Based on Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon World of Warcraft, played by more than 100 million people since its inception, the epic saga Warcraft sees the peaceful realm of Azeroth on the brink of war, as it faces invasion by orc warriors who are fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As one army faces the other, two heroes – human commander Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and orc chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) – are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their people and their home. Directed by Duncan Jones, the film also stars Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin and Daniel Wu.
At the film’s press day, Collider sat down with actor Rob Kazinsky on the Universal Studios backlot to discuss bringing the orc second-in-command Orgrim to life. During this exclusive interview, he talked about the other roles he auditioned for and how he came to be playing Orgrim, why he was willing to do anything to be a part of this film, the importance of the game to his life, what he likes about Orgrim, finding his inner orc, crying when he first saw the sets, and the huge appeal of sci-fi.
Collider: What’s it like to audition for a character that you won’t even get to see until later, after the CGI is done?
ROB KAZINSKY: I had a relationship with Legendary, and we sat down and talked about all of the characters. I read for Llane and Lothar, but I wasn’t a big enough name to play either of those roles and wasn’t quite right for them. So, when it came around and they said, “Would you like to play Orgrim?,” that was a really wonderful and big moment for me. I’ve never had more fun in my life, playing this character.
Having been a fan of the game, were you going to be a part of this film, no matter what it took to make that happen?
KAZINSKY: Yeah, I offered to pay the studio to just have me be a sweeper on the set. I would have been a fluffer in the trailer. I don’t care. This is one of those jobs that comes along very rarely in your life. When you start in this industry, you dream of being a part of the franchises that you love. So many times, because I’m not a big star, I don’t get the opportunity to be in these kinds of productions. I don’t get the chance to be in these kinds of films, and I’ve seen so many of them come and go. This was the first time, ever, that I was able to be a part of something that, if I would have missed out, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Honestly, I would have played any character and done anything in it. I was just lucky that they wanted me to play Orgrim.
What most appealed to you about Orgrim, as a character?
KAZINSKY: The thing I like about Orgrim is that, if you know the game, you know who and what he becomes, and we’re not there. The terrifying war chief of the horde that he becomes in the future doesn’t exist yet. In this movie, he looks up to Durotan as a brother and a leader. He doesn’t really use his brain. He’s just the big, loyal friend. There’s a childish naivete to him and an innocence that I tried to instill in this character, that he will lose over the period of the next few films, if we get them. Trying to make something seem scared and innocent that’s seven-and-a-half or eight-feet tall and 700 pounds was a challenge, but that was my job.
How do you find your inner orc when you’re wearing a silly grey suit with dots all over you?
KAZINSKY: Some people wear costumes on set, and that helps them get into character. My costume was one of imagination. We had a month of orc camp, where we learned to walk, talk, sit, eat and do everything in the manner of an arc, and then nuance it into our own individual characters. Every day, I would slip Orgrim on and walk from me into him until I found out exactly where he was. If you go and do an accent, there’s a key phrase that you can use. The same thing happened with Orgrim. There were key movements that I would find, that would get me into that physicality of being an orc, and the character would come with that costume. For me, it was a freeing of imagination and a challenge of imagination. It was like being five years old again, where the entire world has to come from your mind.
It’s interesting that Duncan Jones decided to introduce audiences to the orcs before introducing you to the human characters, which really throws you into this world.
KAZINSKY: And on top of that, Duncan took a very big risk by having that 12 second stationary shot of Durotan’s face. That’s usually where stuff gets found out. That’s where you go, “Okay, where’s the CGI of it?” But sitting there on Toby [Kebbell] for 12 seconds, you see a soul in Durotan’s face. And from that moment, belief is suspended and you accept these things for what they are and the world that they exist in. That’s the most important part of the film for me.
Having played this game and lived in this world, as a gamer, what was it like to be on set?
KAZINSKY: I cried, the first day. Gaming is an intensely personal thing. Whether you’re playing a linear storyline that everybody has played, or you’re playing an open-world game, your experience is unique entirely to you. How you perceive the antagonist is entirely up to you, and what you do in the game is yours. It’s personal. No matter how many people play Mass Effect, my John Shepard was my Shepard. So, when you step onto a set like this and you see that someone was willing to put hundreds of millions of dollars into building something honest and real, and everybody on that set cares as much about it as you do, that’s an immensely encouraging and wonderful thing. It made me feel so not alone anymore. It made me feel like I was a part of a giant community. That was an incredibly emotional thing for me to deal with.
Was there anything you most wanted to see brought to life?
KAZINSKY: The whole thing. It’s a leap of faith. You’re taking a giant leap of imagination and hoping that your silver pajamas look good when they’re finished. When you watch this movie and you see these creatures, you’re not even watching yourself anymore. You’re watching these things and you’re fully believing that they’re living, breathing people. That’s an amazing thing. That’s a wonderful thing.
Did you look for yourself in the character when you watched it?
KAZINSKY: No, not at all, to be honest. I was just entranced by the character, itself. There is an inherent vanity within this industry. No matter how good an actor you are, you have to find the light and you have to make sure that your continuity is right, and all that kind of stuff, but all of those things fall into the hands of other people. So, there was an immense purity of performance that I’d never really had before. It’s the closest thing to theater that I can think of. When I watch it back, I feel immense ownership over Orgrim, but I also feel like I have none.
We live in a world where people have very short attention spans. Why do you think this game has lasted as long as it has and that it’s been so successful?
KAZINSKY: You’ve gotta look at games, in general. Once upon a time, they made movies of games like Super Mario Bros., where the storyline was that Mario had to go save Peach from Koopa, and they would fluff it out with crap for 90 minutes, until you ended up with a studio trying to cash in on a premise. And then, over the last decade or so, you’ve had Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed. The technology has advanced to the point of filmmaking. You get hundreds of hours of content, storyline, law and history to fall back on. It’s that world that you fall in love with. I’ve been playing with the same 35 people for 12 years, and that’s a really big thing. There’s a sense of community and camaraderie that comes with it. There are a hundred elements that go into making a game a long-laster. For WoW, in particular, it’s that world in which you exist.
What drew you to World of Warcraft, in particular?
KAZINSKY: I had come off of a TV show in England that had afforded me a kind of fame that I didn’t like. I played a not very nice person, so I would walk down the street and people would just punch me or throw bricks at me. Leaving the house just became a difficult thing to do. It’s not what you ask for when you’re just doing your job, and leaving the house just became too stressful. That was when I found WoW. I was at my lowest, bereft of confidence and self-belief. I found this game where nobody knew who I was and nobody judged me for what I did. They only really cared if I was good at it, and I was more than good at it. I was great at it. Slowly, I made friends with people that were judging me entirely just about the content of my character, and that’s a big deal. Inch by inch, this game gave me my confidence and my self-belief back. Soon enough, I felt like I was ready to take on the world again. This game saved my life, at one point. It helped me through a really, really dark period. So, to be a part of the film is an incredible experience and an incredible full circle.
KAZINSKY: Science fiction will always get me. I’ll always give something with a science fiction premise more of my thoughts. I am a fan of the genre, so I want to be a part of that genre. For me, if you look back at the history of things that I’ve done, whether it’s Pacific Rim, True Blood or Warcraft, they all have a certain genre, and I love existing in that. But mostly, I’m not in the position where I can turn down work, so I’ll just take a job that pays.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to do next?
KAZINSKY: No. When I finish the press tour for this, I’ll be on the hunt for new work. Hopefully, this will do so well that I’ll be inundated with many offers.
Warcraft opens in theaters on June 10th.