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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:40 am

'Centurion' Madness: Neil Marshall Dumps Buckets of Blood on Goriest Battle Flick Ever
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

By: Jeff Otto

In anticipation of the nationwide theatrical release of Neil Marshall's latest thriller, Centurion, Magnolia Pictures has tapped renowned British comic artist Simon Bisley to create a one of a kind poster featuring the film's main characters played by Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko! In addition, inside you'll also find our exclusive interview with Marshall, along with two brand new blood-soaked clips. The action- thriller is now available On Demand, Xbox and Amazon. Let's just refer to today as "Centurion Day."

Neil Marshall isn't new to bloodshed. He thrives on it. Over the past decade, from DOG SOLDIERS to THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY, Marshall has perfected his own brand of gritty ultra-violence. When the director decided to tackle the mysterious disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion, it was only natural that he take the same approach.

Historical battle epics might bring to mind three-hour running times, detailed character development, slow motion and stylized action like that seen in 300. Coming in at a breezy and bloody 97 minutes, Marshall's CENTURION is none of that.

Set in AD 117, General Virilus (Dominic West) leads the Roman Ninth Legion along with a fleet of soldiers including Quintus (Michael Fassbender), Macros (Noel Clarke) and Bothos (David Morrissey) under orders to wipe out the mysterious and savages Picts tribe. Lead by the beautiful and deadly Etain, hellbent on her own brand of bloodthirsty revenge, the Picts will defend their freedom at any cost. Based partially on historical events, no one really knows what happened to the Ninth Legion. Marshall also wrote the script, offering his own theory on the ultimate fate of the legendary Ninth.

BLOODY-DISGUSTING spoke with Marshall about the action-intensive, violent-as-hell CENTURION, an epic in the form of a streamlined, unapologetic action flick.

Originally released in the U.K., Marshall had a surprisingly easy time bringing the release stateside, without so much as a murmur from the historically unpredictable MPAA. "I haven't had any problems at all with it," Marshall tells BD. "Who I was making it for, they never questioned the blood and guts. It was always going to be blood and guts. If anything I kind of enhanced that along the way and added in some extra stuff in the edit. When Magnolia picked it up, it was the same thing. They showed it to the MPAA and we haven't had any bother with it. Maybe I've become immune to it, but I don't really see it as being as ultra-violent as it probably is."

Although Marshall has become known for the level of violence in his films, the director says he's never had a ratings issue. And while battle epics are traditionally steeped in violence, Marshall truly takes it to a whole new level. "In any other film, a brief incident might just be somebody gets punched in the face or whatever," says Marshall. "But in this film somebody gets a knife stuck through their arm and then they get their head smashed against a table or their throat slashed. There are lots of moments of extreme violence."

As Marshall stated above, he did add a bit of blood in post, although his preference was to spread the red practically on set. " Of the gore effects, there's only line five or ten percent that is CG-enhanced. The rest is practical on set. There was lots of blood around. I just wanted to have it on standby. Quite a lot of it gets used not just during the battle, but after the battle where we're literally going around with buckets throwing them over the bodies and drenching the whole place in blood. It's also used for squibs and blood knives and other forms of gratuitous violence."

Marshall hits you over the head with the violence from the opening moments. These battles are fast and brutal. Limbs are lost, heads are lopped off and swords are pierced through bodies, coming out the other side with a slice and a splatter. "When you're going after each other with spears and swords, there's no nice way of killing somebody with those weapons," says the writer/director. "It's a battle for survival as far as the Picts are concerned. They're fighting for their land and their existence and their lives. So yeah, they're going to go all the way. It's brutal times and if you read about it, there is far worse stuff than what we put in the movie. It was commonplace."

CENTURION debuted on VOD July 23rd. It will open in a limited theatrical release on August 27th, 2010

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:40 pm

I wonder if they are going to do something for Centurion:

We are Marshall

Manhattan’s IFC Center is hosting Neil Marshall Weekend, a special two-night retrospective of the films of writer-director Neil Marshall (whose CENTURION is currently available via On Demand, Xbox Live, PlayStation, Amazon and VUDU and hits theaters August 27). Marshall will be present to introduce midnight screenings of THE DESCENT on Friday, August 13 and DOOMSDAY on Saturday, August 14.

Born in Newcastle in 1970, Marshall started making movies at age 11 with his mother’s Super 8 camera. He went on to film school at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1989 and worked for eight years as a freelance editor. Marshall made his writing and directorial debut in 2002 with the soldiers-vs.-werewolves film DOG SOLIDERS. His second feature was the critically acclaimed THE DESCENT (2005). Two years ago saw the release of his apocalyptic DOOMSDAY. His latest film, CENTURION, stars Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke, David Morrissey, JJ Field and Axelle Carolyn and centers on the war between Roman soldiers and Pict tribesmen during the 2nd century Roman conquest of Britain.

Tickets for THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY are available at the IFC Center box office or online at The IFC Center is located at 323 Sixth Ave., at West 3rd St. Box office: 212 924-7771.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:05 pm

Interview – Neil Marshall for “Centurion”

Set in 117 AD, "Centurion" is Neil Marshall’s take on the mysterious disappearance of Roman’s powerful Ninth Legion. His story theorizes a series of increasingly deadly battles between a mysterious tribe known as the Picts, who will stop at nothing to defend their land and preserve their way of life.

Michael Fassbender headlines the cast as Quintus Dias, who leads the remaining Ninth Legion into battle with the Picts in the name of his leader, Virilus (Dominic West). Supermodel Olga Kurylenko leads the Picts as the fierce Etain, once wronged by the Romans and obsessed with their demise.

Dark Horizons spoke exclusively with Neil Marshall, who grew up driving the still-remaining old Roman roads running parallel to Hadrian’s Wall. As he heard stories and myths of its existence and the Ninth Legion’s disappearance, Marshall grew interested in what might have possessed the powerful Romans to build this wall in the first place.

“The myth itself is just that, a myth,” Marshall tells Dark Horizons. “According to historians, the Ninth Legion did go into Cala Doria and they were attacked but not necessarily massacred. And then they went off and supposedly did something else in the Roman Empire. What I wanted to create was a historic world for this. I wanted to make sure it was historically accurate from the point of view of the detail - the props, the costumes, the behavior, all that kind of stuff. The story itself is fictional. It’s a hypothesis of what might have happened to the legion. It fulfills that myth and how the myth might have been created. I particularly liked the idea that it was actually the Romans that created the myth in order to cover up a military disaster that would make them look very bad.”

Marshall admits his research was limited simply by the fact that information on the events is relatively scarce, giving him plenty of liberty with his story. “There’s only one book, but it never actually specifies what might have happened. It’s just that they disappeared or got massacred, but it never explains how they might have been massacred. So nobody covered that. All of that I had to come up with myself.”

"Centurion" is an action movie in the B-movie tradition, brisk and brutal. In recent time, historically-based battle movies generally veer into epic running times and detailed story-lines. While Centurion is not without story and intriguing characters, its 97 minutes are focused largely on the battles, which are fast, gritty and realistically imperfect. “I like that element, it has that freshness about it,” says Marshall. “It’s not perfect. If they come to the set and do this note perfect fight routine that looks like it’s a couple of ninjas without a false move, that doesn’t look real. It has that kind of rawness.”

In gathering his cast, Marshall knew it was important to cast actors that would not only be believable in the parts, but tough enough off-camera to handle the harsh filming conditions. “I knew that I was going to punish the cast,” admits Marshall. “It was going to be cold, wet and miserable and I was going to be putting them into rivers and jumping off cliffs. When they got to the top of the mountain, I wanted to be there just to open the back of the vehicle and let the cold flood in and see what their response was. And they were like, ‘What the hell have you got us into.’”

While there weren’t any casualties on set, there were some close calls. “One of the cast members got first degree frostbite in their foot. Throughout the shoot we had a few trips to the hospital. After they’d been in the river, one actor went into shock, turned green and started vomiting everywhere. But an hour or so later, he was back and fine. It’s just the shock you can get from going into water that’s about as cold as it can get before it turns solid. These guys were doing all this, but they still never complained. They were having a ball. It was a proper adventure for them.”

The director was able to go back to two actors he’d originally considered for "Doomsday", Michael Fassbender and Dominic West, to play Romans Quintus and Virilus, respectively. “They auditioned for different parts [on Doomsday],” says Marshall. “When I first met Dominic I hadn’t really seen or heard of The Wire, but I’d seen him in a few other films and really liked him. He just seemed so perfect for the role of Virilus. It’s not like he is at all. He’s not that kind of brutal gorilla of a guy, but he has the physicality for it. And I just thought Michael would be great in this film. I’d seen him around a couple of times and we’d discussed what we might have a chance to do together. That was great to finally get him into this role. It really worked and they delivered great performances.”

The most unlikely casting choice was Olga Kurylenko, a svelte and seemingly delicate supermodel, in the role of the blood-lusting warrior Etain. “She was covered in cuts and scrapes and bruises by the end of it,” says Marshall. “She didn’t complain at all. When you’ve got her and Michael literally on the deck in the dirt fighting for their lives and knocking the hell out of each other, I was expecting that to be a problem. I thought she might ask, like, ‘Can I have a mat down here?’ But she just got straight down there.”

Kurylenko’s performance stands out, the most villainous and vicious femme fatale of recent memory. Although Etain is positioned as a villain, her backstory adds a level of justification to her vengeful quest. “I wanted to keep it grey, [like] hang on a minute, she’s a bad guy? It’s kind of like Magua in Last of the Mohicans, this absolutely evil character that is also justified in what he’s doing and totally believes in it. I wanted to give her a history that painted the Romans in a very different light so you can see it from her point of view. At the same time, you don’t want her chasing after you because she’s going to chop you into little pieces. She’s pretty dedicated to what she’s doing and you have to come up with a justifiable reason for that. I always think that the best villains are the ones that have a justifiable motive.”

"Centurion" debuted on VOD July 23rd. It will open in a limited theatrical release on August 27th, 2010.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:09 am

Exclusive Interview: Neil Marshall for “Centurion”

* email to a friend

By Jeff Otto Sunday August 8th 2010 08:31PM
Neil Marshall for “Centurion”

Set in 117 AD, "Centurion" is Neil Marshall’s take on the mysterious disappearance of Roman’s powerful Ninth Legion. His story theorizes a series of increasingly deadly battles between a mysterious tribe known as the Picts, who will stop at nothing to defend their land and preserve their way of life.

Michael Fassbender headlines the cast as Quintus Dias, who leads the remaining Ninth Legion into battle with the Picts in the name of his leader, Virilus (Dominic West). Supermodel Olga Kurylenko leads the Picts as the fierce Etain, once wronged by the Romans and obsessed with their demise.

Dark Horizons spoke exclusively with Neil Marshall, who grew up driving the still-remaining old Roman roads running parallel to Hadrian’s Wall. As he heard stories and myths of its existence and the Ninth Legion’s disappearance, Marshall grew interested in what might have possessed the powerful Romans to build this wall in the first place.

