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Toronto International Film Festival – Beowulf & Grendel Press Conference Transcript

Category: Transcripts
Article Date: September 14, 2005 | Publication: Sutton Place Hotel (Rogers TV) | Author: Transcript (thanks to AGOS!)
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Thursday September 14th 2005

[Typed on the screen = “Beowulf & Grendel” Based on the famous Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, this story follows Beowulf of the Danes as he faces the murderous troll Grendel.]

[View of the cast and director behind the table and the photographers taking pics. They all pose together]

Sarah Polley: Can I be taller?

[Ingvar Sigursson. tries to pull her up. Then Gerry does it too]

Sarah: I’m working on it!

Conference Moderator: OK?

Sturla Gunnarsson: we’re good

Moderador: all right, thank you

Sturla: let’s do it

[Gerry says something about getting him some water and returns to his seat with a jar full of water]

Moderator: Good afternoon, welcome. We are here for the press conference for “Beowulf and Grendel”, which was a special presentation. People will be seeing it tonight. My name is Jane Perdue, I’m the moderator for this press conference. I saw the film yesterday and it’s pretty spectacular. I’m very pleased to be here hosting this press conference. “Beowulf and Grendel” is a medieval adventure, it’s part fable and part horror. It’s based on the epic 9th century Anglo-Saxon poem, which most people would know. It’s a blood soaked tale of a warrior, Beowulf, and his battle against that murderous troll, Grendel. On my left, I’d like to introduce the director and one of the producers, Sturla Gunnarsson, whose work includes “Rare Birds” and “Such a long journey”. He is also made a number of documentaries including “Final Offer” and the [?] story of “Gerrie and Louise”. To Sturla’s left, is Gerald Butler, who plays Beowulf. Gerald is Scottish born, and he stared in a number of films including “Timeline”, “Dear Frankie”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, where he plays the Phantom and “Game of their Lives”, where he plays a soccer player and I mention those because here is playing something quite different. Sarah Polley is to his left. She plays Selma, the pagan witch. Sarah is well known to Canadian audiences and internationally of course, but starting as a child actor in the television series “Road to Avonlea”, she went on to do a number of productions including “The Sweet Hereafter”, Hal Hartley’s “No Such Thing” and Wim Wender’s…, the film was at Cannes just this year, “Don’t come knocking” and to Sarah’s left, we have Ingvar Sigursson who plays Grendel, who is Iceland’s leading star. Thank you very much. I am very pleased to welcome the stars and Sturla here for this conference. I would like to start with my question to Sturla and, you know, we read lot of people in studying at school, we know about this epic poem “Beowulf” and we also know that it actually was an inspiration to others, like Tolkien for the writing of “The Lord of the Rings”, but I would like to know from Sturla what was your inspiration and how you felt that, well, you could make a masterpiece out of an existing masterpiece.

Sturla: Well, this sort of sprang from the minds of Andrew Berzins and myself. Where’s Andrew? He was supposed to be here.

[Someone tells him something from the back of the room]

Sturla: oh, ok.

Moderator: Andrew is the screen writer, yes?

Sturla: yeah. Hhmmm…. Andrew and I had just made a film and we were sort of sitting and saying let’s do something together and we had all this kind of ideas and they were all financiable and doable and unexciting and he said “what about Beowulf?” and I said “YES!”. And everyone said we were crazy because, you know, this is Canada, you can’t make an epic in Canada they said. So that was kind of the genesis of it. For me what it was about, is… Iceland is where I am born and I wanted to make a film on this landscape ever since I can remember. These images have been in my mind, these are my first dreams and Beowulf in particular, it’s a story that kind of swims out of the North oral tradition and into becoming the first epic work of English Literature, so it spans my two worlds. And I guess the core idea was that this is sort of the genesis of the hero myth as we know it and that was really the big fish that we were after. We wanted to explore the hero myth from a modern perspective. We wanted to, you know, the tale itself, had been passed around for hundreds and hundreds of years. It takes place in 500 and then it’s told around the campfire for hundreds of years until it’s committed to sheep skin some time around 100 and them promptly lost and rediscovered in 1800, by an Icelander, in a burned down farmhouse in the north of England. The essence of the story, as written, is this kind of very simple moral universe which we are accustomed to, you know, in our western and kind of popular culture, where you have a good hero and a bad villain. And Grendel in the original is a supernatural creature, he is a mythological creature, he is not a creature of nature. The choice that Andrew and I made was to put Grendel into the natural world and to start exploring the story from that perspective and what you end up with is a story of tribalism, and that’s where it became very contemporary and that was really the appeal of it, was to take a look at our notions of what heroism is and, you know, in these times of tribalism and religious intolerance…

