While Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke have been getting the bulk of attention for their parts in director Tarsem Singh's swords and sandals epic, Immortals, one of the film's key supporting players is that of Stavros (Stephen Dorff): a self-serving man who nonetheless gets caught up in the grand battle between mortals, gods, titans, and everything in between.
Dorff is at an interesting point in his career, having tread on more dramatic ground recently in Sofia Coppola's generally well-received Somewhere (we'll pretend Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star didn't happen thereafter). Judging by his recent comments, Dorff expects to make another good impression in Immortals - as, the actor indicates, should the actual movie.
Here is what Dorff had to offer Hero Complex, with regards to why Immortals is somewhat of a tricky proposition:
“The danger in movies like this is that the set-up is pretty standard — it’s good versus evil, gorgeous girls, fight scenes — and you have to make it stand on its own. In this movie, the gods are doing their thing, you have a king [played by Rourke] who wants to take over the world, Theseus [Cavill's character] wants revenge. All of it can get Shakespearean and a little too heavy for a movie like this... We didn’t want to make it too contemporary but so much of this film is Tarsem’s vision of Greek mythology. It doesn’t pretend to be a history lesson. At the same time, we couldn’t be skewing too modern without undermining the world he created..."
Translation: in the wake of films like 300 and the Clash of the Titans remake, stylized mythological "epics" are a bit overdone and less appealing to the general moviegoing public, on their own. However, if Dorff is to be believed, Immortals manages to bring something new to the table without being either excessively heavy-handed or campy in tone.
Part of that, Dorff chalks up to his own morally-dubious character in the film, who provides a foil to black-and-white figures like the heroic Theseus (Cavill) and the vicious King Hyperion (Rourke). To quote the actor:
“[My character Stavros is] like this Han Solo part of it, I’m the only guy in the film who is not so serious … he wants to bed some women, gets something to eat and maybe steal some cool stuff. I like the human element in that, that’s what attracted me to the role. Tarsem let me go for that.”
While it's not exactly shocking to hear that Dorff was complimentary of Singh's filmmaking approach, what the actor had to say on the matter is nonetheless interesting:
“Going into something like ['Immortals'], it was all about Tarsem. I wouldn’t have gone near something like this, probably, without him. I haven’t done too many of these big, larger-than-life, visual-effects movies... Even though with this movie it’s visual effects splendor and everything else that’s in Tarsem’s head all brought to reality, the cool thing about it for me is that he built these cool sets and when you were there it made it feel grounded in a way. The fact that we shot the whole movie inside these huge stages, we had a real foundation. If it was a village, we got real horses and we had hundreds of extras and they were real people, you know? When we’re sitting around a fire yakking, it’s a real fire, it wasn’t added later. It wasn’t like what I’ve heard with some of these green screen movies where everything is created in a computer. We had maybe 75% of the shoot there on camera and the rest was filled in later. It felt real and as an actor that’s what you want to do.”
Blockbusters like the Star Wars prequels, 300, or Avatar could be considered the epitome of what Dorff calls "green screen movies" - seeing how they were largely (or entirely) shot on sound stages with CGI backgrounds and settings added in later. Considering how refined everything from the gorgeous scenery to the stylized costumes, armor, and weaponry in Immortals has looked in early footage, it's somewhat surprising to hear Dorff confirm that Singh made heavy use of practical (and not just digital) filmmaking tools. Hopefully, that different approach will only benefit the final product all the more.
It seems safe to say that Singh's painterly eye alone will ensure that Immortals looks great - even if the film's central narrative and characters feel too much like a (poor) thematic retread of those in 300.
Either way, we'll be seeing even more of the director's brand of eye candy in the near future, given that Singh's fairy tale project, Mirror Mirror, is already scheduled to hit theaters in Spring 2012...
Immortals arrives in 2D and 3D theaters around the U.S. on November 11th, 2011.
Source: Hero Complex