Big movie means a big cast, and a big cast means an abundance of set visit interviews. Not only did we get to speak with the man in charge himself, director Tarsem Singh, but Stephen Dorff (Stavros), Freida Pinto (Phaedra), Luke Evans (Zeus), Henry Cavill (Theseus), Kellan Lutz (Poseidon) and Isabel Lucas (Athena), too. Rather than forcing you to ogle your computer screen for hours sorting through transcriptions, I bring you the best of the best of each.
Q: So your power is seeing into the future. Is there anything else your character does?
Pinto: Well, why she does have the ability to look into the future, she really does not know exactly whether what she’s seeing there is no real true interpretation for that, it can have many. So it’s entirely up to her to decide or decipher what that actually means, the vision that she’s seen. She does have the quality of being human because many a times we are confused and we really do not know what that dream really meant or you suddenly get ideas, so I feel in that sense, having that power, but really not having the entire all of it to me was really natural. That is her only power though, that she can see the future.
Q: Having worked with Woody Allen on “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and Danny Boyle on “Slumdog,” what surprised you most about doing a really big budget picture?
Pinto: Yeah, this is my first big budget film. I’ve done three independent films before this and I feel it’s a whole new ballgame. You have to be more on the ball as to what’s happening, you have to be more flexible with timings and everything because a lot depends on studios. It’s not just about you or three other actors in a scene. There’s extras, there’s a lot of other inputs coming in. I remember the day we had the big sludge set, we had it literally for three days or two days and we had to put everything down into those three days so we had to kind of work overtime or whatever it was, but really be ready to go on set anytime. You’re sitting in your trailer because they tell you you have a half an hour break, but that can get down to a 10 minute break and you have to be ready and jump right back in. And that’s the fun part about being in a film like this and the only negative part that I can see is that you can’t really make plans.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge shooting this movie so far?
Pinto: My red corset! That was my biggest challenge because Tarsem and Eiko [Ishioka] who’s a fabulous costume designer. She is just out of this world, brilliant, and she had this beautiful costume designed for me. But, unfortunately, the costume for me, as beautiful as it was, if it was really tied it was like a corset, it makes it difficult to breathe. Though many a times Tarsem wanted me to have a vision and I would have my vision with my mouth open because I was just trying to get in as much air and Tarsem would be like, ‘Close your mouth! We don’t want to see your teeth!’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god! I’m not doing that on purpose, it’s just my corset.’ But that was not the biggest challenge, but it was a small little challenge and I kind of overcame it so it was no big problem.
Q: Was this a tough film physically?
Dorff: Not really. I found it pretty easy to be honest. The hours were intense and some days were harder than others but for the most part I was here for a long time and the part could have been shot faster, but for whatever reason, it’s a big shoot, lots of characters, lot of different sets, sets aren’t built, the movie was gunned into production, so it’s a lot of work, but I think everybody did a great job putting it together and now it’s coming to an end and I think it’ll be a long road to putting it together. This is one that’ll probably take a while because we come out next Thanksgiving. I’m definitely excited. I’ve been looking at some of this 3D stuff. We put on the glasses yesterday, watched some stuff, which looked incredible. I think Tarsem is on another level when it comes to visuals and I just hope the story comes together and the acting works and hopefully it’s a big hit movie for everybody.
Q: What’d you think of that 3D footage you saw and how does it compare to “Clash”?
Dorff: That looked cool. I think the whole movie’s going to look a hell of a lot better. “Clash” looked really bad and wasn’t very good, but that’s just my opinion. I thought the movie looked cheap and thought the monsters if you have to show a huge monster with 50 teeth in the trailer that means you don’t have much of a movie, kind of like “Jonah Hex.” But anyway, that’s why it made $5 million at the box office.
What’s great about this film is there are no monsters. Whether it’s the titans or the minotaur or any of these people, they’re all grounded, they’re all people with legs, with feet; they all move fast so it’s their movements, it’s their supernatural abilities that will make them jump off the screen or be able to jump off walls and I think that’s what kept the movie real for me.
