The first trailer for Brett Ratner and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Hercules has landed, and it's got shouting, and screaming, and a giant wild boar coming right at your face. Speaking exclusively to the star of the film before the trailer was officially released – "How the fuck have you seen the trailer already?" he jokes – Empire got the low-down on what to expect from the Fast & Furious star's mythological movie.
"The voice you hear is the incomparable Ian McShane. He plays Amphiaraus, the seer, who is connected with the Gods – someone who stands alongside Hercules on his journey. The relationship between Hercules and Amphiaraus is a very strong one in the film, like a father and son, and I mean all due respect to Zeus when I say that (laughs). But Amphiaras does bring a weightiness to their relationship, to their experiences and their journey, while at the same time paying homage to the mythology itself."
"That's me, Hercules, chained to the pillars. Did I enjoy shooting a scene that saw me chained to rock and screaming at the sky? I loved it so much that I made myself pass out. That's how much I loved it.
"But it was a lot of fun pain to go through. This is the beginning of what will eventually become the most iconic scene in the movie. It's the most iconic moment within the Hercules mythology: when Hercules accepts his fate and his faith, and is able to harness the power of the gods and basically become the son of Zeus.
"The reason why I said it was a lot of 'fun pain' is because it was exciting for me as an actor. You want the opportunity to be part of something special. I put in a lot of time and effort, like everybody did, into this particular scene, because it's the scene when Hercules breaks free and becomes the demigod that he was born to be.
"So, you can prep for so long and you have all your ducks in a row, but when you scream 'I am Hercules!' you want to give it everything you've got. You're chained and you're straining every muscle in your body – you want to get right for camera. Then I passed out. About 15 minutes later I came through, and everyone said, 'Are you okay?', and I'd be, 'Yeah, just give me a minute.' That happened about four or five times until we got it right, which we did, but it also included a lot of blacking out, which was fun.
"The final product is in the trailer, a taste of it, so you can imagine what it's actually like in the context of the movie. I was able to see a rough cut of it – in surround sound and 3D! – and I was very happy with it."
"Hercules has already completed his labours when we see him, but we do show the various labours in flashbacks, as you can see in the trailer. Those were just a few of them, along with flashbacks to the murdering of his family as well."
"That was pretty cool to shoot! There are two sides to the shoot: the things that are real, so to speak, and the things that are more on the fantastical side. The 'real' stuff, the epic battles and so on, have no green screen. These are real men playing real soldiers, sweating real sweat, and there's a lot of tough shoots. And some real blood!
"And then there's the mythology side. Some work was done with green screen, but some – like this world where the monster Hydra lives – is real. So to go on set, on that type of set, the water, and to get dragged into it was a lot of fun. Not a 'pass out' situation, no! It was just playing in water like a little kid. With Hydra coming up at you, like when you were a kid (laughs)."
"Well, yes, I've been able to do a few things that are pretty cool physically over the years, and to see me run up a tree is quite a sight. That's all me: no CG, no wire work. I literally ran up a tree. I'm also completely full of bullshit."
"This is right before a massive, epic battle. It's Hercules rallying the soldiers, inspiring them to become the men that they were born to be. Actually, that was the very first scene I shot in the entire movie, in Budapest. It was a nice baptism by fire – we jumped right into this massive battle scene. That pushing shot was the very first scene I shot."
"What's it like to act with a lion on your head? (Laughs) It's a pain in the ass. Let me just back up and say that I mean that with all due respect. There have been a lot of different versions of the Hercules story that have been made over the years – movies, TV shows and cartoons – so our goal with this movie was to make the definitive Hercules. So we got the best filmmakers in the world, from our director of photography to our wig, set, beard and wardrobe designers. They're all incredible artists.
"So I preface me saying the 'lion hat' was a pain in the ass with all that in mind. It was so detailed and well made, but it wouldn't stay on my head. The lion was moving forward, down and side-to-side - it just wouldn't stay in its place. When that happens in moviemaking, you've got to cut. But I respect the lion hat. I respect it a lot."