“The myth itself is just that, a myth,” Marshall tells Dark Horizons. “According to historians, the Ninth Legion did go into Cala Doria and they were attacked but not necessarily massacred. And then they went off and supposedly did something else in the Roman Empire. What I wanted to create was a historic world for this. I wanted to make sure it was historically accurate from the point of view of the detail - the props, the costumes, the behavior, all that kind of stuff. The story itself is fictional. It’s a hypothesis of what might have happened to the legion. It fulfills that myth and how the myth might have been created. I particularly liked the idea that it was actually the Romans that created the myth in order to cover up a military disaster that would make them look very bad.”

Marshall admits his research was limited simply by the fact that information on the events is relatively scarce, giving him plenty of liberty with his story. “There’s only one book, but it never actually specifies what might have happened. It’s just that they disappeared or got massacred, but it never explains how they might have been massacred. So nobody covered that. All of that I had to come up with myself.”

"Centurion" is an action movie in the B-movie tradition, brisk and brutal. In recent time, historically-based battle movies generally veer into epic running times and detailed story-lines. While Centurion is not without story and intriguing characters, its 97 minutes are focused largely on the battles, which are fast, gritty and realistically imperfect. “I like that element, it has that freshness about it,” says Marshall. “It’s not perfect. If they come to the set and do this note perfect fight routine that looks like it’s a couple of ninjas without a false move, that doesn’t look real. It has that kind of rawness.”

In gathering his cast, Marshall knew it was important to cast actors that would not only be believable in the parts, but tough enough off-camera to handle the harsh filming conditions. “I knew that I was going to punish the cast,” admits Marshall. “It was going to be cold, wet and miserable and I was going to be putting them into rivers and jumping off cliffs. When they got to the top of the mountain, I wanted to be there just to open the back of the vehicle and let the cold flood in and see what their response was. And they were like, ‘What the hell have you got us into.’”

While there weren’t any casualties on set, there were some close calls. “One of the cast members got first degree frostbite in their foot. Throughout the shoot we had a few trips to the hospital. After they’d been in the river, one actor went into shock, turned green and started vomiting everywhere. But an hour or so later, he was back and fine. It’s just the shock you can get from going into water that’s about as cold as it can get before it turns solid. These guys were doing all this, but they still never complained. They were having a ball. It was a proper adventure for them.”

The director was able to go back to two actors he’d originally considered for "Doomsday", Michael Fassbender and Dominic West, to play Romans Quintus and Virilus, respectively. “They auditioned for different parts [on Doomsday],” says Marshall. “When I first met Dominic I hadn’t really seen or heard of The Wire, but I’d seen him in a few other films and really liked him. He just seemed so perfect for the role of Virilus. It’s not like he is at all. He’s not that kind of brutal gorilla of a guy, but he has the physicality for it. And I just thought Michael would be great in this film. I’d seen him around a couple of times and we’d discussed what we might have a chance to do together. That was great to finally get him into this role. It really worked and they delivered great performances.”

The most unlikely casting choice was Olga Kurylenko, a svelte and seemingly delicate supermodel, in the role of the blood-lusting warrior Etain. “She was covered in cuts and scrapes and bruises by the end of it,” says Marshall. “She didn’t complain at all. When you’ve got her and Michael literally on the deck in the dirt fighting for their lives and knocking the hell out of each other, I was expecting that to be a problem. I thought she might ask, like, ‘Can I have a mat down here?’ But she just got straight down there.”

Kurylenko’s performance stands out, the most villainous and vicious femme fatale of recent memory. Although Etain is positioned as a villain, her backstory adds a level of justification to her vengeful quest. “I wanted to keep it grey, [like] hang on a minute, she’s a bad guy? It’s kind of like Magua in Last of the Mohicans, this absolutely evil character that is also justified in what he’s doing and totally believes in it. I wanted to give her a history that painted the Romans in a very different light so you can see it from her point of view. At the same time, you don’t want her chasing after you because she’s going to chop you into little pieces. She’s pretty dedicated to what she’s doing and you have to come up with a justifiable reason for that. I always think that the best villains are the ones that have a justifiable motive.”

"Centurion" debuted on VOD July 23rd. It will open in a limited theatrical release on August 27th, 2010.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:35 pm,0,6499600.story

INDIE FOCUS: Romans battle in the Highlands in 'Centurion'
The film directed by Neil Marshall and starring Michael Fassbender slogs through the rain and mud to give audiences a realistic invaders' point of view.

Michael Fassbender in the movie "Centurion." (Magnet Releasing, Magnet Releasing / August 15, 2010)

By Mark Olsen, Special to The Times

A mad mix of the traditional sword and sandal epic with mud, spears, snow and plenty of blood and severed body parts, Neil Marshall's "Centurion" tells the story of the Roman Ninth Legion, a group that disappeared while battling the Pict tribe in the Scottish Highlands in the second century.

Starring Michael Fassbender and Dominic West as Roman warriors, Olga Kurylenko as a Pict scout and Imogen Poots as a Pict exile, the film constructs a scenario of brutal battles and political intrigue to suppose how such a large number of Roman soldiers, pushing the boundaries of the Empire, could vanish without a trace.

"When somebody says sword-and-sandal movie to me, I think of deserts and dust and the Middle East," said the English writer-director during a recent trip to L.A. for a screening of "Centurion" at the Los Angeles Film Festival before the film's select national opening in theaters Aug. 27. (It is already available for video-on-demand.)

"What I don't think of is rain and mud, and that's the kind of film this was always going to be," he continued, "to take these guys from the Mediterranean and throw them into this absolutely unsuitable landscape which played as much a character in the film as anybody else. They might as well be on the moon. Coming from Rome to the Highlands of Scotland was the edge of the world for them."

Marshall became a favorite among genre aficionados with his first features, "Dog Soldiers" and "The Descent," which showcased his low-budget storytelling smarts, not to mention copious amounts of old-school horror movie gore. When he jumped to a larger canvas with the $28 million post-apocalyptic road adventure "Doomsday," however, the reception was more mixed; writing for the New York Times, Matt Zoller Seitz called the project "frenetic, loud, wildly imprecise." It earned only about $11 million in the U.S.

"Centurion" can't exactly be called a return to form — Marshall has never made a historical epic before — but it does find him going back to the inventively hard-charging, character-based thrills with which he made his name.

"I was inspired hugely by John Ford's cavalry movies," Marshall said. "I see it very much like that, as a western. The Romans are like the cavalry and the Picts are like the Comanches. You look at those films now and they are so un-PC, there's just no way that kind of film would get made from the cavalry's point of view anymore. And yet that's exactly what I was doing, telling the story from the invaders' point of view."

He shot the film in remote mountains in Scotland where military troop transport vehicles had to be used to get the cast and crew to locations, and working with his usual prosthetics designer Paul Hyett, Marshall strived to create a grim authenticity for the battle scenes. It was the director's rebuttal to the computer-generated slow-motion mayhem promulgated by Zack Snyder's 2006 mega-hit "300."

"There's probably about 5% CGI enhancement to some of the blood, but the rest of it was all for real," Marshall said. "I think it's better for the film, I think it's better for the actors that they're dealing with stuff physically and getting their hands dirty rather than it all being clean and clinical for them. I think it's all part of the process. It's like adding CG mud into a muddy scene — what's the point? Get them muddy."

Keeping up with French writer-director Christophe Honoré is no easy task. His most recent film, "Man at Bath," premiered this month at the Locarno Film Festival, and he's already prepping his next project, "The Beloved." For U.S. audiences, though, Honoré's latest release is his 2009 feature, "Making Plans for Lena," which is available on video-on-demand following a small theatrical release that did not include Los Angeles.

Taking its title from the XTC song "Making Plans for Nigel," which is heard in the film, "Lena" follows a woman (Chiara Mastroianni) struggling to hold her life together. She fights with her ex-husband, consistently frustrates her family and briefly loses track of one of her children in a train station. But just as Noah Baumbach attempted to do with Nicole Kidman's title character in "Margot at the Wedding," Honoré set out to draw a sympathetic portrait of an unsympathetic character.

"It's difficult for the audience to like the character," admitted Honoré, who co-wrote the script with Geneviève Brisac. "When we worked with Chiara we always thought about that. For me it would be too easy to present the character as a victim: her husband is a jerk, her family doesn't understand her. So I hope spectators aren't always with Lena, but at the end I hope they are completely with her even if during the movie sometimes she is hysterical and not very likable."

Speaking by phone from Paris, the filmmaker said that working with the same set of actors over and over again is integral to his ability to maintain such a breakneck professional pace; the shorthand he establishes with his stars is key. Performers including Mastroianni, Louis Garrel and Alice Butaud routinely populate his work. Actress Léa Seydoux, recently buzzed about as a potential star of the American remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," had her biggest role to date in Honoré's "The Beautiful Person." Catherine Deneuve (perhaps not coincidentally Mastroianni's mother) has been cast in "The Beloved."

"My dream would be to have a troupe of actors, like a factory," he explained, "and every six months we can say, 'So what kind of movie should we make now?'

"Maybe in 10 years I will stop making films like this," he added. "I'll just make one movie every five years, very perfect and precise, but for now it's not my way."

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:48 am

Insider's P.O.V. - Written by Neil Marshall on Monday, March 1, 2010 14:18
Director - Neil Marshall

The director of Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday is no stranger to pushing his actors to the limit. But, as he explains, conditions on the Scottish set of new film Centurion saw his cast tested at every turn.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the actors that I have. Not simply because of their calibre as performers, but also because of the collaborative experience I have had working with them. For me, working closely with the actors is one of the most unpredictable and rewarding parts of the whole process.

Give me a set over green screen any day, and give me a location over a set. Some people say a film is made in the edit; as a former editor, I actually disagree. I believe the film is formed in the edit, the story shaped and nuance fine-tuned. But you can’t form anything unless it’s been captured on camera first, and if something isn’t real when you’re shooting it, no amount of editing is going to give it the reality it lacks, and CG-enhancement can’t turn a bad performance into a good one.

The shoot is where the magic happens, in front of the camera. I provide the setting, the circumstances and the motivation, but it’s up to the actors to make it real. Like catching lightning in a bottle, you’ve got to be able to recognise it and seize it while it’s happening.

The film shoot has that sense of esprit de corps that I imagine is only comparable to being in the military. I like the atmosphere to be one of professionalism, collaboration and good humour. I want the cast to feel that they can approach me and put suggestions my way, and I also want to feel that I can do the same in return. One of my most important jobs as director is to listen to the actors, hear their thoughts and suggestions and utilise the ones that work and discard the ones that don’t.

In the past I’ve had the pleasure of working and collaborating with amazing actors and mostly with ensemble casts on Dog Soldiers (Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Darren Morfitt, Les Simpson, Chris Robson, Emma Cleasby, Tom Lockyer); The Descent (Shauna Madonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, MyAnna Buring, Nora- Jane Noone, Saskia Mulder); Doomsday (Adrian Lester, Alexander Siddig, Craig Conway, Rick Warden, David O’Hara, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell) and now on Centurion, with a cast that mixes established talents with new faces, and creates an interesting blend. I’ve got Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Dominic West (The Wire), as well as David Morrissey, Liam Cunningham, Noel Clarke, Riz Ahmed, JJ Feild, Imogen Poots, Ulrich Thomsen and Axelle Carolyn. All brilliant actors, all very different, and they all worked their arses off to make this film the best it could possibly be. We all shared an amazing adventure together.

