Last weekend at WonderCon in San Francisco, Relativity Media premiered the first footage from its upcoming epic period adventure, Immortals. Immediately following the event, the films producer Mark Canton (300), director Tarsem Singh (The Cell), and stars Henry Cavill (Superman: Man of Steel), Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans), and Isabel Lucas (Daybreakers) were available for select press interviews.
During the event we had the chance to speak with Henry Cavill a bit about his role as Superman, and speak with the team behind Immortals about creating the visual look of the mythical world, the appeal of epically-scaled characters, their response to Henry’s Superman casting, and the WonderCon experience as a whole.
When producer Mark Canton was asked if he felt that showing footage at a fan-centered events such as WonderCon is an effective marketing technique, he replied:
“I think we set the bar with “300” at Comic Con, where we had to screen six times, and “300” was the first of these epic mythological movies to do that, with this kind of success. I think today is just the beginning for this film (“Immortals”). We’re very elated with the response, of course. The basis of the success of all movies at this time is the the fans. These kinds of movies in particular, at a time when you have to give people a real good reason to leave their homes.”
Director Tarsem Singh had a slightly different take on what it felt like to participate in a panel, saying laughingly:
“You mean looking out in a dark room and having people ask you questions? It’s quite like the opposite side of looking at porn on the computer. It was wonderful. I was thinking ‘Ah, if there were so many fans of “The Fall” then I should have made money!’ Maybe all three of them showed up, I don’t know.”
Luke Evans found the experience to be “wonderful,” saying “you’re talking with people who are interested in what you do for a living, what could be easier than that?” The actor added that, “shooting can be an insular and solitary job,” in the sense that, as actors, they are living in and creating a world with each other on a daily basis for months; and then they go their separate ways and may not see one another for as long as a year as the film is being completed. The movie, in a sense, exists in a bubble for them, and they may not be privy to the interest that is being generated around the project. Events like WonderCon become an opportunity for them to connect to the “human faces” of the people that are going to see their work, which Henry Cavill finds “inspirational.”
Canton feels that there is an appetite for stories like this one because, right now, “the world needs heroes,” something which is apparent in the dominantly popular films of the day. Though Canton clarified that he feels comic-book movies tend to be “fanciful,” whereas the films he has been involved with are “not so fanciful.” The producer attests that the heroes in the stories he has been a part of are more gritty and “aggressive and bad-ass.” As to the pressure inherent in being a part of a high-profile project, and playing larger-than-life characters, Henry Cavill acknowledged that:
“Yes, there’s always pressure, but it’s whether you choose to acknowledge it, accept it, and whether you choose to let it affect you. Some people thrive under pressure, but pressure can also ruin your performance, it can push you down angles which you don’t want to go. The best thing is, in my opinion, the way I work, is to try and ignore the pressure, and do the job to the best of your ability.”
Immortals gained a tremendous amount of exposure when Cavill was cast as the Man of Steel, an event which had producer Mark Canton “yelling out of a window” in excitement. Tarsem Singh said of the producer’s jubilant response, “He probably would have (yelled from the rooftops) because he yelled at me many times before that saying ‘WHY, Why this guy?'”
As to the why of Cavill’s initial casting, Singh explains that the script, visual design, and casting of the film happened almost simultaneously, so the director wanted to make sure that his lead was flexible and able to adjust as the story evolved. Singh met with Cavill and put him through the paces, asking for several interpretations of the character — and adjusting his performance drastically in the moment. The director felt it was crucial that the film’s star be able to quickly shift gears, because as he told Cavill at the time, “‘Right now Theseus is the son of a King, but by the time the script is done he may be a peasant (which he now is).”
When Singh realized that Cavill was able to adapt to anything that was thrown at him he knew he was the right man for the role. Adding that, “in the words of the famous Ms. Piggy, ‘some piggy’s just have it, and some don’t.’ I saw him and I thought ‘that piggy has it.’ The studio, however, initially wished he had picked a more “known actor.” When Cavill was cast as Superman, they amended their stance, saying, as Singh puts it, “ah, you picked the right piggy.”
One of the benefits of the Superman casting (according to Mark Canton) was that people now know who Cavill is, and he does not have to refer to him as “the really good guy in “The Tudors,” and they say ‘what’s “The Tudors?”‘ now I just say “Superman” and people go crazy.” The producer continued by saying that, “Luke Evans is right there as well, Freida (Pinto) is great, and Mikey (Rourke) is Mikey, so, we’re really well positioned.”
The style and story of Immortals…
Becoming An Immortal
Cavill told us that training to become a hero-of-the-Gods, or a God, respectively, involved “basic mixed martial arts” along with “a lot of sword drilling and fight choreography.” Evans explained that in addition to the initial work they each did as individuals, the fight training continued “on a daily basis” throughout the course of production. Evans continued by laughingly saying that they were like, “animals in the zoo, there was feeding time, sleeping time…” and Cavill added, “little windows to stare out at the world.” The two fondly remember their “shake breaks” on set where they were given a momentary reprieve from the grueling physical demands of their roles, though they do attest that there was something deeply satisfying about the work, and the camaraderie that it engendered.
Isabel Lucas, who plays the Goddess Athena in the film, was initially “nervous” to take on the role but grew up “learning about the Greek Gods” and so ultimately enjoyed “learning about the archetypes” in preparation for the film. Lucas primarily portrayed the wisdom aspect of the Goddess, while director Tarsem Singh added the warrior portion of her character in post-production. “It is hard-core though,” the director assured us, turning to Lucas and saying “I should show you how hard-core.”
The Look Of The Film:
Tarsem Singh has a reputation as a visually dynamic director, and on a film such as Immortals, where he is creating a Universe with multiple levels, it typically takes him about two years to come up with the design and palate. Singh acknowledges that he “doesn’t relate to the video game aesthetic” and for this film didn’t want to work from the historical artistic templates for the Greek Gods. Rather, he chose to create a unique world, where the characters just happen to be called Theseus and Zeus.
As to the director’s rich and engaging visual style, Singh attests that he had not thought of it as distinctive until he began to see clips of his work together. He finds that his approach is born of a mixture of influences, saying “over time you develop a style, and that is what the definition of an auteur is.” The director continued by saying that, though some may disagree with him, he feels that “Michael Bay is as much of an auteur as Spike Jones, because I can see his film from a trillion miles away and tell you that’s a Michael Bay film.”
Singh, as we have said, has a cinematic voice all his own, and as such, we are fairly certain that Immortals will not look or feel like a Michael Bay film.
The brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his murderous Heraklion army are rampaging across Greece in search of the long lost Bow of Epirus. With the invincible Bow, the king will be able to overthrow the Gods of Olympus and become the undisputed master of his world. With ruthless efficiency, Hyperion and his legions destroy everything in their wake, and it seems nothing will stop the evil king’s mission.
As village after village is obliterated, a stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge the death of his mother in one of Hyperion’s raids. When Theseus meets the Sybelline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), her disturbing visions of the young man’s future convince her that he is the key to stopping the destruction. With her help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers and embraces his destiny in a final desperate battle for the future of humanity.
Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) directs a cast that includes: Henry Cavill (Zach Snyder’s upcoming Superman: Man of Steel) Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans) Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga) and Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
Immortals is due out in theaters on November 11th, 2011.