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Casting Immortals: Heroes and Monsters
The story of Immortals is driven by three larger-than-life figures: King Hyperion, a half-mad warrior bent on conquering the world; Theseus, a young adventurer set on destroying Hyperion to avenge his mother's death; and Zeus, the ruler of Mount Olympus and ultimate authority among the gods of ancient Greece. Their conflict sets off an epic battle between humans, gods and demi-gods that could annihilate humankind. In casting the leads, Nunnari says, "We needed amazing actors, but they also needed to understand that the movie is the star here.”

As they began the process of finding the perfect ensemble, producers and director agreed that, to play Theseus, they wanted an actor whose fame wouldn't overshadow the character. Henry Cavill had begun to gain recognition for his starring role as Charles Brandon on the Showtime Network series "The Tudors,” but had not yet been cast in the title role of the Zack Snyder-directed Superman: Man of Steel.

"The script was still in development when we met with Henry,” recalls Singh, "so we took one page and had him read it one way. Then I gave him some adjustments. He did three reads altogether, each in a completely different direction. He was so versatile. I knew whatever the script evolved into, Henry would be able to go there.”

Both the mythological setting and the prospect of working with Singh captivated Cavill. "I've always been into the mythology of the ancient world,” he says. "When I first read the script, it was very much in its infancy, but Tarsem's vision for the movie and his passion were second to none.”

The character's growth through his ordeal made Theseus a satisfying challenge for the actor. "He has been ostracized by society and he, in turn, rejects society,” says Cavill. "The only person he has any kind of love for is his mother. But he's also intelligent. He asks questions, as opposed to just following blindly. A mysterious old man takes him under his wing and teaches him aspects of philosophy, as well as the martial arts. By the time he's an adult, he has become a very well-trained fighter.”

Cavill says his previous knowledge of the myths and legends that inspired the film played only a small part in creating his character. "You can draw some parallels to the popular mythology of Theseus,” he says. "But this certainly is not the traditional story. This is a battle of men versus men. There are gods and there are Titans, but they do not take a direct hand in man's affairs.”

So rather than conducting extensive historical research, Cavill steeped himself in the world Singh created for the movie. "Tarsem showed me where his inspiration was coming from and where his visuals were going to lie,” the actor continues. "He gave me important character points for Theseus. It was only a few days before shooting that we actually got a finalized script, but Tarsem always had it all in his head. To research anything else would have been a risky game.”

The director's passion for the project was infectious, says Cavill. "You'd do anything for him, because he's doing it, too. And he's throwing 10 times more energy into the project than anyone else on set. His ability to present his vision of each moment is incredible.”

The filmmaker made an exception to his no-movie-stars rule by casting Mickey Rourke as the monstrous King Hyperion. His reputation as a mercurial Hollywood icon only adds another dimension to the villain's malevolent luster. The role marks another step along the impressive comeback trail blazed by Rourke since his Oscar®-nominated turn in The Wrestler. "In real life, Mickey Rourke is self-effacing and very honest,” says Canton. "He's been able to come back because of his talent. Now he's getting the respect and the opportunities that he's long deserved. The kind of questions he asks, only the really great ones ask. They're not really about him. They're about what he can bring to the movie. But when Mickey comes on the set, you better know how to act, because he will mow you down if you're not at the top of your game.”

Rourke brought a well-earned reputation for hard living and movie star antics to the set, which made Singh even more convinced he was the right actor for the role. "You won't find a more original bad boy than Mickey Rourke,” says Singh. "He's the real deal and I let him go with it. I had very definite direction for the other actors, but Mickey was allowed to bring whatever he wanted. He took the simplest of lines and added to them.”

Theseus has several companions on his journey, including Phaedra, a priestess and seer (played by Freida Pinto), an unsavory character named Stavros (Stephen Dorff), and a monk who protects Phaedra. "A thief, a slave, a monk, a priestess,” says Singh. "They don't seem to belong together. But that's the classic quest, isn't it?”

Canton knew they'd found their Phaedra in Pinto, a young English actress of Indian descent who had just made her film debut in the Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. "It was time for her to step up and be a real movie star,” he says. "She's phenomenal looking. She's very dedicated and a real professional. She felt like the most natural part of the movie for us. There was no question that we wanted Freida Pinto.”

Nunnari agrees: "There are certain actors or actresses that grow within the time of the shooting and that was Freida,” says the producer.

Pinto's striking beauty and otherworldly air won Singh's immediate approval. "Phaedra needed to be exotic compared to most of the people in her world,” says Singh. "People might expect that because it's a Greek film, she would be Greek, but that's not what I envisioned. When I met Freida I just said, she's it.”

Pinto had been a fan of Singh's since seeing his 2006 fantasy, The Fall. "I was impressed by the way it appealed to all the senses,” she says. "I thought this film had the potential to do the same. When I first met him, I did not know what to expect. He explained the reason behind doing this film, what he expected the film to look like, and what was expected of me and the other actors. It all sounded larger-than-life and fantastical. I really wanted to be part of it.”

Phaedra has lived all of her life in the company of her fellow priestesses and is reputed to have an especially strong gift for clairvoyance. But her visions, while accurate, are ambiguous. "It's a very disturbing experience for her, because she doesn't know exactly what will happen,” explains Pinto. "She first sees Theseus in a vision, but she doesn't know who this person is. He is holding the emperor's belt, which means he could be the savior. But she doesn't completely trust him, because she doesn't know what the vision really means. It's only as things progress that she begins to believe he is going to save the people.”

For her first big studio film Pinto says she feels lucky to have had Singh to guide her. "Tarsem is one of the most encouraging directors you will ever meet,” she says. "Working on a big-budget project like this, time is literally money, but he was always patient and open to suggestions. When you work on a film like this, the emotions that you go through are so explosive. I'm just so excited, and that's exactly what I want the audience to feel.”

Stephen Dorff, who impressed audiences and critics alike as a Hollywood playboy in Sofia Coppola's 2010 film Somewhere, plays Stavros, Theseus' eventual ally and friend. "He's an out-of-the-box character who says what he wants to say and does what he wants to do,” says Dorff. "I liked Stavros' sense of humor. I liked his mystery. We don't really know who he is, and whether he's

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