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IMMORTALS

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IMMORTALS

SYNOPSIS
Visionary director Tarsem Singh and producers Mark Canton (300), Gianni Nunnari (300) and Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter) unleash an epic tale of treachery, vengeance and destiny in Immortals, a stylish and spectacular 3-D action adventure. As a power-mad king razes ancient Greece and threatens to destroy mankind, a heroic young villager rises up against him in a thrilling quest as timeless as it is powerful. 
The brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his murderous army are rampaging across Greece, demolishing everything in their wake with ruthless efficiency. Village after village falls to Hyperion’s legions and each victory takes him one step closer to his goal: unleashing the power of the sleeping Titans to vanquish both the Gods of Olympus and all of humankind. 
It seems nothing will stop the evil king’s mission to become the undisputed master of the world, until a stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge the death of his mother in one of Hyperion’s raids. When Theseus meets the Sibylline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), her disturbing visions of the young man’s future convince her that he is the key to stopping the destruction. With her help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers and embraces his destiny in a final desperate battle for the future of humanity.
Immortals stars Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe® winner Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Iron Man II), Academy Award nominee John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Kellan Lutz (the Twilight saga), Henry Cavill (“The Tudors”), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans), Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Stephen Dorff (Somewhere).
Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) directs from a script by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides. It is produced by Mark Canton (300), Gianni Nunnari (300) and Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter). Director of photography is Brendan Galvin (Flight of the Phoenix). Production designer is Tom Foden (The Cell). Costume designer is Eiko Ishioka (The Fall). Editors are Wyatt Jones (Tron: Legacy) and Stuart Levy (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). Executive producers are Craig J. Flores (300), Tucker Tooley (Limitless), Tommy Turtle (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Jeff G. Waxman (The Fighter).

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
When producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton first met with Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, the Greek-American brothers who wrote the script that would become Immortal, they knew immediately they had found a compelling and original property. “They gave a great pitch, very precise and detailed,” says Nunnari. “We really liked it, but we didn’t know if we were ready to jump on another historical epic.”  
Their reservation was that they had just wrapped the groundbreaking period action blockbuster 300. “Obviously, 300 was a landmark in both our careers,” adds Canton. “It was a game-changer for the industry. It showed you can make a historical movie in a very modern way with themes that are connected to contemporary feelings and emotions and morality. But for our next project we had planned to stay away from material that was similar in nature. However, Gianni is a master at recognizing great material, and we are both students of history, as well as mythology and literature. We decided Immortals should be the second part of our partnership in making a group of historical, mythological movies.”
Canton and Nunnari were drawn to what they call the film’s “Homer meets Joseph Campbell” sensibility. “The message is to find your responsibility in life,” says Canton. “Once you do, you realize it’s a privilege. You can live a larger life that goes beyond just yourself.”
The tale of Theseus, a youth born into poverty who rises to hold the fate of civilization in his hands, Immortals began as a short story written by Charley Parlapanides. Eventually the manuscript evolved into a screenplay on which he collaborated with his brother, Vlas. Both brothers had previously worked in front of and behind the camera, but Immortals was the first time they had written a big-budget feature film. Using traditional Greek mythology as a jumping-off point, they fashioned a story that begins when the gods of Olympus conquer their predecessors, the Titans, and imprison their surviving enemies in a mountain.

 “In our script, everyone’s forgotten, until one man, Hyperion, finds a dead Titan,” says Charley. “He decides that he will free the Titans and conquer the world. We pictured Hyperion as the Charlie Manson of ancient Greece. He starts a murderous cult and convinces people to believe in his plan. Not only is mankind in jeopardy, but the gods are as well.”
The Parlapanides brothers created an original narrative that remains true to the spirit of Greek mythology. “We use familiar archetypes, but they’re spun on their heads,” says Charley. “At the heart of the story is a man who starts off as a nonbeliever and then goes on a journey that transforms him into a hero and a martyr.” 
Their protagonist, Theseus, was inspired by one of ancient Greece’s most prolific heroes. In this telling of the story, Theseus has been recast as a poverty stricken youth whose mother was slaughtered in one of King Hyperion’s raids. With the only person he cared about gone, the young man is bent on avenging her death. 
“Theseus has been dealt a terrible hand in life,” says Vlas. “He was born a bastard and then is thrown into an extraordinary circumstance. How he deals with that defines him. And at first he’s very angry, but there comes a point when he realizes the struggle is about more than just him.” 
Theseus and King Hyperion are in many ways two sides of the same coin, says Vlas. “Parallels can be drawn between Theseus and Hyperion. They’ve both been persecuted and subjugated. But one embraces the dark side, while the other takes a different route.” 
Or as Canton puts it, “Hyperion has drunk from the well of evil. But he has his own ethics. It’s a chess game between good and evil. That’s what all our movies really are. We don’t always want to have to come to the conclusion that good wins, because we know the world is not like that. We like the journey of characters through a time that impacts the future.”
