sees the world with open, optimistic eyes, and without cynicism."

While he was voicing Dug, Eddie became convinced that many of Nick's characters are his 'alter ego': "On the first day, when I was auditioning for Nick, he showed me the model of Dug with a big grin that we so associate with characters like Wallace. And when Nick then smiles, you realise they come from him.

"I've known of Nick since I was growing up, watching him win Oscars, and those amazing award speeches he'd give, and when he's interviewed. He's the most affable gentleman. It's the same when you spend time with him, he's so disarming.

But the wonderful thing is, he's a passionate man, who knows exactly what he wants. And he doesn't stop until he's found it. I might try one single line 70 times. The most frustrating times were when Nick did a reading of it. You can hear it in his voice, and you know exactly what it's meant to be. You can't quite reach it yourself, but you keep trying because you don't want to let him down. He finds a very polite way of asking you to do it...70 times! But he's also that teacher you desperately want to impress. You want Nick's seal of approval."

Is Eddie a football fan? "No! And under no circumstances do you need to like football to like this film. I come from a family that are obsessed with it, and for years I'd sit around at Sunday lunch and get mind-numbingly bored with football chat. You don't need any knowledge of sport or football to enjoy this film. It's filled with extraordinary new Nick Park characters, and really it's love, humour and family that are at its core."

Maisie Williams recalls she was given a warm welcome by the crew from the first day she walked through its doors. "They had an 'introduction day' for Goona," she says, laughing in disbelief as she recalls it. "That day at Aardman was just incredible.

"We went in and saw all the different steps in creating the film, and it was so interesting. The story boards, the scripts - and of course the voice recordings. Once they've got those, they then put people in suits that match whatever shape the character is, so they put bellies on these cavemen, and then they play lines of dialogue while they act out how they want it to look on screen. So when the animators come to do it, they're not in the dark, they can copy what they see."

She recalls being amazed when she first saw the Bronze Age city, with everything about it in minute detail: "I just couldn't believe it, the length and scale and the craft that had gone into making it." Maisie came to feel her role as Goona was significant as work progressed: "When you sit and watch a kids' film, it's a fantasy world and you're watching little pieces of plasticine, but it really is drawing on things we're all familiar with -- and issues that you want your kids to understand when they're watching this.

"It's so important to me, playing Goona. She's a little girl in this male-dominated world, yet she prevails and her dreams come true. I think that's really special. It would have meant a lot for me to watch that when I was younger, so it's nice to give back to kids now.

"Goona is from the Bronze Age city, where if you're a girl you're not allowed to play football for their football team Real Bronzio. Despite this, she's an avid football fan. When she meets Dug from the Stone Age, who needs to win a football match, Goona is adamant that she's going to help because she'll get the chance to live her dream, and that's all she's worried about -- until she meets the tribe and realises they're all hopeless at playing football.

"Because she's so good at it, she becomes the coach for the cavemen and all they have is the badlands and it's a pretty treacherous place, so she comes with these activities that they can do. It's all about her teaching the tribe and watching them get better and better. It's very cool!" She was also impressed by her collaborators on the film. "Nick is really good at coming into the booth and telling you, 'this part you're doing, it's great, keep it up.'

"And it was amazing getting a chance to be with Eddie in the booth and watch him work. For him to have won an Academy Award® and played serious adult characters, and then completely put himself out there and become this child! It was wonderful to watch, and gave me a lot of confidence. I felt, 'well, if you're going to put yourself out there, then I will too.'

Maisie was overawed by the level of manual labour involved in creating the sets and characters on Early Man: "That's really great in a world that's predominantly digital now - to see people still creating with their hands -- and creating something really special. These days, when it's all high definition and everything looks clean, brushed up and photo-shopped, there's something beautiful about that. It's cool being part of something man-made and real."

