With visionary director Tarsem Singh at the helm, Immortals is certain to be a film that is much talked about, when it hits theaters in November. An epic tale of treachery, vengeance and destiny among the Greek Gods, it promises to be a stylish and spectacular 3D adventure that is as unique as the filmmaker himself. In it, actor Henry Cavill plays Theseus, a stonemason who vows to avenge the death of his mother and who is called upon to embrace his destiny in a final battle for the future of humanity.
After their Hall H panel presentation at Comic-Con, Henry Cavill and Tarsem Singh talked about the appeal of a project like this, what changed to make an almost non-existent script something that could be brought to life for the screen, what the overall tone will be, and why 3D worked for this. Cavill also talked about how he’s already put on 25 pounds in training for playing Superman in Man of Steel, how it’s both humbling and an honor to take on a role that he hopes he can do justice with, and how he’s chosen not to focus on the celebrity aspect of all the attention he’s now receiving. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Question: How was the Hall H panel experience?
TARSEM SINGH: It was a strange, lovely experience. It was wonderful, just looking out into the void of dark. I kept saying to Henry that it felt like watching porn. You don’t know if there are weirdos out there or some cute chicks. You keep answering questions and waiting for a response.
HENRY CAVILL: No comment.
SINGH: You’re talking to Clark Kent, here. He’s a straight guy.
Henry, what was the appeal of a project like this?
CAVILL: When you’re growing up as a boy, the idea of playing a sword-wielding hero and beating up the bad guys is always a fun thing, and you get to play it in the big leagues and for real and get the real costumes on and have all the special effects. But, ultimately, it was down to Tarsem. Reading the script, it had a few kinks in it, initially, but Tarsem’s vision was the one thing that sold me on it, and his passion for it. Even if Tarsem came to me with a piece of wood and pretended it was a script and said, “No really, I’m really passionate about this,” he would be able to sell me on it and it would be an amazing piece of wood.
What changed to make it better?
SINGH: It was much worse than that. Henry is being very nice and saying it was a kink, but there was practically nothing there. So, when we started, I just said, “I need to find somebody who I think, when the script works, can act. And, I want an unknown.” Not that Henry was unknown, but I think he was to the rest of the world, at that time. So, when I went to meet him, we had one scene, and that’s all it was. All I did was have him read the scene, and he read it perfectly, and I told him, “It was all wrong, read it another way.” He did that and I told him, “You were better earlier.” He came back and I realized he could go where I wanted, so I went back to the studio and said, “We don’t really have a script.” When we started, he was a king’s son and now he’s a peasant. I said, “Whatever you change, I think he can act it.” I was just looking for a guy who, no matter where we went, could make it work, and that was Henry. But, he’s being nice when he says kink. We just had one scene.
How did you approach the costume design, especially with some of the helmets that don’t look like traditional Greek?
SINGH: The movie is not traditional Greek. When it started, I was thinking it might be much more like Baz Luhrmann doing Romeo & Juliet in Mexico. It’s supposed to be Greek time with electricity. As we started, they tried to tell me, “If you stay closer to the Greek stuff and you don’t have any of these things, you will have a much bigger audience.” But, I wasn’t interested in making a straight Greek. Then, I think you’d end up with exactly what 300 had, and I was going much more towards just having fantasy fun with it. Theseus (Henry Cavill) never had any fights with Gods. He wasn’t, at all, in war with the Gods. We were mixing the two stories, so I said, “Why not go the whole hog and just do what you want to do?”
What’s the overall tone of the film?
SINGH: Fun and dark and lovely and sexy and violent.
CAVILL: Violent and sexy shouldn’t be put together.
SINGH: Haven’t you seen Discovery Channel? The animals are always eating each other, and they’re mating. It’s violent and sexy. I watch it all the time.
Tarsem, if there was no real working script for this film, what brought you to the project?
SINGH: I had a thing that I was interested in and, once I met Henry, I just said, “Everything needs to fall around him.” And then, all the Gods became young. When it started, I started with it for a selfish reason. I wanted to do a story on, “If Gods exist, why is the world as miserable as it is?” I started with that theme, but you’re in trouble if you deal with any modern religion. You’ll get stoned in some countries, and you’ll get killed in others. So, if you pick a dead religion like the Greeks, all you’ll get is people bitching about you on the Internet and I was fine with that.
CAVILL: That’s going to happen anyway.