The producers knew they had the basis for something special, and a great deal would rest on finding a director who could fulfill its unique promise. “Based on our experience, we felt the most important component would be finding a brilliant filmmaker,” says Canton. “Gianni and I both knew Tarsem Singh and wanted to work with him. He is an extraordinary talent. 
“The best case scenario for a producer is when your director understands the role that everyone plays,” adds Canton. “But if you're not a team player, you shouldn't be in this business at all. Tarsem has a real vision of what he wants to achieve, and he is also very collaborative.” 
Executive producer Ryan Kavanaugh, the CEO of Relativity Media, calls Singh, whose previous work includes two visually arresting films, The Cell and The Fall, a visionary. “He’s brilliant, not just as a director, but as an artistic mind. This is a huge commercial epic, but he never treated it like that was all it was. He considered every frame of every scene and knew before we started shooting the color of sandals every person had on and what their sword would look like.”  
Singh’s vision for the film went far beyond simply making a Hollywood blockbuster version of a Greek myth. He says the project served as a “Trojan horse,” a vehicle to realize his personal vision on a grand scale. “I love reading Greek myths,” says Singh. “But I was not interested in making a film based on the originals. I was intrigued by the relationship between gods and humans. So I thought, we could take some traditional tales and, like in Renaissance painting, use the mythology as the basis, but add things that are relevant to our time.”  
Singh’s creative drive and personal insights into the script began to transform the story, but the filmmakers never lost sight of the fact that Immortals is also an adrenaline-fueled action adventure, and in that spirit they have packed it with daredevil stunts, state-of-the-art effects, and the added excitement that only 3-D can deliver. “Tarsem was always looking for something that hasn’t been seen before,” says Nunnari. “I was often surprised myself. He is exploring a new way to bring images to the screen in a fantastic ride. It’s young, it’s fresh, it’s original. And there’s a lot of testosterone in this movie.”
“It’s in your face,” says Canton. “We’re not playing it safe. History is not safe. Mythology is not safe. And we’re really not interested in safe.”  
CASTING IMMORTALS: HEROES AND MONSTERS 
The story of Immortals is driven by three larger-than-life figures: King Hyperion, a half-mad warrior bent on conquering the world; Theseus, a young adventurer set on destroying Hyperion to avenge his mother’s death; and Zeus, the ruler of Mount Olympus and ultimate authority among the gods of ancient Greece. Their conflict sets off an epic battle between humans, gods and demi-gods that could annihilate humankind. In casting the leads, Canton says, “We needed amazing actors, but they also needed to understand that the movie is the star here.”
As they began the process of finding the perfect ensemble, producers and director agreed that, to play Theseus, they wanted an actor whose fame wouldn’t overshadow the character. Henry Cavill had begun to gain recognition for his starring role as Charles Brandon on the Showtime Network series “The Tudors,” but had not yet been cast in the title role of the Zack Snyder-directed Superman: Man of Steel. 
“The script was still in development when we met with Henry,” recalls Singh, “so we took one page and had him read it one way. Then I gave him some adjustments. He did three reads altogether, each in a completely different direction. He was so versatile. I knew whatever the script evolved into, Henry would be able to go there.”
Both the mythological setting and the prospect of working with Singh captivated Cavill. “I’ve always been into the mythology of the ancient world,” he says. “When I first read the script, it was very much in its infancy, but Tarsem’s vision for the movie and his passion were second to none.”  
The character’s growth through his ordeal made Theseus a satisfying challenge for the actor. “He has been ostracized by society and, in turn, rejects society,” says Cavill. “The only person he has any kind of love for is his mother. But he’s also intelligent. He asks questions, as opposed to just following blindly. A mysterious old man takes him under his wing and teaches him aspects of philosophy, as well as the martial arts. By the time he’s an adult, he has become a very well-trained fighter.” 
Cavill says his previous knowledge of the myths and legends that inspired the film played only a small part in creating his character. “You can draw some parallels to the popular mythology of Theseus,” he says. “But this certainly is not the traditional story. This is a battle of men versus men. There are gods and there are Titans, but they do not take a direct hand in man’s affairs.”
So rather than conducting extensive historical research, Cavill steeped himself in the world Singh created for the movie. “Tarsem showed me where his inspiration was coming from and where his visuals were going to lie,” the actor continues. “He gave me important character points for Theseus. It was only a few days before shooting that we actually got a finalized script, but Tarsem always had it all in his head. To research anything else would have been a risky game.” 
The director’s passion for the project was infectious, says Cavill. “You’d do anything for him, because he’s doing it, too. And he’s throwing ten times more energy than anyone else on set is into the project. His ability to present his vision of each moment is incredible.”  
The filmmaker made an exception to his no-movie-stars rule by casting Mickey Rourke as the monstrous King Hyperion. His reputation as a mercurial Hollywood icon only adds another dimension to the villain’s malevolent luster. The role marks another step along the impressive comeback trail blazed by Rourke since his Oscar®-nominated turn in The Wrestler. “In real life, Mickey Rourke is self-effacing and very honest,” says Canton. “He’s been able to come back because of his talent. Now he’s getting the respect and the opportunities that he’s long deserved. The kind of questions he asks, only the really great ones ask. They’re not really about him. They’re about what he can bring to the movie. But when Mickey comes on the set, you better know how to act, because he will mow you down if you’re not at the top of your game.”