One thing I made absolutely clear to any potential cast member on this production was that it was going to be tough-and by that I didn’t mean a few late nights and a shortage of coffee on set. I meant tough; really tough. It was my absolute intention to make the actors suffer, because I wanted their experience to be as real as I dared make it without actually harming them. Nobody was going to come through this without a few cuts and bruises-or worse. Everyone took me at my word, and nobody backed down. They were in it for the long haul, whatever the weather. I think the experience lived up to their expectations.

We shot most of Centurion in the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland throughout February 2009. The week before we even began filming, while on a location recce, we were snowed in at our hotel under metre-high drifts. The first day of filming we were on top of one of the mountains, 2,000 feet up, in a blizzard with little visibility and temperatures dropping to -18 degrees! It was a baptism of ice for the cast, whose first scene involved digging a shelter in a snowdrift using their bare hands, and huddling together for warmth out of the biting cold wind. Little of that first day’s filming was faked. The rattling teeth and shivers of the actors are very real, and so is the slight hint of blue in their complexions and all this wearing flimsy Roman costumes and thin leather boots. The next morning Noel asked the other cast members if they could still feel their feet. They could, he couldn’t; he had the first stages of frostbite! And this was just the beginning.

Luckily Noel soon recovered, but every day had its challenges. If it wasn’t the snow, it was horizontal rain or freezing winds. Like some kind of masochist I was loving it. A few days later we had them all floating over a waterfall and down rapids in an ice-cold river. This water was about as cold as it gets before turning to ice, and the sudden and brutal shock of it hitting their bodies was a bit too much for some: poor Dimitri Leonidas turned a nasty shade of green before he started projectile vomiting everywhere. Following a quick check-up at the local hospital he was passed fit for duty, and soon returned for further pummelling. Sometimes these actors really do suffer for their art, and I’ve nothing but admiration for them. Michael, always eager to please, had to be restrained from hurling himself off a 40-foot cliff after the stuntmen! What, for me, is so important about these physical hardships is the effect it has on the cast. Through adversity, bonds are forged between them that could not be created via other means. They become the brothers in arms they are portraying. I’ve had this experience in my films before; certainly on Dog Soldiers where, by the time we’d finished the shoot, I swear those boys would have fought and died for each other, the bond was so strong. This is integral in creating a convincing camaraderie on screen. It allows me to say so much more with a look than with 20 lines of dialogue. You can read the life experience in the lines, the dirt, the scars on their faces, and Marshall and actor Dominic West review the day’s work their hollow eyes and gaunt expressions speak volumes of the hellish journey they are on not just as characters, but as actors too.

I suppose, out of all the cast, the two people I worked most closely with were Michael, whose story the film centres around, and Olga, who had the difficult task of trying to render her performance without speech of any kind—her character Etain has had her tongue cut out. Michael is incredibly fastidious and dedicated; he knows no fear. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and brought so much weight and nuance to the role of Quintus Dias. Olga proved to be a worthy match, especially when it came to the fights. Her character is all raw physicality and expresses herself through violence. Luckily, Olga was also game and had no problem suffering grazes and scrapes while rolling around in the dust with Michael on a cold day in March.

One of the other highlights of working with the cast on this production was getting the chance to direct my wife, Axelle. She made two brief appearances in Doomsday, but the role of the Pict warrior Aeron was far more challenging. She needed to learn to ride and shoot a bow, and be convincing at both. Luckily the riding was no problem and she proved a dead shot with the longbow, spending a lot of her time in the movie ruthlessly shooting unfortunate Romans in the back. The character on the page was barely sketched, but Axelle is incredibly expressive and turned her into a scowling, cold-hearted thug, who just happens to be a woman. And why not? This was the age of Boudicca after all!

A good collaboration with actors is as much to my benefit as theirs. No two characters are the same and no two actors are the same. They each bring something different to the table and that’s what keeps it fresh and dynamic. When I worked with Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell on Doomsday, I was initially intimated by their wealth of experience, but once you get past that and get on with the hard graft, what it boils down to is that we’re each there to do a job, and that job doesn’t change depending on the actor or director. It varies, yes, but the fundamentals remain the same.

As director, I’m there to listen to them, to guide them, and to understand how the individual pieces of their performance will fit into the whole and complete the jigsaw of their character. Bob and Malcolm do what they do, and keep doing it, for exactly the same reason as I do-they love making movies. The same goes for the cast of Centurion: Michael, Olga, Dominic, Liam and all the rest. I doubt they would have endured what I put them through with such dedication and determination if they hadn’t felt as passionately about the film as I do. It’s been a unique experience and an amazing collaboration. That, to me, is what the actor/director relationship really means, and what making movies is all about. •

This article first appeared in movieScope Magazine, Issue 16 (March/ April 2010)

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:54 pm

Exclusive: Centurion Director Neil Marshall
Source: Edward Douglas
August 17, 2010

British filmmaker Neil Marshall has established himself as one of England's most respected contemporary horror filmmakers with the one-two punch of his debut Dog Soldiers and its popular follow up The Descent. Veering into science fiction territory with his last movie Doomsday, Marshall explored one possible future for the United Kingdom, but in his new movie Centurion, he's tapped into his country's rich history to create an action thriller set during the Roman conquest of Europe way back during the 2nd century.

Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, upcoming X-Men: First Class) plays Quintus, a Roman centurion who survives a raid by England's savage tribe of Picts to lead the Roman's Ninth Legion north with orders to kill the Pict leader Gorlacon. Instead, they're ambushed, their leader (Dominic West) in taken, and they find themselves on the run from a relentless group of Picts who want nothing more than to kill all Romans. spoke with Marshall on the phone a few weeks back to find out what it took to create a film with such an epic scale and scope while still making the film independently. Many of your previous movies have had horror and sci-fi elements and this is the first one based in history and more reality involved in it. I understand you had a connection to Hadrian's Wall already?
Neil Marshall: Well, pretty much, yeah, just when I was born, where I grew up is at one end of Hadrian's Wall, so I've know Roman history and it's been a part of my schooling from earliest days really. We went on school trips to Hadrian's Wall, my dad's kind of a history buff, so in this part of the world where I come from, you can't move away from ancient history. If it's not medieval castles, it's Roman forts, and it's all there just to see.

CS: Had you been thinking about doing a movie like this for a long time? Was it something in your head to do for many years or was it some idea you came up with after finishing "Doomsday"?
Marshall: No, I actually had the script written before I did "Doomsday" and I had the idea about 10 years ago when I first heard about the legend of the 9th Legion. They had supposedly marched into Scotland to battle the Picts and then vanished without a trace, and this really isn't an urban legend, but it's definitely a historical myth. I first heard about that from a friend and then immediately, it just hooked me completely. I just thought, "There's gotta be a film in there somewhere," and I wasn't quite sure what it was then. I didn't know whether it was gonna be supernatural or what. I decided to go down more of a historical route and to figure out what might have actually happened to them.

CS: So did you already know a lot of stuff about the era or did you have to do a lot of reading to pull from a lot of different theories about what happened to them?
Marshall: I had a little bit of an idea, but mostly I just did a lot of research. The idea of 3 or 4,000 Roman soldiers just vanished without a trace is definitely intriguing with historians. The more research you do, the historians kind of disproved the myth, but I kind of figured that when the legend becomes fact, print the legend, because it was much more interesting. (chuckles) So I went down that route, and my idea was to make the world in which the story takes place as authentic as possible, even if the story is essentially fictitious. It's based on truth, it's based on elements of truth. Yes, the 9th Legion did go into Scotland, and they were attacked by the Picts, they just weren't necessarily massacred to the last man. As an embarrassment to Rome, they were disbanded and sent off to various parts of the Empire to join up with other legions. I took elements of that and made it a full-scale massacre and then kind of made it a cover-up by Rome, which makes sense that they would be embarrassed by this and want to cover it up. All this stuff was researched. I researched the Romans, I researched the Picts. There's a couple of characters in the story that are based on real characters which are Governor Agricola was the Governor of Britain at that time and the General played by Dominic West is based on a real General as well who was command of the 9th Legion. Everybody else in it is purely fictitious.

CS: I'm sure you must know that there was another movie being made around the same time, not sure if it was before or after. Had you heard about that while you were making the movie, or as you were finishing the movie?
Marshall: Oh, yeah. We'd been well aware of it for some time, because we were kind of in a bit of a race to get our film made first, and we managed to beat them to the post. Other than that, I don't know anything about it.

CS: I was curious if you ever felt the urge to check in on it or see if it was very different from your take on it.
Marshall: It's kind of weird because we both deal with the same subject matter of the 9th Legion, but ours is for all intents and purposes, a prequel of their story while theirs is a sequel to ours because theirs takes place like 30 years after our story. In some ways, our story fills in the background of theirs. So I didn't see them as massive rivals, but I would love to find out what they'd done with the subject matter.

CS: Well, if people like your movie and are interesting in knowing more then their movie will come along and tell more of the story. What's interesting to me is the fact that you have the Romans depicted as the good guys. I'm American so I don't live there, but I'd think the people in England would think of the Romans as the enemies or the bad guys because they were invading and they were fought off.
Marshall: It was important to me to deal with the kind of shades of grey that war is usually about and it's not so easy. There are heroes and villains on both sides, and yes, the Picts are defending their homeland and therefore, for all intents and purposes, they're the good guys. The Romans being imperialistic and invaders are the bad guys. We tell our story from the point of view of the Romans, but not necessarily their ethos. I don't consider it a pro-imperialist film. It's about survival, it's about a group of guys who are just trying to get home. That's the way I always saw it. It's about the individuals, it's not about the group mentality. Actually, the central figure, the Centurion himself, starts out as an imperialist and ends up as a fugitive, so he kind of changes heart as the story goes on.

CS: Michael Fassbender is great as Quintus. I assume he had just done "Hunger" so had you seen him in that? What made you think of him to play the lead role in this?
Marshall: Well actually, I know of "Hunger," but we cast him before I'd seen it. There was some good word of mouth about "Hunger" and I think I watched it just prior to the shoot. But yeah, I mean, I had actually auditioned him for "Doomsday" a couple of years before, and just kept him in the back of my mind really. I wasn't able to work with him on "Doomsday," so the opportunity came for this movie, and I thought he'd be really really great in the lead role.

CS: He's obviously a great dramatic actor and that's the case with a lot of the people in your movie, but then you have them doing a lot more action stuff. How did you prepare them for that and how do you get them into that sort of thing? The dramatic stuff would be easy but I would think the action would be a new thing for many of them.
Marshall: I made sure I warned everybody that the shoot was going to be really tough, because I intended to film it in the worst weather conditions I could find. So I made sure I said to the entire cast, "Look, I'm going to put you through hell," and I did, and none of them complained because they had all signed up for it really. But, they were all very willing and able to get stuck in. There is only so much preparation you can do for that. I wanted to make sure that onscreen, when you see them shivering, when you see their teeth chattering, that's all real, that's not acting. They were really that cold. It just enabled them to concentrate on the performance and not concentrate on having to fake shivering as a distraction. They may argue that they'd be fine, but I think it looks better when they don't have to fake that stuff (chuckles). Plus the environment that we were filming in just lent such authenticity to it. You can't argue with that, that's the real thing. That's what the Romans were in 2,000 years ago, so we're definitely not faking that. No, but training, almost all the guys are in pretty good shape anyway. We put them through some fight training and sword fighting and some fights and that was it, really. We just let them loose.

