Warcraft is the big budget blockbuster video game adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. The popular title has a huge built-in fanbase, and has been played by millions of people around the world. Now the gaming company, along with Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures, will be releasing the film this summer. Directed by Duncan Jones, the film sees the Orcs escaping their decaying home world through a mystical portal, and attempting to colonize peaceful realm of Azeroth which is ruled by humans.
We were recently invited to the press conference on the film’s press day where we sat with a group of our fellow journalists to talk to Jones, and cast Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, and Ben Schnetzer. There they talked about giving the fantasy genre a new voice, playing their respective roles, the visual effects, and much more.
Check out our top seven things we learned from the Warcraft press conference below.
1 – Giving The Fantasy Genre A New Voice
The fantasy genre has never been well represented in the past few years, with the only most notable film coming from it being Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. “I think one of the things, science fiction in particular and a number of sub-genres over the years, whether you have a gritty film like Blade Runner, or 2001, or AI, or Adjustment Bureau, there is a big spectrum of what science fiction can be,” said Jones. “In fantasy, the kind of gorilla in the room is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the original ones by Peter Jackson. It kind of feels like the spectrum of what is fantasy is much smaller than science fiction, so I love the opportunity to maybe try and do a film that will hopefully be the same bar as Lord of the Rings, but give fantasy a bit of a new voice, a new feel, and that’s what we tried do to with Warcraft.”
2 – Why They Joined
Paula Patton said she was drawn to the film because of “the script and the character” saying “it was so compelling.” It was her first introduction to Warcraft through the creative meetings she had with Duncan, whom she knew through his work on Moon and Source Code. She was initially scared to do it after she accepted the role of Garona. “I got in my car and I went ‘Shit!’, ” said Patton. “I was like so scared. I was like I wanted to do it justice and how I will I become a half-orc half-human? Then I realized that the thing that you are most scared of doing, you should do, you know? It’s all those things that compelled me to be a part of it.” Having already watched the film multiple times she said that the world that Jones has created was “remarkable,” and was “thrilled to be a part of it.”
For Ben Schnetzer who played the warlock Khadgar, he was just “big fan of Duncan’s since Moon.” Like Patton, his first real “introduction of Warcraft was through the script.” “The story and the narrative that Duncan and Charles [Schnetzer] set forth was very faithful to the mythology of the game, but it was also crafted a very human narrative, a real character driven story. About ten pages into the script, I forgot I was reading an adaptation of a game,” said Schnetzer. “Whether your source material is a game or a novel, whatever it is… a good story is a good story, and Duncan was very diligent about giving equal weight to both sides of the story. I was captivated and compelled by it, and the opportunity to do something iconic was extraordinarily exciting.”
The self-proclaimed World of Warcraft gamer Robert Kazinsky said that he had been playing the game for the past 12 years, so being in the film feels like it has come full circle. “I would have killed many puppies to be a part of this film, and I would have done any part in it,” said Kazinsky. “I think I offered to pay Legendary, literally pay them, to have a role in it. I was more than happy when I was asked to be Orgrim Doomhammer.” He added, “There’s nothing – not rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor armored orge that could stand in my way to be in this.”
Toby Kebbell is obviously no stranger to the world of motion capture having already played Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Adding that he was already a fan of Jones’ to begin with, it was hard to find a good reason to pass it up. “I am a fan of motion capture. I was a fan of Duncan’s. Of course, the script was so well done and actually a testament of Duncan’s that you kept that script, and it just all the way through, because that’s how the downfall of many a great story,” said Kebbell. “It was motion capture for me. I had just come off Planet of the Apes. I was so desperate to keep up with that craft and learn as much as I could. I was lucky enough to get to read it number one. To get to audition with Duncan, which I did over Skype while he was already up there prepping.”
3 – Differentiating Lord Of The Rings From Warcraft
The mythology of Warcraft is massive, and with the game’s 20 year history, there are more then enough stories to work with for Jones to separate his film from another huge fantasy epic film, The Lord of the Rings. “The Lord of the Rings set the bar on what fantasy films should be, and like I said, Fantasy has a much smaller set of films which are really the things you aspire to make when you make a fantasy film,” said Jones. “Peter Jackson, I mean I’ve been out there and the workshops, the studio, everything there is just phenomenal what’s down there. The landscapes in New Zealand just lend themselves to this fantasy storytelling. We wanted to find a way to do it differently, and give you guys a bit of a rival. It would be nice if there was a bit of a rival for fantasy films. We just wanted to create a spectacle, and give it an energy that is a bit different but hopefully achieve the same level of success.”
4 – Gamers Leveling Up In The Next Stage Of Their Lives
When asked about how gamers could level up in the next stage of their lives, Patton joked “so you mean not killing orcs.” With Kazinsky chiming in “don’t think you can go around killing people thinking you will get stronger.” But Jones offered a more heartfelt answer:
“When you make a movie like this, it’s all about collaboration of bringing in people together with different skills. When I started out doing really bad cheap music videos and commercials a long time ago, one of the reasons I was able to move on and make better things is I got to work with people who all had their independent skills and learn from them. So I would say if you’re young and if you want to have whatever creative art you are interested in, learn from other people who may not have the same skills as you and especially in film, try and work together, bring together people who have complementary skills. I think there is a group of you, you are going to have way more momentum than try to fight the world all on your own.”
