Ironclad Q&A The cast and crew on a bloody medieval thriller
That looked like Saving Private Ryan in a castle. Jonathan English: I love medieval films and historical movies, but I wanted to do a movie set in a castle, and what I wanted to do is put the audience in the castle during a siege, so you feel the weight of the weapons, which were amazing in that period, 45lb weapons hitting you at 35mph. IO wanted to put you there, and it's very frightening. That's just the first battle.
James, can you tell us about your sword. James Purefoy: I've done a number of sword movies now, and we called that sword Florence. Once you set a broadsword like that in motion, you have to go with the flow. The more you move it, it has its own life, and it doesn't really stop until everybody's dead. I have it at home in my hall; I love it.
Jason: Woe betide the hoodie who breaks into your house. Can we say that he got this fantastic sword? And they're like, what can we give Jason? Huh, here's an axe.
Aneurin, this is your first movie, how was it? Aneurin Bernard: It was great, but you have to be aware of James' sword and Jason's axe swinging about, and just be like a 5 year old.
Was it a boozy set? Jason Flemyng: What happens in Cardiff, stays in Cardiff.
How did Paul get involved? Andrew: Our business partner had worked with him on Shoot Em Up, and he just seemed the obvious choice.
Jason: When you say obvious...
James: He also had the most amazing deal; he showed up, shot all his scenes in 7 days and then fucked off.
How did you go about gauging the levels of violence in the film? Jonathan: I would say, that's not enough, we need more blood. It was a lot of visual effects work, physical effects, make up on set. It was a combination of all the effects you can have.
James, how was it cutting that guy in half? James: He complained actually.
Jason: He got two lunches that day.
Actors have been forced into boot camp for films like this over the years - was there one here? Aneurin: Everyone else had been through battles and so on, but I was playing a squire, but being my first movie, it was a new experience for me as an actor and for my character. So I embraced that, and I guess it will become harder now.
Jason: I think when actors say it was hell on those sorts of movies, we all wanted to be there. We knew it would rain, we knew it was muddy, but we all wanted to be there, and all the lads there loved a sword...er. But if you were really good, your fight would be in the movie more than James, so we all got really competitive. It was very cold and muddy but it was great.
James: The worst thing about this movie was the nightmare, the horror, of working with Jason Flemyng. This was very different, because I did most of the fighting in Solomon Kane, but I got to spread the load a bit here. It was nice to be able to share the movie with other people.
After Kick-Ass, did you get a name in this film? Jason: I think I'm medieval goon in this one.
James: No, he does have a name, it's Beckett.
Jason: But I had to fight for it.
How historically accurate is the film? Jonathan: A lot of the characters are authentic. Our seven heroes are fictional characters that we created, but a lot of them are based on real characters I've read about from the period. But Brian Cox' character, Albany, was a real character. Isabel, Kate Mara, was real, as was Derek Jacobi's character. Charles Dance plays the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a real character, and King John obviously. But the events, overall, are pretty accurate. Various incidents during the battle - during the siege and during the final battle - are based on fact. A lot of this stuff you actually read at the castle when you visit the castle today.
Andrew, how do you get the money on the screen? Andrew: It's impossible - trying to get money for a movie in the UK during a recession is impossible, but as more and more of these people came in, it just came together. Jonathan early on had done storyboards and give people a look and a feel. When you have something tangible for financiers that really helps. You have to explain to them what it's going to look like, and they have to trust you.
Jason: They built the castle first, and it was like if you build it, they will come.
Jonathan: We basically rebuilt Rochester Castle in Wales, and it's still there.
How long did it take to construct that and where did you get the trebuchets? Jonathan: We built two of the large trebuchets you see there.
Andrew: We gave our production guy, who designed Terminator Salvation, the job. They were going to allow us to use a medieval trebuchet, but then we would have had to dismantle it and we didn't know if we could reassemble it, so we built our own. But the ones we used are at Cardiff castle now, and they used it a few months ago. It fires about 150 ft with amazing accuracy.
Jason: We had a go at firing it and they kept telling us it was perfectly safe, but they were all standing 20ft away.
Aneurin: There was this big whipping rope that must have killed people.
What was the toughest day on set? James: Towards the end, after all the fights and horses, the set was just disgusting. The big fight you just saw, with Florence, we shot that in the last two or three days, and the set had sort of collapsed by then, and the weather was awful. It rained every day for 60 days.
Aneurin: It was when we were told not to go on top of the castle because we'd be blown off that it was bad. We'd stay in the stable and huddle between two studs.
Jason: Just like you now.
Jason, will you be in X-Men: First Class? Jason: Matthew showed me my costume, and I swore I'd never be in heavy make-up again. But they said, Don't worry, we'll add the tail in post. But I am Azeazel, and I can teleport by waving my arms.
James: I've just done John Carter of Mars, which is going to look amazing but I can't really tell you much about it because it was mostly green screen. Andrew Stanton's one of Hollywood's geniuses, if you look at his storytelling skills alone. He's gobsmackingly brilliant at bringing you along on a story and an adventure.
Aneurin: I start my next feature tomorrow, filming with lovely Minnie Drive.
Jonathan: I would love to do another medieval film...
Jason: In the Bahamas!
Jonathan: And I'm also working on a modern action film.
I know the film has been in development for all of time. How does it feel to have it so close to release now? Andrew: Great. We screened this at Cannes with industry people, and I just sat there and went, Shit, this is good. James has been with us from the start, but all the guys who missed out? That's their problem. We put them through hell, but I'm really excited to show people. When the final film comes out, you'll forget about those guys and you'll like these guys even more.
Jonathan: By independent film standards, it wasn't in development for that long. The first script was written in 2007. It's a very large film by independent, especially British, standards. So I guess we were raising finance and casting for about a year and a half, and went into production last year. There were other actors in two or three roles. Very sadly, Lord Attenborough was going to play the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was very excited but was taken ill and couldn't do the shoot in the end.
Andrew: It was Attenborough's fault we ended up in Wales, because he suggested that we check out Dragon Studios.
Will we see another Solomon Kane? James: I was in Mexico yesterday doing press for South America, but we don't have distribution in the US yet because the producers own the rights and studios don't like that. But I'm confident we'll get that, and then we'll see about a sequel. Which would be set in Africa.