CS: A historical war epic like this with such big set pieces, normally they'd be done with a studio because they involve so much money, but you ended up doing this independently. Can you talk about your decision to do it independently and how you managed to do a movie like this without having $100 million?
Marshall: Well, it would've been nice to have $100 million, that's for sure. (Laughs) No, it was the same production company that I had done "The Descent." Off the back of "The Descent," they commissioned me to write this script, so I knew I was going to do it with them, and I thought there was always going to be budget limitations on it. It's kind of funny that people look at it and assume that it's my biggest film to date, but actually it's only about a third of the price of "Doomsday." We just happened to spend our money very carefully. I had to make sure that every single penny was on screen. It just requires a lot of clever work with the camera, clever work with visual effects to give it that scale. I think shooting it on location in that landscape lent a lot of scale to it as well, but it was tough. I would have very much liked $100 million. (Laughs)

CS: Locations play such a central part and the fact that you found such amazing locations. I talked to Nicholas Refn and Louis Letterier who both shot their movies in Scotland--or maybe Louis was Wales--but they were both doing these movies that were period pieces and find locations not touched by humans and recreate those times. How hard is that finding those locations that are untouched by humans that don't have logos and road signs?
Marshall: Well, it's not as difficult as you might think. Once you get up into those "diamonds" of Scotland, there isn't much trace of civilization up there. It doesn't take much to get off the main road and find that stuff there, because it's pretty inhospitable. It doesn't necessarily look that way, but it's kind of real boggy and marshy and it's pretty inhospitable for most people. You can actually get away from humanity very very easy up there. We had an entire system of valleys that were private property that we could use. From there, we kind of had 360 degrees of wilderness. I know that Nicholas Winding Refn went slightly further north to do his stuff, and it gets even more kind of wild and difficult up there as well. Yeah, it's not as difficult as you might think.

CS: When I talked to him and his actors, the hardest thing seemed to be convincing the crew to bring all the equipment up there, so was that the case with your movies as well?
Marshall: Yeah, well, I suppose if you have the budget of a "Lord of the Rings" movie, then everything's taken up by a helicopter. We didn't have that. All we had was these Norwegian troop transport things that are like little tanks and we had to drive up the mountain in these things. It took an hour-and-a-half to drive up the mountain each morning in these little tank things, and they were pretty uncomfortable. Every second they looked like they were going to tip over and roll down the hill with us inside. So it was pretty interesting and it was difficult. We were filming in temperatures of like minus 18 in blizzards on top of a mountain where you don't know where there's shelter, there's nowhere to go. You can't suddenly nip down the mountain, 'cause it takes three hours to get there and back. So once you're up there, we had to commit to being up there all day no matter what the weather. Yeah, that was fun. (Laughs)

CS: How familiar was your cast and crew with the history about that time period? Was that very important for them to know about that stuff or did some of them already know this story?
Marshall: Like me, everybody from the different departments did their own kind of research. The costume department had the advantage in that they had just come off the TV series "Rome," so our costume designer knew his stuff inside and out and that was great. The rest of the crew, especially like the production designer and myself, we had to realize everything from the ground up and it was a fascinating education for us both.

CS: Did you see a through-line between the Picts and the marauders in "Doomsday" and did the influence for the savages in "Doomsday" come from the Picts?
Marshall: That's kind of a weird by product because I wrote about the Picts before I actually did "Doomsday," but the way obviously the films have been made is that one comes after the other, but the Picts are the authentic tribes people of Scotland. Their face paint and stuff like that is all very authentic, but I guess for the barbarians in "Doomsday," I took a lot of ideas from other kinds of tribes and cultures of society around the world, so there's some Native American stuff in there and barbarians from Germany, all thrown into the mix together. I just took the best of everything for that one.

CS: Have you always generally been a fan of movies like "Apocalypto" or "Braveheart," or those historic movies with big epic battles?
Marshall: Oh yeah, absolutely. When they're done well, they're amazing. I love that. It's just as interesting a thing exploring the past, as it is science fiction or fantasy or something like that. I think the worlds are equally amazing and spectacular and eventful.

CS: "The Descent" was present day, and then with "Doomsday" you went to the future, and this one is set in the past. Do you know which era you might want to explore next?
Marshall: Oh, I have no idea. I wouldn't mind doing something contemporary, that would be okay. (Laughs) But I'm interested in exploring all kinds of periods, all kinds of genres, and just finding a really good story to tell.

CS: Do you have anything else that you've been developing or had an idea to do for a long time?
Marshall: Well, the next thing immediately I want to do is producing a film that's being written and directed by my wife Axelle (Carolyn) and I'm producing that, a film called "The Ghosts of Slaughterford." We're going to be shooting that in the next few months. That's my first attempt at producing stuff, and I'm also attached to a project called "Burst" which Sam Raimi's producing. We're going to shoot that in 3D, it should be fun.

CS: Is that also going to be ready to start shooting this year or are you still developing that?
Marshall: Well, I was working on the script at the moment, so I don't expect it will shoot until next year.

CS: Has your wife directed anything before? Is she also a director?
Marshall: No, well, she's in "Centurion" as one of the cast members of "Centurion," so she does all sorts of things.

CS: But is that something she's been developing that you're finally getting made? What's that movie about?
Marshall: It's a ghost story, obviously, and she's been developing it for like the past year or so.

CS: Is that going to be a smaller scale than some of the stuff you've been doing?
Marshall: Oh, it's quite a small scale thing. It's a very intimate horror story with kind of a romantic angle to it as well.

CS: Do you have any thoughts about doing more horror? Is "Burst" also horror?
Marshall: Yeah, "Burst" is full-on horror. It's all about people exploding in 3D. (chuckles) Yeah, with me doing it and Sam Raimi producing it, it's 100% horror.

CS: Is it anything like "Scanners" with mental powers making people's heads explode or what's the general premise?
Marshall: I can't give away too much at the moment. (laughs) That's all I can say.

CS: But it has people exploding in 3D. That's the selling point right there.
Marshall: Yeah, it's to do with a psychic ability, but it's not like "Scanners," it's an alien technology.

CS: Who's writing it? Are you writing that yourself?
Marshall: No, it's being written by Brian Nelson who wrote "30 Days of Night."

CS: Are you writing anything else by yourself, because obviously, your last few movies are from your own scripts.
Marshall: Yeah, I've got a couple of projects that I'm working on myself. I'm developing a couple of horror ideas. I'm just trying to figure out which one I want to necessarily write next, but yeah, I'm definitely working on my own stuff at the same time.

Centurion is currently playing on Video on Demand and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Xbox Marketplace and the PlayStation Network, but it's opening theatrically in select theaters on August 27, and that's really the best way to get the full sense of scope and scale that Marshall captured on film.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:59 pm

Neil Marshall
With his latest film, Centurion, out on DVD and Blu-ray this week, the British filmmaker discusses his childhood love of horror and why he's trying his hand at 3D.
Interview by Adam Woodward

Few writer-directors have flown the flag for British horror in the past decade as emphatically as Neil Marshall. Since his grizzly feature debut Dog Soldiers, the Newcastle-born filmmaker has continued to hone his passion for horror and sci-fi cinema with the likes of Doomsday and his widely acclaimed second film The Decent. Marshall broke from horror earlier this year for his fourth film in eight years, Centurion. LWLies caught up with Marshall recently to talk about how he handled switching from splatter-fest horror to Swords and Sandals adventure cinema.

LWLies: You tend to avoid saturating your films with political connotations or cultural reference. How much is that deliberate on your part?

Marshall: I always set out to make something fun, something audiences can enjoy and be entertained by. The same is true with Centurion; it’s an adventure film, first and foremost. I mean, I’m sure there are political comparisons that can be drawn from this film, there are certainly parts of Centurion that reflect what’s going on today, but that is never intentional on my part. People just tend to read into things.

But you were conscious of using certain imagery?

Yes, of course, but only because I didn’t want to strongly infer anything. As I say, the analogy will always be there if you go looking for it.

It’s interesting that in the history of British civilisation the Picts are essentially the ancestors of modern Britons, yet you position the Romans as the heroes of this story. Why is that?

You have to remember these heroes are 15 or 16 individuals, I’m not suggestin that the whole race of Romans were heroes.

Sure, and the Roman generals are shown in a less flattering light, but the Picts are simply savages here…

They are, yes, and that’s because they were like that. It was important to humanise them just enough, but these guys were primarily grotesque beings, and they lend themselves to the villain role well in that respect.

There’s this sense throughout the film that everyone is constantly on the edge of kicking off and beating the s$#! out of each other, was that a fun character element to work with?

Definitely, I mean, it was a time of extremes and there were no half measures. It was a brutal time. Just look at Hadrian’s Wall; you’ve got this 30ft stone wall the Romans made to keep something out. How f#%@#&! scary must they have been for them to reinforce border so emphatically?

Was it a tough environment to film in?

There were hard times up there, we were pretty much in the heart of this wilderness, but it was important for us to be walking on the same stones and through the same woods as the Picts and the Romans did all those centuries ago.

Aside from the visual authnticity there’s a lot of contemporary stuff going on in Centurion, a lot of modern dialogue, for example…

Well, I wanted it to be watchable and I don’t think I’d have been able to get that using 2000 year old dialogue. My thinking was that regardless of how long ago it was, I bet they all swore like troopers, so yeah, I didn’t want the dialogue to be ultra-authentic and archaic.

There’s been a mini resurgence of Swords and Sandals-style epics in cinemas this year. But Centurion has a very different tone to the likes of Robin Hood and Clash of the Titans. How important was it for you to achieve that balance?

Oh, hugely important. I mean, it’s a serious film ,but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s fun and frivolity and a sense of humour which I think is lacking in a lot of films of this style. Going back to dialogue, it was all about interpreting how they would have spoken to each other, as opposed to giving them a voice that isn’t relevant to today’s audience.

Most of the cast have either worked with you or with each other at some point, did that help in terms of establishing on-set chemistry?

Yeah, there was great camaraderie with all the guys, it was a very easy working environment. I think without those existing relationships we would have ended up with a very different, more serious, film. Dominic (West) and Michael (Fassbender) were great mates from their time on 300, of course there was a bit of oneupmanship but it made for a pretty relaxed shoot.

Centurion is something of a departure for you in that it’s not a straight up horror film. Yet it still received an 18 certificate. Was that your aim?

I was thrilled we got an 18 certificate. It’s not a family film at all, I wanted a certain audience to appreciate it. Obviously you can get away with a lot more in an 15 these days, so it’s harder to get an 18 in many ways. Often you have to have some sort of gratuity or sexual violence, but I’m glad we achieved getting the certificate we wanted without resorting to that.

Where does your passion for horror come from?

I was very much brought up around the age of the video nasty. Stuff like I Spit on Your Grave and Zombie Flesh Eaters were a big draw for me as a kid. I must have seen Evil Dead 10 times by the time is was 13.

