Although it is already available On Demand, Centurion doesn’t hit theaters until this weekend. Screen Rant sat down with writer/director Neil Marshall and his wife/actress/filmmaker Axelle Carolyn as they prepare for the release of Centurion.
The two are an engaging couple with plenty to talk about and in our chat we discussed a little of everything – Centurion, The Descent, Burst 3D and even the possibility of a Neil Marshall adaptation of Shakespeare.
I was anxious to talk about the film with Marshall after thoroughly enjoying it in an earlier screening. Our own Niall Browne gave Centurion a 3 out of 5, calling it “a tightly-paced sword and sandal action film with plenty of grit and violence.” He couldn’t be more precise with a description as there were literally heads rolling and guts spewing from start to finish.
Marshall has a few other projects lined up already. One such is a collaboration with Sam Raimi on the intriguing Burst 3D. Even in the interview, Marshall was secretive about the film but it only takes a glance at the description to see his stamp all over it. Burst 3D is a film about “a group of people pinned in a winter lodge who suddenly begin to spontaneously combust.”
We also talked about something I’ve been aching to see on the big screen – Neil Marshall’s take on Shakespeare. If anybody has the ability to combine history and gore, it is Marshall. His take would definitely give us a realistic look at the grittiness of that era. Check out what Marshall has to say in the interview about the possibility.
Centurion really got in touch with the gory side of that era by not pulling any punches. The last time we really saw that was Braveheart, which was a while ago. You get in the woods and really cut some heads off and see where they roll.
Neil Marshall: I suppose that’s the advantage of bringing the horror sensibility to it. It’s not like I’ve held back in any of my films as far as the blood and guts are concerned. From a filmmaker’s point of view, it’s just way too much fun doing that kind of stuff. I have a fantastic makeup effects supervisor, Paul Hyett, who just has these insane ideas and he’s so enthusiastic about it that I feel cruel to not let him to all this stuff. It’s great. It’s playtime.
I couldn’t help but notice little bits and pieces of The Descent in Centurion. As a filmmaker, you bring parts of your work to the next project. I felt like this was, at times, a male version of The Descent. Bring the characters out of the cave and beasts are still hunting them down – they are just human instead of cave-dwelling monstrosities. Is that just the nature of how you work or did you purposely bring facets in from The Descent.
NM: It wasn’t conscious, but I can see it being like The Descent turned inside out. It was all about exposure and exteriors. It’s maybe one of the seven basic narratives that people talk about, but it is a story that I like to tell. I like the dynamic. I like the relentless enemy.
Would you ever go after Shakespeare? Bring us the tragedy with the blood and guts. With Centurion you found a way to kill off characters one at a time and give them each a good death. That’s something that isn’t too far removed from what Shakespeare does, to an extent. Does that interest you?
NM: I definitely like a bit of tragedy. I think I would quite enjoy doing something like Shakespeare, actually. Try to bring some life to it. Growing up in school I hated Shakespeare and it wasn’t until later that I got into the [Royal Shakespeare Company] quite a lot and really got into it that way. It seemed like seeing Macbeth really brought a whole lot of life to it as well. So yeah, a lot of Shakespeare stuff is violent and bloody and I don’t think the kind of people who traditionally make Shakespeare movies are interested in that and don’t touch upon that. I could have a lot of fun with that.
You read the tagline for Burst 3D and it’s just three words essentially: people spontaneously combust. You can even see your stamp already with that one-death-at-a-time tension of everybody dying and nobody knows what is going on.
NM: What’s interesting is everybody’s interested in it and nobody knows anything because I’m not allowed to tell. It’s a combination of doing– It’s people exploding. It’s a chance to work in 3D, which I’m curious about. It’s a chance to work with Sam Raimi. And it’s a chance to do another horror film.
Axelle Carolyn: You should mention it’s a completely different script form the one people have seen.
NM: Yes, there was a script circulating. We kind of deconstructed it and took the best bits of it and developed a new script out of that. But it is still all about people exploding. I’m not writing this one – Brian Nelson who wrote Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night is writing it. With a mixture of my thoughts and his thoughts I’m fairly certain we are going to come up with something interesting.
There is a new influx of superhero films and these are characters that have already been created and filmmakers are taking them and putting them into a two-hour story. Any interest in that? Do you read comics? Are you interested in that genre?
NM: There’s some amazing subject matter in comics. I am a lot less interested in superheroes, mainly because I can’t identify with superheroes. I don’t have superpowers, so I can’t identify with them. It is a specific genre and I think some people do it brilliantly, but certain superheroes like Batman or Iron Man or whatever is about people that have issues or technical skills, but don’t in themselves have superpowers. I think superpowers kind of bore me a bit.
AC: I keep trying to get him to read French and Belgian comic books. That seems like something people would start to get interested in with Tintin and The Smurfs and there are so many that I grew up with that are so brilliant. They have some dark, but not necessarily bloody comics. There is one with a Viking. It is more adventure.
NM: The one thing that ties all my movies together is action. I have plenty of projects coming up that I don’t perceive as being ultra-violent, but are definitely action. The film that made me want t make movies in the first place, that inspired everything was Raiders of the Lost Ark and I haven’t made anything like that, but I definitely dream of something like that. I have a couple of projects, one in specific, that is kind of like my Raiders. I want 11-year-old boys to go see it and have a good time with it, kind of like I did with Raiders.
Are there any movies right now that you watched and said, “If I had directed that I would have done it this way and it would have been damn good.”? You were pretty close with Predators and would you have tackled it differently?
NM: I was just going to say, Predators. I don’t want to knock it too much because I was closely involved with it. The thing that amazed me most of all is that was a $40 million movie. We did Centurion for 7 million pounds, which is something like $12 million. Doomsday was $28 million and it looks five times as much as Predators. That’s the only thing that bugs me is that it’s such a small movie for so much money. But I had a bunch of ideas for that and sadly it never came off. I was really impressed by Inception. I would liked to have done Clash of the Titans. Monsters and period movie? That sounds like great fun.
In a roundtable session another writer asked Marshall and Carolyn about working with the cast of Centurion:
NM: It was fantastic. It’s such an eclectic bunch of actors that we got. What they bring to the table was just phenomenal. I had tried to get Dominic [West] for Doomsday, but wasn’t able to get him in that. But it was great to finally have a chance to work with him. It was clear Michael was on some kind of ascendance, but hadn’t really seen any of it at the time. We knew he had done Inglourious Basterds. I hadn’t seen Hunger. I saw him in Eden Lake. He fit into that character of Quintus perfectly. Dominic is such a big presence – he’s a big guy anyway – he just seemed like a natural fit as well. Throw Olga [Kurylenko] into that mix and Axelle into that mix and working with Liam Cunningham again who is just an absolute legend.
AC: It was great working with Olga and we were in every scene together pretty much. She is mostly known for being in James Bond and mostly being the pretty girl in films, but she is so much more than that. I was amazed by here. Between Quantum of Solace and Hitman that was all I really knew at the time. Then I saw her French films where she was really good. It is a tough thing to do – there is no dialogue so you think it is just showing up – but there is a lot to it, trying to create a personality by just behaving a certain way. I think she is pleased with it now. For a while she was a little scared of what it would look like and that people would hate her.
It’s nice to see a director who is talented focus his skills on a specific genre. But his ability far exceeds his output. As Marshall continues to expand his palette we can expect to see some unique projects. If Burst 3D is any indication, even a genre director like Marshall can still be unpredictable.
Centurion slices into theaters August 27th, 2010.