Rourke brought a well-earned reputation for hard living and movie star antics to the set, which made Singh even more convinced he was the right actor for the role. “You won’t find a more original bad boy than Mickey Rourke,” says Singh. “He’s the real deal and I let him go with it. I had very definite direction for the other actors, but Mickey was allowed to bring whatever he wanted. He took the simplest of lines and added to them.”
Theseus has several companions on his journey, including Phaedra, a priestess and seer (played by Freida Pinto), an unsavory character named Stavros (Steven Dorff), and a monk who protects Phaedra. “A thief, a slave, a monk, a priestess,” says Singh. “They don’t seem to belong together. But that’s the classic quest, isn’t it?” 
Canton knew they’d found their Phaedra in Pinto, a young English actress of Indian descent who had just made her film debut in the Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. “It was time for her to step up and be a real movie star,” he says. “She’s phenomenal looking. She’s very dedicated and a real professional. She felt like the most natural part of the movie for us. There was no question that we wanted Freida Pinto.” 
Canton’s partner agrees: “There are certain actors or actresses that grow within the time of the shooting and that was Freida,” says Nunnari. 
Pinto’s striking beauty and otherworldly air won Singh’s immediate approval. “Phaedra needed to be exotic compared to most of the people in her world,” says Singh. “People might expect that because it’s a Greek film, she would be Greek, but that’s not what I envisioned. When I met Freida I just said, she’s it.” 
Pinto had been a fan of Singh’s since seeing his 2006 fantasy, The Fall. “I was impressed by the way it appealed to all five senses,” she says. “I thought this film had the potential to do the same. When I first met him, I did not know what to expect. He explained the reason behind doing this film, what he expected the film to look like, and what was expected of me and the other actors. It all sounded larger-than-life and fantastical. I really wanted to be part of it.” 
Phaedra has lived all of her life in the company of her fellow priestesses and is reputed to have an especially strong gift for clairvoyance. But her visions, while accurate, are ambiguous. “It’s a very disturbing experience for her, because she doesn’t know exactly what will happen,” explains Pinto. “She first sees Theseus in a vision, but she doesn’t know who this person is. He is holding the emperor’s belt, which means he could be the savior. But she doesn’t completely trust him, because she doesn’t know what the vision really means. It’s only as things progress that she begins to believe he is going to save the people.” 
For her first big studio film Pinto says she feels lucky to have had Singh to guide her. “Tarsem is one of the most encouraging directors you will ever meet,” she says. “Working on a big-budget project like this, time is literally money, but he was always patient and open to suggestions. When you work on a film like this, the emotions that you go through are so explosive. I’m just so excited, and that’s exactly what I want the audience to feel.”
Stephen Dorff, who impressed audiences and critics alike as a Hollywood playboy in Sophia Coppola’s 2010 film Somewhere, plays Stavros, Theseus’ eventual ally and friend. “He’s an out-of-the-box character who says what he wants to say and does what he wants to do,” says Dorff. “I liked Stavros’ sense of humor. I liked his mystery. We don’t really know who he is, and whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy. He and Theseus butt heads for a while. But at a certain point, Theseus realizes Stavros has got his back, and he can use the help.”
Singh immediately knew that Dorff was perfect for the role. “Stavros is the kind of guy who thinks he’s special, but you can’t figure out why,” says Singh. “I saw something in Stephen that was right for this. He’s the right kind of cocky for the role.”
Singh’s boundless energy, commitment and efficiency made him the ideal director for Immortals, says Dorff. “The only way to get this kind of film made is with a captain like him. He never stops. You can see him cutting in his head on the fly. There’s no waste. When you do a film like this you want the audience to feel like they got their money’s worth. I think this delivers what it promises.”  
CASTING IMMORTALS: GODS AND GODDESSES
Singh had an original take on casting the gods of Mount Olympus, who watch with interest the action taking place on earth. “I wanted all the gods to be young,” says the director. “Wisdom is implied with age, so Renaissance painters gave the gods the features of older people, but then painted a perfect body beneath that. In a film, you can’t do it unless you make all the characters CGI. But my idea was that, if you are a god, there’s no reason to look old. If I were up on Mount Olympus and I could look any age I wanted, I wouldn’t want to have that white beard.” 
A posse of beautiful up-and-comers, including Luke Evans, recently seen starring opposite John Cusack in The Raven, Kellan Lutz of the Twilight series and Isabel Lucas of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen play Singh’s gods and goddesses. As Zeus (Evans), the head of the gods, attempts to keep his fellow Olympians from interfering in the problems of humankind, his daughter, Athena (Lucas), goddess of wisdom and war, is strategizing ways to help find peaceful resolutions for the humans and his brother Poseidon (Lutz) is mischievously aiding the humans by devious means. 
Zeus’ role as king of the gods is to observe, not act, notes Evans. “Whatever nature’s course is, that’s what has to happen. He sticks to it as much as he can and tries keeps the other gods in order, but they don’t listen.” 