There have been several recent remakes of horror films from that period; Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, etc. Could you see yourself having a go at a similar remake if you were approached?

It depends what it was, but I’m not against remakes per se. Some of my favourite films are remakes, like The Fly. But I don’t know, it’s difficult to say because I haven’t been approached.

Is there anything you would like to remake?

There’s a great film from 1977 called The Car, it’s kind of like Jaws with a car, I’d love to have a crack at that. That’d be fun.

And what’s next for you, is there anything your developing right now?

Hopefully the next project’s going to be something Sam Raimi is producing called Burst, which is going to be a 3D movie.

What are your thoughts on 3D?

It’ a great tool if it’s used well, but everyone’s in so much of a rush to try and get something out in 3D, when really not everything suits the format. I’m looking forward to it though, because I know I can bring something new to it and it’s an exciting time to be involved with something that’s still very much in an experimental stage. We’re going to be filming in 3D as, so you’ll be able to see the difference straight away. Really, if you’re going to being working with 3D, you have to shoot in it. Otherwise you’ll end up with a mess and not a movie.

Centurion is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:38 pm

Exclusive: Neil Marshall Talks Centurion; Bloody New Images!

* Centurion
* Dominic West
* Michael Fassbender
* Neil Marshall

Though not necessarily a horror film, Descent director Neil Marshall’s latest flick Centurion is certainly set to showcase the auteur’s persistent lust for high-octane, combative carnage.

Centurion tells the muscular tale of the Romans’ tussle with the Picts – the wild and weird Celtic inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands. Having last reported on the film here, Dread Central just had the good fortune of catching up with Mr. Marshall himself to chat about the inspiration behind the film and flooding blood within it.

The tragic tale of the Roman Ninth Legion is what initially goosed Marshall to create the film. “I heard about the legend of the Ninth Legion about 10 years ago. A friend of mine told me over a few drinks in a bar one night. He said he had read about this myth, about this entire Roman legion that marched into Scotland and disappeared without a trace. And I was like, ‘Okay, that’s fantastic, I need to find out what that story is and there might be a movie in it somewhere.’”

Due to a lack of recorded history of the Picts, Marshall had a vast playground of creative license when it came to the Picts’ intimidating look and battle techniques. Though there will be tattoos and elaborate costumes, however, the director strived to never get carried too far away. “I didn’t want to get too outrageous with it, but we had to fill in a lot of blanks and be as practical about it as possible. I’m sure it would’ve been fun to have Olga running around in some kind of a fur bikini like Raquel Welch, ya know? But it’s Scotland in the wintertime so there’s practicalities involved with ‘Were the Picts really that stupid that they would do that?’ The Romans recorded that the Picts would come running into battle completely naked. And maybe they did do that, and maybe they did that in the summertime. For me the motivation was just to make a great historical action movie, which is the kind of movie that I love to watch. The films that I make are the films I really want to go see, but I obviously hope that other people want to go see them, too (laughs).”

A history buff much like his father, Marshall continued to list influences, both from history books and film. “The storyline was loosely based on the story of the Genifax, which is from ancient Greece. This General Genifax took an army of Greek mercenaries to fight in Persia, and when they got there they were betrayed and turned upon by the Persians. They ended up having to fight their way back home. There’s a little bit of that, a little bit of western mythology in it as well. Northern Britain – the frontier of [north] Britain – was the [equivalent of] the wild west from the Roman point of view. So I applied a little western visual sensibility to this as well, [like] Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but mainly the cavalry movies of John Ford. Ya know, Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. They’re similar because of I guess the very un-PC point of view that we’re telling this story from an invaders’ point of view just like John Ford did back then. But that was the aesthetic I was going for – the idea that the landscape was massively important to those movies as well. “

Marshall has gone on record as acknowledging that Centurion isn’t simply a good vs. evil story and that (almost) every character is justified in what they are doing. I mention The Descent to Marshall, as I recognized a similarity in his approach to two factions doing battle (those creatures were simply protecting their turf, and I did find myself feeling bad for a few of the Crawlers).

“It’s funny you should mention The Descent because I remember at the time I jokingly said that ‘this is actually a film about these perfectly happy Crawlers living in this environment in which these six psychotic women come in and start massacring them.’ [For Centurion], my interest was [the] gray area of war – that there are heroes and villains on both sides. I’m not siding with the imperialists, but I am siding with the individuals. I think that Etain (a Pict who was previously and severely victimized by Romans) is utterly justified in her actions so she wants to slaughter the Romans. That’s fine – what she’s been through in her life, that’s fine. But she’s just kind of traditionally placed in the role of the villain from the Romans’ point of view. But I’m not interested in a villain that has no motivation because that doesn’t make them very scary. From our heroes’ point of view, [Etain] is absolutely the Devil incarnate. She’s out to kill them and nothing will stop her. And our heroes are basically just the same as our soldiers out there on the frontlines at the moment, which is [to say] regardless of whether or not you support the cause or support the army being there, I for one absolutely support the idea of the boys coming home. And that’s why we root for [the film’s] heroes, because they just want to get home. The cause is lost to them.”

Having made films featuring gruesome battles between humans and non-humans, Marshall approached the violence necessary to telling Centurion’s story with sincerity. “I approached it honestly. [I wanted] this to be an honest depiction of what actually happens when a bunch of guys start killing each other with swords and axes and spears. It’s not pretty – it never could be. It’s very deceitful to try and depict it as anything other than bloody and horrible. That’s what warfare is, and this particular kind of war was savage – really savage. So my attitude going into it was I was never gonna hold back on that. I wanted the battle sequences to be as authentic as possible. I definitely brought my horror movie sensibility to that aspect of it so there was no shortage of blood and guts around on set. And it’s fun to do – that’s absolutely a horror movie sensibility of trying to come up with new and creative and violent ways to kill somebody.”

Yet, even with all of the gore onscreen, Marshall’s good fortune with the MPAA continued – they didn’t lay a finger on the film. “No, not at all. I’ve been really lucky with that – I’ve never had any issues with them on any of my films. That seems to do with the type of violence – there’s no sexual violence so I don’t think it’s too offensive unless you’re particularly squeamish.”

Exclusive: Neil Marshall Talks Centurion; Bloody New Images! (click for larger image)

Despite the wardrobes and locations, the greatest challenge for Marshall was “trying to do it on hardly any money. Trying to create an ancient world with next to nothing in the budget was tough.” The intense effort involved in creating such an epic period piece didn’t intimidate Marshall, though, who would still “love to do something else in a historical setting – I’d love to do like a Medieval movie.”

Hypothetical projects aside, Marshall is currently set to produce wife and Centurion actress Axelle Carolyn’s directorial debut, Ghosts of Slaughterford, which is currently set to film in November. As far Marshall stepping behind the camera again to shower us with the red stuff, splatter fans have Burst 3D to look forward to. “I’m also attached to do Burst 3D with Sam Raimi producing, which is going to be a complete 3D gorefest. I want to get on with it now – I’m just really, really excited to work with Sam, and it’s a great, great concept and I can’t wait to put it on the screen in glorious 3D.”

Centurion premiered on VOD, XBOX and on July 30th and opens in theaters August 27th, 2010. More soon!

Exclusive: Neil Marshall Talks Centurion; Bloody New Images!

- Chris Haberman

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:18 pm

Neil Marshall takes ax to legend in 'Centurion'

Michael Ordoña, Special to The Chronicle

Friday, August 20, 2010

Magnet Releasing

Michael Fassbender plays Quintus Dias, the sole survivor of a Pictish raid on a Roman frontier fort who struggles to keep the Roman Ninth Legion alive behind enemy lines, in Neil Marshall's "Centurion."

Michael Fassbender plays Quintus Dias, the sole survivor ...Neil Marshall admits he took liberties in "Centurion," in... View Larger Images

Neil Marshall is lying to you. But he's smiling. With "Centurion," starring Michael Fassbender, the British writer-director ("The Descent") attacks the legend of the vanished Roman Ninth Legion with a bloody ax. In his film, the fabled fighting force is destroyed in what will become Scotland and its survivors are relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty Picts. Marshall cheerily acknowledges he has played fast and loose with history as he and his Belgian writer-actress-wife, Axelle Carolyn (who plays a Pictish warrior), discuss the slash-and-stab-fest.

Q: How did you learn of the Ninth Legion?

NM: I grew up in Newcastle in the northeast of England, which is one end of Hadrian's wall. As such, Roman history was just part of my growing up; it's a part of British culture. A mate of mine told me about the myth 10 or 15 years ago, and I was hooked: "The Ninth Legion marched into the mists of Caledonia and vanished without a trace." Historians have since kind of disproved the whole thing and made it very boring. But it's a great legend - "There's got to be an interesting story to make out of that." Obviously, I knew the story I was telling was pure fiction. It allowed me to have more fun with it.

Q: I'd imagine one reason the myth has persisted is there's some national pride attached?

NM: Definitely. Rome conquered pretty much every place it chose to conquer ...

AC: They conquered England, though.

NM: Yes, but back then there wasn't really an England; it was Britannia and Caledonia and whatever, so I'm equally proud they weren't able to get through to Scotland. (chuckles)

Q: What in your research was most useful?

NM: An awful lot of it was quite useless. (laughs) There's very little written about the Picts. What I did find useful was about their art, the tattoos, their blue war paint, they put lime in their hair; all this stuff that gave them a look ... Their culture, being a matriarchal society, which was great because it played along with the fact that I have these strong women as warriors. But the more I researched about the Ninth Legion itself, the less useful it was because it dispelled everything I wanted to tell. (chuckles)

AC: Everything we know is mostly from what the Romans said about them. Which doesn't help that much because if you get your ass kicked by someone, you're obviously not going to say, "Well, they're just a bunch of little girls." You make it up to look more freaky than it is. So there's only so much you can actually rely on. What I thought was the most interesting part was that Neil always said it was like a Western. So we would be like the Native Americans trying to defend ourselves against the invader.

Q: The film certainly doesn't make the Romans out as heroes.

NM: Absolutely. I depicted that both sides were capable of savage brutality and heroism. We're with the Romans - the film isn't supposed to support their cause, but it supports the individuals and their struggles.

AC: It never says, "Hey, we really hope those Romans are gonna get that land." It says, "We hope those guys are going to make it back home safe."

NM: If anything, I think it is anti-imperial because the Romans themselves are disillusioned by their own behavior and their empire-building.

AC: "Das Boot" is a brilliant film; it gets you to root for Nazis! But it's not for the Nazis; it's for those guys who are in that situation. It's looking beyond the uniform into the individuals. {sbox}

Centurion (R) opens Friday at Bay Area theaters.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:19 pm

Creature Featurer
Horror filmmaker Neil Marshall tackles a new kind of beast with 'Centurion.'
By Jenelle Riley

August 20, 2010

A Neil Marshall film generally means a bloody good time. The English filmmaker spilled a lot of the red stuff with his feature debut, "Dog Soldiers," about a military crew (led by a young, pre–"Grey's Anatomy" Kevin McKidd) battling werewolves in the wilderness. Then came Marshall's tense, claustrophobic thriller "The Descent," which made audiences squirm by trapping a group of women inside a cave—and then unleashing deadly creatures upon them. "The Descent" brought Marshall two distinct honors. First, he was awarded the British Independent Film Award for best director of a British independent film. He was also identified as a member of the "Splat Pack"—a collection of filmmakers (including Rob Zombie and Eli Roth) known for outlandish gore and violence in their movies.