My whole thing was I just wanted to try to do something original with this backdrop and I think that’s what we accomplished hopefully. So much of it depends on what they do after, but for me, I like the part of Stavros because he’s one of the only characters in the piece that has a personality. It’s not just about revenge or anger or I’ve got to kill this person or I want this person dead; he’s got a sense of humor which I thought was refreshing for a movie like this. He’s almost a character out of a different time that was transported right into this Greek time so I kind of like the fact that Tarsem let me just play it like it was written and be loose with it and at the same time get intense when it needs to get intense and the fighting stuff needs to be there, but for the most part my guy wants to have fun, he wants to have sex and he wants to live, so he’s pretty much more of a Han Solo type of character if you look at the Star Wars layout.
Q: Most people would think Zeus would have a beard and be a bit older. How did Tarsem describe what he did? Did he ask you to grow a beard?
Luke Evans: Well, we actually did try a beard very early on. Before we started shooting they had a beard made just to see how I would look with one because, yeah, Zeus throughout history when he’s been played, has been played by a much older man and he’s always had a beard and statues and sculptures around the world always portray him as an older humongous man with a big beard and big hair and stuff. So, it was an interesting take on all the gods actually because none of us are the cliché looking gods that you all are expecting, but if you think about the gods being perfect to the point of their age, their strength, physical statuesque, they embody all of those things so the age of the gods can be millions of years, but they don’t have to look very old, which is an interesting thing to play as an actor, especially for me. [Athena's (Isabel Lucas)] my daughter and there’s only like six years between us. I had to really take on the role of being a dad, take on what my dad was like to me and that’s how I tried to relate the power of authority that Zeus commands.
Q: Can you talk about the training?
Evans: There was a lot of it. I arrived five and a half weeks before we started shooting and Henry and I trained. He had been training since December, I came at the beginning of March and trained for five-and-a -half weeks, four hours a day, six meals a day, nothing nice to eat really, it was all very boring vegetables and all that crap, but I lost 32 pounds in weight. It was a very strange thing, the only time clothes fitted me was when I was on set because all the clothes I brought with me were all too big. [Laughs] It was really hard training and we trained with the stuntmen because we do a lot of the fight sequences and we had to learn a lot of the different weapons and stuff like that, so it was intense, but it was great. I loved every minute of it. It was like coming to boot camp and training to be a god, god camp.
Q: You were in “Clash” too, right?
Evans: I was.
Q: How does this experience compare to that?
Evans: It’s very different. The size of this is on comparison. Comparisons could be made there, but the story and the feel of the film is incredibly different. I know I’m playing another god, but it doesn’t feel the same as what I did in “Clash,” which is good, which is very good. And Tarsem’s take on this Greek mythology is quite unique and we’ve watched the dailies and they look incredible.
Q: You’re playing the same character as John Hurt (older Zeus). Did he have any pearls of wisdom to offer?
Evans: He did say to me once, because we shared a trailer and I remember sitting in my trailer one day going, ‘John Hurt is sitting next door. This is mad.’ And then I was like, ‘I have to go chat with him.’ So I went around and we were chatting and I said, ‘Do you mind if we go through some of my lines just to see what you think?’ Because obviously he’s what you would expect of Zeus. He’s of the right age, he’s 70 and knowledgeable and has this wonderful voice and so we sat and just talked about the script and how I was going to play him and I remember him saying, ‘You can have fun with Zeus. No one questions him. He’s got more power than anybody else in the film. He can annihilate everybody if he wants.’ So that gains an air of confidence and fun. He can play. You can have a bit of fun with him. So that’s what I tried to do with Zeus. I just tried to have fun with him because he’s the king of the gods. That’s always why I think, he’s the king and he’s a father, he’s a lawgiver and he’s fair person.
Q: How exciting and terrifying is it to be in such a big production?
Henry Cavill: Very exciting. More exciting than it is terrifying, really. I felt the pressure at one point. I had to be in a certain kind of shape, it was getting close to punch day, and I only had so long left to recondition the body. I suppose that I was a bit stressed over that. That’s been the most difficult thing, just maintaining that throughout. But otherwise, extraordinarily exciting, especially working with a director like Tarsem, who has boundless energy.
Q: What’s been the most physically challenging scene or moment in the film for you?