Moderator: and how about, you said, well you tell me actually how long it was developing the idea, and then the script and then casting of these characters, how did that come into being.

Sturla: well, we were, I think 4 and a half years since we began, something like that. It began with a trip to Iceland for Andrew and myself

Moderator: as all good things do

Sturla: with Fridrik over here. Fridik Fridiksson. And our production designer, Árni Páll Jóhannsson, who took us to all of his favourite places. I was kinda like he showed you one nice spot and if you responded appropriately he’d show you another one. And eventually we got all the best spots. Several years, you know. Several years. Co-production, 2 countries: Canada, Iceland and United Kingdom. Getting Paul Stephens and Eric Jordan onboard, as my partners, getting Michael Cowan onboard from the “Spice Factory” from the UK and I guess, last spring we set off to Iceland to begin pre-production.

Moderator: but you said that in a couple of sentences, getting UK onboard, getting money here. Talk a little more about that. You made it sound very simple. It’s a challenging film, challenging tale to even take it on and so, how do you go about doing that, Sturla?

Sturla: well, it starts with the script. The thing is, the script was right from the start, something that people responded to in a very good level and, so there were a lot of hurdles [?] but the script always seemed to inspire people and kind of win us allies along the way. But no, it’s, I mean, you’ve got 8, 10 finance sources in each of the 3 countries, and armies of lawyers who march you to the edge of the cliff and force you to stare into the abysm and then renegotiate, that’s a co-production.

Moderator: well, let’s speak to some of the actors here. Perhaps Gerald, whose just pouring himself some more water, but as far as the casting

Journalist in the audience: GeRARD!

Gerry: thank you! It’s that telling her about my proper name? Yeah, my name’s Gerard.

Moderator: I’m sorry, Gerard.

Gerry: It’s ok, Gillian

Moderator: hahaha! That’s right, that’s right. GeRAARD, I’d be curious to know when you were approached with this script and how you felt about playing this character.

Gerry: ermm, I think it all started at a public park in New York… no I’m joking! I don’t know where I was going with that. But, I was sent the script and I, and I read it and I immediately knew I was delving into something I wasn’t used to and was an acquired taste, so I read it once and then read it again and by the second time I read it I just fell in love with it. It still needed some work, there were just things that needed to be paired down [?] and worked on a little bit. I got together with Sturla and we had a great meeting, I had watched his work, I was really excited about him as a director and then he showed me some photographs of the locations, the environment that we were going to be working in and he said “listen to this CD” which was from our composer, so when I felt the story, saw those locations and listened to that music, I had a movie in my head. I had an amazing epic movie and also to play that kind of epic hero but be allowed to play it with some originality, some sort of [?], to go to areas where heroes, I think, aren’t normally allowed to go to. Which is what is the big change in our story and the poem, which is, in terms of character, far less interesting, you know, the self-doubt that, the journey that Beowulf goes on himself is far more intricate, complex, weak in a way, you know, he is a hero but he has a lot of weaknesses and makes mistakes and in fact, I feel like at the end of the movie he makes the ultimate mistake and he knows it and has to set and live with that. So it was kind of a fascinating journey to go on. It’s all the things put together and I couldn’t say no and plus Sturla is a beautiful man… to work with.

Moderator: and Sarah, for you…. Hahahaha!

Sturla: and a great humanitarian!

All: hahahaha!

Gerry: yeas, yes. I meant beautiful sexy!

All: hahahahaha!

Moderator: ok.

Sarah: I think is time for a group hug, everyone!