Marshall followed the critical and commercial success of "The Descent" with the post-apocalyptic thriller "Doomsday," in which murderous cannibals wreaked havoc in futuristic Scotland. But his latest film steps even further away from the horror genre. Set in 117 A.D., "Centurion" explores the legend of the Ninth Legion—more than 4,000 soldiers who disappeared when they marched into Scotland. In Marshall's telling, the soldiers are attacked by a savage band of warriors called the Picts. A few survivors, led by Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender of "Inglourious Basterds") struggle to reach safety while pursued by a mute and vengeful Pict huntress ("Quantum of Solace" Bond girl Olga Kurylenko). Marshall recently chatted with Back Stage about his previous movies, getting respect for the horror genre, and casting calls.

Back Stage: I know that "Doomsday" wasn't technically a horror film, but I feel like this is your first time making a movie without creatures—unless you consider the Picts creatures.

Neil Marshall: Well, the Picts are beastly.

Back Stage: And yet they're actually kind of sympathetic.

Marshall: Absolutely, that was very much a point, to make them sympathetic. It would have been easy to go the other way and tell the story from their point of view. That's the "Braveheart" story, the heroic rebels kind of thing. This was more tricky, by playing it from the invader's point of view.

Back Stage: Were you consciously trying to get away from making a film with creatures? Was that even a consideration, or were you just drawn to the story?

Marshall: I was just drawn to the story. I still love doing creature features and things like that, but this was just a great story that had its own horrific elements to it but was not a horror movie. I think it's actually a Victorian-based legend, the myth of the Ninth Legion marching into Scotland and vanishing without a trace. I was just instantly hooked as an idea for a movie.

Back Stage: What did you initially think happened to them?

Marshall: When I first heard about it, I think I was just coming off the back of doing "Dog Soldiers" and "Descent" and still had a supernatural fixation going on, so I was thinking, "Were they gobbled up by the Loch Ness Monster or something like that?" It's something inherent—when they say they marched into the mist and they vanished, you immediately think supernatural. But the more I researched it, the more I looked into it and read about the Picts and them fighting for survival, I thought I wanted to make it more of a human story.

Back Stage: So there was an instinct early on to put a creature in it?

Marshall: Yeah, early on; I think at one point I even considered it as like a sequel to "Dog Soldiers" by having Romans versus werewolves.

Back Stage: Horror isn't always considered a critically acclaimed genre, but you've done pretty well.

Marshall: I've been very lucky.

Back Stage: Do you have any theories as to why that is?

Marshall: I concentrate on trying to do character-based horror. I also have the patience to do a slow build-up, where I think a lot of horror films tend to want to start off level 10, and then they leave themselves nowhere to go. With "Descent," we really made a point of starting off at level one or two and then building, building, building until the last half hour was just fully intense, and I think that left the audience feeling better about that movie.

Back Stage: Lots of people say they love that film and would have enjoyed it even without the creatures. They mean it as a compliment.

Marshall: Yeah, a lot of people say that, but I also think that if it had just been a cave-in movie, it would've only worked to a certain extent. It was like, "I get where you're coming from, but that's not the movie I wanted to make." I wanted to make it as really, really bad as it could be as a cave-in movie and then make it worse.

Back Stage: You have a great eye for talent, starting with Kevin McKidd in "Dog Soldiers." How did you find him?

Marshall: Well, I knew him from "Trainspotting," but had I just seen "Trainspotting," I never would've cast him, because he just seemed, from that film, so wrong. But a casting director persuaded me to meet him. He was very, very different in person, when he first walked in, with his hair kind of cut short and he'd filled out a bit and looked so much more the part, and he's got that great scar between his eyes, which adds to the character. But he's a phenomenal actor. He's so natural with it. So I was very, very lucky getting him and the rest of the cast of "Dog Soldiers." It was that mix of having people like Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham, who were experienced, and people who'd never been in front of a camera before but were really, really hungry, and that showed, and everybody just upped their game and had a great time making it.

Back Stage: Do you ever get resistance to your casting? Does working on a lower budget give you more say?

Marshall: I've definitely experienced resistance to casting.

Back Stage: Do you always win?

Marshall: No, not at all. I think if you're working on micro-budgets, then maybe you get to cast who you want, but then you haven't got to pay them. "Descent" was actually the easiest thing to cast because they were all unknowns, so that made the big difference in that one, and there was never any pressure to put bigger names in there. But on other projects, I've had interesting "debates" about casting, sure.

Back Stage: How did you decide on Michael Fassbender for "Centurion"? Was there concern that he could carry a lead role?

Marshall: I had auditioned him for "Doomsday," so I knew of him, and I'd seen him in another film called "Eden Lake." I knew he was an actor of talent, and obviously it was kind of taking a chance on putting him in the lead, but I didn't think it was much of a gamble, to be honest. "Hunger" had come out, and people had seen that, and I think everybody rated him already as being something a little bit special. So the word was good. It's an interesting thing when suddenly word gets out about somebody and then all the casting directors start putting forward that name for meetings or for auditions or whatever; then they suddenly get their breaks.

Back Stage: What's your style when you're on set? Do you like input from actors? Do you enjoy improvisation?

Marshall: I don't do much rehearsal, and I don't do many takes. I work fast, but if actors want to have their input, I want them to talk to me and throw in ideas. I'm not the kind of director that says, "Stick to the lines; don't deviate." That's not how I work. One of my favorite parts of the process is that collaboration with the actors of exchanging ideas and thoughts and throwing things around and trying new stuff. You never know what's going to happen; that's the excitement of it. They could come up with something completely new that you never considered before. But my job is also to be able to say no to them if it's a bad idea, so I have to censor. And that's when it becomes interesting.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:31 am

Interview With ‘Centurion’ Director Neil Marshall & Axelle Carolyn
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We sat down with writer/director Neil Marshall and discussed Centurion, The Descent, Burst 3D and bloody Shakespeare.

Neil Marshall Axelle Carolyn Interview

Although it is already available On Demand, Centurion doesn’t hit theaters until this weekend. Screen Rant sat down with writer/director Neil Marshall and his wife/actress Axelle Carolyn as they prepare for the release of Centurion.

The two are an engaging couple with plenty to talk about and in our chat we discussed a little of everything – Centurion, The Descent, Burst 3D and even the possibility of a Neil Marshall adaptation of Shakespeare.

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I was anxious to talk about the film with Marshall after thoroughly enjoying it in an earlier screening. Our own Niall Browne gave Centurion a 3 out of 5, calling it “a tightly-paced sword and sandal action film with plenty of grit and violence.” He couldn’t be more precise with a description as there were literally heads rolling and guts spewing from start to finish.

Marshall has a few other projects lined up already. One such is a collaboration with Sam Raimi on the intriguing Burst 3D. Even in the interview, Marshall was secretive about the film but it only takes a glance at the description to see his stamp all over it. Burst 3D is a film about “a group of people pinned in a winter lodge who suddenly begin to spontaneously combust.”

We also talked about something I’ve been aching to see on the big screen – Neil Marshall’s take on Shakespeare. If anybody has the ability to combine history and gore, it is Marshall. His take would definitely give us a realistic look at the grittiness of that era. Check out what Marshall has to say in the interview about the possibility.
Neil Marshall Shakespeare

Neil Marshall's Romeo & Juliet?

Centurion really got in touch with the gory side of that era by not pulling any punches. The last time we really saw that was Braveheart, which was a while ago. You get in the woods and really cut some heads off and see where they roll.

Neil Marshall: I suppose that’s the advantage of bringing the horror sensibility to it. It’s not like I’ve held back in any of my films as far as the blood and guts are concerned. From a filmmaker’s point of view, it’s just way too much fun doing that kind of stuff. I have a fantastic makeup effects supervisor, Paul Hyett, who just has these insane ideas and he’s so enthusiastic about it that I feel cruel to not let him to all this stuff. It’s great. It’s playtime.

I couldn’t help but notice little bits and pieces of The Descent in Centurion. As a filmmaker, you bring parts of your work to the next project. I felt like this was, at times, a male version of The Descent. Bring the characters out of the cave and beasts are still hunting them down – they are just human instead of cave-dwelling monstrosities. Is that just the nature of how you work or did you purposely bring facets in from The Descent.

NM: It wasn’t conscious, but I can see it being like The Descent turned inside out. It was all about exposure and exteriors. It’s maybe one of the seven basic narratives that people talk about, but it is a story that I like to tell. I like the dynamic. I like the relentless enemy.

Would you ever go after Shakespeare? Bring us the tragedy with the blood and guts. With Centurion you found a way to kill off characters one at a time and give them each a good death. That’s something that isn’t too far removed from what Shakespeare does, to an extent. Does that interest you?

NM: I definitely like a bit of tragedy. I think I would quite enjoy doing something like Shakespeare, actually. Try to bring some life to it. Growing up in school I hated Shakespeare and it wasn’t until later that I got into the [Royal Shakespeare Company] quite a lot and really got into it that way. It seemed like seeing Macbeth really brought a whole lot of life to it as well. So yeah, a lot of Shakespeare stuff is violent and bloody and I don’t think the kind of people who traditionally make Shakespeare movies are interested in that and don’t touch upon that. I could have a lot of fun with that.

Exploding Head Scanners Neil Marshall Burst 3D

You read the tagline for Burst 3D and it’s just three words essentially: people spontaneously combust. You can even see your stamp already with that one-death-at-a-time tension of everybody dying and nobody knows what is going on.

NM: What’s interesting is everybody’s interested in it and nobody knows anything because I’m not allowed to tell. It’s a combination of doing– It’s people exploding. It’s a chance to work in 3D, which I’m curious about. It’s a chance to work with Sam Raimi. And it’s a chance to do another horror film.

Axelle Carolyn: You should mention it’s a completely different script form the one people have seen.

NM: Yes, there was a script circulating. We kind of deconstructed it and took the best bits of it and developed a new script out of that. But it is still all about people exploding. I’m not writing this one – Brian Nelson who wrote Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night is writing it. With a mixture of my thoughts and his thoughts I’m fairly certain we are going to come up with something interesting.

There is a new influx of superhero films and these are characters that have already been created and filmmakers are taking them and putting them into a two-hour story. Any interest in that? Do you read comics? Are you interested in that genre?

NM: There’s some amazing subject matter in comics. I am a lot less interested in superheroes, mainly because I can’t identify with superheroes. I don’t have superpowers, so I can’t identify with them. It is a specific genre and I think some people do it brilliantly, but certain superheroes like Batman or Iron Man or whatever is about people that have issues or technical skills, but don’t in themselves have superpowers. I think superpowers kind of bore me a bit.

AC: I keep trying to get him to read French and Belgian comic books. That seems like something people would start to get interested in with Tintin and The Smurfs and there are so many that I grew up with that are so brilliant. They have some dark, but not necessarily bloody comics. There is one with a Viking. It is more adventure.

