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Creating Realistic Action Sequences
Whether as a principal cast member or one of the many extras, many of the actors needed preparation for the rigorous action they would have to undertake. To that end, Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Anna Friel, Michael Sheen, Lambert Wilson and Marton Csokas all underwent extensive training in various skills that their characters would need. For O'Connor, it was rock climbing, whereas Friel, Wilson and Csokas spent many an hour perfecting their horseback riding skills, Sheen and Csokas learned swordplay for a climactic duel.

Gerard Butler, who portrays assistant professor Andre Marek, remembers the degree to which the filmmakers went to make every scene as real as possible.

"I was cast almost a year before we started to shoot," recalls the actor. "In fact, I essentially trained for seven months before we got to the location, learning the longbow, horseback riding and sword fighting. It was intense."

Butler trained in swordplay with accomplished sword master Thomas DuPont, and learned his art a little too well. "We had just demonstrated our battle sequence for Dick Donner," explains Butler. "It was an amazing duel, with about 76 choreographed pieces, and Thorn and I thought we'd executed it perfectly. Then our stunt coordinator Allan Graf came up to us and said we were too good. You see, Thorn had trained me so well, he got me to do stunts with a sword that my character never would have been able to do. So we actually had to pull it back a little!"

DuPont, who worked with Johnny Depp, served as Geoffrey Rush's stunt double and choreographed a number of the sword fights in "Pirates of the Caribbean," says that when he trains actors he always raises the bar to as high as their physical capabilities can withstand.

"It's my feeling that the more skilled an actor becomes, the more believable he'll be on screen," says DuPont. "Actually, acting skills come into play with sword fighting since you have to put exaggerated feeling and emotion into it in order to impress your opponent. With ‘Timeline,' I feel confident that audiences are going to believe every second of fighting they see.

Always striving for authenticity. director Donner agreed, but he did want to make sure that his characters from the 21st century didn't look like they were as proficient in swordplay as those from the 14th century.

"We talked a lot about realism," remembers Paul Walker, "and Dick said it wouldn't be realistic if modern-day guys could just pick up swords and defeat people who were practically born with swords in their hands. Basically, a lot of us end up making baseball swings with our weapons, doing whatever we can to knock the enemy off-guard. It was all pretty fascinating."

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