Moderator: yes, Sarah…

Sarah: well, I’m actually gonna back up the claim that he is a great humanitarian. I’ve actually always wanted to work with Sturla. He is one of those rare people in the Canadian film community who is a political animal and I think that’s how we got to know each other the best. “Final Offer” for me was a pivotal movie in my life, I think I saw it about 10 times when I was 16 and it really made me passionate about labour relations and so I’ve always wanted to work with Sturla and I’ve had great respect for him and the script I thought was kind of the only way to do this film, you know. When I heard “Beowulf” I thought this could be pretty embarrassing stuff

Sturla: musty?

Sarah: it could have been pretty bad, you know, I mean guys in Viking helmets can be a bit of a nightmare but I think the only way to do it is with a sense of humour and a sense of self-awareness and with a lot of irreverence. And that’s exactly what this script did and I was really excited and also I’ve never played a part in anything like this, so it was a huge challenge for me

Moderator: interesting to play a witch. And for yourself Ingvar, with the connection. How was the casting? How did that work out? And your attraction to the part.

Ingvar: well, the casting was like, Sturla, I’ve known Sturla for a few years and I’ve seen his stuff and he’s seen my acting through the years from stage and films and I when he handed me the script and said “would you please read this for me and tell me your opinion because I would like you to play some part in this movie. I’ve already cast Beowulf so what would you like to play?”. Yeah, and then I reads the script and I fell in love with it. And I have to tell a story. I wanted to play Grendel and I went to the bookstore to buy a present and there was this guy in front of me on the line, an American man, who was asking the guy behind the desk about Beowulf. If he knew how the shooting was going and the guy didn’t know anything about it and I said “well, I know they have not started yet”. “Oh, are you involved in this?” and I said “I hope so”. “so, how?”, “well, maybe I’m playing one of the parts”, “which one?”, “well, I hope I’ll play Grendel”. So he took a book from his jacket and said “this book will help you to get the part”, Grendel by John Gardner. So I bought the book, in the bookstore, from him, not from the bookstore. So, and I read it and I thought it was very helpful and I said to Sturla when I met him next “well, whoever is gonna play Grendel, this book is gonna be helpful” and he said to me “well, I hope I’m looking that guy in the eye”

Moderator: and how long did it take between the purchase of the book and the offer? Was there a long time?

Ingvar: well, It took like, when Sturla came back to Iceland. I don’t remember, a month…

Gerry: how much did he charge you for the book?

All: hahahahaha!

Ingvar: it was like 1000 Icelandic Krolers [?]

Sturla: I was gonna cast the first guy who had that book

All: hahahahaha

Moderator: it was a right, right? We have a question over here, thank you.

Journalist in the audience: there are all kinds of ideas what Grendel should be. I once had a so called Christian scientist tell me he thought it was a, a creation scientist told me he thought it was T-Rex. Because more evidence that dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth. So, a lot of people obviously have a very monstrous idea of what Grendel was rather than him being a rather large human being. I’m wondering how you decided to go into that sort of more mortal direction.

Sturla: well, I mean, the essence of the idea was right from the start, was to tell an epic from a human, you know, to sort of try to find a human dimension to an epic movie, and, you know, if you look back at the times that this story takes place, this are pagan times, this are not Christian times, the story passes on for hundreds and hundreds of years. Eventually Grendel becomes a “monster”, spawn of Cain, but pursuing all the camp fire tales, you know, come from somewhere, so we began to this where this particular camp fire tale came from and at that point Grendel has to live in the natural world. So that was sort of the first essential choice, that he is a creature of the natural world. And then we begin thinking how would that manifest itself.

Journalist: another thing I wanted to know is, how does a story that I assume only me and about another hundred English majors have any familiarity with come into not only your movie but apparently a Hollywood one that’s coming up from Zemekis.

Sturla: It’s Beowulf mania!

All: hahahahah

Sturla: it’s in the air. Seriously Judy Taymore [?] is doing Grendel at the LA Opera this year as well. It’s just weird. But you know, I think the reason why is that it’s our first epic and it has really, really, powerful bones. It’s a potent elemental story and it speaks to our most basic instincts. It speaks to our tribalism. It speaks to our fears. It speaks to how we respond to elemental fear and I think when we were shooting it, it felt that way, it felt that the bones of the story were more potent that we had even realized, so… and I mean, how does a story survive from 500 AD to now. It must have some kind of mystical potency to it.