NM: The one thing that ties all my movies together is action. I have plenty of projects coming up that I don’t perceive as being ultra-violent, but are definitely action. The film that made me want t make movies in the first place, that inspired everything was Raiders of the Lost Ark and I haven’t made anything like that, but I definitely dream of something like that. I have a couple of projects, one in specific, that is kind of like my Raiders. I want 11-year-old boys to go see it and have a good time with it, kind of like I did with Raiders.

Predators image

Are there any movies right now that you watched and said, “If I had directed that I would have done it this way and it would have been damn good.”? You were pretty close with Predators and would you have tackled it differently?

NM: I was just going to say, Predators. I don’t want to knock it too much because I was closely involved with it. The thing that amazed me most of all is that was a $40 million movie. We did Centurion for 7 million pounds, which is something like $12 million. Doomsday was $28 million and it looks five times as much as Predators. That’s the only thing that bugs me is that it’s such a small movie for so much money. But I had a bunch of ideas for that and sadly it never came off. I was really impressed by Inception. I would liked to have done Clash of the Titans. Monsters and period movie? That sounds like great fun.

In a roundtable session another writer asked Marshall and Carolyn about working with the cast of Centurion:

NM: It was fantastic. It’s such an eclectic bunch of actors that we got. What they bring to the table was just phenomenal. I had tried to get Dominic [West] for Doomsday, but wasn’t able to get him in that. But it was great to finally have a chance to work with him. It was clear Michael was on some kind of ascendance, but hadn’t really seen any of it at the time. We knew he had done Inglourious Basterds. I hadn’t seen Hunger. I saw him in Eden Lake. He fit into that character of Quintus perfectly. Dominic is such a big presence – he’s a big guy anyway – he just seemed like a natural fit as well. Throw Olga [Kurylenko] into that mix and Axelle into that mix and working with Liam Cunningham again who is just an absolute legend.

AC: It was great working with Olga and we were in every scene together pretty much. She is mostly known for being in James Bond and mostly being the pretty girl in films, but she is so much more than that. I was amazed by here. Between Quantum of Solace and Hitman that was all I really knew at the time. Then I saw her French films where she was really good. It is a tough thing to do – there is no dialogue so you think it is just showing up – but there is a lot to it, trying to create a personality by just behaving a certain way. I think she is pleased with it now. For a while she was a little scared of what it would look like and that people would hate her.

It’s nice to see a director who is talented focus his skills on a specific genre. But his ability far exceeds his output. As Marshall continues to expand his palette we can expect to see some unique projects. If Burst 3D is any indication, even a genre director like Marshall can still be unpredictable.

Centurion slices into theaters August 27th, 2010.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:06 pm

SFBG › Pixel Vision ›
The "Roman Wild West": chatting with "Centurion" director Neil Marshall
08.24.10 - 5:11 pm | Cheryl Eddy |

Genre junkies, rejoice! Neil Marshall — 2002 werewolf thriller Dog Soldiers, 2005 cave-monster chiller The Descent, and 2008 post-apocalyptic actioner Doomsday — has a brand-new film: Centurion. The latest from the man some call "the new John Carpenter" is getting a release with actual fanfare (however humble in comparision to, say, The Expendables or whatever), though you'd best hustle to the theater if you care to see Centurion, about a Roman soldier doing battle with tribal Picts in what's now Scotland, on the big screen. (It's also now available On Demand, but c'mon: the big screen is always better.) Evident in Marshall's films is the fact that he himself is a movie fan, which makes him all the more pleasurable to talk to. [Spoiler warning: there are some. Just so you know.]

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Centurion takes a documented event, the building of Hadrian's Wall, and creatively fills in some of the history surrounding it. Why did you write the story this way?

Neil Marshall: It was kind of a case of compacting a couple of dates, which weren't that far apart anyway. The myth of the Ninth Legion is based around 117 AD, which is when the film is set. That was when the entire Ninth Legion marched into Scotland and supposedly vanished without a trace. Historians have since been spoilsports and disproved that, and proved that they were attacked but they didn't get massacred, they were dispersed, and such like. But then, in 122 AD, Hadrian's Wall started being built. And I just thought, "Well, couldn't I tie the two in together somehow, that logically, what happened to the Ninth Legion could have been part of the reason for Hadrian to build the wall in the first place?" So, yeah, it was a question of kind of condensing that slightly.

In terms of the Ninth Legion legend, I kind of went with that old adage: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Because it's far more interesting! But the story was kind of book ended: yes, my Ninth Legion goes into Scotland, and at the end of it, it becomes a cover-up by the Romans. Which is kind of what happened in truth, that they disbanded the legion to avoid the embarrassment of having lost so many people to the Picts. So I was playing around to a degree, and I know that to a large extent the story is a fiction, a hypothesis of what might have happened to them based on the legend, but I tried to make that within the most authentic world I could create.

SFBG: The historical setting is new for you. Had you been wanting to do a period film?

NM: I'd been itching to do a historical movie. I love those kind of movies. I love watching those kind of movies. What guy wouldn't want to make a movie about Romans and Picts, and ancient history, and battles, and stuff like that? It's great fun! I'd grown up with all that history as well. In Newcastle, it's one end of Hadrian's Wall. So I was surrounded by Roman history — ruins of forts, Roman roads, and all sorts of stuff. You can't avoid it if you grow up in that part of the world. We used to go on school trips to these places, and my dad's a big history buff, and all that kind of stuff. I think it was kind of in my blood that I would want to make a movie about this stuff, one day or another.

SFBG: Unlike your previous films, Centurion doesn't have a supernatural element. Did you decide that ahead of time, on purpose?

NM: It was very tempting. When I first came up with the story, I'd just made Dog Soldiers. And when I heard about the entire legion vanishing without a trace, initially I went down a supernatural path. I was thinking, was it gonna be some monsters? An alien abduction? Were they eaten by the Loch Ness Monster or something? And then I quickly thought, "I don't want to immediately repeat myself. What might have actually happened to them? Who are these Picts?" I mean, these Picts sound pretty scary, because the Romans built this 60-mile wall to keep them out. So I figured maybe I didn't need to go down a supernatural path to find a terrifying opponent or enemy. And that's when I kind of based it more in reality, I guess.

SFBG: Something else that's new is Centurion's romantic subplot. It softens the tone of the film somewhat. Why did you decide to include that?

NM: Yes, it's new for me. Um, I don't know. It just felt right. I thought, maybe it's time I do have a bit of a romance in one of my films. It's a long way from suddenly going down the route of turning to romantic comedies, but a little bit of a love story going on seemed like, I don't know, a step for me. Getting older, maybe maturing as a writer. I didn't really think about it that much. It just naturally fell into place.

The other thing is that, in the original draft of the script, there was more to [Imogen Poots'] character [Arianne] than just being a love interest. In the original ending of the film, it's revealed that she's half-sister to [Olga Kurylenko's character] Etain, and it was Etain who in fact gave her the cut on the face, and there's this really kind of issue between the two of them. Originally, Etain survived until the end of the film, when it was Arianne who killed her and not Quintus. When I was writing the film, it seemed like less of just a love story and more of an integral part of the plot.

SFBG: Why did you change it?

NM: It was under producer pressure. I don't know why they wanted to change it, but they kind of pressured me into changing it. Those are the perils. Even in a low-budget film like this, the idea that I have absolute control is a myth. [Laughs.]

SFBG: Even with a low budget, it seems like you got a good cast together.

NM: We were incredibly lucky with timing. When we cast Michael [Fassbender, who plays Quintus], I hadn't seen Hunger (2008), and Inglourious Basterds (2009) hadn't been released yet. But we knew that he'd done this stuff. I'd actually auditioned both him and Dominic [West, who plays Virilus] for Doomsday. Due to scheduling difficulties I wasn't able to get either of them in that movie but I still wanted to work with them. So when the opportunities came to have them in this movie, I just jumped at the chance. So that just fell into place perfectly. The rest of was just getting the best caliber of actors that we could in those roles. We were very lucky. Somebody like David Morrissey — I never figured he would take what is essentially a supporting role, but he was just really itching to do an action movie, and, you know, play a Roman soldier and hack people to bits with swords. So, he jumped at the chance. Same with everybody else, really.

SFBG: Were you a fan of [Dominic West's TV show] The Wire?

NM: Oh yeah. I'm a huge fan of Dominic. Amazing work in The Wire. Really phenomenal stuff. So phenomenal, I think, that many people forget that he's an English guy. [Laughs] He's such a larger-than-life presence as well, and it was perfect for the role of Virilus.

SFBG: When I talked to you about The Descent, we discussed how the movie was incredibly physical though it was shot mostly on sets. With Centurion, it seems like you actually went out and shot it in the elements. Did that present any particular challenges?

NM: The first day of filming, we were 3,000 feet up a mountain in a blizzard, and it was minus 18 degrees. That set the standard for the rest of the shoot. I deliberately went out to get the most miserable, hard conditions that we could find. My ethos in this film was to kind of do the anti-300. It was never gonna be on a soundstage. It was never gonna be green-screen, and all kind of in slo-mo. This was gonna be in the rain, in the mud, in the snow, and it was gonna be tough, very very tough for everyone involved. And everybody embraced that. The crew, the cast. I warned everybody beforehand: "You know, this isn't going to be easy. This is gonna be tough." And everybody signed up for it, and nobody ever complained because they were just 100 percent for it.

SFBG: You said that there were four films that influenced you when making The Descent: Deliverance (1972), The Shining (1980), Alien (1979), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Did you have any touchstones like that when making Centurion? Braveheart (1995) or Gladiator (2000) ...

NM: Actually, I tried to put Braveheart and Gladiator to the back of my mind as much as possible. With this one, it was like The Warriors (1979), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Fort Apache (1948), Last of the Mohicans (1992). Stuff like that. I actually saw a lot of Westerns, and not many Roman movies at all. Chase movies, things like Figures in a Landscape (1970) which is a kind of obscure movie about people running across mountaintops.

SFBG: What elements of the Western do you think you brought to Centurion?

NM: I see this as a Western in two ways. Historically, it's a Western, because this frontier, ancient Britain, was the equivalent of the Roman's Wild West. It was their furthest Western frontier. It was lawless, it was violent. They were battling the natives. So it was their Wild West. As a film, I consider it to be akin to John Ford's cavalry movies. The Romans are the cavalry, the Picts are the Comanches, and the landscape is absolutely integral to everything. I kind of had that in the back of my mind all the time. And also from the point of view that, if Ford was trying to make those movies today, they'd be seen as incredibly un-PC, because you're telling them from the point of view of the invading army. Which is exactly what I'm doing here, telling it from the Roman point of view. I was never saying the Roman point of view was right. I was just saying, that's what it was.

SFBG: The main Roman character has a change of heart from beginning to end.

NM: Absolutely. It's primarily about the individuals. I'm not asking the audience to sympathize with the Romans. I am asking the audience to sympathize with Quintus and his band of brothers as it were, because they kind of get left in the lurch and are disillusioned by the whole system. They basically just want to get home.

SFBG: There's also a more contemporary subtext within the film, since the invading-army story mirrors the current Iraq war in some ways. Did you set out to make that parallel?

