WC10: Cast of ‘Prince of Persia’ Discuss Bringing an Iconic Franchise to the Big Screen

During the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time press conference at WonderCon this weekend, it was evident that all major players delighted in each other’s company and thoroughly enjoyed bringing the swashbuckling action adventure to life (especially Jake Gyllenhaal, who appears to have developed a fondness for stuntwork). During the course of the interviews, Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Mike Newell (Director), Jordan Mechner (Writer / Creator, POP Franchise) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince Dastan) all talked about the challenges and joys of bringing the popular gaming franchise to the big screen, and whether or not Prince of Persia will become a franchise.

In preparation for his role as Prince Dastan, Gyllanhaal revealed that he stepped outside his “normal” process for getting into character. “I’ve never done research playing video games. I’ve never played video games as research before. Sometimes I’ve read books, or I’ve hung out with Marines, but you know, playing video games is great fun.” Gyllanhaal also related that he has been a fan of the game since it was first released in 1989, when sidescrolling play was a prominent feature.

“I played the original when I was a kid, and then I only started playing the game pretty intensely when we were doing research, particularly for stunts. I’d be in the middle of shooting and  I’d see a move and then I’d call the stunt guys and say ‘check out this move, can we try that?!’ I continue to play it to this day.”

Although the gaming franchise provided a jumping off point (literally) for the live-action flick, Newell was quick to point out that they weren’t interested in retelling and rehashing what has already been visualized in the game, or elsewhere in movie lore.

“What we wanted to do was based on a storyline, but we wanted to make it emotionally real,” Newell explains.  “We did a huge amount of work at the script stage and at the rehearsal stage to make it absolutely real. Even the fights have an emotional reality. The big pressure was to take it to an area where a game couldn’t go, while not destroying the game side of it. I believe that we went very carefully back to 6th Century Persia. We looked at the style, we looked at the behavior, how cities were made and so on, and I hope that we were faithful to it and didn’t come in and jump all over it without a certain sensitivity.”

But just because this movie is based on the game, don’t think that you won’t be seeing stunts that players have seen in the game, as long as the sequence made sense in the reality of the movie, it was fair game for inclusion. “Mike and Jerry from the very beginning insisted anything the Prince does has to be based in some kind of reality,” explains Gyllanhaal. “There were some times on the set where we would do some kind of stunt that mimicked him from the game and Jerry said, ‘wait a second, why did he do that? We need to have that based in the storyline,’ so we had to come up with a reason why he had to flip upside down over a horse and we did!”

During the course of filming, Gyllanhaal continued to push his physical limits, and did most of the his own stunts for the movie. He trained in swordfighting, gymnastics, acrobatics and horse riding to truly embody the life of Prince Dastan.

“The stunts always varied,” says Gyllanhaal. “It got a little dicey towards the end, as everybody saw that I liked doing things that were a little bit dangerous, so we tried our hand at different things. There’s this one fight towards the middle of the movie where I fight my brother who has an axe and I’m fighting him with my sword and a shield and we really got dangerous with that fight. There were a few times where the axe came so close to my face, so that fight was an intense one. And some of the jumps got intense, there was a big 35 foot jump that I did that got a little hairy a couple of times.”

Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner has been making games for 20 years and felt that not every video game should be made into a movie, but felt that the world of Prince of Persia made it a prime candidate for a big screen treatment.

“It’s set in this fantastical world of 1,001 Nights, which hasn’t been brought to film in this way in a long, long time and then of course there’s this dagger that turns back time, which, who hasn’t wished they could turn back time and do something over?”

So, since Prince of Persia has all the makings of not only a summer blockbuster, but the beginning of a new franchise, the only other question left to ask is when can audiences expect a sequel, right? Not exactly. Bruckheimer insisted that there was zero thought put into making the movie into a franchise while they were filming.

“What you try to do is to try to make a compelling movie,” says Bruckheimer. “Strong characters, great themes, great story and if the audience embraces it, then you think about another one. When we made the first Pirates movie, we had no inclination that the audience would accept Johnny Depp as a pirate who’s drunk. So, you just go with it, if you embrace it, then we’ll think about another one.”

“Not one word did Jerry say to me about that,” added Newell. “We’re just making one film.”

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time will be in theaters May 28, 2010.

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