Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon when he was just fourteen years old. His parents were so impressed by the manuscript that they decided to self-publish it and take him across America, giving eight-hour talks in medieval gear to promote it. He struggled to get noticed until, eventually, he was spotted during one of these talks by a novelist named Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen bought the book for his stepson, who fell in love with it. That’s when Hiaasen decided to introduce Paolini and his book to his publisher, Knopf.
Knopf published Eragon after a few more minor edits and then it really took off. It remained on the New York Times Children’s Books Best Seller list for 121 weeks and was the second best-selling children’s paperback book of 2005. In 2006, the book was adapted into a movie by first time director Stefen Fangmeier. It starred Ed Speleers in the title role, Jeremy Irons as his father Brom, and Robert Carlyle as the villainous Durza.
It was the number one movie at the worldwide box office in its opening weekend, the 16th highest grossing movie of 2006, and the sixth highest grossing swords and sorcery movie of all time. The movie adaptation of Eragon was met with a mixed response from fans who idolize the book series, but they were generally satisfied with how the world that Paolini built in the novels was rendered and how the actors played their characters.
Here are 20 Wild Details Behind The Making Of Eragon.
20 Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were offered the role of Brom
The role of Brom, Eragon’s father, and original mentor was first offered to Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. They both turned it down in favor of X-Men: The Last Stand in which they played Magneto and Professor X, respectively, which they were both already committed to, having starred in the first two X-Men movies before it.
In the end, Brom was played by Jeremy Irons, who jumped at the chance to establish himself with a younger audience. Of course, Irons has taken a similar opportunity in recent years with his portrayal of Batfleck’s butler Alfred Pennyworth in the films of the DC Extended Universe.
19 Two planned sequels had to be canceled
Director Stefen Fangmeier planned to shoot two sequels back to back, but the critical and commercial failure of Eragon led the studio to cancel the franchise. It grossed $249 million on a $100 million budget, so it wasn’t a total flop, but it certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. Plus, with a 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes making it the site’s 10th worst reviewed film of 2006, there was no guarantee that the audience would bother coming back for a potential sequel.
It’s a shame because Eragon was marketed with high hopes as “The First Chapter in the Inheritance Trilogy,” which was then still being written. The third book ended up being too long and was split into two parts, making the series four books long and therefore need to be renamed from the Inheritance Trilogy to the Inheritance Cycle.
18 Jeremy Irons was already familiar with dragons
Eragon was not Jeremy Irons’ first fantasy movie revolving around dragons. Before taking the role of Brom in Eragon, Jeremy Irons had previously appeared in the movie Dungeons & Dragons, although he felt that the production of Eragon was better managed and more efficient than that one.
Irons shared the screen with Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch in Dungeons & Dragons, which has a 10% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, grossed just $33 million on a $45 million budget, and was voted the 39th worst film of all time by the readers of Empire magazine. Eragon was a sort of dragon do-over for Jeremy Irons – he is determined to be in at least one good dragon movie at some point throughout his career.
17 there were some issues with the writers
The way that writing credits work in the movie industry is incredibly complicated. Not everybody who worked on the script will end up with a credit on the final film, because the Writers Guild of America requires writers to have contributed a certain percentage of the screenplay before they are allowed to put their name on it. It can lead to a number of disputes over who wrote what and endless arbitration by the WGA. Such was the case with Eragon.
Thanks to ongoing disputes between the writers who worked on Eragon and the WGA, the posters credit different combinations of Peter Buchman, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, and Jesse Wigutow, and it was only decided that Buchman would receive a sole writing credit days before the film’s release.
16 Eragon won Emily Blunt her role in The Devil Wears Prada
While Emily Blunt was under consideration for the role of Arya, the elf princess of Ellesméra in Eragon, a casting director at the studio took a liking to her. Sienna Guillory ended up getting the role of Arya, but that casting director kept Emily Blunt in mind and brought her name up later when the studio was casting their new Meryl Streep movie: The Devil Wears Prada.
So, Blunt didn’t get the role in Eragon, but it was her audition for that movie that ended up winning her the role in The Devil Wears Prada, the one that set her off on the path to stardom. She has since starred in all kinds of movies: Into the Woods, The Five-Year Engagement, Sicario, The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place – plus, later this year, she’ll be playing Mary Poppins!
15 Saphira the dragon’s movements were based on eagles
Even the critics who didn’t like Eragon admitted that it looked incredible and that, from a technical point of view, it was quite masterfully made. This might be because the director, Stefen Fangmeier, has his roots in visual effects. A lot of consideration went into how the CGI would work. Rather than base the movements of Saphira on dragons, which have no frame of reference, the visual effects team based them on that of an eagle. This was an effort to make the dragon’s motions more majestic and lifelike.