Cavill: One moment you’re asking for? [Laughs] Most physically challenging… the tunnel fight, which I’m sure you’ll hear more about, was exhausting, purely because I had to learn the choreography on the day, and fight all day long. It sounds a lot easier than it is when it’s all choreographed fighting and everything, but you sell so much of the hits, so you’re making a quite larger move than is necessary, and that in itself is a cardio workout. Plus you’re throwing all the emotion and the aggression into it; coupled together, truly exhausting. You do that for three days, four days, alone, without doing the other stuff, which thankfully my stunt double Alain Moussi, who is fantastic, did a lot of the shots from behind, so I could save my energy for an hour or so and then go back in and do the reverse.
Q: In terms of Theseus’ goals leading up to this huge battle in the end, how are you playing him emotionally?
Cavill: Well, Theseus’ reasons of existence change throughout; he goes from atheist to martyr, ultimately. At the beginning, it’s merely to protect his mother and himself; that’s the only reason why he fights or exists and then it adapts for revenge, and then beyond that for things that are greater than he is. And so you pull the emotion from all sorts of different sources. Not necessarily easy to do.
Q: Is it a little daunting to think you’re about to become a major Hollywood leading man? Are you prepared?
Cavill: Excited. Hollywood leading man or not, it’s gonna open up a lot of doors and open up a lot of opportunities to do some fantastic, creative products.
Q: This may be strange, but every time Warner Bros. talks about rebooting Superman, your name keeps coming up. Has there ever been anything to that?
Cavill: Yes, there was. A while ago now. Must have been four or five years ago, maybe more. McG was working on a script with them, and – I don’t know how close I came, I’m not going to repeat rumors and hearsay. I understand it was very, very close. And sadly the movie was cancelled because, I understand, McG didn’t want to fly. He certainly had a big fear of flying at the time and I think he’s since overcome it. But he wanted to shoot in New York, they wanted to shoot in Australia, for obvious reasons, and he said, “No, I can’t do it.” These things happen, it’s Hollywood.
Q: What was it about the project that appealed to you?
Tarsem Singh: Ah, very little. [Laughs] I came in in the beginning and I saw just nothing interested me about it and usually for me, I’m not interested in it if it’s a serial killer film or it’s got to do with, let’s say a space movie or if it’s a period film like this… I read the script. It really is nothing like Henry said; it was nothing like where it ended up in the end. I just said, it’s got Gods, it’s got Greeks; none of that interested me.
My mom said something to me that I just thought, “Hmmm, if I can put that in the movie that’s what I’ll make,” and what it was was, I’ve been an atheist since I was nine years old, specifically I’ve been a blasphemer. If you name the religion, I crap on it. And my mom is really religious so we have kind of a strange relationship and in particular, a time just recently, about three-and-a-half years ago, she said something that I thought was so interesting, I said, “If that can be the scene of a film, it can be really interesting.” I tried to put that in and when they let me do it, that’s where we ended up, which was, she was coming back from the temple when I was crapping on religious stuff, she turned around and she said, “How do you think you are as successful as are if it wasn’t for my praying?” And I thought, “You know what? The worst thing that could happen is a guy like me dies and there’s a god up there and he goes, ‘You f*ck! I’ve been dying to screw you up, but because of this woman. I gave you all that sh*t,’” [laughing] and I just thought that would be really interesting.
Q: How do you breathe?
Singh: [Laughs] Very quickly.
Q: How does a free spirit like you end up directing something so commercial?
Singh: I spent 17 years making money on a film that I was interested in that I knew nobody was going to finance. Try pitching a story that the lead is a six-year-old fat Romanian girl that is going to write the script for you. So nobody was going to finance it, but that’s what I wanted to do because it’s where my heart was at the time. Right now, I came and I just read all the scripts and usually, I think most people correctly wait for a good script and say that’s a good movie for me to make. That usually bores me, and I think I must be a hack because most people that I love usually hate the process of filmmaking. They love the editing, they love when they are in control, I don’t. I shoot three hundred days a year, I live on a set and I love it. So for me, I look for a thing that I think I can put my DNA on. If I can put my DNA on it, I don’t care if it’s a tampon ad or whatever it is, I’ll get in there. So for me, this was something that I thought, “Oh, that would be interesting.”
