Hercules Director Brett Ratner Interview

Director Brett Ratner, best known for the Rush Hour series and X-Men The Last Stand finally gets to tackle his dream project Hercules with appropriately musclebound leading man Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Here’s what he had to say during a London press conference with his cast to promote the film.

Q: We see a lot of fun in this film and you seem such a fan of the character Hercules, would you agree with that, Brett?

 For me, as a kid growing up, I dreamed of making a swords and sandals movie, and Hercules is the ultimate character: the first superhero. I read the graphic novel and this story demystified the myth, and is really the ultimate interpretation of the story. A lot of these films, in modern times, are all about the spectacle, the visual effects. I set to make something that was grounded, that was realistic, that had emotion, that had heart, that had characters, that was an ensemble: it wasn’t just about Hercules, it was about his team as well. When I met with Dwayne, I was just like, “Oh my god, this film is now breathing life!” Dwayne really came on-board and it became something that was real. At first, it was just a childhood dream, and then all of a sudden I was sitting in my living room, looking at Dwayne! It’s his dream to play this role, but he’s making my dream come true, so I want to thank him here in front of this audience for doing that for me. But, the truth is, at the end of the day, it was the hardest film I’ve ever done, I’m sure a lot of these actors can say the same thing. But, it was incredibly rewarding and we had incredible fun. It wasn’t until he came into London for his first fitting for hair and makeup, put his wig on and put his clothes on, and I saw the transition. I saw the moment for the first time, I watched him looking in the mirror and become Hercules. His whole persona changed. I took a picture of that moment. Behind your back, Dwayne. I just thought he owns this, and everything fell into place: each one of these guys became the characters. And, even though I’ve been watching Ian my whole life, I saw him as Amphiaraus. By the way, he had the easiest job on set because he was not wearing a wig, he has fantastic hair!

Q. The films boasts a lot of impressive sets alongside CGI effects does’t it?

What’s cool is, we actually built the sets in this movie, and with a lot of movies these days, the actors go into a green room and they point at the camera in different directions and we build it in post. We built some of the biggest sets I think I’ve ever stepped on in my entire life, it felt like we were setting a movie in the Bible: it was epic. It was helpful to the actors to come on the large-scale sets that were actually built, they weren’t CGI’d – we use CGI to extend them, but the actors were walking on to one of the biggest sets in the world.

Q: Why was it important for you to do it that way?

 Well, I think it’s better for me; it’s just an old-school approach. I would have done it with miniatures if I could, but the truth is, to build it, it just makes the feeling of going to battle every day. We built villages from scratch, we found a piece of land, spent months excavating it and built each little structure: if you went there, there were signs of people living there, our production designer, Jean-Vincent Puzos, really put in the effort. Every day you walked onto the set, it was an experience, you felt like you were actually there.

Q: Can you tell us about casting Ingrid Bolsø Berdal  as an amazon warrior?

 

I’ve never seen an actor as committed to her character. She would sleep in her wardrobe at night – not literally of course! When everyone else was having fun and relaxing, Ingrid was going on imaginary hunts with her armour and archer around the property in Budapest, asking actors, “Can we go into the forest and go hunting? We won’t kill anything! We just gonna pretend like we’re hunting in the forest.”

Q: Irina Shayk plays Hercules wife, what made her the right fit alongside Dwayne?

 Irina is a bit of a star, and you never know how someone is gonna react, but we were doing a scene at four o’clock in the morning, and there were hundreds of dead men in a ravine, and I didn’t even wanna walk in the ravine. And I said to Irina, “You’ve gotta go and get in the ravine and lay down on top of all these soldiers,” and she was like, “Okay.” I said, “Are you sure? I wouldn’t wanna do it if I was you!” The ravine was disgusting!

Q: Dwayne Johnson is your leading man, can you talk about his physical dedication to the role?

 The discipline of Dwayne is inspiring. I think you gained thirty-five pounds of muscle on the movie, maintained it, and was up before anybody at four in the morning, working out twice before you even got to set! At one point he said to me-…can I say the F-word? “Don’t screw this up, Brett. I’m working so hard!” Three hours of hair and makeup, and his commitment to this character was unbelievable and for everybody involved. I would have been suffering just from the food part!

Q:  Dwayne mentioned that he grew up watching the Hercules character, who has been reinvented time after time, so how did you come to decide on how you wanted to portray him? What was the story you wanted to tell?

 It was really the demystification of the myth that got me excited about it. Where all legends begin and where they end up. For me, it was such a unique twist to do a grounded realistic version of the story, and, as Dwayne said, I think it’s very difficult because it’s a story that everybody knows, everyone is familiar with it, so how do we make it modern and contemporary and special? Dwayne himself portraying that role was able to make it fresh; a Hercules for this generation, and I believe, in watching the movie, there’s nobody else that could have played this role, especially of this generation. And, to be a part of that, is really exciting for me, and hopefully this film is gonna be really successful and we’re gonna keep making these over and over again. And then the spin-offs!

 

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