WonderCon Exclusive Interview: Mark Canton on Immortals

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Immortals was one of the films offering its very first look at San Francisco’s WonderCon and ComingSoon.net had a chance to speak exclusively with some of the filmmakers and cast behind the super-stylized take on Greek mythology.

Director Tarsem Singh’s (The Cell, The Fall), Immortals stars Henry Cavill as Theseus and features Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, John Hurt and Mickey Rourke as men and Gods waging an epically scaled war.

Producer Mark Canton, also responsible for 300, spoke with ComingSoon.net about the project, bringing Tarsem aboard and where the 300 sequel, Xerxes, currently stands. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the interview had to be held prior to the panel, but you can check out our reaction to the footage by clicking here.

Check back soon for more Immortals interviews with Cavill, Evans, Lucas and Singh.

CS: Tell me when this project came your way and what made you decide that it was something you wanted to work on.
Mark Canton:
What really happened was, after “300,” Gianni Nunnari, my partner, and I were presented every imaginable mythology or historical mythology or graphic novel mythology because Zack [Snyder] changed the landscape with “300.” So we stayed away from it. But a script came to us about Theseus and we though the themes were really modern and really powerful. We responded and Tarsem [Singh] was someone I wanted to work with for a long time, as did Gianni. He had an approach that was very original. He’s the most visual filmmaker, probably, in the world. He had an approach of making this into a Caravaggio-like painting strip instead of like “300,” which was a comic book. So we were thrilled. The script got better and better and we followed the formula pretty much that we had on “300.” In that case it was Gerry [Butler] and [Michael] Fassbender. We went for emerging talent. In this, everyone tested and we loved Henry [Cavill]. No one knew who he was. A year and half of my life I had to say “Henry Cavill. You know, the guy from ‘The Tudors’?” and I’d get a blank stare. Now I just say “Superman” and they go, “Oh, we love that guy!” Then we had Luke [Evans] and Isabel [Lucas] and Freida Pinto. Kellan Lutz. We tend to get very fortunate with the way we cast movies. Or maybe we just have a good sense of who’s emerging. Then we thought that the icing on the cake would be if we could get Mickey Rourke to play the badass bad guy. And he did. He’s a friend of mine, but he’s so, so great in the movie. It came together in a way that took a lot of time and Relativity came in. They’re very modern guys. My own passion for mythology is such that I like to take an authentic story and flip it on its head. I think people get so bored going to history classes. This way, if you’re a fanboy or fangirl or a gamer, there’s a reason to leave the house. Because it’s not worth it if it’s going to be dry. I like to say that we take the sandals out of the sword and sandals movie. It came to life and got lucky.

CS: It’s cool to see Tarsem embrace something like this because he has such a visual style. He’s the kind of director who could take the simplest thing and make it visually engaging.
Canton:
But it wouldn’t necessarily tell a story. So we gave him a frame in which to keep his visual prowress, but to tell a story that’s powerful and heroic and about free will. About man and the fight between good and evil, but also is romantic and sexy and popcorn.

CS: I know it’s about the character of Theseus, but can you sum up the plot in your own words?
Canton:
The story is basically about Theseus. The Gods recognize that there’s a bow that is very powerful that was embedded in stone and hidden for years. The rules are such that the Gods can not interfere with man’s free will and journey. They can mentor, but they can’t do their work for them. Basically, what happens, Mickey and his Hyperion army go after the bow. Mickey is a descendant of the Titans, who have been trapped underground for eons. The Gods recognize that, if Mickey gets this bow, all Hell is going to break loose. Theseus has the stuff to rise up, but he doesn’t have the faith. The story is one about finding your free will and your faith. About finding that the greater good matters as opposed to not rising up to the occasion. It’s basically the story of him becoming a hero and badass warrior in the battle between good and evil. I’m not going to give you the ending, but it’s very cool.

CS: You’re also producing the “300″ prequel, “Xerxes.” What’s the status on that?
Canton:
Zack is working with Kurt Johnstad on the screenplay. We’re taking a lot of time because he really did create something that goes in the time capsule. We want to be faithful to the first one, but we don’t want to do a conventional sequel. But we’re getting close.

CS: Is that something that he’s going to come back and direct?
Canton:
I can’t say. I mean, he’s got “Superman.” He’s busy. We’re busy. I don’t think we’re going to wait two years. But we’ll work together with him and figure out who the filmmaker should be if he doesn’t direct it.

CS: It’s interesting to see where “300″ and “Immortals” might diverge in terms of style. Can you talk about where they meet and where they’re very different?
Canton:
Very different styles. “300″ is a comic book, based on a comic book. This is based on a screenplay. There is no foundation. It’s the mother of invention. This is 3D. That’s wasn’t. Though it felt like it was. It was better than most 3D. But it’s a different journey. Thermopylae was very specific and a much smaller area. This is a wider journey.

CS: How quickly did Tarsem take to 3D?
Canton:
He’s so gifted in terms of his visual style and his technological wherewithal that it’s like candy for him.

CS: Is this very effects-heavy?
Canton:
Oh yeah. But, again, the key to me is always good stories, well told. So we had to have good characters and I think we do.

CS: There’s Gods, of course, but are there some cool monsters?
Canton:
You’ll see some crazy, cool s–t happening in this movie, yeah. And a very great villain in Mickey.

CS: He’s a fascinating actor in that the things he picks are things that really speak to him.
Canton:
You’ll see him in the trailer. Even though it’s not in 3D, you’re really going to get a sense of his take. He had a very specific way to do it. When you work with Mickey, there’s never a dull moment. He had enormous respect for Tarsem.

CS: This is a second God role for Luke Evans.
Canton:
Luke is like Michael Fassbender meets Sean Penn with a little Jude Law in there. And Henry is Superman. It’s a very good thing.

Immortals hits theaters on November 11, 2011.

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