When I came to the script, it was full of like, Theseus goes to a door and there is a hundred headed monster there and Theseus fires something. I said, “I don’t know how the f*ck to do that. If I can put this theme in, I’ll put my take on it.” And Relativity were brilliant. They just thought, “brilliant,” or were thinking, “How the f*ck is he gonna do it?” One of those two. And they left me alone, it was one of those things that once a train like that gets momentum, it’s harder to stop it then to not do it. So suddenly enough money’s spent and it had to go ahead and we got to make the film that we wanted to make.
Q: Can you tell us about the casting process and why you wanted to be cast?
Lutz: I read the script of this a while ago and I loved it, fell in love with it. At first auditioned for Ares, which I loved… they liked what I did, but they viewed Ares as taller, skinnier and more youthful, so I was really bummed because they didn’t really release all the characters for this movie and then I was like, ‘Okay, how about young Zeus?’ But then they had rumored that Alex Skarsgård and his father were going to do young Zeus and older Zeus, so I was just really bummed. I wanted to play someone in this movie. I love mythology, grew up loving it. I’m a middle kid, big family, that’s the thing you did in the farm country. [Laughs] I lived in Iowa, I loved mythology. I don’t know, we’re like that. But I also love Poseidon and I’m a Pieces, March 15th is my birthday, I love to swim, I competed in swimming, I swim in my backyard as much as I can when I’m back home and again, I never saw the role of Poseidon in here. So then they called back saying that I couldn’t do young Zeus and then they offered me Poseidon and I’m like, “What? Where’s Poseidon? Yeah! For sure!”
Q: Do you see this movie as a step up for you or a challenge to get out of “The Twilight Saga”?
Lutz: I’m very blessed with “The Saga” because I am a character that, yeah, people ask why I don’t have as many lines as everyone else. Well, I can’t change the books so my character’s more of a presence. Even in “Eclipse,” I have more action and fighting scenes than I do dialogue. I can’t help that. I’m very fortunate and blessed that it still pushes my career up to the level where I’m not the face of the books, so I’m still, like floating, so the next thing I do, like the other independent movies I do and I’m very choosy with like “The Killing Game” is my own type of underground “Gladiator”/Jason Bourne type of movie. That’s what I want to do so being a part of these huge commercial movies like “Twilight” opens up doors so I can be the star of other movies and really show my acting chops, show and pick what I want to do as an actor kind of molded my career.
Q: With the very first “Twilight,” you knew sequel potential existed. Sometimes these big movies come out and they’re a success and then everyone scrambles to figure out how to make the sequel. Is there a sense of that on this set?
Lutz: This movie is different than any movie you guys will ever see because it’s not based on a book, it’s based on a really original idea, concept, mixing mythology, creating a story out of its own. It doesn’t have to follow any guidelines. That’s the beauty of it. What you’ll see in the beginning of this movie and what it transforms into as far as the story of Theseus and then what it ends on, kind of reflects back to the beginning and takes you on another journey of who might this new hero be. And then as you see with the epic battle with us Gods at the end, you guys are all here as we’re shooting – again, these are big movies and you always look to capitalize on sequels, third movies.
From day one when Tarsem showed us what he saw of each set, he built little models and I loved those 3D puzzles growing up… what he made with these models, I felt like a little boy again. I wanted to go play with my toys. And seeing these blown up, in here like we’re shooting with the Titan’s tomb, it’s so surreal again because it’s exactly how I saw it times ten and he can just create anything. And with the end of this movie it’s going to make you be like, ‘Wow, I just want to see where this next story goes.’
Q: How does Athena factor in, how important is she to the story, and how much does she move the story along?
Isabel Lucas: Well, she started strategizing against Zeus’ will to intervene amongst the humans, and – sorry, I just can’t breathe very well. [Laughs] So yeah, it’s very vital and important because it’s all about the Gods planning to intervene and seeing how they can intercept or help out, find solutions without creating major friction or adversity between Zeus, who is so about the war and being a certain way and me not wanting to intervene.
Q: How much training did you do before?
Lucas: I’m aware that the rest of the Gods, and Henry and most of the cast had to do a lot of training, and I actually didn’t have to do any. [Laughs] Athena’s not necessarily all muscular; Tarsem didn’t want to go for that look, so I didn’t have to train. It was just a bit of choreography for this scene that I started working with the stunt team, and they’re really wonderful.