Action-Adventure Movies (July 7th, 2002)

‘REIGN OF FIRE’ INTERVIEW

What makes this a unique dragon movie?

I don’t think there’s been a decent movie, unfortunately, ever that I’ve seen. We’ve had ones with singing dragons, you’ve had talking dragons and all that. I don’t want to knock Pete’s Dragon. I remember enjoying that as a kid but I’ve never seen anything where dragons were anything more than something a little ridiculous that should be laughed at as well as feared. Right from the start, with this, we had to make sure that the dragons come out as predators, that they don’t have personalities whatsoever. Rob told me there were a couple of suggestions early on to have some female dragons with slightly doe eyes who sort of liked my character. I don’t know what they were thinking about. These were the kind of battles that he would have to have but be very diplomatic about, just to ensure that we ended up with a movie where they were like a crocodile or like a shark. It’s not like they’re an evil presence. They’re just animals going around doing their business, feeding. We just happen to be part of the diet.

How has this experience been different from your usual drama?

“Oh my God, there’s a dragon!” That’s the main difference. The star of the movie was never there but that actually doesn’t take much getting used to. There are actually many times in every movie, even movies without CGI where unfortunately, you might get a very small room and the lighting is taking up all the space and you do the scene, looking as though you’re talking to somebody else, but they’re not actually there. You’re talking to the wall because the actor can’t fit in behind the camera. There’s often times when you’re having to look at nothing whatsoever, pretend. But the surprising thing I found with this was that we really never used blue screen. There were maybe two occasions when we used it. I was expecting to be in front of it the whole bloody time. Friends of mine who had worked on blue screen movies had said it was really dull, very boring and very difficult to do. This was somewhat easier because we were out in Ireland. There was this enormous castle and sure, we were looking at thin air, but you still had the benefit of having complete depth of focus and everything and being able to run and really feel the sort of dirt of the area instead of being on a very hygienic soundstage with a blue screen behind you. Other than that, just the pure size of the whole thing. It’s a bigger budget movie than I’ve ever done. It has a longer schedule than anything I’ve ever done before. It was essentially a bigger risk than anything.

What is the biggest stunt you do?

I do pretty much all of my stunts. Occasionally, there’s a second unit off shooting stuff and they did some helicopter stuff without me. I don’t ever fly, but the only thing I do know is that my double for that, the first time they did the helicopter ride, they landed and he disappeared. He said he quit and he’d never go through that again because he was so scared at the maneuvers the helicopter pilot was pulling. The pilot on this was just brilliant. He flew in Vietnam and got shot down like 19 times. He was the most decorated non-American in Vietnam, so his piloting skills were just incredible. I would ask to go up with him and he’d be maneuvering around the place and you’re hanging with the door wide open. Actually, the only stunt that I actually got clocked in was a fight sequence between Matthew and myself. Matthew was really in pretty formidable shape for the movie. He was down in the boxing gym constantly in Dublin sparring with different people, getting kind of huge and ferocious. Then we had a fight scene. We wanted to make sure that it looked kind of dirty and scrappy as real fights are, instead of everybody landing the perfect punch and all that sh*t. We had a head butt in the fight sequence and we said we wanted to make it as real as possible and Matthew really took it to heart and he just head butted me for real. That stayed in the movie.

Describe your verbal sparring with Matthew.

The thing between Quinn and Van Zan is that they want exactly the same thing. They both want to survive. But, they have very different philosophies about how to do that. Van Zan is a gung ho kind of insane military man who just bullies and goes in there all guns blasting. Quinn was the first to see any of the dragons at all. He’s had the reality of seeing it up close and kind of recognizes that maybe fear isn’t such a bad emotion. It’s just impossible to take this thing down, so his philosophy is just to outlast them. When Van Zan first arrives, he has this story about having taken down a dragon. Just something about the way he tells it, Quinn looks at him and actually believes it because there had been so many people who claimed to be dragon slayers in the past and they were just full of crap. This guy looks mad enough that he maybe really did do that. That’s kind of intriguing to Quinn so he lets him inside of the castle walls, but then once he’s inside, Quinn realizes just how insane this guy really is and he’s going to threaten the lives of all of the people, this community that he has helped to build up. He immediately recognizes that he’s made a mistake and wants him the hell out. So, there aren’t a whole lot of friendly scenes between the two of us. It is two very stubborn sons of bitches really, two sort of control freaks, two people who are used to being the leader who are suddenly having to work together. Ultimately, they do that, but to start off with, they’re just fighting constantly.