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
"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
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 â€˜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
"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
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