SINGH: So, I just turned it Greek because of that. I was interested in the subject matter of, “If Gods exist, why don’t they show up on the White House lawn and say, ‘Be nice to each other.’” I needed to find a reason for them and I found it, and I think a minuscule of it is still left in the movie.
Tarsem, you mentioned that 3D goes well with your style. Why is that?
SINGH: It tends to be not very fast, cutty and tableau-y.
Does it help give depth to the very painterly type of images you like?
SINGH: Yes. I wasn’t interested in poking your eye out, even though occasionally it helps. For me, when I was making those tableaus, it was wonderful. I went for Caravaggio paintings. Of course, Caravaggio’s paintings aren’t particularly 3D, but for the first time, the Renaissance figured depth out. They got the perspective right. To see a flat image in 3D is all wrong, but right now, whatever we feel works for you is what the convention will make it go far. It was great having 3D because I needed at least a year and a half to finish the movie, and they told me I had the time. I said no to it on Snow White, the next film that I am doing. I had these guys and I had to make it look great, as long as someone didn’t tell me, “Now, do all the modern stuff that’s hip.” What I do tends to look very dated. It just comes with the territory. But, fortunately, it’s very 3D friendly.
Henry, what was the physical training like, to prepare for this, and how did it get you ready to play Superman?
CAVILL: The physical training was extensive and exhausting. I think I was doing 9 to 5, at one stage, with the training. You certainly learn a lot, when you go through that process once. You learn about how to do it more efficiently the second time. Although I’ve had a trainer both times, it’s a very different kind of thing for this next job (Superman). For example, I’m 25 pounds heavier now than I was in Immortals. That is enough said, really. It’s prepared me, mentally. When you have that negotiation, when you’re training and you get to that rep which is difficult, and you know you’ve got 10 more reps to go in that one set, and another five sets after that, and you say, “I don’t really have to do this. I can do something else. If I just put the weights down and have a bit more rest, it will be fine.” It teaches you how to negotiate and win the negotiation, and how to notice the lie in your head, which is, “Oh, it hurts it’s dangerous,” as opposed to, “Yeah, it hurts, but that’s good.” As my new trainer says, it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. That’s very telling.
SINGH: I tell that to my girlfriend all the time. She doesn’t listen to me.
Did getting to play with swords live up to your fantasies as a kid?
CAVILL: Oh yeah, very much so, especially when you win all the time.
Did you have to learn archery to use a bow?
CAVILL: There were no extensive archery lessons, no. I did on The Tudors. I had a very brief three hours of archery, at one stage.
SINGH: I saw the scene and I remember Henry correcting us on it. We only had one bow scene and it looks like he’s an expert. He’s always fighting with different weapons, but I remember when we gave him the bow, he said, “I wouldn’t hold it like this.” Suddenly, it was designed for a left-hander. I was like, “It’s a movie, Henry, just pull the damn thing.”
What do you think the appeal is for this type of story with modern audiences? Why will people connect with it?
SINGH: What, sexy Gods fighting each other?
CAVILL: That’s a good point. What will the audience like?
SINGH: What is the appeal? I don’t know.
CAVILL: Sexy Gods fighting each other.
SINGH: For me, I’m very rarely interested in genres. As long as I feel I can put my DNA out there in the ideology, it works for me. That was basically it. I started with it being something else, and it turned into Greek. I don’t particularly care so much for serial killer films, but I’ve done one. And, I don’t like fairy tales, but I’m doing one. I just look at it and say, “Can I say something in this, and will the people giving me $100 million let me?” If it’s a personal film, sure, you can say whatever you want. But, on something like this, am I ready to let them put enough milk in my coffee and still think it’s my coffee? That’s what you try to judge, when you fight with the people. So far, I’m very glad with the film the way it is. There’s very little milk in it.
Henry, what’s it like for you now, with all this attention that’s on you? Is it something that you’re able to just tune out and focus on the work, or is it hard to not be distracted by it?
CAVILL: You make a choice, whether you focus on the – and I hate the word – celebrity aspect of it, or not. I have chosen not to. I know I can’t make everyone happy, but I know I can do the most justice I can possibly do to a character, or any character, if I put my all into it. That’s the choice you have to make.
While he was at Comic-Con, Andrew Garfield spoke about the awesome responsibility of stepping into the Spider-Man costume. Are you thinking about that with Superman?
CAVILL: It’s very humbling to be chosen to represent such an enormous character with so much depth to it as well, but at the same time, it’s a true honor. I want to do justice to the character and I want to be the right guy for the job. I want to prove them right, much like Zeus.
Check the audio for the interview here