'Most artists can't sue me because they're dead'

Director Tarsem Singh says his 3D action adventure film Immortals has his DNA embedded in it. We talk to him about his inspirations -- books that he has read, artists he has admired, even the porn he has watched

Theseus is a mere mortal chosen by Zeus, the God of the sky to lead the fight against a ruthless king Hyperion, who is on a rampage across Greece to obtain a weapon that can destroy all of humanity. Immortals is a film starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt and Freida Pinto. Sunday MiD DAY caught up with the director to talk about why it takes 'sexy' gods to make a blockbuster and why he isn't worried about getting sued.

A still from Immortals starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans,
Isabel Lucas
Kellan Lutz, Freida Pinto and Mickey Rourke.

Do you think the movie will be compared to the film 300?

300 is based on a comic book. This is based on a screenplay. It meant starting in the ether. You have to start there and say, "Okay. There's no comic strip." So I particularly chose to go in the style of Caravaggio lighting and a type of fighting that you have in Fight Club. I hope viewers enjoy it more than 300.

How long were you shooting and what are the locations viewers can look forward to?
Immortals is loaded with visual effects, action, adventure -- and nearly everything else under the sun. The technology is an exciting part of the ride. To make the creation of my imaginary world easier technically and logistically, the producers decided to house everything at Cit � du Cin �ma Studios in Montreal. Then within the environment we had a lot of effects: enormous battle scenes, collapsing mountains, gods and Titans battling.

There are over 100 shots that involve special effects. There was also a large physical component that supported the effects. About 20 sets were built, each containing a different virtual world, some with 360-degree views. During pre-production, we implemented a system called InterSense, previously used on the movie Avatar. It allowed me to see exactly what would be green screen and what would be set. The team was then able to build our sets to exactly the size that we would need.

How did you choose your characters and how was it working with Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto and Henry Cavill?
You won't find a more original bad boy than Mickey Rourke. He's the real deal and I let him go with it. So you've got to come to terms to what he can do and what he wants to do. For me, in Immortals, I was very particular with everybody about what needed to happen. 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. Phaedra needed to be exotic compared to most of the people in her world. 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.

You began your career with music videos and commercials, how difficult is it to move to full length films?
I happen to be like a prostitute in love with the profession.  And unfortunately, I think I must not be anywhere near as talented as the people I admire. Because almost everybody I know hates the filming process that I admire. They always like the prefiguring and the editing, and I am the only moron that just loves being on a set. I shoot more than 300 days a year, I'm on the road all the time, and I love it.

Fans are used to your work from The Cell, a psychological thriller. Was Immortals very different from your style? How would you describe your filmmaking style?
Somehow the films that I end up doing seem like the tail-end of a dying genre. I just look at it and see how I can put my DNA into a film that is going out of fashion in pop culture. My style of filmmaking is inspired by a lot of things I've seen growing up. I rely on influences like the books I've read, the porn I've watched, the movies I've seen. Everything, mixed in my head... Discovery Channel, animals eating each other, I don't know... Caravaggio, most artists can't sue me since they are already dead. So art school, bad TV -- my style is a synthesis of all that. 
With Troy and Thor, is there a new trend of audiences looking for Greek legends revamped as 3D films or was that just a coincidence?
What, sexy gods fighting each other? For me, I'm very rarely interested in genres. As long as I feel I can put myself out there in the ideology, it works for me. For people that tend to shoot tableaux with long takes, 3D is sort of made for that. It lets you judge the space much better. I just think that, fortunately, the style that I've done in my previous films -- not that I'll keep doing this forever -- but for the last few that I've done, 3D fits  very well. It was a logical.

Immortals will release in theatre on November 11.

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