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Wondercon ’10: Gyllenhaal, Bruckheimer and Newell ponder ‘Prince of Persia’


In the midst of the weekend’s activites at San Francisco’s Wondercon comic and pop culture convention, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, director Mike Newell and producer Jerry Bruckheimer appeared together at multiple events to help promote their upcoming film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Prior to offering a few glimpses of the film to the public, the trio spoke directly to press about their experiences mounting this massive adaptation of the iconic video game of the same name. On Saturday morning, Hollywood News joined a group of reporters to see what Gyllenhaal, Newell, and Bruckheimer had to say about Prince of Persia, which opens nationwide on May 28, 2010.

Photo gallery of the cast of “Prince of Persia” from Wondercon below…SCROLL DOWN

[Note: Although “Hollywood News” is used to distinguish questions from answers in the text below, our journalist was just one of many reporters asking questions of the filmmakers.]

Hollywood News: How do you assess this summer’s box office battle? Can Prince of Persia win in spite of not being in 3-D?

Jerry Bruckheimer: I hope so. I don’t know if it will win it, but it will certainly be a contender. It’s a terrific film, so we hope for the best.

Jake, you’ve dabbled in action before. How did you enjoy being a full-on action hero?

Jake Gyllenhaal: You were struggling for that, really (laughs). It was great fun. It’s great fun making an action movie, particularly making something so big where you’re in and out of doing great acting with a great director, and then jumping around all over buildings. It’s great fun.

Hollywood News: You consider this your first action role then?

Gyllenhaal: I do, yes. I do.

Hollywood News: How was it preparing for a character that was basically a video game?

Gyllenhaal: It was fun. I’ve never done research playing video games; I’ve never played video games as research before. It’s quite a [change]. Sometimes I’d read books or I’ve hung out with Marines, but playing video games is great fun.

Hollywood News: Can you talk about your preparations? I know it required acrobatics, horse riding, a new accent for you.

Gyllenhaal: You’ve just named them all (laughs). You know, I did all of the normal training that you would do cardiovascular-ly, and then you listen to all of the experts and they teach you how to do it. Every day, horseback riding, parkour training, gymnastics, sword fighting, all of that.

Hollywood News: Jerry, what are your feelings about 3-D?

Bruckheimer: Well, it’s certainly done well at the box office thanks to Avatar, but it’s a new medium. It’s wonderful. It’s new technology that makes the theatergoing experience even more exciting, so it’s terrific, and hopefully you’ll see a lot more movies in 3-D.

Hollywood News: Jake, can you talk about the process of making this movie and honoring the folks who loved the video game upon which it’s based? Or was that important?

Gyllenhaal: Without a doubt. We had that pressure on our shoulders the whole time, but yet at the time time, I think transitioning from making a video game into a movie, I think Mike [Newell] and Jerry from the beginning said we need to make anything the Prince does, and his name is now Dastan, has to be based in some kind of reality. In fact, there were times on set when we would do some sort of stunt that mimicked something from the game, and Jerry would say, well, wait a second, why did he do that? We need to have that be based in the storyline, and everything had to be based emotionally in the storyline, so we’d have to come up with a reason why he flipped upside down over a horse (laughs). And we did.

Hollywood News: Is there a difference in acting for you when you’re doing a small personal role as opposed to something bigger like this?

Gyllenhaal: Well, it’s a very physical role, and I’ve always found myself inhabiting a role starting from the physical level. Whether you’re changing the shape of your body and losing weight, gaining weight, you’re figuring out what the character would look like on a physical level. So for this it was very physical, which I love, which I’d never really done this intensely before. But I don’t think it’s any different at all. When you’re committed, you’re committed, and as soon as I decide to be in a movie or play a part, it’s 120 percent commitment no matter what.

Hollywood News: A lot of video games movies have gotten a bad rap. What will make this one different?

Mike Newell: What we wanted to do was of course based on a storyline and respecting the look and all of that, but we wanted to make it emotionally real. So we did a huge amount of work at the script stage, at the rehearsal stage, all of it, to make it absolutely real. So the fights, for instance, you should have seen what I saw which was Jake rehearsing fights like ballet, but because it’s like ballet, it’s also got to have an emotional reality to it as well, and that was always the big pressure – to take it into an area where a game couldn’t go, while not destroying the game side of it. So emotion.

Hollywood News: How different was this creatively and logistically from Harry Potter?

Newell: It was really different because with Potter I was in halfway through a series that was already a franchise that was a huge success. But here we had all of the basic work to do absolutely from the ground up with no favors done. We had no idea whether we would find favor with an audience or not, so it’s more nervous. You’ve got to work harder, you’ve got to be cleverer and more original, and above all, don’t ever let the thing sag. But Jerry’s the boy for that.

Hollywood News: Jake, did you go all of the way back to the old-school Persia game for your research?

