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One of the Guys
King Brahmwell: Elmont, assemble a team of your best men.
Bring back my daughter.

If it was adventure the princess craved, she certainly finds it the night she sneaks out of the castle and rides as far as Jack's hovel before seeking shelter from a growing storm. She arrives just in time to see one of the special beans Jack brought back from the marketplace sprout into a gargantuan vine. Its writhing tendrils drive the tiny dwelling straight up into the sky, and her along with it, prompting an urgent expedition, led by the king's knight Elmont, to bring her back.

Ewan McGregor, starring as Elmont, describes him as "the leader of the Guardians, an elite group of top-tier royal knights, and also the royal family's personal head of security -- which means he spends much of his time looking after Princess Isabelle. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, and it's not an easy job because she's always dressing up in peasant clothes and giving him the slip. She has all kinds of escape routes from the castle that he doesn't know about."

There's one female in this story, and a bunch of guys who fall all over themselves to rescue her, which is a fun thing to watch," says Singer.

The director envisioned Elmont as "a kind of swashbuckling Errol Flynn character, who does everything with grace and charm and flair. No matter what's going on, he never breaks a sweat."

Which is not to say that he does everything well; quite the opposite, sometimes, which can result in some very interesting situations. But he'd never admit it. Still, McGregor says, "Jack looks up to Elmont like a kind of big brother and role model, as do most of the citizens of Cloister. The Guardians are held in high esteem. They wear armor and look after the kingdom and, I suppose, for a young man like Jack, their lives seem quite exciting."

Adds Hoult, "He's the captain of the football team, the cool guy, the one you want to be. Plus, he's very close to the princess, so it's everything Jack aspires to."

The feeling, at first, is far from reciprocal. When Jack volunteers to join the search party, his request is met with derision from Elmont and his assembled brigade. How could a simple farmhand with no training and no experience hope to hold his own on such a crucial mission? Nevertheless, as producer Patrick McCormick points out, "Though not noble by birth, Jack can still prove himself noble by deeds, and what better place to start than by rescuing the princess?"

As their quest takes them further into the heart of danger with Jack never shrinking from a challenge, Elmont's mockery turns to playful ribbing, followed by genuine respect, and, ultimately, collaboration.

The two are also soon bonded by their mutual disgust at the treacherous Roderick, a shameless opportunist whose participation on this mission has its own secret agenda, and saving the princess isn't even on the list.

Though officially betrothed to Isabelle -- despite her vehement protests -- Roderick's only interest is his own advancement. The truth is, he couldn't be more thrilled over her predicament because it gives him the opportunity he's been scheming and dreaming about for years, to locate this legendary race of giants and become their leader. To accomplish this coup, he needs only two things: an enchanted artifact that can bend the giants to his will, and a bridge between their world and ours. The first of these, he already has in his possession... and the second, Jack has unwittingly provided.

"If you're not booing Roderick then I haven't done my job," quips Stanley Tucci, who enjoyed the tasty role. "His humor and swagger was already on the page, which is the main reason I signed on. Roderick is terribly evil but really funny, and I believe he finds himself funny as well, not to mention clever and probably handsome, too. He's been pretending to support the king and is engaged to Isabelle, but he doesn't care a whit about her -- he's just after control. He'll do anything for it. Now that there's a chance for him to be even greater than the King of Cloister, he's all for throwing over the princess and getting his hands on some real power."

"I knew this was something Stanley could have fun with," says Singer. "We have him wearing creepy teeth and long hair, and a black outfit with beetles all over it, and let him be as sinister and smarmy as he liked."

Adds Neal Moritz, "He's theatrical and dramatic and hilarious as Roderick, exactly what that character calls for. His timing is impeccable. He's a delight."

Roderick's attempt to realize his lifelong goal leads to one of the film's most startling and comic visuals: a puny human with an oversized attitude, dictating to an army of creatures four times his size, any one of whom could easily sneeze him into oblivion.

Meanwhile, as this drama plays out in the remote realm of the giants, called Gantua, the good King Brahmwell waits below for news, heartsick at the thought of losing his only child. Ian McShane, in the role of the doting father, reveals, "It was nice to play a good guy for a change, a real gentleman. He's a benevolent king who looks after his people and wants them to be safe and happy. I have a daughter so I appreciate what he's going through. He's already lost his wife, who was the love of his life, and Isabelle is all he has left."

"Ian is still the tough guy his fans love him for," Singer says. "You don't get to be king if you're not a tough guy. But he's facing something here that he never anticipated."

It's not that the notion of giants is entirely foreign to him -- it's just that, like everyone else in the kingdom who had heard those fanciful tales of days gone by, he never for a minute believed they were real. It's not until the first colossal casualty of the fighting above plummets to Earth that King Brahmwell realizes the legends are true.

At that point, notes Dobkin, he faces a deadly dilemma. "His duty as king, to protect the citizens of Cloister, is pitted directly against his duty as a father to protect his daughter. If he puts aside his own emotional attachment and well-being to do what is right for the kingdom it means cutting down the stalk -- and in doing so, destroying the only means for Isabelle to come home."

But by then, it may already be too late.

Among those supporting the main cast as citizens of Cloister are Eddie Marsan as Elmont's stalwart lieutenant, Crawe; Ewen Bremner as Roderick's half-witted but fully evil henchman, Wicke; and Warwick Davis as Old Hamm, who leads a troupe of actors in the castle courtyard, in an early scene that sets up the story by recounting the legend of the giants.

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