Tom Hiddleston has been a fan of Aardman films since childhood: "They were so sweet and skillful, so representative of a particular kind of British charm, and I loved them. Nick himself has a natural warmth and sweetness, and all his characters in his films are ordinary, but they do extraordinary things. It's their ordinariness that makers them heroic.

"What else I learned about Nick is his sense of humour and his extraordinary detail and precision. He will go to painstaking lengths to crack a very British joke.

"I found while working with him that he's always trying to refine the joke, to make almost the purest version of it, whether it's a prop or a piece of physical comedy, or the delivery of a line. He really wants it to be the sweetest, purest form of silliness. And I think that makes you like the characters so much".

"What I find so astonishing about Nick -- and Aardman -- is the lightness of touch when you see it finished, compared with the diligence and rigour, that it took to craft those scenes. I voiced Lord Nooth for 16 whole months, but for Nick and the crew it's been a whole lot longer. It's extraordinarily detailed work, with an end result that's so light and silly. And I love that duality: so many people working so hard for a really good joke."

Tom recalls there were occasions when he couldn't voice his lines because he was laughing too much - notably in a scene when Lord Nooth is receiving a relaxing massage, unaware that it's being administered by a pig - Dug's sidekick Hognob, voiced by Nick who was also in the booth. Nooth unwittingly makes two pig-related comments, and Tom found himself unable to complete those lines, he was laughing too hard. "I finally said, Nick, I need to go outside and have a word with myself, otherwise you'll never get these lines down."

Tom recalls meeting Nick when they were together in a queue for a film industry event, and they started chatting. "Then I heard he was making this film and wanted me to be in it and play this part. He sent a script and a drawing of (Nooth). It was an amazing moment. I'd been a fan of Aardman since before I wanted to become an actor."

The script, he recalls, "made me giggle all the way through: And I loved the fact that Lord Nooth was this puffed-up, pompous, idiotic villain. I've played villains before, but there's something so self important and stupid about him. He's not really menacing, he's just an idiot. And as soon as I saw the drawing of him, with this enormous chest, small hands and bald head, I thought, 'Wow. Nick's seen my true self. He's gazed into my soul and cast me very close to home!"

Nick was clear he wanted Nooth to be French: "And then, says Tom, "it was just finding the right level of pomposity, self-importance and frustration. I asked Nick how correctly French I should make it, and he said: "Let's go for the funny option every time.' "So basically, we nailed it when I made Nick laugh."

He agrees there's not much to like about Nooth: "He's constantly worried about what people think of him, so there's vulnerability there, I suppose. But he's a greedy, vain, self-important, pompous, puffed-up governor. Also, he has designs on increasing his wealth by enslaving Dug's tribe to work in the mines, to dig up ore and minerals from the ground."

Tom relishes the fact that Early Man has an all-British voice cast: "I've managed to listen to them all, and everyone brings something unique yet immediately recognisable." As for the film, he says: "I think Early Man manages to hold on to the hand-made quality people associate with Aardman and make it special. But it also has this epic scope. It's dazzling film-making."

Two of Early Man's producers are Peter Lord and David Sproxton, the co-founders of Aardman Animation, a company they launched over 40 years ago while they were still in their teens. The third producer is the film's director Nick Park, who Peter and David hired in 1985. At that point there were just five people in the entire company.

They've all come a long way since then. First Aardman became a by-word for animation in Britain, thanks to its short Wallace And Gromit and Creature Comforts films broadcast by the BBC. Then with such animated feature films as Chicken Run and The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, it broke the lucrative U.S. market. And more recently it has become a company with a genuine global profile - partly through the success of the TV animation series Shaun The Sheep, which also became a feature film. It proved a success in such territories as China, India and throughout the Far East and Middle East, as well as Aardman's traditional territories.

David and Peter both regard Early Man as a logical progression in Aardman's continued progress, and another success for Nick Park.

