ERAGON - Q&A with Ed Speleers, Sienna Guillory, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle & director Stefen Fangmeier
Movie Interview by EDF
Q&A with stars Ed Speleers, Sienna Guillory, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle and director Stefen Fangmeier who attended the London press conference.
What difficulties did you have when you brought this version of fantasy and magic to the screen?
STEFEN FANGMEIER: I needed to differentiate it from anything that had gone before. Other fantasy movies such as THE LORD OF THE RINGS, HARRY POTTER and most recently NARNIA really created an audience for it. On the other hand, there was also pressure to take a book that was referential in creating a new world and characters that were not reminiscent of what had gone before. There are two sides to that coin, one in building an audience and on the other hand be thrilled and excited and introduce them to something somewhat new.
How difficult is it to create a dragon even with all the CGI magic and make us believe in the dragon?
STEFEN FANGMEIER: I think it was difficult to create a dragon that everyone would like. There have been dragon films done before that weren't really that successful. It was one of the questions that the chairman of the studio asked, "why have all dragon movies been flops?" I said it was an interesting question and never considered it but we'll make sure that we come up with a dragon that has qualities that will make it a more memorable character than the other ones.
Jeremy, you were quoted as saying that you felt it was time for you to do a film like this.
JEREMY IRONS: I think it is important for an actor to keep reintroducing himself to a young audience. The kids who this is aimed at really know me as the voice of a lion. I thought they should put a face to the voice. As an actor, I try to take what opportunities come to me on a very wide range so that you cover the audience and hopefully get an audience to see this and other movies that they might not see because I am in it. Its part of a career strategy. I also look for a good story and I thought this was a good story. The strength of this story is that it was written by a sixteen year-old and how he sees growing up and how he sees adolescence. It's not an aged academic writing for a nephew about what he remembers about life when he was younger than fantasy. I thought that was a great strength and who can explain that Eragon's such a successful book. I can only assume it's the kids who read it really feel empathy with what they are reading. They understand that world, they know it. He set it in a fantasy world and a lot of it is about growing up, and this boy growing up and dealing with fathers and mothers and girlfriends and things they want to do and can't and why can't they do them and gently growing into a stage where they have responsibilities in life where they can be masters of their own destinies. This is a universal story and I saw this when I read the script. I looked at Stefen's designs, which were mind-blowing, and I knew his track record. I knew if this was to work, the dragon had to work and I had worked with dragons before and as Stefen said, a flop. I felt that if anyone could make dragon's work, he could.
Robert, apart from Durza being a very scary character and a dentist's worst nightmare, I wonder if your family has seen it and what their reaction is to this latest incarnation on the screen?
ROBERT CARLYLE: The kids are too young. I have three kids under five. They don't really understand it. My oldest daughter thinks I go away and get photographed.
What was the ordeal like of sitting through the makeup process hour after hour?
ROBERT CARLYLE: That was hard. I had to sit through three and a half hours of makeup and it took about an hour and a half to take it off. She would be squeezing my face and that was really, really hard.
STEFEN FANGMEIER: I think it helped with your performance as you had that tortured expression....
ROBERT CARLYLE: There was no acting required.
Sienna, your character is very feminine but is also a bit of an action girl, I wonder whether we were seeing the tomboy in you come through?
SIENNA GUILLORY: It was just really nice to play a role that isn't the damsel in distress. The thing I was blown away by was that this was written by a kid who has no understanding of women. I have read scripts from seventy year-olds and sixty year-olds who have no understanding of woman whatsoever. I think Christopher Paolini is a genius and it was a great opportunity to play a role that was real and rounded.
Ed, how easily did you relate to the story given that of all the members of the cast, you are the closest in age to the author?
ED SPELEERS: It backs up what Jeremy was saying earlier, that is why I love the books so much and loved making the movie so much. I was at that age. I was going through the coming of age process.
How tough is it to achieve the realism in the film when you are acting to nothing other than a tennis ball?
JEREMY IRONS: The tennis ball in some cases has more animation than some actors.
STEFEN FANGMEIER: It's the sort of thing that with visual effects you see different actors deal with that problem. I was fortunate with Ed who was a natural in doing that. I was trying to give him something to relate to and he just put something in his imagination that became true. Shooting the film as real as possible out in real location and getting an organic, natural look allowed us to integrate the artificial character in a way where it became more successful
JEREMY IRONS: You mean so that they would have emotion.
STEFEN FANGMEIER: Emotion and also reality in real settings and not everything forced onto a blue screen stage where you create everything around it and automatically you get this sterile situation going.
JEREMY IRONS: What is extraordinary is that the dragon does have emotion because that is what you miss on so many of these special effects movies.
SIENNA GUILLORY: It can be liberating to use your imagination. You've got a perfect idea of the dragon.
What was your reaction of the finished dragon after you had imagined it for so long? Did it live up to what you had expected?
SIENNA GUILLORY: I got attached to my big blue egg and had some maternal feelings towards it. Watching it hatch open and a baby dragon coming out was completely over emotional. It was amazing. I think Rachel Weisz really brings it to life.
Ed, what was you reaction as you were the master of the beast?
ED SPELEERS: When I was imagining the dragon on set, I was imagining a combination of my mother and my best friend. I was quite glad when I saw the dragon not to see my mum standing there. It was amazing to see what these guys would come up with. For so long I had to put up with this tennis ball.
Robert, what was the appeal to play someone so evil and did you insist on playing him with an English accent?
ROBERT CARLYLE: No, I did not insist on anything. It was Stefen's choice to play him with an English accent. It suited the character.
STEFEN FANGMEIER: I knew Robert could be so nasty and evil without being a big bully. There was something Napoleon about it and a little bit dandy with the costume and with the hair, he was someone who took himself to be important. My only concern is that the Scottish accent would have been too strong and the audience would have had a hard time understanding it.
JEREMY IRONS: Of course, to an American ear, the English accent is very evil which is why we play all the baddies.
Ed, with this being your first role, did you have a mentor on set and what was the best advice they gave you?
ED SPELEERS: I was quite lucky as the cast themselves are a bunch of mentors for me. It was such a great experience amongst the cast. Each day I would work with someone with a great track record. Jeremy was fantastic - he was there for me the whole way through. I don't know if it was because he was missing his sons, I was missing my dad, and we kind of had this father-son connection. I don't know if it was method acting or genuine. He was there for me the whole way through and so were the whole cast. It was a special bond because we were working so closely together.
Stefen, do you think the success of THE LORD OF THE RINGS helped contribute to the making of this film?
STEFEN FANGMEIER: Certainly. I think those films and HARRY POTTER have made fantasy so popular and it has created an audience right away. Ten years ago this book would have never been turned into a film because that was the genre that was questionable to what had gone on before that.
JEREMY IRONS: The big difference is that we can do it now and create a dragon that is real.