Interview: 'Immortals' Director Tarsem Singh On Gods, Monsters & Mickey Rourke

The teaser trailer for Immortals

Director Tarsem Singh's epic tale of mortal heroes and legendary Gods, Immortals, opens in theaters today (read our review). The film tells the tale of Theseus (Henry Cavill) a mortal man chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is on a rampage across Greece to obtain a weapon that can destroy both the Olympian Gods and humanity at large (Read our interview with Cavill and Evans).

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the visually gifted director to talk about his approach in crafting the film, working with Mickey Rourke and the comparison between 300 and Immortals.

Can you talk a bit about the development process on this film?

"A lot of it was just trying to figure out what the script was going to do because I kind of decided on a style before I decided on the film. I just said, 'Action flick. They want sword and sandals. I'd like to do a renaissance style painting. One that happens to be Greek. It doesn't matter to me. The story of Theseus is mixed with Gods. Theseus had nothing to do with the Gods in the original,' and so already you're waiting for a bashing. I just said, 'Go with that choice,' and started with that."

 How closely did you work with the writers in bringing the script to fruition?

Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto in 'Immortals'

How did you approach the 3-D?

"It's just a technical thing. It's a cart that doesn't necessarily ever have to be put in front of the horse which happens in a lot of cases. There are certain styles that lend themselves to 3-D. I just think anything from [Tim] Burton to my stuff and lets say, not Paul Greengrass whose stuff I love, but handheld stuff, shaky stuff is not made for 3-D. So, my style lends itself to it because I don't like fast cutting stuff. I like slow moving and static stuff. So, 3-D helps you see that more."

Can you talk about casting this film because everyone does look like a god.

Immortals - Zeus and Athena

Can you talk a bit about working with Mickey Rourke and casting him as the villain specifically?

Mickey Rourke as King Hyperion in 'Immortals'

Speaking of archetypal villains, you just wrapped 'Snow White.' Did Julia Roberts relish being the evil queen?

"She would be this person and come down. She would be mean to Lily (Collins) [in character] and then say, 'that's like being nasty to Bambi.' People deal with it differently. To a person like Mickey, Bambi steak might sound good."

One of the outstanding aspects of the film is the fight sequences and especially the final climatic one in the tunnel and outside where you have three different fights essentially going on. How crucial was the editing and working with the editors?

immortals red band clip gods titans

You sustained an injury as well we hear.

"I know and it had nothing to do with the film. I wish I could tell you that. We went to this wrap party two weeks before we started and I went on the floor and thirty seconds in I felt like someone had cut my foot off. My tendon was gone. They sort of said, 'You can go away and come back and we’ll keep the sets for you,' and I could tell from the way they were speaking that it was a lie. I’d come back and it would be 'do you really need this fight and do you really need that?' So I said, 'no, get a wheelchair.' That was the most difficult part. There was no pain. Just the frustration. I just realized that an injury that stops me from walking will end my career."

300 is probably the mass audience main frame of reference, so can you talk about how you wanted to use that to your advantage, but then also break that open and do your style?

"Well, when they asked me to do this, I said I didn’t want to do a comic strip movie, and the middle stuff is like that, and that’s what was excellent about it. I also remembered the technique of speeding up and slowing down. When I saw that, I had been doing that for about 18 years, and when I saw it, it’s like the zooms of the 1970s. I thought the fighting sequences can’t be that simple. That we’d just speed it up and slow it down. Twelve years ago, the advertising world would have said that it was tacky. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the world hadn’t seen that kind of action and work so well for ‘300’ and it was gorgeous, but I just came and said that I don’t have an intention in making comic strips. But for selling it, that’s what’s needed to get people in the seats, and when the film was unfinished. And when you finish it, it turns into 'why are you selling this as ‘300’? It’s so much more than that.' But with the audience, you can’t particularly tell them that it’s from the idiot that made 'The Fall' but from ‘The producers that made ‘300.’ That’s what they want to say and I welcome that. Next time, on some other terrible film, it’ll be, ‘From the guy who made ‘Immortals.’ Whatever sells."

Immortals opens in theaters today.

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