When he was creating the dragon character for his books, Christopher Paolini chose the name Saphira based on the word “sapphire,” because his favorite color is blue and so he wanted the dragon to be blue and for her name to mean “blue.”
14 Ed Speleers had difficulties building a rapport with a tennis ball
As this was his first major movie role, Ed Speleers had trouble talking to and developing an on-screen relationship with a tennis ball that would later be replaced with a CGI dragon. Ewan McGregor had the same problem with the Star Wars prequels.
There is one school of thought in teaching the acting method that acting is reacting. You react to your surroundings and to the other actors and to the props and to whatever else is in the scene. But if all you have in your surroundings are a green screen and some tennis balls and you’re being told that there are aliens or dragons or explosions all around you, then it can be difficult to react to them, because they’re not really there. But as it shows on-screen, Speleers eventually got the hang of it.
13 Stefen Fangmeier, as of 2018, has never directed another movie
Stefen Fangmeier, the director of Eragon, had never directed a movie before. Usually, it is an unwise move by a film studio to hire a first time director to helm a big budget blockbuster like Eragon, but Fangmeier was no stranger to the CGI and visual effects in those kinds of movies. For years, he had worked as a visual effects supervisor before moving on to directing.
Fangmeier acted as visual effects supervisor on such classic movies as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, The Mask, and Saving Private Ryan. He had worked with some of the finest directors of all time – Steven Spielberg, James Cameron – so it’s unsurprising that he was eventually ready to hop into the director’s chair himself. However, since helming his feature film directorial debut Eragon, as of 2018, it is the only movie he has directed.
12 Eragon was the last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS
Remember VHS? That used to be the only way to watch a movie at home unless it was airing on television. You had to keep the VHS machine clean and at the end of the movie, you had rewind it back to the beginning for the next time you watched it, or you would just leave it and then have to rewind through the entire movie next time.
We have since been treated to DVD, and then Blu-ray, which was like a better-looking version of a DVD, and now, we have endless options to instantly stream any one of millions of movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the VHS format died, but one piece in the puzzle is that 2006’s Eragon was the last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS.
11 Book tour commitments prevented Christopher Paolini from doing a cameo
Christopher Paolini, the author of the Inheritance series, wanted to make a cameo appearance in Eragon as a warrior who gets decapitated by the title character at the Battle of Farthen Dur, the epic final battle at the end of the movie. However, his commitments to a European book tour to promote his sequel book Eldest meant that he couldn’t make it to filming.
Stephenie Meyer made a cameo appearance in Twilight, Michael Morpurgo appeared in War Horse, Stephen King appeared in Pet Sematary, Peter Benchley played a news reporter in Jaws, William Peter Blatty made a brief appearance in The Exorcist, and John le Carre has shown up in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles in adaptations of his works. If the timing had just worked out a little better, Christopher Paolini could have joined their ranks.
10 The movie contains a joke for linguistic nerds
Eragon attempts to save Brom using the spell “Waise heill!” which is taken from an Old English phrase meaning “Be well!” or “Be healed!” It was most commonly used as a toast when drinking since its root word is “wassail,” a type of Christmas punch. Only language nerds will spot that one – it’s a delightful little joke for them.
Language nerds are not the kind of nerds who are usually treated to Easter eggs in blockbuster movies. Comic book nerds and movie nerds and TV nerds get them all the time, but language nerds are rarely blessed with in-jokes and sly winks. It was sweet of Stefen Fangmeier to throw language nerds a bone like that.
9 Eragon wasn’t always going to be played by an unknown actor
A lot of great franchises have been born from casting unknown actors in lead roles – no one knew who Mark Hamill was when George Lucas cast him to play Luke Skywalker, while Daniel Radcliffe was selected from thousands of unknown child actors to play Harry Potter. The casting team behind Eragon eventually went with this approach in order to find their star Ed Speleers, but not before first trying to get a couple of established stars to take the title role.
Among the well-known actors who were initially considered to play Eragon are Elijah Wood, who had already starred in his own fantasy movie franchise adapted from a book series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Shia LaBeouf in the couple of years between the end of his Disney Channel series Even Stevens and the beginning of the Transformers franchise.
8 The movie doesn’t feature dwarves like the novel
Dwarves are a staple of the fantasy genre. There are dwarves in The Chronicles of Narnia and A Song of Ice and Fire and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is all about the journey that the Company of Dwarves makes to liberate Middle-earth from the reign of an evil dragon. Christopher Paolini considers Tolkien to be one of the greatest influences on his work, so it makes sense that he would include dwarves in his own series of fantasy novels.
