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The Voices of 'Legend'
One of the good guys is the central character Soren, a tyto barn owl raised in the Forest of Tyto, who believes in the existence of the legendary warriors the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a mythical band of owls that have pledged their lives to mend the broken, vanquish evil and protect the owl kingdoms from harm.

When Soren and his brother Kludd are snatched up by the Pure Ones—evil owls who want to conquer those who are not of their "elite” tyto type and to make soldiers out of the ones who are—Soren holds out hope that his heroes not only exist, but that he can find them and enlist their aid in saving all of owlkind.

Voicing the hero of the story is British actor Jim Sturgess. "Jim brought a real sense of wonderment to Soren,” Snyder says. "In a world of realists, Soren believes the dream, and Jim really captured that.”

Like his director, Sturgess was new to animation and says it took some time to find the right balance in voicing a character without over- or under-playing it. "A lot of film acting is what you do with your face and what's going on behind your eyes,” he relates. "And Soren has such an enthusiastic spirit, I thought I would have to really amp up my performance to convey that. But after I started playing with the character a bit, I realized I didn't need to overdo it, that it wasn't going to be flat just because I wouldn't be seen. There would be a character with wonderful facial expressions, thanks to the talents of our animators.”

In the end, Sturgess's initial qualms about voice acting were more than quelled. "It was a little mind-blowing to see my voice coming from this owl's face,” Sturgess smiles, "with his eyes telling the story just as I would hope mine would have if it were me on screen.”

Even those times when he was on one continent and his director was on another, technology bridged the gap. "Zack was always there during the recording sessions—on Skype or talking to me through a television. It could've been strange, but he's so expressive in the way he describes things and so passionate and intelligent about how he views the material, that we went through the scenes and he directed me like he would if we were together, making a live-action film. It worked out great.”

Soren's first rival in the film isn't a Pure One, but rather his older brother, Kludd, who envies Soren's natural talent for flight and finds his enthusiasm for their dad's tales of the Guardians tiresome. "When Kludd is taken by the Pure Ones, he quickly becomes enamored by the idea that he can be a great soldier for them, that he can be the more important brother now,” Deborah Snyder says. "He embraces their ways because he likes the attention, which starts him on this dark path. But Soren still wants to believe in Kludd's salvation, that he can bring Kludd back around.”

The wayward owl is voiced by Ryan Kwanten. "Kludd is sort of a tortured individual,” the actor comments. "He's the oldest sibling, but he doesn't have the natural abilities of his younger brother; he feels like he's not living up to expectations. When he's approached by the Pure Ones' queen, Nyra, who praises him just for being a tyto owl, he's vulnerable and easily manipulated into joining their efforts.”

No stranger to portraying a monarch, Helen Mirren plays the evil Nyra, the powerful co-leader of the Pure Ones, with snowy-white feathers and icy-blue eyes that bear a seductive gaze. "Who makes a better queen and sounds more regal than Helen Mirren?” Zack Snyder smiles.

Wigram expounds, "Helen accomplished something extraordinary with just her voice—she made Nyra not only a villain you love to hate, but also one that makes evil seem very attractive.”

"Nyra is ambitious and smart but her thinking is very twisted, and that makes her extremely dangerous,” Mirren states. "She's a manipulator in an autocratic dictatorship and she enjoys it. She feels superior, thinks that she knows best, and can run things better than anybody—probably even her husband, the king of the Pure Ones—and she doesn't want anyone else to have a voice.”

One rather gruff, if secretive, voice opposing Nyra is Grimble. Frustrated by the unfulfilled promises made to him by the Pure Ones, the old boreal owl decides to go against them. He quietly helps Soren and his newfound friend, fellow captive Gylfie, to escape from St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, the terrible place where hundreds of young owls are forced to help further the Pure Ones' cause.

Hugo Weaving does double duty in the film by voicing Soren and Kludd's father, Noctus, as well as Grimble. "Grimble's pretty rough around the edges,” Weaving says of the owl who puts his own life on the line to help the youngsters. "Because of threats against his family, he's toed the line for a long time, but he's come to a stage in his life where he's ready to fight back, no matter the cost.”

Thanks to Grimble's efforts, Soren and Gylfie narrowly manage to flee St. Aggie's. Gylfie, a plucky elf owl who hails from the desert kingdom of Kuneer, is the first to join Soren on his quest to find the Guardians. A gifted navigator, she becomes not only a great friend but an invaluable member of the group.

Emily Barclay, who gives voice to her, says, "Gylfie is pretty gutsy. She's this tiny thing, but she's always speaking her mind when she feels something isn't right. She has an incredible knowledge of the constellations, which she uses to help lead the little band of owls toward the Guardians.”

Rounding out the band of journeymen owls are Digger and Twilight. Digger, voiced by David Wenham, is a little burrowing owl who comes upon Soren and Gylfie shortly after their escape. Anthony LaPaglia is Twilight, a large great grey owl with a flair for the dramatic and Digger's his best friend. The dichotomous pair provide a good deal of comedy amidst the high-flying adventure.

"Digger and Twilight are outrageously eccentric,” Snyder observes. "They have giant personalities and are, in a way, very Shakespearean, supplying a lot of the humor in the film.”

The only member of the band lacking wings is Soren and Kludd's nest nurse, a blind snake named Mrs. Plithiver, who is voiced by Miriam Margolyes. Along the way, the group encounters a shaman-like figure, the Echidna, played by Barry Otto, who imparts his wisdom upon the travelers as they embark on the final leg of their voyage. Though not appearing in the novels, the character was created by Snyder "as a means of introducing the archetypal wise man essential to a true hero's journey.”

When Soren and his friends finally arrive at the Great Tree of Ga'Hoole, they befriend a young Guardian named Otulissa. Played by Abbie Cornish, the young short-eared owl helps the newcomers find their way through the vast society.

Much to his surprise, a very familiar face soon arrives at the tree: Soren's baby sister, Eglantine, who has been "moon-blinked,” or spellbound, by the Pure Ones. The baby owlet's voice came from six-year-old Adrienne deFaria, in her acting debut.

Veteran actor Geoffrey Rush provides the sonorous tones of Ezylryb, a war-weary whiskered screech owl with more crusades behind him than he'd care to remember.

"Ezylryb has a powerful past as a great leader,” Rush relates, "but he's a crusty old sod who, apart from being a once-great warrior, becomes a true mentor to Soren. He sees the younger owl as someone who shows real promise, and so he helps the boy find his own heroic path.”

"One of my favorite characters is Ezylryb,” Nalbandian reveals. "He's just so enigmatic, and he truly personifies ‘trusting in your gizzard'—believing in yourself—and tries to teach Soren to do just t

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