Fairytales. They’re fantastic, magic, romantic and well, fairytale-like. Recently we’ve had ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Red riding Hood, the commercial success of a Kristen Stewart starrer ‘Snow White And The Huntsman’ and incoming sorcerer slayer ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’.
[Related story: Jack the Giant Slayer theatrical trailer]
So, what links them all? Aside from the twist they each put on the classic tale? They all owe their heritage to a duo of German legend makers: The Brothers Grimm.
But what’s wrong with our own folklore and fairies? It’s about time we smelt the blood of an Englishman…
That particular Englishman is Nicholas Hoult, star of Bryan Singer’s ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ - an adaptation of the Cornish legend ‘Jack The Giant Killer’ and the more popular fairy tale it inspired about Jack and his beanstalk. But, seeing Hoult standing here on the bustling Longcross set, dressed in fearsome black armour, talking about slaying monsters and epic scale battles, you get the feeling this really is going to be a very different version of the story.
“This is the tale that eventually becomes 'Jack and the Beanstalk',” Nicholas says. “Jack is a young farm boy, who has a chance meeting with a princess and falls for her. He has nothing to lose.” So, now we know there’s some romance there as well.
At the time of production, back in Spring 2011, Hoult was still establishing himself as a leading man. This week sees the release of rom-zom ‘Warm Bodies’, in which Hoult plays endearing zombie ‘R’, who falls in love with Teresa Palmer’s still-breathing ‘Julie’ – but playing a giant slayer has more of a heroic ring to it doesn’t it?
“You see a younger version of Jack at the start of the film,” says Hoult. “Then we cut to him 10 years later. He has a tough upbringing but is still an optimist. We have to get some realism, but it still has to be fun.”
Joining Hoult on his giant slaying quest are Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, Ian McShane, Warwick Davis, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Ewen Bremner.
‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ has actually been in development since early 2009, with director ‘X-Men’ director Singer announcing his involvement in September of that year.
“I got involved with this before the fairy tale craze really kicked in,” Singer proudly boasts. “My initial interest was in realising a simple fairytale, the least reality-based one with beanstalks and giants in the sky, and trying to do it in a realistic sort of way.”
Singer, a whirlwind of energy, guides Yahoo! through the set – a fairytale forest of green screens and giant beanstalks – explaining along the way the state-of-the-art 3D process involved in bringing Jack’s adventures to the big screen.
“My first experience with 3D would have been pop-up books,” jokes Singer, showing off the film’s Simulcam system. “Now you can see what we shot live on the day being played back”:
“You have to learn new techniques. Framing is different. And 3D is often not about the subject but also about what is in front of them and behind them as well. It kind of takes you back to the theatre and stage design,” he says.
“The only concern was would I be able to shoot this in 3D. I didn’t like the 3D on a number of post-conversion movies, and this was after speaking at great length to with fellow film-makers like James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis who have successfully worked in this environment.”
Singer himself admits he’s become a little fixated with the process, showing off the obsessive collection of on-set photos on his phone before reaching the self-shot videos of playing pranks on the younger members of the cast.
“Other than that though...we are working really hard!” he jokes.
Despite being in the 3D firing line, as well as a few pranks we presume, Nicholas Hoult is keen to talk-up ‘’Jack’s visuals.
“All the special-effects and visual-effects guys are on the top of their game,” he said. “They have this SimulCam which can shoot with you live and then overlay the motion-capture stuff they have shot before so you can see where the giants are within that location.
“You still have to be slightly delusional and create in your head what is going on,” he adds, “I’m enjoying working with Bryan. He can balance the technical side of things with the character stuff. He will listen to your ideas so it's quite a collaborative experience.”
Hoult will be appearing as Hank McCoy/Beast in another Singer film, 'X-Men: Days of Future Past', the sequel to 'X-Men: First Class' which Bryan also produced. But, Singer’s superhero filled CV (he also director ‘Superman Returns’) does nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’s’ own history:
“It's a little about how stories we know get changed from the myths and the reality and so on,” he begins. “The story was originally an allegory for the plight of the farmer taking back from the fat cats and then merging it with this story from the 1700's of giant killer named Jack.
“I think 'The Princess Bride' is one of the best fairytale movies, but that’s parody and this one isn't. There’s a kind of lightness, trying to take the edge off some of the darker elements.
“Our story takes elements of those and comes up with something original.”
'Jack The Giant Slayer' is out in the UK on 22 March.