The young actor was excited to be working with both Cavill and Singh. “I have a lot of respect for Henry,” Evans says. “I’ve known his work for a while and we’ve known each other for a while as well, it’s always nice to work with somebody you’ve met outside of a job. And I defy anybody to watch Tarsem’s work and not be astounded by the visuals. He has an ability to tell a story I’ve never seen before in a director. Working with him was a very enticing prospect.” 
Kellan Lutz grew up reading Greek mythology and had developed a particular fondness for the avuncular Poseidon. “I’m a Pisces and I love swimming,” he explains. “My parents used to call me a fish. Poseidon is like the favorite uncle. He’s the brother of Zeus and uncle to all the younger gods. He and Zeus have a brotherly rivalry. Zeus can tell him not to do something, but as you see in the movie, he finds ways around it.” 
Lutz particularly likes the way the script takes an idea from Greek mythology and gives it a fresh slant. “It’s original, dark and edgy,” he says. “The movie has amazing visuals, great fight techniques, and great fight scenes. And it’s a new twist on the stories I love.” 
As played by Isabel Lucas, Athena tries to find ways around her father’s prohibition against helping Theseus and his comrades. “In all the stories, Zeus and Athena are always very close. She’s always her father’s daughter and the favorite of his children, so she thinks she can get away with it.”
Lucas describes Singh as generous and extremely patient. “With all he was dealing with on set, just before he called action, he would always say, ‘In your own time.’”
The ensemble Singh and the producers assembled helped make the sometimes arduous shoot a pleasure for actor Henry Cavill. “It was a stunning group of people to work with,” he says of his Immortals co-stars. “It was a grueling shoot and I enjoyed every second of the exhaustion, all because of who I got to work with.” 
THE FINGER OF GOD
Director Tarsem Singh arrived for his first meeting with the producers of Immortals armed with a portfolio packed with reproductions of museum-quality paintings to illustrate his unusual vision for the film. Relativity Media’s Tucker Tooley, an executive producer of Immortals, recalls that this first meeting wasn’t quite what he expected. “He brought in this big canvas and it looked like something you’d see in a museum,” says Tooley. “At first blush, the painting looked very different from how we had imagined the movie, but when Tarsem started to explain, it really made a lot of sense to us.” 
He proposed basing Immortals’ visual profile on the work of Caravaggio, the bad-boy painter of the Italian Baroque period. A rule breaker who pioneered the use of live models for religious and mythological subjects, Caravaggio’s paintings are characterized by a saturated color palette, dramatic lighting, and a feeling of dynamic movement and overt emotion. His style broke from the more static work of the Renaissance and earned him both praise and criticism in his lifetime. Singh’s ambitious concept impressed the producers as perfect for the subject matter. 
The director worked closely with both the production designers and crew to recreate the luminosity typical of Caravaggio’s work for the overall look of the film. “We call it ‘finger-of-God lighting,’” says Singh. “It’s very focused and seems to come from a far-away source.”
Supervising art director Michael Manson says Singh’s vision and creative courage make Immortals a new and different kind of epic. “We in the art department have a long history with Tarsem, which we cherish,” he says. “I’ve worked with him for close to 15 years, so communication comes fairly easy. It always starts with Tarsem’s interpretation of the script. We take that initial information to research libraries, the Internet and museums. We’ll pull from our collective files for wardrobe, makeup, prosthetics and special effects. Everybody brings something to the table.”
Rather than setting their story in an actual historical epoch, Singh and his designers created an original world for Immortals. “It’s not the Minoan Age or the Bronze Age,” says Charley Parlapanides. “This is the Tarsem Age. It uses the Olympian gods and the Titans, but it has a unique point of view. It’s not a world you will necessarily recognize. For the most part, it is straight out of Tarsem’s mind. He’s made something new and breathtaking, and yet dark and brutal at the same time.”
Costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who earned an Oscar for the spectacular costumes in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, is well known for her designs for film, theater, television and commercials. Ishioka is also a respected visual artist whose work is the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Her iconoclastic worldview falls into the same imaginative territory as Singh’s.
“As far costumes were concerned, we decided early on not to go ‘Classic Greek,’” says Singh. “It would have been counterproductive to hire somebody like Eiko and then tie her hands. There’s no point in telling her, ‘Think outside the box.’ She has no idea what a box is. She comes from a parallel universe. 
“At the same time,” the director adds, “this is an action film. I had to make sure that she didn’t make wardrobe that looked great but couldn’t be moved in.”
 The Japanese costume designer, who studied design and art before she started working in film, says she approached the costume design for Immortals as a creative collaboration set in a fantasy world. But she realized that her flights of fancy needed to be based in physical reality and enjoyed collaborating with the actors to make her ideas work in a practical sense. “During the fitting process, my ideas are pretty crazy,” she says. “To make sure the costumes are functional, I ask actors for help. I feel the actor and designer should collaborate.”
