Gods, Titans & buff mortals clash in ’Immortals’
"Immortals" takes a page from Greek mythology: Theseus (Henry Cavill), the founder and king of Athens, is the demigod son of Poseidon and human parents.
He is goaded by Zeus (Luke Evans) to go to war against the King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), an evil Titan (one of the Gods). The film is loosely based on myths surrounding Theseus and the War of the Titans.
Though not yet a household name, Cavill is becoming a viral internet sensation as photos of the hunky Brit are circulating from his starring role of Superman/Clark Kent in the upcoming "The Man of Steel." His co-star (and fellow Brit) Luke Evans is also getting much media attention for having landed the role of Bard the bowman in "The Hobbit." In "Immortals," Evans plays Zeus, the King of the Gods. Evans also has received some speculative news reports about his sexuality since his Hollywood career is on the upswing.
Also in the cast is Freida Pinto, Kellan Lutz, Joseph Morgan, Stephen Dorff, Alan Van Sprang, Isabel Lucas, and John Hurt.
Whether Superman, Theseus or his recent Emmy-nominated role on Showtime’s "The Tudors," Cavill keeps his focus on the scene he’s immediately appearing in. "You can’t look at it from the external viewpoint because it can be crushing," Cavill said. "You’ve got to go, ’Okay, I’m playing a role’ and approach it with the same kind of dedication no matter what. Any differently and you’re not going to do a good enough job, because you’ll be worried about what everyone is thinking about -- everything as opposed to just acting."
To Evans, the legacy of a character like Zeus only occurred to him when he’s completed the film. "When you see it on the screen you’re like, ’Wow,’" Evans said. "You’re overwhelmed by the role that you’ve played. But at the end of the day it’s a role and you approach it as a new challenge."
Rourke and rugby
Rourke himself may be a greater legend than any character he plays on screen. His comeback with 2008’s "The Wrestler" restored his reputation with audiences and critics as the rugged, iconoclastic actor he was in the 1980s prior to his personal struggles that kept him off the screen for years. His follow-up roles in "Iron Man 2" and "The Expendables" have continued this legacy. Still, Rourke came to "Immortals" not quite himself, recovering as he was from an arm injury.
"I had just come out of surgery," Rourke said. "I had torn my bicep. I lost my whole tendon. And the operation didn’t work. So I was actually worried about just being able to tie my shoes. It’s one of the reasons I wore a gauntlet up here [on his arm.] I had a big scar." But, he added: "I’m going to have to have a cadaver tendon put in to fix it."
How the injury happened is a story that’s pure Mickey Rourke: "I was arm wrestling some rugby players at four in the morning. We had been drinking at a pub in London and I lost. But we (the rugby players and Rourke) became good friends out of that, actually."
The players, it turned out, were from the Huddersfield Giants, and his meeting may lead to his next project - a biopic about the out rugby player Gareth Thomas.
"They gave me a magazine about their club... (and) there was an article about Gareth Thomas, the rugby player who announced that he’s gay. I came back home and was watching ’Pardon the Interruption’ and they were talking about Gareth. They were saying how brave he was for coming out. I got on a plane and I met Gareth and I told him, ’I’m wanna make your life story.’ He gave me the rights. I think I beat a studio that was also interested out there by about four days. We’re gonna do this movie now. Thomas announced his retirement [on October 25]. I’ve been writing the script for the past year. Hopefully we’ll do it in March."
Caravaggio meets ’Fight Club’
In "Immortals," visionary director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell," "The Fall") creates an ancient Greece that looks like a Renaissance painting.
"Basically, Caravaggio meets ’Fight Club’," Singh told the website FirstShowing.net. "It’s a really hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting style. I want to see how that goes; it’s turned into something really cool. I’m going for a very contemporary look on top of that so I’m kind of going with, you know, Renaissance time with electricity. So it’s a bit like Baz Luhrman doing ’Romeo + Juliet’ in Mexico; it’s just taking a particular Greek tale and half (make it contemporary) and telling it."
He also recruited actors who could buff up to become God-like physical specimens.
"[I did] six months of work," Cavill said. "It’s like wearing a permanent costume. No really, before work when you look in the mirror, or even before looking in the mirror, you do feel different. I essentially was wearing my costume because I barely had a costume. And when you’re in this kind of shape, a part of the character becomes more expressive in you. Part of the training was about flexibility as well because due to the nature of martial arts, you’re going to need flexibility. With all the fight sequences and everything, it was essential to do all the stretching beforehand. Otherwise you would have ended up pulling stuff and doing damage to muscles."
Rourke’s costume issue
Rourke comes with an impressive physique already. He was a boxer as well as an actor. He was a bit jealous of the gods’ costumes. "I would have rather been one of the guys dressed in gold," Rourke said. "Really, I saw those outfits and I went, ’Fuck! That’s the real me.’"
What Rourke did wear - courtesy of costume designer Eiko Ishioka (who spent three years on the costumes) was far more problematic. His costume was one so layered and bulky it challenged the actor on a daily basis.
"The days would start out bad because it (the costume) was heavy," Rourke recalled. "It took me an hour to put my pants on. It was like this layer and another layer, then a layer up here, then a belt over here. Then another layer and a gauntlet over here. It was like, ’Now I have to stand?’ And the shoes were like 300 pounds apiece. It was nice once I got dressed. Then it was another two hours in the makeup chair."
Decidedly less clothed, Cavill’s physique is on full display. He explained that it was a mental battle to achieve the physical strength. "I’ve learned that when you go to this kind of level, it’s no longer about the physical, it’s more about the mental," Cavill said. "It’s about the will power to push yourself into that very dark place. You’re standing next to the precipice and you’ve got that weight on your shoulders. But you’re only halfway through the workout and you need to push yourself off and just go into that big fuck-off black hole and keep on pushing. ’Immortals’ prepped me for that emotionally and mentally in the physical sense so I’m very grateful for that."
’Wow. That’s different’
When Theseus fights, he just springs into action and it looks effortless. That’s because he’s trained his whole life to fight, and Cavill’s six months of training readied him to perform the movie’s fetes.
"I think like anything which involves fighting, it’s not the actual fight which is the hard work," Cavill said. "It’s all the prep that goes into it. Throughout history, there are stories of epic battles where men have dug very deeply and women have dug very deeply into their willpower to continue fighting. But the only reason why they’re there in the first place is because of the years of training. Anything physical, it’s all about the prep anyway. You may see the guy in the UFC ring fighting and it may seem effortless -- his abilities, his kicks, his punches, whatever; but it’s actually the years of training beforehand where the real work is."
Though Cavill only suffered minor injuries that healed quickly, Evans came away from "Immortals" with a permanent memento. "I now have a bone that’s raised on my shoulder which I never had before which is like a scapula or clavicle tear," Evans said. "It’s never gone down. I just have this strange structural skeletal problem now, thanks to ’Immortals.’"
Cavill is not saying much about "The Man of Steel," which he is currently on set filming. "It’s been wonderful," Cavill said. "Very hard work, exciting and fun, all of those things. I can’t really say any more."
For his part, Rourke still has trouble playing by the rules, and screening "Immortals" in 3D did not impress him.
"I didn’t wear the glasses," Rourke said. "I’m just not in a mood to put them on. They told me there’s a difference. It’s entertainment, you know? It looks great. I thought Tarsem did a hell of a job. It’s a wild looking two hours of something you can escape to and go, ’Wow. That’s different.’"
"Immortals" opens Friday, November 11, 2011.
Watch the trailer to "Immortals":