Moderator: I’d like to ask Sarah about Selma, the witch, because it seems to me that she represents more than the with character, but there’s some sort of wisdom there, there’s female wisdom. And is that something that you saw in the script or in the character?

Sarah: yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that she is the one that has the wisdom to see what I think maybe makes it a time for Beowulf mania, which is that the other, on whom we’ve declared war, looks a lot like us in the end. And I think this is, you know, her gift to Beowulf, to sort of humanize the enemy and to sort of bring out the absurdity of the idea of the hero and the villain and to be self-aware of that and I do think this is particularly a good time to make a film like this, that deconstructs those kind of ideas.

Moderator: let’s talk about the shoot and the locations because it really is spectacular to see some of the locations that you discovered going back to your homeland and seeing some of the areas. So if you could speak about that. It’s just so beautiful when you look at it, is so rugged and looks like maybe just all green but then you see all the different tones of greens and the bright yellows and it’s gorgeous. But it’s rough and it’s rugged. And so I’d like to know how that was for you. Setting that up and shooting on location. And then maybe some experiences from the actors.

Sturla: well, it was a little breezy. We just happen to stumble upon the windiest fall in 60 years in Iceland which is a windy country to start with. So, I mean it was great, challenging because you’d have a 140 k winds, horizontal rain, I mean, I knew we weren’t at Kansas anymore when the waterfall was going up. It was being blown back up! And sunshine, sometimes all in one day. But what it was, it created this…. Well, it’s beautiful to begin with. It’s just stunning to look at. But also, I think it grounded all of the actors because is like you are playing a scene with an unwritten character in it, and it’s like totally an unpredictable unwritten character. So when you step out there

Sarah: it’s like working with Rip Torn [?] for what I’ve heard

All: hahahaha

Sturla: so you know, you step out there and whatever you have in mind, how you intended to play the scene, it’s not gonna be that way when the winds are blowing at a 100 k or you know, when you are in this sort of very, very potent, elemental landscape. And I mean it is, Iceland is the youngest land on Earth, it’s still being formed, I mean, where we shot this film is, we are surrounded by volcanoes, there’s a volcano under the glacier which was going off at the time. You know, you are right in the North Atlantic, there’s black sands and you just feel that there’s this very, very powerful force that you get from the landscape. I know I did. I don’t know you guys. You were just cold and wet, I know.

Gerry: yeah. No. well, I was cold and wet, absolutely. Because it was very cold and wet! But it was a movie of extremes, of days when there was the most beautiful serenity and light and calmness and views that will stay with me to the grave. And I hope the do, because moments when I had such a strong and powerful connection, spiritual connection I felt and then days when I was so f***ing miserable and thought I can’t survive another 2 seconds in this weather. Help! Help! I really thought why did I ever come to this God forsaken place, why did I ever choose to do this role and then, that to me is a far more interesting role and a far more interesting project. When you know you’ve experienced all rather than live within these parameters you’ve lived within much more massive parameters and you know you’ve made something. But, it was my favourite experience, I think, as an actor and I’m not just saying that because I’m here right now, really was for all those reasons… I’ve never film in an environment that I find so beautiful to behold and it just goes right through you. And that energy that you are talking about, it boils away underneath the surface and seems to pull something put of you which is not always happiness, it makes you question things, but it’s a powerful experience that I loved and to tell the story there, you know, I can’t say enough of it, about this and many reasons because it was so difficult.

Moderator: how about for you Sarah? How was it on location?

Sarah: you know, Iceland I’ve been to quite a few times, and I’ve got a really strong connection to that place, it’s sort of hard not to. So it was great to be back there. It was a nightmare shoot. I think we were all dancing around, I’m just gonna say it. It’s the most challenging shoot I’ve been on for a very long, long, time and you know, we were literally shooting in the middle of hurricanes. It was crazy.

Moderator: what was the time of the year when you were doing this?