Patton followed suit by also giving a more genuine answer saying that it’s about “having no fear” and that you have to have “faith in yourself.” “Truly I believe it is mind over matter, just like in the fantasy film, imagination,” said Patton. “You can will it to yourself, you have to have faith and believe and not let any bit of negativity or doubt or what came before you or what people say is impossible.”
5 – The Process Of Getting Into Costume
As elaborate as the sets are in Warcraft, the costumes are quite exciting to look at. But with one faction suit wearing normal suits of armor with the other sporting motion-capture suits, it only made sense that the half-human half-orc character get the most practical look to help her look like an orc but maintain her humanity. She was painted green. It was a lot of trial and error< and after the makeup was applied she saw herself for the first time and almost had a panic attack. "There were a lot of hours in the day, but I loved it, I came to embrace it because I was afraid," said Patton. "I didn't know how I was going to become this half-orc half-human and part of it is what you do mentally to prepare, but then it became a collaborative effort. Costumes, and makeup, and hair, all with Duncan's vision, and then you put on the finishing touches, you put the tests in, and the contact lenses which really obscured my vision and then that was that last bit, I didn't feel human. Certainly not wearing much clothing, while everyone else wore clothing made me feel like I didn't fit in. I came to embrace it. I don't know any other way, so I loved it in the end." Jones credits her training with the fight choreography as another reason for her nailing the role.
6 – Visual Effects
DJ: This is a film of a whole different level of anything I have done before. When I made Moon from writing it to finishing it, it was 12 months. That was it. Everything, done. This film was 3 1/2 years of my life. So it was really all like a marathon than any kind of traditional film. We are striving to make something which is amazing in all qualities whether it’s the wardrobe, the set design, working with the amazing cast of actors, all the time we are trying to push everyone to do the best work they can. I am grateful everyone sort of stuck with me, and we were able to believe and have the same ambition.
6 – Character
There are a number of characters on each faction in the film. And even then, they like the game, have their own unique set of special skills. The factions are humans and orcs, but they are broken down to knights, warriors, and wizards and mages. Beyond that, these characters have families and interesting backstories, something that the cast was more than happy to share with us.
“It was psychologically and emotionally nice to play a nice character with a wife,” said Kebbell. “You know I called Anna [Van Hooft] (who plays Aloman) every day on the set. Not as a thespian, just to feel like in a loving relationship. It was a beautiful experience.”
“That was very interesting, certainly for a fantasy movie, where normally monsters are the bad guys and humans are the good guys, to have the opportunity to show a little bit of family life, to show what it’s like to the orcs – the fact that they have wives, they have children, they want to protect their families, they want to protect the people where the come from,” said Jones. “We got to do all these quieter scenes that normally that would just be for the humans, but we got to do it on both sides. Toby gave us something, and Anna as well really gave us something very special. You as an audience, you might actually prefer their relationship to anyone else’s. It really is a human one.”
Kebbell says you can have a lead role with the support of your co-stars. “It really was close-knit,” said the actor. “I have great support from great actors.”
“It requires enormous leaps of imagination and the ability to put yourself out there,” said Kazinsky. “To do things that would otherwise feel silly but to feel comfortable enough to do them.” He added Jones had created a set that was safe for the cast to play in, and an environment where the cast can put down their ego and go fully for it on such things like casting spells. “You have to rely on each other, you have to trust each other and it created a camaraderie that I haven’t come across before in any movie. It’s that collaboration that allowed us to be free and trust each other, and to not treat this film like Willow but to treat it something worthy of that.”
Schnetzer said the whole experience of casting a spell was a trip. “I think what Rob touched on about these leaps of faith had to make when your working on something that has so much left up to the work that gets done in post-production,” said the actor. “But it is a leap I think we were all very willing to make because you are in such safe great hands with Duncan, with the team at ILM, with Bill Westenhofer, with all the effects guys. When you’re working with a team that is so game that is so on board, it can feel weird sometimes to pretend to cast a magic spell when there is 200 crew members around waiting for lunch. It was an easy leap to make. You just realize very quickly that the more you throw yourself into it, the better you are going to serve the story and the better you are going to serve your teammates. Ben Foster was just a killer to work with.”
7 – Challenges Of Creating A Movie For Those Who Don’t Play The Game
Given that Warcraft isn’t based on any specific storyline or character, and that there was more than 20 years worth of material for Jones to work with, the film could have adapted any number of things from the game itself to the books that have been published. But Jones opted to go back to the very beginning. “We went right back to the very beginning of those games, the first story of the orcs and humans, you know, that first meeting of the two cultures,” said Jones. “In the storytelling of the games, there are characters that we use in our film, but they were probably painted in broad brushstrokes as far as who those characters were, and it was my job and absolutely the actors’ job to find a way to add the detail put in the nuance and add the humanity and the depth to these characters.” He added, “With the way the script was structured, I think, the relationships made sense. You understood who was affected by who and what their relationships were and we tried to put in as many family ties and things that sort of really grounded and gave it a reality as we could.”
Warcraft opens in theaters on June 10th, 2016.