Freida Pinto found the process exhilarating and ultimately essential to the creation of her character. “Eiko designed these beautiful costumes for everybody,” says Pinto. “But it took some effort to make them your second skin. You had to maintain a certain posture in order to make them look that beautiful at all times, but they were essential to taking the film into that larger-than-life realm. I wear this amazing red corset with a sheer red skirt and a black veil. When I put it on, I felt it against my skin and I was very confident about it. There was nothing vulgar about it. It was revealing in the right spots and just the way it needed to be. Her idea of female sexuality and sensuality is so beautiful.” 
Kellan Lutz found Poseidon’s ornate costume challenging, especially during the film’s battle sequences. “I wore a big Pisces helmet that was very tedious to fight in,” he says. “It was actually difficult just to act in. I couldn’t really hear because I had these seashells on my head. It sounded like the ocean. I also kept hitting myself with Poseidon’s trident.” 
For Ishioka, the most difficult task in creating the costumes was achieving realistic armor. “I wanted to use shiny materials for a mask or helmet,” she says. “But the reflective surfaces would have interfered with shooting on a green screen. I didn’t want it to look fake, like a breast of armor made of wood or that kind of thing. It had to be not too shiny but I also want the audience to believe this armor made of metal.” 
Ishioka’s original designs are complemented by the work of makeup designer Nikoletta Skarlatos. “Tom Foden, the production designer, sent me a visual tour of the sets so I could start to visualize the people,” she says. “I did a massive amount of research before presenting ideas, because I’m a huge fan of both Tarsem and Eiko. They both inspire me and I knew this would be a chance to do something really extraordinary. In terms of references, I looked at mythology, but I also wanted to create something that had not been seen before. 
“It’s a very makeup-intensive movie,” says Skarlatos, explaining that advances in technology have raised the bar for her craft. “3-D is very specific and you see things more obviously. High-def and digital shooting magnify that effect. We tried to be very precise.” 
Skarlatos worked closely with Pinto to create Phaedra’s look. “The eye make-up is not a traditional Indian look, nor is it a contemporary look. It’s a very different and mysterious look, with certain little nuances that allude to the fact that she is an Oracle, a very special being.” 
Hair and make-up helped Pinto slip into the skin of the mystical Phaedra. “They tried these colors in my hair that I’d never had done before,” she says. “We added some extensions and a braid. It made me feel like I was from that period. I would come in with my jeans and t-shirt, get into my robe, and there would be a completely different person there: Phaedra.”
Skarlatos, whose previous credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Thor, was also involved in creating the blood and special effects makeup. “It can be darkened, but what you see is what you get, so we had to work with the DP to create the right blood for night and the right blood for day.” 
BUILDING A SPECTACULAR NEW WORLD
Immortals is loaded with visual effects, action, adventure—and nearly everything else under the sun. The filmmakers used the latest 3-D and VFX technology to seamlessly join layers of digitally created worlds and physical reality. “We kept seeing surprises on the set,” says Canton. “The technology is an exciting part of the audience ride.” 
To make the creation of Singh’s imaginary world easier technically and logistically, the producers decided to house everything at Cité du Cinéma Studios in Montreal. Production offices, special effects, art department and visual effects were all under one roof. 
On the technical side, Singh worked with his long-time colleagues, director of photography Brendan Galvin and production designer Tom Foden. “I move at breakneck speed,” the director says. “The learning curve can be a bit steep. This gang moves very fast with me. So while the look of this film is completely different from what we’ve done before, the practical support they’re able to provide is critical.”
Jack Geist, VFX producer, and Raymond Gieringer, VFX supervising producer, were added to the team to oversee Immortals’ spectacular visual effects. “Just taking the environments into account, we had a large-scale effects show,” says Gieringer. “Then within the environments we had a lot of effects: enormous battle scenes, mountains collapsing, gods and Titans battling. There are over 100 shots that involve special effects.” 
There was also a large physical component that supported the effects. About 20 sets were built, each containing a different virtual world, some with 360-degree views. Gieringer says the departments worked hand in hand to make sure that things ran smoothly. “Their world is practical and they’re going to build these sets. We need to take these sets and build the environments around them. Tom Foden and art director Michael Manson worked with us to make the process seamless.”
Geist and Gieringer became involved early in the development process to help Singh conceptualize his film. The director was very precise about what he wanted, according to Gieringer. “Tarsem is very specific in terms of his framing, and his composition is amazing, unlike that of any director I’ve ever seen before. We made a very beautiful, somewhat stylized film, with plenty of bang for the buck in terms of the virtual.”
Immortals utilized several cutting-edge systems to achieve its unparalleled visual style. During pre-production, the filmmakers implemented a system called Inter Sense, previously used on the movie Avatar. “It allowed Tarsem to see exactly what would be green screen and what would be set,” says Jeff Waxman, who served as both line producer and executive producer. “We were then able to build our sets to exactly the size that we would need. We designed everything months in advance. We had matte painters design all the environments on computers. Across the hall, the art department was designing the physical sets that would fit into those environments. Having it all under one roof, Tarsem could bounce between them and make changes on the spot.”
