When I visited the set of Warcraft, Universal Pictures’ massive adaptation of the insanely popular World of Warcraft video game, back in 2014 along with a handful of other journalists, the one thing we kept hearing was that Rob Kazinsky was the biggest Warcraft fan on set. Indeed, the Pacific Rim actor regularly logged 18-hour day on the video game and was at one time ranked 10th in the entire world, so there was a degree of expectation to our interview with Kazinsky that day—and we weren’t disappointed.
If you’re a fan of the game, know that Rob Kazinsky was for all intents and purposes your personal representative on the Warcraft set. Co-writer/director Duncan Jones is a big fan of the game as well, as are many others involved in the production, but the pure unbridled glee and passion with which Kazinsky spoke about the game was unmatched, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to share our interview today.
Kazinsky play the orc Orgrim Doomhammer in the film, who was fully realized using motion-capture technology. During the course of our conversation, Kazinsky spoke about the mocap process and working with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actor and Warcraft co-star Toby Kebbell on his approach. He also discussed what it was like to enter the Warcraft sets as such a huge fan of the game (spoiler alert: one made him tear up), talked about the multitude of story from the game that could be mined for future film sequels, and much, much more. Again, if you’re a WoW player, this is a must-read interview.
ROB KAZINSKY: They wanted us to sound like we were from a similar place. For me it was a really freeing experience, motion capture, and particularly working so closely with Toby [Kebbel]. I learned a lot from Toby on this one. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. I’ve never been so unselfish in a performance; I think actors generally are quite selfish. And the way that they perform it’s always about–there’s the performance end of it, and it’s very difficult to take out the element of, “Am I catching the light,” or “Am I in the shot?” But, with this, because essentially you’re not in the shot, your ego is taken out of the equation. For the first time in my career, I’m playing a character that is 100 percent not me. There’s no element of me that comes through this. I’m giving myself wholly to the Fastwells and to Orgrim and to Durotan, to this relationship.
And Toby taught me a few things early on about like it’s how you look at me that makes the audience see me as I am kind of thing, this whole kind of conversation that we had. Toby and I began to work on these different ways of how we behave together and what our hierarchy is and how he’s always a step ahead, and I’m always standing behind, and I’m the excitable kid, and him being the way he is forms the way I am kind of thing. I’ve never taken myself out of a performance as much I have on this. And given myself so entirely over to that has been—I feel like for me my performance has only been half Orgrim and the other half with Durotan. It’s been a very synchronous relationship for me. And you end up rooting for us over the humans. It’s like, “Fuck, those Orcs are nice.” And Orgrim kind of has this journey through this movie of just overcoming xenophobia, essentially. He has to make a choice eventually between his friend or his people. His decisions he has to make kind of influence what happens to him over the next few movies, and then–like, that what happens to him in this one. And his choices affect the Frostwolves and the entire Horde in general. He’s a very rash and impulsive and not very bright character here, and this is where he makes his first major mistakes.
How much fun was it for you to walk into sets that you have played digitally on for years, and now they’re real, and you’re standing in it?
KAZINSKY: I’m not gonna lie about it. I’ll just come clean. I was very excited to see the sets. And the first set I saw was Goldshire Inn—Lion’s Pride Inn. And they were shooting a scene in the middle of there, and—It might actually have been a sex scene. I don’t remember, but they had so many little Easter eggs in there that I got excited about. And you know, there’s just like little things that you go, “Wow, okay, this is really–,” and it was like the movie in many ways because you go in there, and it’s almost exactly the same, but it’s been made practical to work as if it was actually usable. That was exciting. And then I went to the Throne Room. And I’m not gonna lie, I teared up. I really did. To see something, just to know that I wasn’t alone in how much I loved this, you know, that somebody loved it enough to throw this humongous budget at it. And you meet people like Bill Westenhofer who played the game, and Stuart and Duncan, and all these people that are passionate about this, that actually care, that know about the Inn and things like that that want this to be right. And it’s just wonderful because, I mean, look, you play a game online 18 hours a day for a year and a half of your life, you tend to be a bit of a loner. You don’t meet people or work with people often in that respect, and I didn’t. But, here I am, and I’m working with people that share that passion, and being able to share that passion with people has been the best part of this game for me.
