From director Renny Harlin, the action-adventure film The Legend of Hercules is a re-imagining of the hero’s epic origins, telling the story from the perspective of a young man struggling with his destiny. Planning to run away and marry the woman he loves, Hercules (Kellan Lutz) is instead sent off to die at war. While gone, he unites with fellow warrior Sotiris (Liam McIntyre) and returns to the kingdom to take his place as the greatest of Greek heroes.
At the film’s press day, actor Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about being obsessed with mythology movies, why this was a dream role for him, working with a director as passionate as Renny Harlin, shooting in 3D, how much he enjoyed working with Liam McIntyre, and what it was like to shoot in Bulgaria. He also talked about working with so many action icons on The Expendables 3, why the project was a dream come true, playing the leader of the young Expendables, and why he thinks the third film will be the best one. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
KELLAN LUTZ: For me, I’m obsessed with mythology movies, and I wish there was a plethora of these movies. I’d watch ‘em all! I’m just excited that our movies are different and that there are multiple stories of Hercules being told. The Rock’s is quite different. It’s The Thracian Wars, which are the older stories of Hercules. This is the origin, so it sets it up. It’s like, “Oh, we saw Kellan be the young, youthful beginning of Hercules’ journey,” and then, you get to end with The Rock. I can’t wait to watch The Rock’s, and I really hope he checks mine out, as well.
How did you come to this project? Was this just a dream role for you, and was it something you had to fight for?
LUTZ: Yeah, of course! In our industry, you’re told no a million times before that yes, and I’ve been positioning myself. As a young boy, I always had the dream of being Hercules. He’s the epic hero. He’s the original hero. For me, as I became an actor, that childhood dream could come to life. I went out for Thor, and Chris Hemsworth got it, but he is Thor. I got pretty close for Captain America, but Chris Evans got it, and he deserves it. He is Captain America. I’m happy for them. I don’t get competitive. I do my best. If I get something, then it was meant to be. If I don’t, then it wasn’t. With Hercules, I just knew it. I didn’t grow up loving Thor, or really knowing much about Thor or Captain America, but with Hercules, I did. I think (director) Renny [Harlin] saw my passion for it, and quite easily.
Does it make for a fun environment to work with a director who is so passionate about his work?
LUTZ: It does, and that’s why it made a great team to collaborate with him. He was very open with allowing me to express my own feelings for the Hercules I wanted to show. He was just a fun director. It was very visually stunning, the worlds he would create. And he clearly knows how to tell a story, too. Even seeing what he’s doing with the cameras, and the 3D cameras, and you’re watching playback on the edge of your seat.
Were you able to really make this character your own?
LUTZ: More so with this than with Tarzan because Tarzan is based off a book. There’s not really too far you can go from what happens. With Hercules, it’s from a myth, so there are many tales and many ways to depict him with different characteristics. The Rock, who’s Samoan, is playing Hercules. There are no rules to it. Nobody can say, “This happened,” or “This didn’t happen.” There’s no truth in it. It’s whatever we want to do. So for me, there wasn’t pressure. I was just full of excitement.
What’s it like to be able to watch the playback in 3D, right on set?
LUTZ: You get to see the world that you’re a part of. We used a lot of practical sets. With some movies, everything is green screen. For our movie, we had built sets, so it was great to live in that world, and then they elaborated it a little bit. Some movies shouldn’t necessarily be in 3D, but they can be. Other movies just shouldn’t be in 3D. And with ours, it’s made to be grandiose. It’s mythology. I think a lot of those movies turn out really well in 3D.
Did you get any time to bond with Gaia Weiss, especially before having so many intimate moments together?
LUTZ: We really didn’t have much time to prep, especially for the love-making scenes or the passionate kissing scenes. But the great thing was that Renny hired actors who are just really great people and easy to get along with, and who are all very talented. So, we all would do family dinners, every night. After we got off set, there would be dinner waiting, and we would all sit down, like a happy family. You get really close with people and you build these friendships. And then, when the scene comes, you remember funny stories from the night before when you were just goofing off. We’re all very professional. We all had significant others. It’s not like anything dangers could occur, and we all were respectful of each other.
