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 Travis Fimmel on the Universal Studios backlot to talk about bringing the epic battle between the humans and orcs to life on the big screen. During the interview, he talked about how special the World of Warcraft game is, the appeal of this project, working with actors in motion capture suits, the story’s focus on family and relationships, the challenge of working in such bulky costumes, and how much he enjoyed collaborating with director Duncan Jones. He also talked about how much he’s enjoyed being a part of the TV series Vikings, and being in a position where he can be more selective in the work that he does.
Collider: When you read this script, did you know anything about the Warcraft game or try playing it, at all?
TRAVIS FIMMEL: No. I tried playing recently, and it’s a fantastic game. For that many people to play it and pretty well get addicted to it, it’s special. People play it for hours and hours and hours. It’s pretty amazing.
If you weren’t aware of this game, what was the appeal of this for you?
FIMMEL: I had always wanted to work with Duncan Jones. And I needed the money. I was broke. It was a great script, and it was great spending time in Vancouver. And I had never done motion capture stuff, so that really intrigued me. I’m blown away with what they can do. We had some amazing sets, and we had some amazing CGI stuff. The transition between them is hard to tell.
Do you enjoy having to use your imagination, in that way, when you’re working with stuff that isn’t there, or you’re acting opposite someone in a funny suit with dots all over them?
FIMMEL: Gosh, I don’t know. Doing scenes with the orcs, I’d just look them in the eye. I do that normally, in any style of acting, so it didn’t phase me at all, to be honest. The technology now is great. You get to act with an actor, most of the time. Some of the imagination stuff is like where somebody had a broomstick with foam on the end for your griffin.
It must help you, as an actor, to have someone there to act off of, even if they do look silly in their motion capture suit.
FIMMEL: Yeah. With Toby Kebbell as Durotan and Rob Kazinsky as Orgrim, and all those characters, you really feel the passion and all of the emotions of the orcs. That’s what’s special about the movie. A lot of the time, you don’t feel the emotion of characters that have been motion captured.
Films of this type normally spend so much time setting up the world they’re set in that there often isn’t much time for character development, but this film really sets up a lot of character dynamics, as well.
FIMMEL: There are great relationships in the film and the story, and it’s got such a magnificent backdrop with the game World of Warcraft. I’m riding a half-horse/half-eagle griffin, and it looks so real. A lot of kids are going to want one, that’s for sure.
For people who are wondering whether they should see this movie, even if they don’t know anything about the Warcraft game, what would you say to them?
FIMMEL: I think a big part of it is escapism. It’s a world that you’ve never seen before, with creatures and beings that you’ve never seen before. And it’s in 3D. I think it’s a fun, action-packed fantasy ride. There must be a reason why 100 million people have played World of Warcraft. That’s a lot of people.
Was there anything you were most interested in getting to see the finished version of?
FIMMEL: Until you really see it, I had no clue what this movie was going to look like. It was very interesting. I mostly wanted to see the orcs, just to see how much emotion you could see in them. It’s amazing, you see Toby Kebbell in the orc. The transformation and what they can do with the technology is amazing.
Were these costumes easy to move and function in, or was it a bit challenging?
FIMMEL: It was extremely difficult. It was very bulky and took a lot of people to put on. You couldn’t lift your arms very far, and you couldn’t run. It made it challenging, but it was really authentic to the look of Warcraft. Even the horses had great armor. We used draft horses, which is a bigger species of horse, like plow horses. Everything was a bigger scale.
Do you feel pretty comfortable with riding horses?
FIMMEL: I’ve always ridden, so I think it’s fun. But I did fall off, which is pretty embarrassing. It had been a lot of years since I fell off, and when I fell off, I had to do it in front of 300 people.
When you’re on a set like this, where you’re imagining so much that isn’t there and you’re doing all of these stunts and action sequences, are there times when you just feel totally silly?
FIMMEL: Any set in the world, I feel ridiculous. There’s a lot of ridiculousness in my job. The people are the fun part. But, it’s not fun enough to do it for free.
What was Duncan Jones like, as a director? Did he seem to have a really good handle on telling such an epic story?
FIMMEL: Duncan is great. With a film like this, you’ve really got to be prepared, and he spent a lot of time preparing. You need a real leader for a film like this because, half of the time, you don’t know what’s going on.
How did the physicality of Warcraft compare to that of Vikings?
FIMMEL: It’s very different. Every job helps with the next job, but they’re two completely different things. There’s swords in Vikings and there’s a few swords in Warcraft, but I don’t know. It’s like asking if one cop movie is the same as another one, or if one cowboy movie is the same as the next.
Vikings is the longest you’ve played the same character before. How has that journey been? Have you enjoyed getting to explore a character that deeply?
FIMMEL: I’m not actor-ish enough to answer that. I’m surrounded by great people with great writing. I’ve just been very lucky to work for that long.
Is this Warcraft character one that you’d like to return to and get to explore more, in possible future films?
FIMMEL: I’m always happy for a job. It’s all fun. I’m an actor, I need the work. Bring it on. It was a great crew, director and cast. I’ll work with nice people whenever.
Do you feel like you’re in a position now where you can be more selective about which projects you sign on for and which you don’t?
FIMMEL: Yeah, for sure. You spend half the time saying no to certain things, as long as you’ve got something else to do.
Warcraft opens in theaters on June 10th.