Sturla: I think we were at, I think back in November, did we? End of November? Something like that. We were supposed to shoot in the summer but the financing didn’t close. Is it close yet?

All: hahahahaha

Moderator: but if you are out there all day, I mean in this kind of situation, where then do you go when you are waiting?

Sturla: to the tents. NO! The blew away!

Gerry: NO! they blew away. Lost everything we had

Sturla: to the base camp. No, that was gone. The vehicles?

Gerry: we lost some of the actors, they were blown away, never to be seen again [?]

All: hahahaha

Sturla: you know where we went? We went to the Mead Hall!

Gerry: which we also thought was gonna be blown away!

All: hahahaha

Sturla: our production designer had to build this glorious Mead Hall, which is, as it turns out, while we were shooting the film they discovered in Sweden what they think was the original Heorod and I’m looking online at this images of the Mead Hall that he built for us. It’s this big, glorious, thing made out of drift wood, and hydro-poles [?] and stone and it withstood everything. It withstood the worst of the winds, it withstood when the hotel at the bottom of the hill blew away. And so we have our production designer to thank for having given us a little bit of shelter.

Moderator: well, the design and interior of that Hall was, the whole atmosphere in there was pretty impressive, so maybe you could talk a little bit about that. Setting it out and the feeling and the look of the interior, how that was planed.

Sturla: well, the look of the film, the period is migration period, it’s a pre-Viking age, and you’re dealing with Norse men who are extremely well travelled, they’ve been all over, we are finding Budas in this burial sites and things like that, so the production design was kind of a “diamonds in the mud” concept. They have beautiful kind of Vizantine designs and glass goblets and things. We draw things that we sort of found in the burial sites but it’s on this very hostile landscape and that was sort of basically the idea. The Mead Hall is a traditional Mead Hall, it’s basically a gargantuan Viking ship turned upside down, with the ends cut off. Pretty much. With a with fire right down the middle and that where everything took place. That’s where you slept, you ate, you know

Moderator: sometimes got killed

Sturla: sometimes. Well, when this guy shows up

Ingvar: I’m not so bad!

All: hahahahahah

Sturla: he is just a big misunderstood guy from down the valley

Moderator: a troll with a heart and a great sense of smell too

Sturla: and I should say too, that with the creation of Grendel, Ingvar, the landscape again was a huge part of it, because Ingvar was involved with us way, way back at the beginning. When we were out on location surveys, he was out on the landscape, you know, sort of finding his body language and then that informed what he did when he went to Leaden Studios [?] with Nick Dudman to sort of create, you know, to find the shape, the form of Grendel. Wanna talk about that?

Ingvar: yeah, well, why not? The location of the landscape, for me felt very homey to work on that. I think that’s, maybe a privilege to be at home, you know, when you are running around and you have to run around in this landscape. I remember the stunt coordinator was very …. Scared

Sturla: nervous

Ingvar: he was very nervous.

Sturla: he kept falling in the river and everything

Ingvar: he was of course, he wanted to have everything save. Because he was afraid of the moss, it was loose, and everything like that, but I’m very used to running in this since I stood up on 2 legs! And yeah… what do you want me to say more about that?

Moderator: well, since standing up on 2 legs, but the way you were set up, I mean, that was… let’s talk about how you were attired and made up and some of the details around that. It must have been pretty ambitious creating you into this character.

Ingvar: yeah, well, that was just through conversation with Sturla and Nick Dudman and [?] who did this, and after we had done all this prosthetics thing, you know, all this, they started very, you know, very extreme so no one could actually recognize me and Sturla and I, we didn’t like that, so we shaved it off until we were all happy actually. After that I started to work on the inner man, you know, we had this look in front of me and it was just a challenge, it was nothing the difficult and the prosthetics I was wearing was very comfy, very warm

Moderator: probably kept you warm!

Ingvar: while everybody was freezing to death, I was feeling very, very warm

Moderator: but you had to go through that everyday of the shoot, I suppose, I mean, how long did it take to prepare you?