You said you think it was actually a sex scene in Goldshire Inn. Is that in and of itself an Easter egg because that’s where everybody used to go to cyber?
KAZINSKY: Oh, I’ve been to Moon Guard. Yeah. And standing there in their underwear. You know, when I first heard about Moon Guard, I was like, “No, that’s weird as fuck.” And to explain, if you don’t play the game, there are various different servers: PVE, PVP, and then roleplaying servers. And roleplaying servers are filled with some really strange people. There’s just really strange people that just like to role play. You’ve seen the Warcraft episode of South Park, right? Everybody has. It’s guys like that that are pretending to be sexy women, prostitutes, strippers, in this Inn in the game, and selling sex. And then, you pay them, and then you go upstairs, and you can like do a sit and stand command. And then one person will lie down, and they pretend to have sex. And I’m reading about this, and I’m going like, “This can’t possibly be.” So, I roll a character on there, and I go in there, and it’s happening. It doesn’t stop, and “This is just–I just wanna kill something. This is weird.” And it may well be. I hadn’t actually thought of that.
So, what’s your favorite part? Was it just the Throne Room where you teared up? Was that the best thing you saw?
KAZINSKY: No, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve seen, not by a long shot. But, it was the most accurate. Anyone who has played the game has probably been to the Lion’s Pride Inn once or twice. I’ve been in that Throne Room for a lot of time. And then, going into that Throne Room and being like, “This is it. This is the Throne Room. This is, I think, Seer’s Quest. This is everything. This is–” I mean, I’ve killed Anduin. I’ve killed Wrynn before, for the Horde. I’ve been here, and I’ve spent time here. And it was just like seeing a dream become a reality to me, you know what I mean? But no, the most amazing sets are the ones that—there’s been a fair few. The sheer detail that went into Elwynn Forest blew my mind, what they did with the trees, and everything we’ve done on Draenor. When you see the sets that they’ve built on Draenor, the scale of it was. I was like, “Dude, you do realize that we could do this in a room with nothing, and like I said, it’d be way cheaper.” But, they gave us real sets, which they didn’t need to do, and they were the most beautiful and just astonishing things. I was like, “God, you guys can afford to pay me more.” Like, “Wow.” It was really, really, really something.
Is it old Draenor before it became Outland, I assume?
KAZINSKY: No. Well, you look at the history of the game, and the story in the game, it starts with Kil’jaeden. And Ner’zhul. But, it’s after Kil’jaeden has granted Gul’dan his warlock powers, and the warlock drains the life from Draenor and destroys it. We kind of come into it around that point, although there are some changes that we’ve made.
Are you still playing?
Are you excited about the expansion?
Yeah. I wanna kill Garrosh.
KAZINSKY: They’ve told me what’s coming—you wanna what?
I wanna kill Garrosh so bad.
KAZINSKY: Do you?
I’m Horde, and I am so over him.
KAZINSKY: I’m actually a big fan of Garrosh. I think what would be great was if he redeemed himself.
That would also work. But, as he is right now.
KAZINSKY: Oh, he’s annoying right now.
Yeah, he’s the worst.
KAZINSKY: I’ve killed him many times. He gave me my axe. I don’t know man, I like Garrosh. I think that there’s a future for Garrosh. I hope there’s a future. But, I know what happens in Warlords because I’m on the inside now. I’m very excited about Warlords. I’m very excited about all the stuff that’s gonna kind of come after that. And you know, I’m in this–I’m in the game. It’s cool. I’ve said to Blizzard, I said, you know, “If Orgrim ever turns up in the game, like, you know, if you’re going back in time to Warlords, then you know, I’ll voice him quite happily.” But, we’ll see.
Was there any little tiny thing that you’ve seen on set with props or with scenes or anything that just sort of blew your mind, but it’s so little we might not notice?
