CATEGORIES Movie NewsBryan Singer thought he was going to be the first to revive fairy tales with his take on Jack on the Beanstalk, "Jack the Giant Slayer," but the film, which hits theaters this Friday, was beaten to the big screen by new spins on "Alice in Wonderland," "Snow White and the Huntsman," and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."
Singer (who previously talked to Moviefone about the eagerly anticipated "X-Men; Days of Future Past" sequel), is proud of his update on the "Jack and the Beanstalk" legend. "I took a look at those other ones and made sure I did my own thing," he says.
He talked to Moviefone about making sure he had the right Jack in Nicholas Hoult, his love of classic adventure films from the '50s and '60s, and creating a race of fearsome giants.
Moviefone: This is a bit of a departure for you. Why make a fairy-tale movie? Singer: Well, when I originally decided to do it, there were no fairy tale movies. So I thought I was going to be -- like with the comic-book movies -- the first one in a long time. Little did I know that Hansel and Alice and the Huntsman ... there would be a lot of them. But that was okay. As I was making it, I took a look at those other ones and made sure I did my own thing, made it different. It's also quite an original one. It takes from the old Jack and the Beanstalk and the old Jack the Giant Killer myths, but the story of our land -- the kingdom and the history of the monks and all that stuff -- that's all our complete invention. So it is not actually a classic fairy tale, it's just a fairy-tale-like story that's based on icons from a fairy tale.
It reminded me of those very old-fashioned adventure movies, like the original "Journey to the Center of the Earth" or "Mysterious Island." Yeah, it's funny you should mention that, because I've been asked a lot of that today and "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is a movie I brought up. Anything with James Mason in it. I love the kind of movies where there's a buildup to going to a place, like "King Kong," there's a buildup to going to Skull Island, or "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," there's a buildup going to the factory. So here you've got this buildup and our character finally gets there and discovers this mysterious place. Those were favorite movies of mine as a kid.
How hard was it to find the perfect Jack? Of course you'd already worked with Nick before, as a producer on "X-Men: First Class." I didn't quickly jump to cast him. I wanted to make sure he was right. So I saw a lot of guys. In the end, it was one of those things where I was seeing everybody, but the real guy was right there under my nose. It's a very classic kind of character -- the distracted, awkward farm boy who longs for adventure and falls for a humble princess and goes on a journey and becomes a man. Nick is very charismatic, but he can also play very vulnerable and he has a great sense of humor. After I'd vetted him, then Eleanor [Tomlinson] came in and she had great chemistry with Nick, so I cast her.
At what point did Ewan McGregor's name came up? I don't remember the timeline, but when I realized he was available and was interested, I was like, "Absolutely!" I just said, "Yes, of course."
His character, Elmont, is very Errol Flynn-like. That was literally the direction. I literally said, "Errol Flynn," and he said, "Hmm," and just ran with it.
Stanley Tucci's character, Roderick, reminded me a bit of Blackadder, especially since he has an assistant who's not very bright. You know what? Because I worked with Hugh Laurie on "House," and I'm friends with [his former comedy partner] Stephen Fry as well, and I'm a fan of them separately and together, there's probably a part of them that stuck in my mind a lot -- the bumbling but evil assistant. It's like the giant with two heads, the brains behind the operation and then there's the scary fool that's attached to the brains. So it kind of mimics the big head/little head, like Ewen Bremner was his little head.
How did you come up with the look of the giants? What was your inspiration? My feeling is the giants weren't born, they don't breed, there are no female giants. So they had to be created, and we saw them as something that was created as a barrier between heaven and earth. When you get too greedy and you want to try to reach heaven, the giants are waiting for you. I felt they should be made of the stuff of earth, so if you see them from a distance, they're living, giant creatures. But if you get really close, things that look like hair and boils can also look like rocks and grass. And so they're kind of made of nature. So that was the idea behind them. And once the actors were cast, then that governed the design of their looks and their attitudes.
Did Bill Nighy, who plays lead giant General Fallon, contribute any ideas? Yeah, he came up with the accent. What he also did, which was really intense, is before he'd go act the part, he'd go shut the windows and doors in his car and scream for 20 minutes non-stop and really blow his voice out. And he'd come in and do the part and it would really be this ripped-up voice that he brought to it. John Kassir, who played the little head, he developed this whole thing where I just wanted it to be this nonverbal thing, so in the script we would just write "Ack, ack, ack!" like in "Mars Attacks." He brought in this whole notion that the little head is trying to say what the big head does but he can't quite get it out.
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What was it like working in 3D? I shot this in native 3D. We also did some stuff from the giants' POV, so when they're looking at things, I increased the interaxial, I separated the lenses so it miniaturizes things. So that was kind of fun. Giant vision.
Which scene did you most enjoy shooting? I think the [pantomime], the performance with Warwick Davis and his team. They put together a really great show, telling the story of the legend of the giants, and we had a bunch of kids there and all his crew were great. His kids were in it, and it was a really fun thing. It was all live and real, no special effects. So that was probably the most fun thing to shoot.
Does that mean you're dying to do a movie with no special effects? [Laughs] I probably will at some point. But who knows? Not for a while, apparently. You should see my Facebook page. It's one giant green screen.