Because the technology is developing so fast, Kavanaugh says they were able to go one step beyond what was possible for James Cameron when he was making Avatar. “Tarsem could sit in front of a computer before he shot the scene, with it all mapped to scale,” says the producer. “He could actually see the shot before he shot it and make decisions about how to shoot and what lenses to use. It also allowed him to create the perfect 3-D reality and understand what parts of what scene were going to be popping out.”
During filming, the director used another high-tech system, called Moses, which gave him even more control of the shoot. “Moses is one of several systems that enable you to pre-visualize, so you can see beforehand what it will look like within the CG extension or a CG world,” Galvin explains. “Tarsem could see a person’s head come over a mountain that doesn’t exist. We used it in the monastery shoot, looking down from the monastery onto the encampment with the Heraklions, so you can see where all the stuff that’s not actually there will be.”
Singh says the Moses System, along with his attention to detail in pre-production, allowed him to create shots that are perfectly composed. “I was able to construct a tableau,” he explains. “If some films are like comic strips, this is a painting strip. The system sees past the green screen, so I could control the composition.”  
WORKING IN ANOTHER DIMENSION
Bursting with Olympian deities, sweeping battles and breathtaking vistas, Immortals demanded a larger-than-life production style. From its inception, the film’s creators knew that to bring the dynamic story fully to life, it would have to be a 3-D movie—and not just an ordinary 3­D movie. “We wanted to make the best 3-D movie possible,” says Ken Halsbend, executive in charge of production for Relativity Media. “What’s new and unique about this particular picture is that we succeeded in creating an artistic looking 3-D movie. Everything from sets to costumes was designed for the ultimate 3-D experience. We used the technology better this time, more painstakingly and artistically than it has been used before.” 
For Tarsem Singh, the technology proved an organic extension of the unique visual style he has developed over an award-winning career as a commercial and feature film director. “The story could have been told in many different ways,” says Singh. “But my aesthetic really lends itself to 3-D. My shots tend toward tableaux and I normally shoot longer masters, both of which are very effective in 3-D. I don’t do a lot of fast cutting or extreme close ups, which don’t work well in this format. So in the end, I didn’t have to adapt my vision for 3-D; it was a perfect fit.”
Shooting the film using conventional 2-D cameras and creating the 3-D effects in postproduction gave Singh more control of the depth and dynamic range than would have been possible shooting in 3-D. Singh worked with senior stereographer David Stump of 3DCG to develop a detailed depth budget and depth script that helped ensured the look of the picture conformed to the director’s vision. “Tarsem’s input was the basis for everything we did,” Stump says. “He asked us to give characters a sense of volume and form. The key word was sculpture. We wanted the characters to look like they were really right there in front of you as opposed to on a screen.” 
Although the 3-D effects were added after shooting wrapped, the look of the final product informed choices throughout the production process. “We tailored the way we shot the movie to maximize the effects,” says Tucker Tooley of Relativity Media. “We designed our foreground and background elements in a way that optimizes the dimensionalization process.”   
 “There are lots of things you can do to help the 3-D process when you’re shooting in 2­D,” adds Stump. “There are certain kinds of shots in the filmmaking lexicon that just don’t do well in 3-D. Very fast pans tend to collapse or change depth depending on which direction you pan. Because of the planning that went into the editing and action on screen, I think we succeeded in making a very fast-paced 3-D movie.” 
 The dimensionalization process can be slow and arduous, Stump acknowledges, but it brings big payoffs in the final product. “It took months and months of work. But creating stereoscopic 3­D content in postproduction gave us more control. We could place anything anywhere we wanted. In fact, we not only could, we had to, because nothing lands in the right place accidentally.”
The finished film has depth and volume never before seen on screen, according to Halsbend. “Up until now, most 3-D has been very shallow. We get to a whole different level. The volume around the characters is unprecedented. In earlier films, the characters often look like cardboard cutouts. Our lead characters really maintained their beauty. Tarsem’s work is all about beautiful shots, tableaux and composition. He wanted to make sure that he would get that kind of detail.” 
The movie’s groundbreaking look was executed by Prime Focus, the FX house that had previously dimensionalized such 3-D blockbusters as Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. “Tarsem looked at every kind of 3-D process out there,” says Halsbend. “We reviewed lots of different tests to determine how we could get the kind of volume in the characters’ faces. Prime Focus had the best results for what we were looking for. They had the manpower, they’d done a lot of shows and they had a huge team in India to address all the shots and work on all the material. They could take 3-D to the next level.” 
With 4,000 artists and technicians spread across three continents, Prime Focus could dedicate significant resources to realizing Singh’s ambitious vision. “The great challenge in every movie is really adapting an entire team of artists to meet the needs of that director,” says Prime Focus marketing executive Bobby Jaffee. “What George Lucas or Michael Bay want for their movies has nothing to do with what Tarsem Singh wants.” 
But as Singh anticipated, 3-D ultimately suited his inspired visuals perfectly.  “It was a quite a benchmark we had to reach,” says Merzin Tavaria, co-founder and chief creative director of Prime Focus. “Some of the detailing of the sequences, particularly the Titan sequences, was very challenging. In the end, we were very happy with the product and that we were able help Tarsem achieve his vision.
