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YOUR HIGHNESS

Casting The Adventure
From the beginning, Green wanted the production to be comprised of the ideal cast to bring McBride and Best's screenplay to life, and not necessarily of actors who were known as comedians. He was also interested in finding performers whom the audience would expect to see playing it straight in a period piece. Knowing McBride would be playing the opposite of that would allow for the perfect contrast and for humor to arise out of the preposterous situation. It would prove fortunate that improvisation is always a part of a Green casting session.

Authenticity and attention to detail were meticulously planned for, and the action scenes would be accomplished with first-class stunts, supported by the special effects and visual effects teams brought on board. Elaborate sequences with carriages flipping over and characters flying through the air on wires were just a few of the situations the cast would find themselves in as production began.

The comedy would come naturally as the inept Thadeous realized he was completely out of his depth and ill equipped on all levels to survive…and dragged everyone along with him. As McBride explains: "People die on adventures. They're dirty and not always comfortable, and those are things that Thadeous doesn't like. He doesn't want to go on some sort of quest where he could possibly die.”

When it came to casting the role of the chivalrous (read: perfect) Prince Fabious, James Franco was the natural choice for McBride, Green and Stuber. McBride explains their decision: "I loved my experience on Pineapple Express, and working with James was incredible. David and I knew that we wanted whoever was going to be in this film to have that same sort of appreciation for being in the moment and be willing to push it from there. That's what David and I really like: We like executing what's written, but at the same time, there's almost more enjoyment with coming up with something right in front of the camera that you hadn't laughed at before until right then.”

Green was pleased his other leading man from Pineapple Express was along for his next production. "When James goes off and does something that is unexpected, that's when everybody wakes up and looks at him and thinks, ‘That's right on the money,'” the director notes. "He was testing us in the early days to make sure that we were going to be ballsy enough for him, and we took him to the limit on this one.”

Franco was happy to get back to work with his two previous collaborators. He recalls: "I work really well with David and Danny. The script was funny, but I also understood the process and that it would just get even better. We had a working relationship that I could depend on.”

Despite Thadeous' obvious disdain for his brother at the beginning of the story, Fabious is willing to see the best in his younger brother and believe in him, no matter the reality of the situation. Franco shares: "Because Thadeous is Fabious' brother, he has always been willing to give him second, third and fourth chances. Then when they're out in the wilderness on their own and suddenly Fabious has to depend on him, it changes Thadeous. He has to step up to the plate and live up to the expectations that Fabious has always had of him.”

The performer appreciated that the audience can laugh along at the princes' quest since Your Highness plays with the tropes of fantasy epics. It also didn't hurt that he gets to sing for the first time on film. Franco notes: "This movie can get away with a lot more than other fantasy movies that take themselves seriously. Whether it's the fight scenes, the mythology of the land, or how Fabious expresses his love for Belladonna, everything has this underlayer of comedy. Because of that, the audience has an excuse to not take everything so seriously.”

Before the courageous brother and the dimwitted one could embark on their quest, the filmmakers needed to secure a sexy female warrior, a mentally unstable wizard, a maiden locked in a tower and a couple of misfit servants for the production.

For the role of the beautiful but deadly warrior Isabel, Green and Stuber were certain of the actress who was ideal for the part, and approached Natalie Portman to take on the role. "When we were considering who could embody the iron will, beauty and medieval toughness of Isabel, it didn't take long to realize that Natalie was our warrior princess,” remembers Stuber. "The actress had to be able to wield a weapon and deliver these hilarious lines without ever breaking character, and Natalie handled that with ease. Plus, she is quite the marksman with a short bow.”

Green explains what Portman offered the role of Isabel: "She almost became the comic relief, because she's such a straight person in the movie and says such whackedout things that you can't imagine hearing Natalie say. We've taken this image of prestige and adorable and fashion-magazine-friendly version of her and shown the rough-andtumble side of Natalie that's willing to slit a few throats.”

For Portman it was a challenge she readily accepted, as she explains, "When I read the script I thought, ‘Okay, this sounds like an adventure, and it was hilarious and also insane. I was excited that they had thought of me for it because it wasn't like anything I'd done before: a really big comedy and a character that was just a badass...so a great combination.”

The actress shares how Isabel fits into the world of Your Highness: "Leezar is the focus of both Isabel's quest and the princes' quest. They're trying to rescue Fabious' kidnapped bride, and Isabel is trying to avenge the death of all her brothers. She's very focused on her quest and knows she's capable of taking all the people down that she needs to herself. Every person that she meets along the way is just an opportunity to further her goals, and the princes have some secret tools that she would like to have.”

Of his on-screen love, McBride jokes: "We're really giving Natalie her big shot in this film, which is very kind of us.” He elaborates upon how Isabel's story weaves into Thadeous': "Isabel is a warrior who is also on her own quest—to avenge the death of her family. Thadeous has never met anyone like her. He's used to the dumb chambermaids, and that's not what Isabel's about. So, that intrigues him and makes him want to be the type of dude that she would be into, a guy who has honor and nobility—things that are very far from Thadeous' reach.”

For Fabious' love interest, Belladonna, McBride and Green wanted an actress who would be able to play the fairy-tale archetype of a naive young woman who has been locked up in a tower for most of her life, but who would also be able to handle very raunchy comedy and has a fantastic singing voice…no small order. Zooey Deschanel had starred in Green's All the Real Girls, alongside McBride, and was precisely the performer they were searching for to bring Belladonna to life.

McBride states: "When David discussed Zooey, it just seemed like a no-brainer. She's always had a cool, unique sense of comic timing that we thought would play well into this idea of who Belladonna is. We wanted to make her a damsel in distress, but also demonstrate what not having human interaction would actually make someone like.

Zooey captures that: It is beyond ditziness, and it's just a total lack of understanding of how the world works. It's the equivalent of Daryl Hannah in Splash, and Zooey nailed it.”

Deschanel discusses her reaction to working on a film she calls a "dirty Princess Bride.”

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