Warcraft star: I was walking around like a weirdo

From left: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton and Toby Kebbell, lead actors from the film Warcraft: The Beginning, at an interview with TNP in Los Angeles.
PHOTO: Universal Pictures

This is not the usual start to an interview.

In an elaborate throne room set-up at the Universal Studios backlot, the combination of cables and different level dais has already seen me narrowly avoid a pratfall.

Still, I think US actress Paula Patton found it charming. Well, she laughed.

I was facing the three leads of new fantasy epic Warcraft: The Beginning - Patton, Australian actor Travis Fimmel and Brit Toby Kebbell.

Opening here tomorrow, it is based on the video game World Of Warcraft and was in production hell for close to a decade until English director Duncan Jones came along.

The film centres on an invasion by orcs into the human realm of Azeroth. Each side has its different factions, with the actors before me representing these sides, as well as different stages of costuming.

Fimmel, 36, most famous for his stunning turn in the TV series Vikings, plays armour-clad Sir Anduin Lothar, the Alliance protagonist.

Kebbell, 33, is noble orc chieftain Durotan.

With his character being motion capture - something Kebbell was used to, thanks to his role as the treacherous Koba in 2014's Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - he got to turn up for work in "grey pyjamas".

I suggest that Patton, 40, as half-human-half-orc Garona who is caught between the two sides, had the worst deal. She needed hours of make-up and had to master wearing prosthetic tusks.

"It was good for us to be around," said Fimmel, with a sly look.

LEATHER AND TUSKS

Patton's costume, she pointed out, was for the most part "a few bits of leather".

But those tusks - not the monster-sized horns of other orcs - still needed some getting used to without dribbling.

"I needed to stretch out my bottom lip, so I would wear them around the house, make it fit my mouth and not sound ridiculous when I spoke," she said.

And when some of your co-stars don't have the hassle of costumes, it can cause resentment.

"I hate them," deadpanned Fimmel, referring to the orc cast.

"They walk in, draw dots on their faces. At the end of the day, they take it off with a wet wipe and they're gone."

He added laconically: "I don't like orcs at all, to be honest."

Fimmel shrugged off the fact that his get-up was so heavy that it took the help of four people to put on and three to take it off, as he was dealing with a much more troublesome aspect.

"I got more annoyed with the wig. Wigs are so itchy," he said.

Kebbell also had character issues.

To play an orc of that size required a different way of walking that apparently needed more stomach than a regular gait.

"I was walking around Vancouver (where Warcraft was filmed) like a weirdo, but there's a lot of them there," he said.

"And hey, Travis was in town, so nobody was paying much attention to me."

And did this serious-minded epic make for a dour experience on set?

"These two are very serious," joked Fimmel.

"I think we were macho only when Paula was on set," admitted Kebbell.

"Then we were suddenly talking about (adopts gruff voice) 'Oh yeah, I lifted a house... I'm so strong.'"

Pointing at Fimmel, he added: "But just before that we were talking about our favourite teas and cake. I love cupcakes and he likes Battenberg."

While Fimmel joked about hating orcs, Jones told M in a separate interview that sure enough, Warcraft's different factions had a "natural division" when it came to down time on the set.

Unlike other cast members who are huge fans of the source, the main trio had not touched the game. So what attracted them to dressing up for the movie?

"Duncan Jones" is the reply that came from all, so quickly it is almost harmonised.

"And I had always wanted to meet Toby," teased Fimmel.

For Patton, the best thing about being in a fantasy film is living in an alternate reality.

"I live for that. The worst thing is the lull, the in-between time," she said.

With more than 100 million players over its 22 year history, World Of Warcraft has many fans who will be scrutinising this film adaptation very closely - something the cast are keenly aware of.

Kebbell, especially, has had run-ins with poorly-received game adaptations before.

"I didn't read the script and think 'this feels like a computer game', and I'd done that before. I was on (2010's) Prince Of Persia (The Sands Of Time)," he said.

"This was different. I was very aware that this is a great film with a great director and a great cast."

Director Jones a Warcraft fanboy

It's been a long five-year wait for the return of Duncan Jones.

After the successes of Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011), the 45-year-old was tipped to be the next big director.

Then he got into Warcraft: The Beginning and seemingly disappeared.

"It hasn't been five years just on this movie. For the first year and a half, I was trying to make something else. But then this unique opportunity came along," he told M.

Jones admitted to being a fanboy. He's played World Of Warcraft since it came out in 1994 and jumped at the chance to solve the production hell puzzle the movie adaptation languished in.

Original director Sam Raimi could not find the magic to make Warcraft owners Blizzard give the green light.

"There's a long history of people making video game movies where they don't get what the fans love about them," said Jones.

"But that's changing. Similar to how comic book movies are now good because the people making them grew up reading comics, there's a generation of film-makers who grew up on video games."

What next?

"I'm going to do a much smaller film - still sci-fi - that I'll be shooting in Berlin.

"It's a passion project that I've been looking to make for 14 years."

CONNECTION

The location for Mute, which is in preproduction, has a strong connection to Jones. His dad, the late singer David Bowie, made three iconic albums in the German city during the 70s.

Not having used his father's name for his career, did he have second thoughts about those who can't see past the "Bowie's son returns to Berlin" headlines?

"Well, I grew up there. So I have my own experiences. It's a very unique city, a cultural melting pot and where East meets West. It's the Casablanca of the future."

Jones fits a similar profile of directors Rian Johnson, Gareth Edwards and Colin Trevorrow, all now attached to Star Wars films.

But he has no intention to be part of the Lucasfilm club just yet.

"I feel fortunate. Avenues open up if you make decent films, but you don't get many chances to start those kind of franchises," he said.

"With Warcraft, I'm getting to establish one. I'd rather do that than join a pre-existing franchise."

jonrob@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 08, 2016.
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