 “At every interval we would send shots to him and confer on how he would like to shape it in 3-D,” Tavaria explains. “We worked with the depth of each image, foreground to background, and how it could be positioned in 3-D. That enabled us to push quality to an extremely high level.” 
Recent advances in technology, including Prime Focus’ proprietary View-D software, allowed Singh the flexibility to create visuals unlike any that have been seen before. “You can see the difference immediately,” says the director. “We took the time and put in the planning to do it properly. Some people are calling this a game-changer.”  
“Tarsem has created an entirely new world,” says Tooley. “With an environment that the audience hasn't seen, the more encompassing you make it, the more you integrate the audience into the experience, the better it is. The 3D technology gave us an amazing opportunity to do that.”  
GOD SPEED
Singh’s immortal heroes, the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, are a world apart from their human counterparts in beauty, strength and speed. The director envisioned them as idealized, larger-than-life creatures. “In the end, the gods have very little wardrobe,” says Singh. “They had to be fit. That had to be a factor in casting.”  
Some of their seemingly super-human abilities are the result of Singh’s innovative use of the camera. “I wanted to take them to another level,” says Singh. “So during the battle scenes, the gods move much faster than the humans, which adds to the action. All our fights are quite different. There are humans against humans, which take place in real time. And when gods go up against gods, their speed is relative to each other, so it still appears to be real time. But when gods go up against humans, humans are like putty. They're frozen.”  
And at times, all three types of battle are taking place simultaneously. “There are a couple of sections where all the fighting sequences are differently done,” Singh says. “I think it’s pretty magical.” 
Making the director’s brainstorm into reality took patience and persistence. “We shot the whole thing from the gods’ perspective,” he says. “Then we then shot the whole thing again from the human point of view. We shot something like four days of plates to make it right for each perspective. The humans practically freeze, while the gods are like lightning. It’s not a fair fight.”
Galvin explains that the magic was created by changing the camera speed. “Five hundred frames is starting to really slow things down and if you up that to a thousand, sometimes even in simple movements people make can look static,” says Galvin. “It’s an unreal speed, you’re entering a different dimension in your head when you’re going into those speeds because you see things. Most people are familiar with high speed from sports events. When you slow things down, it’s quite different.”
Canton finds the “god speed” effect an excellent example of the way the special effects have been woven throughout the film to become part of the story and storytelling. “Seeing the gods moving at hyperspeed and the humans are moving in slow motion is more than just an effect,” he says. “No one’s ever attempted to manipulate time for two different characters in the same movie. It’s not a movie; it’s an experience. It’s a life-changing event, like Star Wars was when we all saw it for the first time when we were six years old.” 
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION…AND MORE ACTION
Pulling off the scope, quantity and sheer daredevilry of the ambitious battles of Immortals required an army of fight choreographers, trainers and stunt people trained in everything from swordsmanship to karate. Choreography began six months in advance of shooting to make it as gritty, explosive and dangerous looking as possible. 
At the outset, Singh decided he wanted the fight scenes to have a more realistic, less stylized feel than is typical of many contemporary films. “I wanted actual physical fighting with the weapons that they have. Some of it was done with wires, but there’s just no substitute for physical combat. You can feel the impact.” 
The filmmakers brought in Artie Malesci, who worked on Miami Vice, some of the Transporter films and television’s “Burn Notice,” as stunt coordinator. A core group of 13 fighters from Montreal trained and rehearsed for three months so when the filmmakers got on the set, all the stunts were ready to go. 
The result is non-stop, beginning-to-end action, says Malesci. “We taped everything we did in advance for Tarsem to view. He’d say yes or no, and tweak it his way. All the time we were choreographing, we were also training the cast to get them prepared. The stunt people trained all day, five days a week. They really worked hard. If their bodies weren’t right, they didn’t have a job.” 
For Henry Cavill, intense physical training started six months prior to shooting. “When I met Henry, he was fit,” says Singh. “But as I told him, it can’t be a six-pack. You’ve got to come with an eight-pack. There has to be no body fat, because I don’t have too many clothes for you to wear. He put himself through an incredible regime. I took one look at him and I knew that he had embraced the role.”
Cavill was given what he calls “certain briefs for training” and asked to supply photographic evidence of his progress. “When we got our final brief of what they wanted me to look like, we just trained and trained and trained. It was eight hours a day in the gym, five days a week.” 
All that training paid off, according to Pinto. “Tarsem told me that the actors were undergoing this transformation, that their bodies were going to be really ripped,” says Pinto. “But until I met Henry for the first time, I had no idea that that this was what he meant. He looked god-like.” 
“I have never seen anybody in such a great shape,” agrees Nunnari. “He dedicated months to sculpting his body.” 
The training also gave Cavill an array of skills to use in combat. “Every day was something new, so in the end, we had a big tool box to work with,” he notes. “If anything was thrown at me on the day, which it was, I could go into my tool box and pick out the right stuff.”
Still, he is mindful to say that the battle scenes could not have been accomplished without the expert stunt team. “They were mind-blowingly good. Some of the fight choreography was so complex and so difficult, and I had to get it exactly right every time because a lot of it was done in one continuous shot and if anyone messed up anything, we would have had to do it again. But we never did.”