Yet, none of those dwarves are featured in the movie adaptation. The novel featured a number of dwarf characters, but dwarves were written out of the Eragon world for the movie. One of the character, King Hrothgar, is a dwarf in the novel, but the movie depicts him as human.
7 Ed Speleers was preparing for a school play when he got cast as Eragon
When Ed Speleers was cast as Eragon, he had never been in a movie or TV show before, or acted professionally at all. He hadn’t even graduated from school yet – he was learning lines for a school production of Hamlet when he got the call.
Speleers has since gone on to play roles in the TV series Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, and Outlander. He also had a small role in Alice Through the Looking Glass, James Bobin’s sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 blockbuster version of Alice in Wonderland, in which he played James Harcourt. He also has a small role in Lars von Trier’s upcoming psychological horror movie The House That Jack Built, which the director has said is about “the idea that life is evil and soulless.”
6 This was Joss Stone’s first role in a movie
Joss Stone played the role of Angela, the character based loosely on Christopher Paolini’s sister, in the Eragon movie. However, she is not typically known as an actress – she is more famous for her career as a singer and songwriter. Her albums have appeared on the Billboard charts a number of times and she has sold 14 million records worldwide.
She began her music career in 2001 at the age of 13, but Eragon was her first movie. Her earnings from the movie are what put her on the 2006 Sunday Times Rich List, making her the youngest woman on that list. Since her acting debut in Eragon, she has played roles in The Tudors and Empire.
5 Christopher Paolini had mixed thoughts about the movie
While he enjoyed the performances of Ed Speleers and Jeremy Irons in the roles of Eragon and Brom, respectively, Christopher Paolini did not feel that the movie properly represented his vision. Like most fans, he was unhappy with the director’s cutting of many major plot points and characters from the story.
However, he is diplomatic in understanding that the studio pumped a lot of money into the movie and therefore wanted a lot more control over it than him. Obviously, the plots of movies need to be more streamlined than those of novels, and 500 pages of a book simply won’t fit into two hours of a movie. Still, as a creator, he was not satisfied with the end product as a whole.
4 Alex Pettyfer’s fear of flying cost him the role of Eragon
Alex Pettyfer was the first actor to be offered the role of Eragon, but he was unable to take the role due to his terrible fear of flying. This is not just a guy who needs to be calmed down by a flight attendant while the plane takes off and lands – he literally won’t fly. He refuses to step on a plane, like B.A. Baracus.
Unfortunately for him, Eragon was shooting in Hungary and Slovakia, and so he would have not only been required to fly, but been required to fly a few times between sets. So, he had to turn down the part and it went to then-newcomer Ed Speleers instead. Pettyfer’s career wasn’t hurt too badly by it – he found success starring in other movies whose productions didn’t require him to fly, like Stormbreaker, Magic Mike, and I Am Number Four.
3 Ed Speleers beat out 180,000 other actors for the role of Eragon
Robert Pattinson beat 5,000 other actors to the role of Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga. 17,000 actors auditioned to play Harry Potter after American actors were banned from auditioning. These are huge numbers, but they’re nothing compared to the number of actors Ed Speleers beat out for the role of Eragon: a whopping 180,000! That’s more people than the entire population of Fort Lauderdale.
Speleers has said in an interview that he tries not to get too hung up on thinking about how many other actors were up for the part. Whether there were 180,000 other actors who auditioned to play Eragon or just ten, he says, he was just happy to have the opportunity at all.
2 Speleers found out he got the part just one week before shooting
Ed Speleers was still in school when the casting process for Eragon was underway. He had read the book, but he hadn’t been actively pursuing the part. A casting director who was familiar with him from a previous casting call for The Chronicles of Narnia got in touch with him through his drama teacher. Speleers went in, met the director, the producer, and the casting director, and tested for the role of Eragon.
Then he got on with his life. The audition had gone well and he’d felt a special connection with the team and the follow-up audition gave off the same vibes, but he didn’t expect it all to happen so quickly. Within ten days, they had contacted him to let him know he’d won the role. A week later, shooting began!
1 Christopher Paolini wants to write and produce an Eragon reboot
Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini was unhappy with how the original Eragon movie turned out, since it reflected the studio’s vision rather than his own. He doesn’t hold any resentment towards the studio for how they handled the story, because that’s how the movie business works, but it didn’t turn out the way he pictured an Eragon movie would be.
In a response to fans’ questions on his website, Paolini said that if there was ever going to be a reboot made – which is not too far-fetched in today’s climate of rebooting any and all intellectual properties with a whiff of familiarity – he would want to take a more hands-on approach with it, writing the script and producing it. Fans of the books might be more satisfied with that, too.
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