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As Relativity Media’s Immortals presentation began Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, moderator Geoff Boucher asked producer Mark Canton about the comparison between director Tarsem Singh’s upcoming Greek god epic and the 2006 blockbuster 300.
“It’s different,” Canton said, dismissing the notion. “It’s in Tarsem-vision.” He, along with Singh, producer Gianni Nunnari and stars Henry Cavill, Frieda Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans and Kellan Lutz discussed the film, shooting for 3D, staying in shape, and Lutz’s affinity for moisture.
Taking to the microphone, Singh admitted that the tone of Immortals is “a little darker than what the trailer might lead you to believe.” The film centers on the Greek hero Theseus (Theseus), best known in classical mythology as the slayer of the Minotaur and founder of Athens. In Immortals, he’s chosen by the king of the gods Zeus (Evans) to defend mankind against the Titan known as Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).
As seen in the trailer, the gods are portrayed as young, vital characters, a departure from their classic image. “They’re young, very aggressive, and pissed,” Nunnari joked. “The other gods are less original. This is really Tarsem’s vision.”
It’s a vision the director was happy to explain. “When you look at Renaissance paintings, they take a muscular man and put on an old man’s face on it,” said Singh, who previously directed The Cell and The Fall. “My idea is that if you’re immortal and you have the choice to be young or old, you’d want to look like Luke Evans.”
“We’re used to seeing Zeus as an older man,” Evans added. “This was a new slant on the role. You’d want to be young and in the prime of your life. You wouldn’t want to be old. It’s fun to take on the king of the gods.”
Dorff, who plays the slave Starvo, recalled his time on set as “a lot of sweat, a lot of dirt, getting in shape, flirting with Frieda’s character, and watching Tarsem work. He can lead an army, I just followed.”
As Boucher uttered said Lutz’s first name, fans of The Twilight Saga actor screamed with delight. Playing to his base, the actor described his take on Poseidon. “He’s the god of wetness and moisture,” he said, eliciting more cheers and screams. “I love fish, I love swimming.”
The film marks the first big-budget feature for Pinto, who plays the priestess Phaedra. “It was going to be a lot more challenging,” said the Slumdog Millionaire star. “You’ve got to have a lot more patience. You have to be dedicated to be on time every day. It’s a lot of teamwork, and it’s great to work with Tarsem, who gives you the freedom to bring what you want to your character.”
When Boucher, a Los Angeles Times writer, prodded the group for a story about Rourke, Nunnari offered a personal victory that came from the added responsibility of getting the actor to the set. “Mark was in charge of that, but then he said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ So, [after a while], Mickey would come to set and say hi to Mark and call him ‘Producer #2.'” He smiled and said Canton’s demotion in Rourke’s eyes made him happy.
Boucher asked Cavill how he found the voice for Theseus. “That’s a tricky thing because you don’t want it to sound stuffy,” replied Cavill, star of Warner Bros.’ upcoming Man of Steel. “You just have to find a good balance and try not to be too English about it, but not too American either.”
Singh said his involvement in the film began when his wife called his atheism into question. “I’ve been an atheist since I was 9 years old,” he explained. “My wife said ‘How do you think you’ve been so successful without my praying?’ It started with that. If there are gods, why don’t they interfere? Do you go with free will or are there other issues?” Those questions led to Immortals.
Following a clip that featured Zeus and few of the other gods taking the fight to the Titans, the floor opened to questions, and the first was a doozy: “How were you affected spiritually by working on this film?”
“Could you start with a heavier question?” Singh joked.
Cavill gamely answered, “We were starved a lot, so we definitely had a few out-of-body experiences.”
The next question focused on the film’s use of 3D technolgoy. “3D is a tool, and I don’t mean that in a rude way,” Singh replied. “It’s a cart — you can’t put it before the horse.” With that in mind, the director said he believes his style, which is more tableau and static shots, lends itself well to the format. He also said it is important to take the time to compose shots specifically for 3D presentation. This also led to the use of practical sets. “I thought if we’re starting with a guy, we needed him to interact with real things,” he explained. “I needed the sets to be existing.”
“From the perspective of moviegoers all over the world, the 3D numbers are quite extraordinary,” Canton added. “I think if it fits and the filmmaker feels it can enhance the audience’s experience, then we want more of it. It’s still about good stories well told.”
Singh joked, “[The technology will] probably date, but such is life.”
A fan asked how the director translates his vision to the cast. “I have certain images in my head and we sit down and I start with that,” he said. By presenting actual drawings to the actors, he develops a rapport and trust that makes things easier on set.
Cavill told a fan the hardest part of working on the film was staying in shape. “It was really very tough,” he said. “Kellan’s always in shape, but for the rest of us, it was really difficult.”
Pinto added that her unusual shooting schedule was a challenge for her. “It was difficult not working for 10 days and coming back,” she explained. “You’re going out of character.”
In hopes of embarrassing her, Singh mentioned that her first work in the film was “a sex thing, and it was like ‘get in the bed,’ and she was gorgeous.”
“How could that be embarrassing?” she asked. “It was with Henry.”
A fan asked Evans and Lutz about their “divine powers.” After a moment’s thought, Lutz answered, “We’re young. We’re agile. We’re gods.”
“It’s refreshing to do that,” Evans added. “We’re action-packed gods. They can fight, they can pick up a weapon.”
When a member of the audience more versed in Greek Mythology asked if the other twelve gods will show up in the film, Singh answered, “We chose a manageable number. I could only get so many good looking guys.”
Ask about researching the role, Lutz quipped that “The Little Mermaid is my favorite movie.”
Pinto told a fan that her favorite aspect of film was watching the guys parade around in skimpy Greek outfits. “It’s very rare that you get to be part of something where the men have to bare it all,” she laughed. “Also, working with Tarsem. It’s easy to work with someone like him.”
The director joked, “If I hear ‘visionary’ one more time …”
Immortals opens on Nov. 11.