300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
"Artemisia was fed, clothed and trained by the finest warriors of the Persian
Empire until no match could be found for her."
Without question, the sculpted Spartan physique was among the most talked
about visual elements of "300." The filmmakers knew it would be vital for the
cast to be in top form for the new film, but there was a distinction. Zack
Snyder explains, "The free Greeks are not the same as the Spartans; they are
less tribal. It made sense this time for the trainers to take a more
individualized approach for each actor."
Trainer Mark Twight and his team were again enlisted to get the cast in
fighting shape. The actors were all immersed in a demanding regimen, involving
both diet and exercise. "The training was customized, but the guidelines for all
of them were similar," Twight offers. "We set a target for each actor and said,
'Okay, this is where we need to arrive. What do we have to do to get you to that
point?' We adapted to the individuals and adjusted the training along the way
while always keeping in mind the ultimate objective."
"When you're an actor in a '300' movie, you have to accept a few ground
rules," says Murro, "and one of them is that you have to go through physical
training in order to get fit. And Mark is no-nonsense about it, so you'd better
come prepared to commit. He's such a force and such an inspiration; you know you
can trust that he will get you where you need to be."
Twight says that one of the largest hurdles to overcome was that the actors
were not assembled in one training camp in the weeks leading up to filming, as
they had been on the first film. "This was more difficult because they were all
in different places so we didn't have the competitiveness that being together in
a group can produce. For instance, Sullivan Stapleton was, for all intents and
purposes, on the other side of the world, so we had a very short time once he
arrived on location to get him into condition."
Perhaps the most daunting task fell to the actors who, almost seven years
after filming "300," had to appear onscreen as if no time had passed. In
particular, Rodrigo Santoro had to measure up to the standards of a god to
portray Xerxes. The actor attests, "The process was as intense as the first
one-hours and hours in the gym and weeks and weeks without ice cream or
chocolate. But that's the price you pay to be a God-King," he smiles.
Andrew Pleavin underwent what Twight calls "the biggest transformation in the
shortest timeframe. He had about a four-week crucible of incredible pressure put
on him to recover the form he had then."
Pleavin recalls, "When I got there I was fitter than the average guy, but by
Mark Twight standards I was in pretty bad shape, so I was very happy with what
we achieved so quickly. It's a privilege to be guided someone of Mark's caliber,
and I'm grateful that I've experienced it twice in my career."
The exhaustive training program was not exclusive to the men, and Twight has
high praise for both Eva Green and Lena Headey. "Lena has the attitude and
physicality and could be graceful and imposing at the same time," he says. "She
learned quickly and was psyched about the whole process.
"Eva was ready, willing and able and a total treat to work with," Twight
continues. "I loved watching her work on fight choreography and seeing her
flawlessly execute some tricky moves with two swords. She'd be explosive coming
out of a low stance and I would think, 'Okay, there's the result of our work.'
She made me proud."
Green relates, "I'm not the most coordinated person so it was a bit scary in
the beginning. Mark would tell me, 'Don't think. Do.' Fighting with two swords
was a big challenge, but the core work I did helped a lot. And the stunt guys
are the best ever; I was in awe of them. It was so much fun. I felt like I was
living my dream."
Stapleton shares her enthusiasm. "The sword training was definitely fun. I'd
never done anything like that, and it's always rewarding to learn something new,
especially when you're working with the best of the best. We started off going
through the motions with sticks and worked our way up to swords. It was a lot to
take in so we worked on it every chance we got, slowly piecing together all of
the battles. Those boys were fantastic."
Damon Caro, another "300" alumnus, served as the stunt coordinator, as well
as the second unit director on "300: Rise of an Empire." Gianni Nunnari says,
"Damon was our stunt coordinator and choreographer on the first film, so who
better to drive the second unit on this one? We had an unbelievable team between
the people who prepared the stunts and those who executed them."
In choreographing the fight sequences, Caro was mindful of the contrast
between the expert warring methods of the Spartans and those of the Athenians.
"We needed to adjust the
style so it wasn't as slick but still very cool," he details. "Other than a few
of our key characters, we were dealing with more of the common man, the working
class who had left their homes and jobs to go out and fight. One major exception
was Themistokles. As a general and a veteran of many battles, he had to be more
polished. For the Persians, we stayed with similar techniques as before because
it's still Xerxes' army, even though we've cut to the sea."
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