Gyllenhaal: Side-scrolling style? Yes, I played [Jordan]’s video game first when I was a kid so I played the first original when I was I-don’t-know-how-old, and then I only started playing the game really intensely when I was doing research, particularly for stunt research. We would be in the middle of shooting and I would go back to my trailer and I’d be playing a game and I’d see a move and call the stunt guys into the trailer and be like, hey you guys, check out this move – can we try it? And they would be like, alright mate!

Hollywood News: How much do the characters you play become a part of who you are?

Gyllenhaal: In one way or another, every character you is based somewhere or with some understanding of where you are in your life, some understanding of that. But with Prince of Persia, yes, and getting to know David Bell and learning parkour and being as physical as I was, now I wish I was British because I feel like I’m proficient enough at a British accent that there are hopefully those vestiges I do keep. And occasionally, I do throw out a British accent at the dinner table with my family. So yes, they do stay with you, and this one definitely has. I do always carry a sword, and I keep the dagger of time and I’ll use it at this press conference if there are any weird questions (laughs).

Hollywood News: Was it difficult not to stereotype people or locations in Persia as some films maybe have in the past?

Newell: Evidence is in your eyes. I believe not. We went very carefully with Jordan’s prodding, we went very carefully back to 6th century Persia and we looked at the style, we looked at the behavior, we looked at the way the cities were made, and so on and I hope that we were faithful to it and didn’t come in and jump all over it without any kind of sensitivity.

Hollywood News: Jake, talk about getting acclimated to working in an environment where things are added through CGI or other means in after you’re already provided a performance.

Gyllenhaal: Well, I think as an actor everything requires imagination, whether you’re playing with someone across from you who’s playing another part – you have to imagine them as that part anyway. If you’re dealing with something that doesn’t necessarily exist yet, you’re imagining what that is just as you’re imagining somewhere that person in a drama, so to speak, in a smaller film, is who they are. So you’re constantly using your imagination, as we all do when we eventually watch the movie, so to me it doesn’t feel different although I know it’s harder to kind of… sitting where I am, it doesn’t feel different. From the outside, I think it doesn’t probably look different because it’s such a spectacle, but the work is the same, always.

Hollywood News: What was the toughest stunt you were allowed to do?

Gyllenhaal: It always varied. It got a little bit dicey towards the end because everybody saw that I liked doing things that were a little bit dangerous and so we tried our hands at things that were pushing it a little bit. I think in the end there was this fight towards the middle of the movie that we shot at the end with my brother where he has an axe and I’m fighting him with my sword and a shield that I have left, and we really got dangerous with that fight. There were a few times when the axe came so close to my face almost that everyone was like, awwww that was so good! And I’m like [sobbing], oh, it looks so good! So definitely that axe fight was an intense one, and some of the jumps got pretty [tough] when I’d go, it’s okay guys – you don’t have to give me so much. Let it go. And I’d go bam! And my knees would be secretly weeping inside, but besides that, there was a big, 35-foot jump I did that got a little hairy a couple of times, particularly when I was like, let me try it again!

Hollywood News: Jerry, why was Mike the right director for this?

Bruckheimer: Well, Mike, first of all, we try to have films that have humor to them, and you’ve seen in his work that he can do humor. You saw through Donnie Brasco that he can do something very realistic, and then through Harry Potter you can see that he could do fantasy and wonderment, and his films are just excellent. He’s very smart, he understands character, and he spent a lot of time working on the screenplay, and he lured all of these wonderful actors into the movie, which is great.

Hollywood News: When you’re making a movie like this, how much attention is paid to the future of it as a franchise?

Bruckheimer: Zero, absolutely zero of making it a franchise. What you try to do is make a really compelling movie with strong characters, great themes, great story, and if the audience embraces it, you get lucky and then you think about making another one. When we made the first Pirates movie, we had no inclination that the audience would accept a film about pirates with Johnny Depp playing like he’s drunk, so you just go with it and if you get lucky and Disney wants to make another one and you people embrace it, we’ll think about another one.

Newell: Not one word did Jerry say to me about it. We were just making one film.


Enjoy the photo gallery of the cast and crew of “Prince of Persia” from Wondercon below:

Picture 1 of 17

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 03: Director Mike Newell at 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' Panel at WonderCon 2010 on April 03, 2010 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage)

About Todd Gilchrist

Todd Gilchrist is a Los Angeles-based film critic and entertainment journalist. Over the past decade he worked at a variety of online and print publications, including the Miami New Times, Filmstew.com, SCI FI Wire, and IGN.com, where he wrote reviews, conducted interviews with actors and filmmakers, and edited Movies, DVD and Music content. He currently works for Cinematical.com among other outlets, and has been a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association since 2005.

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One Comment

  • April 5, 2010 | Permalink |

    Jake looks awesome in this action film. The interview was great, can’t wait to see it on the big screen

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