Says David: "Nick's had this idea in his head for a good few years in the same way as Chicken Run was exploring something new before we did Curse Of The Were-Rabbit with Wallace & Gromit." Peter agrees: "It's evolution rather than revolution for the company. Sequels are important, but new ideas are great. Dave and I don't care where they come from -- but if they come from the brain of Nick Park, that's a very good start: 'If you like it Nick, tell us more.'

He did. And both Peter and David greeted the idea with enthusiasm.

"It's what Nick's always done," Peter says. There are so many layers of humour. There are jokes in there for people who understand archaeology. There are an awful lot for people whose idea of the past is fantastically simple. It's full of contemporary references. When Dug arrives in the Bronze Age town, there are lots of sight gags in there -- a sliced bread machine, a zebra crossing. Just jokes. "Nick's notebooks are always full of gags and ideas around a theme," according to David. "And his stories are built around those key ideas."

"I know the way he works," Peter chimes in. "He chases the brilliant joke always -- whether it's a verbal or visual joke. The idea that you have Real Bronzio playing football against people who look like Vikings! In fact, there's a few thousand years between them. The inspiration is comedy: it's the story you care about, and characters you care about. Having got that clear, then you can have as much fun as you can with the setting and characters."

Both men are amused by the liberties Nick has taken with the portrayal of the Bronze Age city: "It's a mash-up," says David. "I know the art department looked at a huge number of references. My archeology professor would have had a fit!"

Peter adds: "I don't think it's disloyal to say Nick isn't interested in that at all. It's a feat of imagination - and just being mischievous and playful with history." Peter and David both observe that Nick tries to make his films better and better as they're being shot. "Not long ago, he was thinking of new jokes for the ending while there was still time," Peter recalls. "It's what he does. Ending these films is difficult. He'd been thinking about that for a whole year.

"The thing about Nick is, he's very good at laughing at his own jokes. I think that's when he knows he has a good one. He'll move heaven and earth to get it into the film if he possibly can. Making the audience laugh is what he loves to do best - not to take away from the importance of character." Early Man, then, is quintessentially an Aardman film. But what is it that makes Aardman different? "It's the craft," David observes, "but also we're quite British -- because it works to make films in our own culture. We're different from the stuff that comes out of Hollywood."

And Peter adds: "We want to keep doing it because it's our culture, our instincts. But having said that, the assumption is the rest of the world will love it too!"

Eddie Redmayne (Dug). Multiple award winner Eddie Redmayne has most recently been seen playing the role of 'Newt Scamander' in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. The adaptation of J.K. Rowling's series, directed by David Yates, saw Eddie star in the lead role alongside Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell and was released in November 2016. Eddie will reprise his role in the sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, due to be released on 16th November 2018 and once again directed by David Yates.

2015 saw Eddie in Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl alongside Alicia Vikander. Inspired by the true story of Danish painter Einar Wegener and his wife Gerda, the story follows their passionate and unusual love story, set in the twentieth century. Eddie's leading performance in The Danish Girl received him Academy Award®, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations. 2015 also saw Eddie in the Sci-Fi production Jupiter Ascending, directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

Eddie is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything (2015). Directed by Academy Award® winning director James Marsh and starring alongside Felicity Jones, Emily Watson and David Thewlis, the film, penned by Anthony McCarten and inspired by Jane Hawking's memoir 'Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen', follows the love story between the Cambridge cosmology student and Jane Wilde, the arts student he fell in love with in the 60s. For his astonishing performance he received the Academy Award® for 'Actor in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe for 'Best Actor, the SAG for 'Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role' and the BAFTA for 'Best Actor'.

2012 saw Eddie in the multi award-winning musical Les Miserables, which was nominated for the Academy Award® for 'Best Motion Picture of The Year' and won the Golden Globe for 'Best Motion Picture in a Musical or Comedy' 2013. Eddie starred alongside 2013 Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway and 2013 Academy Award® nominee, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried. The film was directed by BAFTA and Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper. Eddie won the 'Virtuoso Award' at the Santa Barbara Film Awards for his portrayal of Marius Pontmercy. A 'Best Actor Nomination' at the Evening Standard Film Awards was among several of the other nominations.