KAZINSKY: The weapon I wield, the Doomhammer. It’s the most famous weapon in the game. And I love it, but when I’m on set, I don’t get the Doomhammer. I get this black thing with lights on it, and it’s hollow. And it’s rubbish. It’s really rubbish. But, that’s what they have to do, and then they render it in later. But, sometimes when the hammer’s in an actual shot a couple of times, I’ve had to smash things, and they’ll get the hammer. They bring in the real Doomhammer. And the real Doomhammer is, you know, I’m like, “Holy crap.” But, when you see the real thing, there’s a lot of Easter eggs in terms of the weaponry and armor design. And a lot of that stuff I have, you know, Lionheart Executioners, and Ashbringers, and all of the orc weapons. You sit there and go, “Yeah, that’s kind of Gorehowl-ish , kind of, you know?” and I’m sitting there, and I’m just like, “I’m stealing this, I don’t care if I don’t do the second movie. I’m stealing this”
How often do you try to sneak the Doomhammer out?
KAZINSKY: Are you kidding me? Where am I gonna hide that thing? That Doomhammer is enormous. But, I don’t know. The other day, they had a scene in an armory, and there were literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of swords and armor and beautiful, beautiful things. And every one of them was real and practical. And I was like, “They won’t notice just one. They won’t notice, would they?” And they were like, “Yes.” But, yeah, there’s a lot of things that have made me very excited. The Doomhammer was right up there though.
But, the thing that got me most excited this whole shoot was when—It’s very difficult when you’re doing something that’s in your imagination. You know, it’s different when you look at Travis or Paula, and they’re practical, you know? They’re in costume, and they look like their characters. And you’re like, “Okay, that’s really, really cool.” And every time I’ve played anything in the past, whether it’s when you put in your fangs, or whether it’s when you put on your costume or your boots or your big heavy coat, or whatever it might, or your doctor’s jacket, there’s something that gets you into character. I’m putting on pajamas and man, it’s really hard. So then, you’ve got to find this other place, this place within yourself, this kind of physicality of how you move that gets you into character. But, it still doesn’t quite feel real because you’re in pajamas with this silly thing in your head. And you’re doing scenes, and you’re like, “Dude, you look stupid, but so do I, right?”
But then, one day, Jeff from ILM, he brings in the first test. It was something that we shot before Christmas as a camera test, and it’s 80 percent rendered. It was nearly all the way there, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen CGI of that detail. I looked to this dude, Orgrim’s face, and I was like, “Holy hell, it’s like, looked like a really ugly, big Bruce Willis.” It looked like a really big Bruce Willis. And it was exactly as I had mentioned, this big, bald, tough thing. But, it didn’t look fake. It didn’t look like it was mocap. It didn’t look CGI. It looked like somebody was wearing some really high-class prosthetics, which they don’t make. But the weird thing was, everyone was like, “Oh, dude, it does look like you,” and I was offended. I don’t think it looks like me at all. However, what I was astonished by was that every little tick, every thing–however subtle–what I did came through on his face. That jazzed me up like you couldn’t believe. I was seeing this thing, and it was real for the first time. There was Orgrim Doomhammer on the screen, and I’m controlling him. And I was like, “Man, that’s just like—it’s real. It’s real. This is a real thing.”
It takes gaming to a whole new level.
KAZINSKY: Yeah. It took this film to a whole new—It made the performance real suddenly. I was like, “Oh man, I can still live this up. Like, I’d better really work hard.” I think it was pretty exciting for everybody to kind of see. And knowing how cool it’s gonna be, and how like amazing it’s gonna look, the human actors haven’t got a chance. They ain’t got a chance. And what’s really great is the wise decision that Duncan and everybody made was the Horde aren’t villains in this. You know, people are going to expect that. But, you can’t make half of your player base the enemy. Like, there are good guys and bad guys on every side. It’s a war movie. And in the war movie, and any movie you see, whether it’s Platoon or Apocalypse Now, there are villains on every side.
Oh, and the villains don’t know that they’re villains.
KAZINSKY: No. And that’s the other thing. Nobody who is evil thinks, “Ah-ha,” unless it’s a caricature. Austin Powers, you know what I mean? It’s like real villains don’t know they’re evil. They think they’re doing good. And it’s the same case in this. These are real characters. And there’s no evil here. There’s just people that are.
