On the set of 'Clash of the Titans 3D'
Warner Bros has turned to Greek mythology for this year’s first bona fide action blockbuster, a $70 million remake of the 1981’s ‘Clash of the Titans’. Tom Huddleston visits the set
Down the road at Shepperton Studios there’s an awe-inspiring Olympic pantheon, where screen gods Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes direct the fate of mere demi-gods like Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton and Jason Flemyng. The heroic characters, quest narrative and Homeric setting may echo the 1981 version of ‘Clash of the Titans’, but we’re a long way from Ray Harryhausen and his Plasticine Cyclops.
French director Louis Leterrier (‘The Incredible Hulk’) fully understands the challenge – and responsibility – involved in remaking a VHS favourite. ‘I’m a huge Harryhausen fan so it was stressful for me,’ he admits. ‘We are remaking a classic. My target audience is the teacher who says, “Let’s learn about Greek mythology,” and brings out this movie for the kids to watch. And the kids get excited!’
The cast of ‘Clash of the Titans’ has spent the past few weeks on location running up Greek mountains and down Welsh quarries, and now they’re finishing off in the studio. It’s an easygoing set. ‘It’s not a history movie,’ Worthington admits. ‘It’s a “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-style romp. A popcorn movie. We’d be fighting giant scorpions and stuff, stop, look at each other and think, “What the fuck are we doing?”. And we’re getting paid for it! We spent 14 months fighting invisible shit.’
Leading lady Arterton has vivid memories of the location shoot. ‘I loved the scorpions in the original, but in this version they’re the size of a house. I spent lots of time running away from scorpions, with gravel in my shoes.’
Playing the movie’s scarred pantomime villain, Acrisius, Jason Flemyng doesn’t have to tax his imagination too much: he stalks the soundstages of Shepperton clad in a filthy woollen robe, his face smothered in worryingly realistic face-melting make-up. That’s when he gets to wear anything at all: ‘There’s a scene where Zeus flies in the window as an eagle, transforms into Liam Neeson, then transforms into a naked, skinny Jason Flemyng,’ he laughs. ‘When the director asked me to strip I said, “So long as it’s an empty set.” So there I am on the first day of a kids’ film, taking off all my clothes. I walk into the scene and there’s a 17- year-old girl handing out samosas!’
As hero Perseus, Worthington was willing to don the loincloth made famous by coiffeured beefcake Harry Hamlin only if the film’s message was something he could relate to. ‘The original “Clash of the Titans” says it’s good to be a god,’ he observes, ‘and in ancient Greek mythology the moral was all about how destiny overrules you. This film says, “Fuck it, you can change your destiny.” It’s a good message for my nine-year-old nephew.’
But for all its CGI monsters, stars and big-budget backing, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: it’s still a tale of heroism and triumph against the odds. ‘Perseus is told, “You’re going to die; you’re not going to succeed”,’ Worthington enthuses. ‘But even with those odds against him, he’ll still get up, he’ll still keep going. That’s what makes a good hero.’
‘Clash of the Titans’ opens on Apr 2.
Author: Tom Huddleston
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