Among his other film credits, Eddie starred in The Weinstein Company's My Week With Marilyn (2011), in which he played the role of 'Colin Clark' opposite Michelle Williams, Dame Judi Dench, Emma Watson and Kenneth Branagh. In the States Eddie was also seen in indie films The Yellow Handkerchief (2008), with Kristen Stewart and William Hurt and Tom Kalin's controversial work Savage Grace (2008) opposite Julianne Moore. Eddie made his on-screen debut in 2006 in Robert De Niro's dramatic thriller The Good Shepherd playing the son of Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. In 2007/8, he also had supporting roles in Elizabeth: The Golden Age directed by Shekhar Kapur, and co-starring Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Clive Owen and The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.

Eddie's vast CV also includes his work in British television. In 2012 Eddie was seen in Birdsong with Clemence Poesy. This two-part series for BBC1 was an adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' epic love story, set during the First World War. The Times of London described how 'It is impossible to imagine how a seminal modern novel could have been done better.' In 2011, Eddie was seen in the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated The Pillars Of The Earth, an epic television mini-series adaptation of Ken Follett's bestselling novel, in which he starred alongside Matthew MacFadyen, Hayley Atwell and Rufus Sewell, with Ridley Scott as executive producer. His other television credits include the leading role of Angel Clare alongside Gemma Arterton in the acclaimed BBC adaptation of Tess Of The D'urbervilles.

In 2010, Eddie won both Tony and Laurence Olivier Awards for his outstanding performance in Michae Grandage's critically acclaimed theatrical production 'Red' which transferred from the Donmar Warehouse to the Golden Theatre on Broadway. Eddie starred opposite Alfred Molina in this two-handed production.

He received critical acclaim for his West End performance in Edward Albee's powerful drama The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia?, where he played a troubled teen opposite Jonathan Pryce. The role won him the 2004 London Evening Standard Award and the 2005 London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer. He was also nominated at the 2005 Olivier Awards for the Best Performance in a Supporting Role. Following this, he took to the stage in Christopher Shinn's new play, Now Or Later, showing at the Royal Court Theatre. Eddie was also seen portraying Richard II, in Shakespeare's Richard II, which opened at the Donmar Warehouse in London for which he won the Critics Circle Award. Eddie's impressive body of work lead him to earn a nomination in the Orange Wednesday's Rising Star Award category at the prestigious 2012 BAFTA Film Award.

Tom Hiddleston (Lord Nooth). Tom graduated from RADA in 2005. In 2011, Tom was seen in his breakthrough role in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award® and Golden Globe nominated film War Horse, as Captain Nicholls. He was cast alongside Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Marsan.

Tom was seen starring in his first Hollywood Blockbuster as the villain Loki in Kenneth Branagh's Thor for Marvel, a role that he reprised in the 2012 blockbuster hit Marvel movie The Avengers. In 2013, Tom won the Best Villain award at the MTV Movie Awards for his role in The Avengers as well as Best Fight, which he shared with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner.

2012 saw Tom nominated for a BAFTA Rising Star Award and an Evening Standard.

Film Award in the Best Actor category for his roles in Joanna Hogg's Archipelago & Terence Davies's The Deep Blue Sea. Tom was the winner of the British Rising Star Award at The Richard Attenborough Regional Film Awards and won Best Male Newcomer for his role in Thor at the 2012 Empire Awards. Tom was seen on our screens portraying Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts 1&2 and the title role in Henry V which aired on the BBC as part of the highly anticipated Cultural Olympiad. Tom won the Times Breakthrough Award for this role at the 2013 South Bank Sky Arts Awards.