Ingvar: first they took 6 hours, then it came down to 4 hours, in the end. But yeah, when the weather is like that in Iceland you can never count on it. So sometimes I had to, I was totally prepared to shoot and then I was like sent off, because of the weather or you know, but that is filming

Moderator: was it hard to actually move?

Ingvar: it’s very soft, you know. The only things that I was aware of was that the stuff would move naturally. So I was worried about like wrinkles so you’d see that it isn’t real. But it was a really, really amazing disguise.

Moderator: but perhaps Sturla you can speak about you tried a certain look and then you wanted to sort of pair it back, was it to find a human there or what was the idea?

Sturla: as soon as we realized, as soon as we committed to the idea of an analogue movie, I went to Dudman because he is the best in the world and the first thing he said to me was “you know we can draw sketches if you like, but really it’s all about the casting, you know, this character will emerge from you actor” and that’s exactly what happened. I mean, it was a combination of Ingvar and his take on the script and then you know, moving around in front of the mirror and adding stuff and taking stuff away. I think we made 3 or 4 trips to London. And also Ingvar’s son plays young Grendel, so we had to get him Grendeled-up too.

Moderator: Grendeled-up, lots of hair coming out of places and so on. And how about for yourself, Gerard, when you were being set up and creating this character. Did you have ideas of how you should be looking and were you contributing in that way?

Gerry: yeah, well. I though I should be very soft as well. So I got a belly and…. No. I am…. God! I’m going down a stern today [?] Hello Toronto, I’ll be here all week! You know.

All: hahahahaha

Gerry: I trained very hard for a long time for this movie. Really pumped up a lot with the idea… well, one, that’s how I felt the character would be and two, because I thought I was gonna have to get topless, which didn’t end up happening so, it was a complete waste of time! And I found that chain-mail was a crap source of insulation so I had so many under vests on, that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had worked out a single day because I looked huge anyway, with what 25, you know, thermo-vests on. And I don’t really know where the length of the hair came from, we had a make up designer who had some very early drawings which blew me away! I just loved the beard, the shape of the beard that he had you know, almost, there was something almost Hunnish about it actually, you know. There was an almost kind of barbaric, it was such a powerful look and we worked from that. And I thought that I also wanted to have some scaring on the face because I’m just so over seeing this warriors who don’t have any marks on them and they spend their whole life working with swords and knifes and being bitten the sh*t off them and kicking the crap out of other people and they have no marks on them, so I gave myself a big scar right down here and one on the eye which was cool and other than that is just that, you know, we felt like bikers. When we were all put together, we felt like a gang of bikers, which was kinda cool because I felt there was, I felt that in order for him to go on a journey that he did, which in some ways was a growing up process, spiritually, emotionally, that it was nice that they started off with a sense of youthfulness about them and there was that, there’s a heaviness but there’s also a youthfulness. A bunch guys who love to go on these quests, but they’ve never been faced with a quest as dark or as complex as this one, you know, there was gonna call into question really just what a quest was in the first place.

Moderator: so, Sarah and did you contribute to the look of how Selma would appear? The hair?

Sarah: the hair was, yeah. Hahaha. I decided it would be good for her to have red hair and for it to be big and crazy. And really that was all the character work I did on this film. It was the hair but I feel good about it.

Moderator: there’s so many braids, there’s lots of hair. All the characters have lot of hair, but then they are all braiding it and even the beards too, I thought was interesting. Just getting it out of the way

Sturla: well no, but they are vain! They are pretty cool vain guys! They like to braid their beards and ornament themselves.

Moderator: ornament, yeah, exactly. There’s a question over here, thank you.

Journalist in the audience: Sarah, I’ve a 2 part question. One, I wondered how it was being the sole woman alone on a movie abashed with male energy like this and also, Iceland, as I understand, is a fairly progressive country, where the Parliament, in fact is, the majority of it’s members are women, so I wondered if you sort of checked out

[people in the audience laugh]

Journalist in the audience: what? It’s not funny!

Sturla: we have 2 Icelandic cabinet ministers right here with us.

Journalist in the audience: is that true?

Sarah: who are laughing really hard.

Journalist in the audience: it’s so ironic. But I was gonna, but I guess you got familiar with the political aspect.