KAZINSKY: Just different motivations for it. And I think and I hope that people will be like, “I don’t know, man. The Horde were—yeah, I like them, that Durotan.” And what they’ve done really well is there’s only really two characters in this movie, which elicit huge sympathy and empathy, and that’s Durotan and Khadgar. So, you’ve got these two incredibly, like—you’re gonna be torn between these two sides in these two regards. And then, you’ve got all this bad around both of them, and you’re like, “Yeah, kill people, people.” So, I’m really excited how it’s turned out. I’m really excited to see how it all comes together. And I’m really excited to see my big, fat, ugly, Bruce Willis face.
So, with all of your knowledge, have you already been pitching your sequel ideas to everyone of what you think should happen?
KAZINSKY: Here’s the deal, it’s already written. That is the thing. There’s nothing to pitch because it’s already there in the game. And I don’t think there’s anybody that can write it better. The hope is that people will look beyond the fact that this is a computer game movie, is that we managed to advertise it right, and that people don’t dismiss it out of hand because we all do, “Computer game movies, ugh, this is gonna suck. I’m not gonna go see that.” But, if we can get people to come and see this, then the second film is already there, and it’s a beautiful story, and it’s epic, epic if you know what happens. And if we get the chance to tell that story, if people give this movie a chance, it’s impossible to be disappointed with where we’re gonna go.
I was gonna ask about, what you said, there were some changes that you understood, that were in the translation is there any one of them that you’re like, “I understand that it has to be that way, but I wish they could have included this,” or something like that?
KAZINSKY: I was thinking about this last night, right? Do you know why I think computer game movies have generally sucked? It’s because you put hundreds of hours into playing them and finding a storyline. And it’s impossible to put hundreds of hours of story and play time into a two-hour movie. It’s actually impossible. How can you illicit sympathy with a game, you sympathize with the character because you spend so much time with them and their development. And you learn their story. And you can take your time with that.
It’s much easier on a TV show to illicit sympathy for a, you know—take Breaking Bad for example, what was Cranston? That was a son of a bitch of a character, but over five seasons, you really got to know the guy. My only thing that I wish we could do is make this film a hundred hours long. And that’s true because there’s so much that we can’t tell. There’s so many little details like Ner’zhul and Mannoroth and Kil’jaeden that we have to skip over to expedite this story. We’re trying to tell one kind of period of time here. And I really wish that we could do 100 hours of it and really go into detail. But, the practicality of the movie industry says, “Don’t do that.” And I don’t think even I would be able to watch that. That’s the only thing that I wish we could have is that we’re doing the broad, beautiful strokes rather than the fine, intricate details.
So, maybe an eventual spin-off TV series?
KAZINSKY: That’s where we could go. But, that’s what I mean, this is a whole universe of things. I kind of pitched that the other day, the Defias Brotherhood, that’s a fascinating story. There’s a fascinating story there, and MI–SI:7 and–SI:7, is it? And they’re kind of secret agents of Stormwind. And the Defias, the ruler of that, and the head of the Defias Brotherhood were best friends who split. So, there’s a TV show right there. There’s a whole universe that you could go into here. And if people can look beyond the fact, “Oh, idiots playing computer games,” and go, “Hold on, why are those idiots still playing those computer games after nine years?” It’s because there’s a story there actually that’s engaging and worth telling. If people can see that and we can show people that there is this story, I think people might find themselves turning into big geeks. I hope.
Always could be more of us.
KAZINSKY: Yeah, I hope so. If it brings people back to this game, then fantastic, couldn’t be happier.
For more of my set visit coverage, peruse the links below.
- ‘Warcraft’: 35 Things to Know About Universal’s Massively Ambitious Epic Fantasy
- How ‘Warcraft’ Aims to Break the Video Game Movie Curse Once and for All
- ‘Warcraft’ Director Duncan Jones on Giant Weapons, Easter Eggs, and Hitting PG-13
- New ‘Warcraft’ Images Feature Orcs, Humans, and Something in Between