In October 2013, Tom returned to his role as Loki in Thor: The Dark World, alongside an all-star cast including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Idris Elba. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor role at the 2014 Empire Awards for his role in Thor: The Dark World, as well as the Favourite Character award at the MTV Movie Awards.

Tom is also known for his stage role as Coriolanus. Tom starred opposite Hadley Fraser and Mark Gatiss and was directed by the Donmar's Artistic Director, Josie Rourke.

In February 2014, Tom starred opposite Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, as well as 2015's Crimson Peak, alongside Academy-Award® nominee Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam.

In 2015, Tom starred in Ben Wheatley's thriller High-Rise, alongside an all-star cast including Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss. Last year, Tom received a nomination for Best Leading Actor for his role in High-Rise at the 2015 Moët British Independent Film Awards. Tom also starred in I SAW THE LIGHT, the independent biopic about the country music icon Hank Williams. Directed by Marc Abraham, the film is based on Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen's 1994 book, "Hank Williams: The Biography".

2016 saw Tom starring opposite Hugh Laurie in the television adaption of John le Carre's novel The Night Manager. Tom was nominated for an Emmy for his role, and also been nominated in the Favourite Drama Performance category at the National Television Awards 2017 and won a TV Choice Award for Best Actor. Tom recently won a Golden Globe for his performance as Jonathan Pine in the 'Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Televison' category at the Golden Globe Awards 2017.

Tom will soon be seen reprising his role as Thor's adoptive brother, Loki, in the seventeenth film installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in Thor: Ragnarok. The film was released in November 2017. Tom was most recently seen starring in Legendary's King Kong origins story, Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Tom starred alongside Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. Set in the 1970s, the film follows a team of explorers who are brought together to adventure into an island in the Pacific and into the domain of a mythical giant gorilla known as Kong.

Next year, Tom will return to the Marvel Blockbuster franchise as the villain Loki in Avengers: Infinity War. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the film sequel is set to be released in May 2018.

Maisie Williams (Goona). Maisie Williams was born on April 15, 1997. She is best known for her role as Arya Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones, which is now filming its eighth season.

The role has earned her twoPortal awards, in 2012 for best supporting actress and best young actor in television - the youngest actor to achieve this - and was followed in 2013 by the Radio 1 Teen Award for Best British Actor. In 2014 Maisie was named as one of the UK's international screen stars of tomorrow and also won The Entertainment Weekly's award for best Supporting actress.

At the beginning 0f 2015 she picked up a European Shooting Star Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Carol Morley's feature The Falling, she also received the 2016 London Critic's Circle Award for Best Young performer and The Evening Standard Rising Star Award for the same role. Her portrayal of teenager Casey, in Channel 4's Cyberbully, prompted critical acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for best single drama. Maisie is currently starring in Netflix' first UK original feature Iboy and has recently completed filming on 2 movies, Departures with Asa Butterfield and X-Men New Mutants, directed by Josh Boone.

Timothy Spall (Bobnar). Timothy Spall OBE is one of Britain's best-loved and most talented character actors. He received wide acclaim for his role as J.M.W Turner in Mike Leigh's Mr Turner (2014), for which he won seven international awards, including the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award. He trained at the National Youth Theatre and RADA and began his acting career in the theatre, with seasons at Birmingham Rep and the RSC. We recently saw Timothy return to the stage in the most lauded "The Caretaker" at The Old Vic.

Timothy is perhaps best known for his role as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter film series, and his diverse film work includes: The King's Speech, The Damned United, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, Pierrepoint, All Or Nothing, Lucky Break, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies. TV credits include: Fungus the Bogeyman, The Enfield Haunting, Blandings, The Syndicate, The Fattest Man In Britain, Oliver Twist, The Street, Bodily Harm, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Perfect Strangers, Shooting the Past, Our Mutual Friend and his own documentary Timothy Spall: Somewhere at Sea.