Sarah: a little bit. I mean, I wouldn’t pretend to be really, really learned on Icelandic politics, but certainly I think part of my connection to that country is that the kind of feminism that there is in Iceland puts ours to shame. Single mothers are supported there in a way that is unheard of in North America. There’s certain things that go on in Iceland that make us seem like we are living hundreds of years ago and in some kind of dark age. So it was actually a good place to play a really strong woman because I’ve met a lot of them there and yeah, no it’s. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on too, you know, they did support the war. It’s not all good, but there’s a lot of amazing things, it seems to me as an outsider and complete idealistic probably. I think Ingvar could speak more about that.

Moderator: would you like to, with some government representatives here, Ingvar speak to the politics there?

Ingvar: no, I’m too scared.

All: hahahaha

Sarah: huge repercussions!

Gerry: I love how casual you guys are, you know, your government ministers. I have to say, when we were staying at a hotel in [?] and there was a bunch of minister there which I didn’t know about and I thought that one of the ministers was the manager of the hotel, and I had just been told that the restaurant was closed, and I asked him if he would go and get me a ham and cheese sandwich because I was so hungry, and our producer Ana Maria sat there cringing and I said “what’s the matter” and she said “that’s the Minister for Fisheries [?]”

Moderator: and you were asking for ham and cheese?

Gerry: and I’m asking for ham and cheese. I’ll never forget that one!

Moderator: you know, there’s another character that we haven’t talked here and that’s Christ.. and if you could talk a little, I mean is interesting with the priest there and the baptisms and if you could elaborate on that a little bit. About the time and the…

Sturla: well, historically this is right around the time when Christianity begins to appear in the north and I guess in the film, it was a nod to the unknown poet. We have, you know a character, Brendan, the Celtic priest, who’s sort of washed ashore and convinced that is sort of his mission to get rid of the troll also and he starts taking credit for everything Beowulf’s doing. And people are being converted but really what we were playing with was the idea of how the “official” story came into being, you know, and at the end Thorin [?] concludes that Thorcle’s [?] tale is sh*t. So it’s sort of an historical nod to the period, and it’s speaking to the way the tale transformed itself from a pagan tale to a Christian tale.

Moderator: did you have consultants helping you with that?

Sturla: we tried to stay away from the academics, but, until the end, when the script was in reasonable good shape, then we actually showed it to quite a few Beowulf-fites [?] who responded well to it. But we really did not want to make a kind of yieldy-Beowulf [?] here, that was not the idea.

Moderator: a yieldy-Beowulf?

Sturla: yeah, a yieldy-Beowulf

Moderator: oh! And the language, could you speak about some of the accents and how did you approach that because there are different voices there, different accents.

Sturla: well, yeah. I mean, to begin with, this is really, again it speaks to Andrew’s geniuses as a screen-writer. There’s not a single romantic-root word in the dialogue. It’s all Norse and Germanic root words. So they are old words but he has constructed them, the syntaxes is contemporary because again, we wanted it to feel very kind of contemporary but ancient at the same time and then, you know, we had a lot of anxiety and a lot of discussion about, you know, dialect, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I was wasting my time worrying about dialects because this was migration period, every tribe of people there, they all lived within a boat sail away from each other and they all speak the language with a slightly different accent. So, once we cast Gerard, I love the way he speaks English with a Scottish sound, we did work a little to get rid of some of the Glasgow in it, but I mean, I think of the English speakers in the world today, the Scots are the closest you can find to Old English. Very, you know, concrete and sort of hard sounding English and then, you know, we had, we surrounded him with other Scots on the team Geat, except for Martin who developed something, some sort of an accent that sounded like it fit. It sounded like it fit

Gerry: I’m from Scotland, that was a very good accent! Well done Martin! Round of applause for that one!

Moderator: we know you are from Scotland!

Gerry: and the Ronan felt completely left out because no one had told him this and he was left with an English accent

Sturla: well, but he is Welsh you know. Besides he is the poet, so it’s ok. He had to sound sort of sonorous

Moderator: great, great. Thank you very much. This is the conclusion of the press conference. Thank you.

Gerry: thank you.

 


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