What was it like to have someone like Liam McIntyre to work with, when he’s been through it playing Spartacus? Did he give you any tips or advice?
LUTZ: He’s such a good friend to me now. I miss the dude. He’s in Vancouver shooting. He’s Australian, so he’s already an awesome guy. I remember when I auditioned the first time, I came out and he was sitting there, and I was like, “Oh, hey, man!” I didn’t know who he was, and I didn’t think Renny was auditioning anyone else. So, I went home and looked him up, found out that he was Spartacus, and I was like, “God, dang it! He’s gonna get this role.” And then, when Renny told me I had the role, and Liam was going to play Sotiris, my right-hand man, I was like “Thank god!” So, I went to Liam the day he got there and was like, “Hey, man, I’m a huge fan of yours. Can you help me? I wanna learn from you. Your moves were killer! Will you help me?” And he was like, “Yeah, brother!” So, he would draw lines on a mirror and I would fight myself. He gave me so many tricks and tools of the trade. It was so much fun working with that guy. He’s such a cool guy. He’s really talented.
With all of the different things you got to do in this, did anything come easily for you, or was any of it particularly challenging?
LUTZ: I pushed myself on this. Riding the horse was tough. As I’d work out, I’d be really stiff. But, I got along with my horses because I really took the time out. They’re spirits, so you really want to talk to them and spend time with them, and not just hop on. You want to warm the car up a little bit, and not just race it. I got kicked off, quite a bit, but you just get back on.
What was it like to shoot this film in Bulgaria?
LUTZ: Actually, the origins of Hercules take place in Bulgaria. If you trace back the lineage to where Hercules was supposed to be from, they say it was old town Bulgaria, so that’s kind of cool. But working with Millennium, who has a studio there, there’s such amazing people who do these set designs that really make you feel like you’re there. And the open space is incredible. You can really shoot anywhere. It’s cheaper there, and the food is amazing. There’s so much help. There are so many people looking for work that it’s great that we got to give people jobs, as well. I then shot The Expendables 3 there. They have a lot of resources that make shooting very movie-friendly there.
Did you shoot The Legend of Hercules and The Expendables 3 in any of the same locations?
How was that experience? What was it like to go from being the lead of one action movie to working with some real action icons?
LUTZ: It was another dream come true. They were my heroes, growing up. You have Arnold [Schwarzenegger], Sly [Stallone], Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren. We’re all in one helicopter, yelling for Sly to come at us. I was just like, “When will I ever have this opportunity again?!” It really was a dream.
Who are you playing in it?
LUTZ: I play the leader of the young Expendables. Sly comes and recruits me, and I recruit our team. The older guys are just broken and old and busted, so he comes to the younger, more tactical guys to handle the next mission. So, I got to work with Sly quite a bit.
Did you have any scenes with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford?
LUTZ: Yeah. I had scenes with Arnold, Harrison, Mel, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas. I had scenes with them all. It was quite amazing.
When you work with people like that, is it more nerve-wracking and intimidating, or is it more exciting and bad-ass?
LUTZ: I’m just excited, and I think it’s bad-ass. I don’t really get starstruck. I just get so excited because these are guys I’ve always wanted to work with. I would pretend I was Rambo or Rocky. But for them, it’s always so awkward. You’re an actor with them, and you want a picture with them, but you don’t want to come off like you want a picture with them. But I still asked, and they would take pictures with me. I want to remember those moments. And they give you a lot of good advice. Sly would be like, “Don’t break eye contact. Keep it here. Don’t be discouraged or deflated.” He’d also let us rip, quite a bit. He’d let us improv, and just follow along. He’d say something and we’d be like, “What?!” It was an experience.
How do you think this film will compare to the first two?
LUTZ: I think it will be the best one. The script has so much depth and story to it. It’s a solid script, and then you add all these new faces to it. I can’t wait!
The Legend of Hercules opens in theaters on January 10th.