Other recent screen credits include: Sally Potter's The Party, Phillip K. Dick's Electric Dreams for Channel 4, Denial with Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkinson, Nick Hamm's The Journey and David Blair's Away. He has recently wrapped on a trio of further screen projects, The Changeover, Finding Your Feet with Imelda Staunton and Celia Imrie and Hatton Garden for ITV.

Rob Brydon (Message Bird). Rob was born in Swansea and studied drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He commenced his professional life as a radio and television presenter for BBC Wales.

Rob first came to the public's attention in 2000 with the shows Marion and Geoff and Human Remains, winning British Comedy Awards for both. Since then his comedy credits have included A Small Summer Party, The Keith Barret Show, Directors Commentary, Supernova, Cruise Of The Gods, Black Books, I'm Alan Partridge, Little Britain, Live At The Apollo, Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive, QI, The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, Have I Got News For You, Gavin and Stacey, Rob Brydon's Identity Crisis, as well as hosting the successful panel show Would I Lie To You?. He has also appeared in the following drama productions on television and film: Oliver Twist, Heroes And Villains: Napoleon, The Way We Live Now, Murder In Mind, Kenneth Tynan: In Praise Of Hardcore, Marple, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, 24 Hour Party People, A Cock And Bull Story, The Trip, Best Of Men, The Trip To Italy, Cinderella, The Huntsman: Winter's War and the latest installment of the Trip series, The Trip To Spain.

Rob made his theatre debut in 2011 playing opposite Kenneth Branagh in "The Painkiller" at The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, which subsequently came to the West End in 2016. He has also appeared in Alan Ayckbourn's "A Chorus of Disapproval" in the West End and "Future Conditional" at The Old Vic, as well as his successful one man show "Rob Brydon Live" (West End and Tour). His most recent one man show, "I Am Standing Up" toured the UK in 2017.

Rob is also well known for his versatile voice and is a regular contributor to popular radio programmes including "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", "Just A Minute", and "Loose Ends" and is the voice of many animated characters in major films including The Legend Of Treasure Island, Robbie The Reindeer, The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, Room On The Broom and Highway Rat.

In 2009 Rob went to number one in the charts with Ruth Jones and Sir Tom Jones and the Comic Relief single "Islands In The Stream". Rob has won five British Comedy Awards, a GQ Man Of The Year Award, a Royal Television Society Award and two South Bank Awards. In 2013 he was awarded an M.B.E.

Johnny Vegas (Asbo). Johnny is an English actor and comedian. His extensive list of credits includes theatre and radio as well as film and television roles.

Johnny started and developed his career as a comedian with roles in BBC productions such as 'Night Class', on BBC Radio 4, and in the sitcom 'Ideal' for BBC Three, a role which extended from 2005 to 2011. In 2001, he won the 'Best Comedy Newcomer' prize at the British Comedy Awards. He toured with his own show, The Johnny Vegas Show, from 1998 to 2002; and between 2007 and 2009, Johnny starred in the high-profile sitcom 'Benidorm' as Geoff Maltby aka The Oracle, a role he returned to recently for the 8th series of the show.

His television credits also include, amongst others, the role of Mr. Croombe in the television adaptation of David Walliams' children's novel 'Mr Stink', as well as playing the characters of Crit Cop in 'Red Dwarf' and Wet Eric in 'Still Open All Hours', both for the BBC. On the big screen, he has appeared in The Harry Hill Movie, Tulip Fever, and The Brothers Grimsby amongst other titles.

Richard Ayoade (Treebor). Richard Ayoade is a multi-award winning comedian, actor, writer and director. The success of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place (which he co-wrote, directed and starred in) was followed by his BAFTA award winning role in The IT Crowd, and numerous other TV credits including The Mighty Boosh. Ayoade wrote and directed the BAFTA nominated film Submarine and wrote and directed The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg. He currently presents Travel Man and The Crystal Maze for Channel 4 and has released two books, "Ayoade on Ayoade" and "The Grip of Film" both published by Faber & Faber.

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