Theseus’s final faceoff with King Hyperion was his most difficult scene, says Cavill, because it is so realistic. “The fight is brutal and messy. These are two exhausted, desperate men who want to tear each other’s throats out. It’s a non-stylized, painful experience in a very small space and they’re throwing each other against the walls and hitting each other with anything they can get their hands on. It’s the human representation of the conflict between the gods and the Titans. There’s some jujitsu, some Greco-Roman grappling, but mostly it’s two guys kicking the crap out of each other.”  
Singh says he intentionally shot this climactic scene in a confined area. “If we had people fighting outside in the open, that would have been very difficult for me,” explains the director. “I like tighter places, so I created what I would call a bottleneck. We have this tunnel, and outside of it is the bigger army. Inside the tunnel, it becomes a personal fight.”
The tunnel fight sequence is spectacular, according to Cavill. “So much hard work went into it by all the departments. The choreography was pretty complicated, but it looks fantastic, which made it all very rewarding at the end of the day. I was broken and exhausted at the end of day two. I just had to go home and collapse.” 
Singh posed himself an additional challenge to filming the film’s denouement by creating three separate skirmishes within the larger battle. “I’ve got three fights happening simultaneously in the tunnel,” explains Singh. “Theseus and Hyperion are fighting ‘mano-a-mano,’ humans are trying to stop the not-humans from coming through, and the gods are trying to contain the Titans. We have three different schools of fighting—one’s got all the emotion, one’s got all the wow factor, and the third one’s got the scale.”
The array of fighting styles posed additional challenges for the stuntmen. “When gods fight with humans, it’s a completely different school. Then when gods fight with gods or Titans, which have the same power, how do we define that so they’re completely different schools of fighting?” the director asks. “For stunt guys, it’s been quite difficult. They crack one scene, but the next scene does not have the same rules at all.” 
But, say the producers, Singh never challenged anyone more than he did himself. “Tarsem was the first on the set and the last to leave,” says producer Mark Canton. “He didn’t sit and he didn’t use a trailer. He painted his masterpiece and that’s what he came to do. We’re just happy that we brought the brushes for him.
“All of our movies are special,” he adds. “But this one has something I can’t put into words. It’s an epic ride and that’s something that only a visionary could have put together.” 
CHARACTERS
Theseus (Henry Cavill) – A fatherless child raised in a provincial village, Theseus has faced ostracism and ridicule since birth, until a mysterious old man appears and patiently trains him in combat and philosophy. After his mother is cruelly murdered and he is enslaved by the vicious King Hyperion, the downtrodden peasant uses those skills to transform himself into an invincible warrior. Escaping his captors, the people’s hero leads his followers into battle against Hyperion’s deadly forces to try and save mankind from a Titan uprising. 
King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) – Horribly disfigured after a brush with the vanquished Titans, Hyperion is a power-mad despot with plans to conquer the world. Legendarily brutal, he forces his soldiers to scar themselves in homage to him as he leads the ferocious Heraklion legions on a rampage through Greece to locate the long lost Bow of Epirus. With it, he will seek to resurrect the Titans, demi-gods who ruled the earth until their defeat by the Olympians. With their support, he will wage a war that will change the future of both gods and men. 
Zeus (Luke Evans/John Hurt) – The all-powerful King of the Olympian Gods, Zeus has foreseen King Hyperion’s vicious campaign against his fellow mortals and tried to prepare Theseus by secretly training him to become a fearless warrior destined to save mankind. But despite his sympathy for Hyperion’s victims, he forbids the other Olympians from taking sides in the conflict and has his hands full wrangling a rebellious band of Gods as the combat unfolds.
Phaedra (Freida Pinto) – Trained as a priestess since birth, Phaedra is a gifted Oracle, capable of divining glimpses of the future, but unable to control or even interpret her visions. Sought by Hyperion as a means to find the Bow, she hides in plain sight as a slave in his encampment. Her beauty, wisdom and kindness capture the heart of Theseus and he aids her escape from the Heraklions, while she and her visions help to guide him to his destiny. 
Stavros (Stephen Dorff) – A thief and a rogue, Stavros has been enslaved by Hyperion alongside Theseus and Phaedra. Defiant, irreverent and sly, he becomes Theseus’ loyal friend and confidant, valiantly fighting by his side against seemingly insurmountable odds.   
Athena (Isabel Lucas) – The Goddess of Wisdom and Zeus’ favorite daughter, Athena is her father’s trusted ally, protector and advisor. But when deadly warfare on earth threatens to destroy mankind, she defies Zeus and puts her wits to work building support for Theseus and his rebels among the divine inhabitants of Mount Olympus. 
Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) –The God of the Sea, Poseidon is ordered by his brother Zeus to allow mankind to settle its own scores, no matter the consequences. But like Athena, Poseidon has a mind of his own, and he finds an ingenious way to aid Theseus and his supporters. 
ABOUT THE CAST
 

Last changed: Sep 04 2014 at 3:27 PM

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