Jake Gyllenhaal in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
The next Pirates-esque actioner from Jerry Bruckheimer comes to us in the form of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, flaunting a hunky Jake Gyllenhaal and former Bond girl Gemma Arterton. The Disney collaboration came to life when Jordan Mechner, creator of the successful Prince of Persia game franchise, pitched the idea to producer Bruckheimer in 2004; he went on to write the first two drafts of the script based on The Sands of Time.
At the heart of the story is Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a street urchin who's picked up by a king and turned into a Persian prince, to the dismay of his royal brothers. Throw in a magical dagger that can turn back time and an uncle who's jealous of them all, and you've got some heavy-duty drama. Fandango screened the trailer at Bruckheimer's private fortress and offices, and chatted with Bruckheimer and Mechner on the amazing Parkour stunts, casting of Jake, and why the film won't have any of the game's sand monsters.
Q. What was your inspiration for the game and the Parkour-eque stunts of the movie?
Mechner: The first 10 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 was the immediate inspiration for the first Prince of Persia game. But I think the movie goes very far beyond that. Rather than try to do a literal retelling of the game, I think the movie is very much its characters and some of the coolest elements from the game reconfigured into a story. There's Parkour, there's sword fighting. It's pretty extreme.
Bruckheimer: We brought in the key [Parkour] expert [David Belle] out of France with us. In the opening of the movie, there's a young man who portrays Jake as a young boy. He's 10-years-old and he's amazing.
Q. If you've played the game, how much will you know about what happens in the movie?
Mechner: You're not going to know what happens in the movie. It's a different story, but you'll recognize the characters and situations in a different form. I think it's very true to the spirit of the game.
Q. How come there are no sand monsters in the movie, although the game is full of them?
Mechner: For the game, turning everybody in the world except for the two main characters into sand monsters was really useful because it created an inexhaustible supply of enemies for you as a player to fight. But that's a story that's meant to be played with a controller in your hand. And a movie is an experience that's sort of a ride to go on shared by an audience, so we didn't want to make the movie about fighting monsters.
Q. What made Jake Gyllenhaal right for this role and what physical training did he do?
Bruckheimer: He's one of those guys who can be a huge romantic hero. He's handsome, he's a wonderful actor, and I've always wanted to work with him. We got very lucky that he A) liked the material and B) was available to do it. He worked for months and months before the movie started. He rode bikes, he lifted weights, and he had a very specific diet. He couldn't have any fats, and it was really a lot of protein. All during filming, he was working in 120 degree heat. He had a trainer with him both here and in Morocco working with him to make sure he really kept his physical appearance the way he wanted it to be.
Q. How did you make modern day Morocco look like ancient Persia?
Bruckheimer: It's just sand. (room laughs) There's plenty of it there. No, what we did was we had a fantastic production designer who created these amazing sets. We found a part of the city that was one of the most ancient…It's stopped in time. Some of the sets were in the Atlas mountains. As you're going up there, there's no electricity. The women are the ones who do all the work. They carry these huge bundles of wood on their back. They carry stuff on their head. They carry the children. It's just unbelievable. It's like you're back in the sixth century.
Mechner: I literally couldn't tell where the real city ended and the set began.
Q. How do you think filming on location enhanced the film?
Mechner: To actually be in the desert where it's 125 degrees and there are real sandstorms – a real desert oasis, I think that really moves the whole production to another level. It's not what people expect from a video game movie.
Q. Not many video games translate well on screen. What's so special about this one?
Bruckheimer: It's so different than anything that's in the marketplace. You look at all the Spider-Mans and all the stuff that's coming out, Iron Man and all these Transformers. This is so unique, so fresh and different. It's like a Lawrence of Arabia with this kind of supernatural element added to it. We tested [the movie] a few weeks ago and it tested extraordinarily high. It surprised me because the women flipped over this film. There is violence; it's PG-13. Parents rated the film 100 percent excellent or very good which never happens. It's a huge advantage for a film if the parents think it's cool and the kids can see it.
Q. The Sorcerer's Apprentice also comes out this summer. How did a Fantasia short become a feature length film?
Bruckheimer: Nic Cage and some other people decided it'd be kinda cool to do and came to us. We developed the screenplay with them and took this little moment in Fantasia and created an entire story. I think [Nic] is a wonderful mystical character in it. It's certainly the Nic Cage you want to watch on screen. You're never quite sure what he's going to do or how he's going to react.
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