NM: I didn't write it with that in mind, but it became really obvious when I was writing it that there is a subtext there. Things are happening today that were happening 2,000 years ago. This is about a superpower marching into a country and being held back by a guerrilla fighting style. The comparisons are screamingly obvious. But, once I recognized that fact, I made a conscious decision not to turn it into a political allegory, to ram it down the audience's throat, or make that kind of movie. It had to be seen first and foremost as a historical action-adventure movie. And if people read that into it, if people see that, that's fantastic. It's certainly there. But it shouldn't distract from the story.

SFBG: What's next for you?

NM: I'm producing a film called The Ghost of Slaughterford, that's being directed by my wife, Axelle Carolyn [who plays a supporting role in Centurion]. For myself, I'm attached to a project that Sam Raimi's producing, called Burst. It's gonna be a horror movie, it's in 3D, and it's all about people exploding.

SFBG: Ah, I was going to ask you what you thought of the 3D trend. Obviously you're in favor!

NM: I'm gonna give it a go. I'm dubious about the 3D trend. I'm worried that it's going to be applied to anything and everything, when it should be very specialized. But it's a great tool, and I want to have a go at seeing what I can do with it.

Centurion opens Fri/27 in Bay Area theaters.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:40 pm

Director Neil Marshall delivers bold and brutal action in 'Centurion'
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By: Lou Gaul
Burlington County Times

With “Centurion,” Neil Marshall creates a memorably brutal work that unfolds in frigid outdoor temperatures and features battles filled with shattered bones, crushed flesh and decapitated heads.

How did the 40-year-old British director know how far to push the violence?

“In my case, I don’t see any limit whatsoever,” Marshall said at his Philadelphia hotel during a publicity stop for “Centurion,” opening Aug. 27. “I push it as far as possible.

“In the film, I wanted to be honest about that (second century) warfare. In those times, warfare was brutal, it was bloody, it was messy.

“I had the opportunity to show what it was like and not hold back.”

“Centurion,” budgeted at $25 million and starring Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”), Olga Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”) and Dominic West (HBO’s “The Wire”), revolves around the war between Roman soldiers and lethal tribesmen during the Roman attack on Britain. The classically trained Roman forces prove no match for the guerrilla tactics of their resourceful enemy. The few foreign soldiers who survive a major battle must run for their lives.

Most of Marshall’s exciting and stylish films follow a similar path of having a small group being pursued by superior forces. In “Dog Soldiers” (2002), bloodthirsty werewolves attack some soldiers; in “The Descent” (2005), some female friends are being pursued by underground creatures; and in “Doomsday” (2008), which echoes elements of “Escape From New York,” a woman warrior leads a group trapped in an intensely violent landscape.
For those who like to look beneath the surface while watching a film, “Centurion” offers a timely political subtext.

“While in the process of writing the script, it occurred to me that what we were fundamentally making was the story of a superpower invading a smaller Third-World country and being held back by guerrilla warfare. The allegory there is painfully obvious, but as soon as I realized it, I said I wasn’t going to turn the film into an allegorical movie, because I didn’t want to ram a political message down anybody’s throat.

“It’s there and you can’t avoid it. If people go with it, that’s great, and if they just see ‘Centurion’ as a period action movie, that’s great. It works on two levels.”

The talented filmmaker was inspired to direct after watching various films that changed his life.

“I like Westerns as much as I like horror movies,” he said. “I like all kinds of movies. There are horror films, like ‘Alien’ and ‘Jaws’ and John Carpenter’s movies, like ‘The Fog’ and ‘The Thing,’ that were huge inspirations to me.

“But the film that made me want to make movies was (Steven Spielberg’s) ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ That was my biggest inspiration.”

Is Marshall intrigued by the 3-D boom?

“I’m interested in it as another tool for filmmakers,” he said. “It can be used really well or really badly. I’m working on one, maybe two movies in 3-D. The one is a horror movie in which I’m taking gore to a whole new level.

“It’s titled ‘Burst’ and is being produced by Sam Raimi (the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise). It’s basically all about people exploding in 3-D. I’m keen to have a go with 3-D and explore its possibilities, but I’d hate to think it would take over cinema.

“I would not like that at all.”

August 24, 2010 10:54 AM

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:34 pm

Guts, Glory, and Gaming with Director Neil Marshall
The Centurion director - and master of violence - discusses history, video games, and revisting The Descent.
Vincent Genovese By Vincent Genovese August 19, 2010

Vincent Genovese: Your new film, Centurion, is out in theaters on Aug 27, but is available to watch now on-demand on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Was the video game audience in mind during the making of this film?

Neil Marshall: Not specifically, but I can kind of see why it might be. It wasn't the way I thought about it. I mean, the way its been released here is new to me. I haven't encountered this thing of the VOD before the theatrical, and I'm still not sure I understand it but it seems to work for these guys [Magnolia Pictures]. They'd really got behind it so I'll trust their judgment on that. The thing is as a director your like "oh no, no, no it has to be theatrical" that's the way its always been. They have new ways of doing it so it's interesting.

Vincent Genovese: Do you play video games at all?

Neil Marshall: I do. Yeah. Not fanatically but I got quite a few. My favorites are the first-person shooters. I'm into things like Uncharted, which is fantastic. Uncharted 2 is unbelievable. Yeah, all the shoot-em up ones. The Medal of Honors, Modern Warfare which is just phenomenal.

History Buff

Vincent Genovese: What drew you to write a film set in this time period?

Neil Marshall: Well its just because I heard about the legend of the Ninth Legion. About ten years ago somebody had mentioned it to me. It's a very, very simple legend. There's nothing to it. All it is is that the Ninth Legion of Rome marched into Scotland to battle the Picts and vanished without a trace, and that's it. As soon as I heard it I thought, that's got to be a story, there's got to be something in there that I could make a movie out of. Then I researched the period, that they marched into Scotland in 117 AD and then the Legion vanished. Historians have then since proved that it kind of got dispersed, that they were attacked but not necessarily massacred, but I thought, well, it's a case of when a legend becomes a fact because its more interesting. It's more exciting as well.

Vincent Genovese: So the ending you came up with yourself?

Neil Marshall: It's kind've bookended by the fact, the truth is the Ninth Legion were in Britain and they did march into Scotland and then there was potentially a cover-up as to what happened to them. In between there's this story that I made up about what happened to them: they did get attacked by the Picts, in this case they were massacred, and a handful of survivors had to fight their way back home. So it's a combination of that, it's loosely based on a story in ancient Greece by a guy called Xenophon who took an army of Greek mercenaries into Persia and were betrayed and his little army had to fight there way miles home, hundreds and thousands of miles home, anyway, it was combining those two elements into one notion.

Vincent Genovese: Were you inspired by any chase films?

Neil Marshall: Very much so. Mostly Westerns. This biggest influence on this movie was like the old John Ford cavalry Westerns and things like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - there was chase stuff going on there. Also things like The Warriors, or Southern Comfort, the Walter Hill movies for a kind of brilliant menace and the violence that goes on there.

Heroes and Villains?

Vincent Genovese: One thing that I thought while watching it was that the line between the good guys and the bad guys was somewhat blurred. You're rooting for them, and then you find out Etain was raped, tortured, and her tongue was burnt out, so then I'm rooting for her. Was that intended?

Neil Marshall: Oh yeah. From my point-of-view, I wanted to deal with the gray areas of war, which is actually heroes and villains on both sides. I'm not taking some kind of imperial stance and saying that the Romans were the good guys, not at all, but there are individuals within the Roman army, which we are going to support. They just want to get home. They've had enough of this war that they don't necessarily believe in, and they just want to get home. The Picts themselves, I don't like having a villain in a movie that isn't motivated for what they do. So, from the Roman's point-of-view Etain is definitely the villain but from the audience's point-of-view what's happened to her in her life totally justifies her behavior. So that makes her a more formidable opponent to me because we've seen the reason behind her fanaticism and I just think that makes it more interesting.

Vincent Genovese: Where did you come up with the idea of her not having a tongue, where she wasn't going to be able to talk?

Neil Marshall: The character always had no tongue. A lot of people have assumed that because we cast Olga (Olga Kurylenko), who speaks Ukrainian, therefore we cut her tongue out. No, she never had her tongue in any draft of the script. I liked the idea of a silent killer. She would be defined by action and violence, basically.

Vincent Genovese: Was it tough writing for a character that didn't speak?

Neil Marshall: No, actually she was the easiest. It's the ones that do speak where you have to figure out all that kinds of stuff. No, she was easy, all you had to figure out was what she was going to do, and since it usually involves killing people it wasn't bad. It was fun writing for that character. It frees you up so much. It's good, you know, to have an actor actually who embraced that. Initially she was reticent of the idea of not being able to speak. She was like, "Can I have one line?" You haven't got any lines; you haven't got a tongue [laughs]. No lines! Slowly but surely she really embraced the idea. As I said, you're character is defined by her actions. She grew to love that idea and made it her own.

Not So Fassbender

Vincent Genovese: How was Michael Fassbender brought on board?

Neil Marshall: I auditioned him for Doomsday, he had been recommended by a friend. I auditioned him and couldn't make that one work because of scheduling difficulties but I kept him in mind and when I was coming up with this story the producer had also worked with him on a film called Eden Lake. We both kind've said "what about Fassbender for the lead, let's try and get him." It was clear that he was going places. I hadn't seen Inglorious Basterds but I knew he had done it, or was going to do it. That was part of the reason but the main reason was, you know, he's a great actor.

Vincent Genovese: He was a great hero.

Neil Marshall: Yeah. He never tried anything like this before or had been given a hero role. So, it was fun to try that.

Descending into 3D

Vincent Genovese: Did you ever consider doing the film in 3D?

Neil Marshall: Nope, no. I think when we started the 3D phase hadn't really kicked in properly. So, no. And on the budget that we had I don't think we really could have done it justice anyway.

Vincent Genovese: So you're working on Burst 3D?

Neil Marshall: Yes.

Vincent Genovese: How's that going?

Neil Marshall: Slowly but surely. I don't know when we are going to get into full production on that but we're still hammering away at it now. I mean that one is ripe for 3D because it's all about people exploding. So, it's going to be a lot of fun.

Vincent Genovese: Any talk about doing a version of The Descent in 3D?

Neil Marshall: I know it was kind of joked about, as The Descent 3D or something like that, but there's no talk about it at all.

Vincent Genovese: Any chance or revisiting the Descent world?

Neil Marshall: It's a tricky one because if it had been up to me there never would have been a Descent 2 because the first one kind of wrapped itself up, but I think that the environment would work really nicely in 3D. But maybe there's another caving story to be told in 3D rather than a Descent movie. Maybe remake the original in 3D.

Vincent Genovese: What other projects do you have coming up?

Neil Marshall: I'm producing a film called The Ghost of Slaughterford, which Axelle is directing. That's what I'm going to do next. We're shooting that in October. I'm also developing my, I suppose its like my cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond film, World War II adventure thing called Eagle's Nest. So, I'm trying to develop that.

Vincent Genovese: You're in the writing phase?

Neil Marshall: Ah no, I'm trying to put together a budget, a schedule, and maybe cast and stuff like that.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:24 pm

Gary Thompson: Gary Thompson interviews 'Centurion' director Neil Marshall

By Gary Thompson
Philadelphia Daily News

Daily News Film Critic
AS A LAD in Northern England, Neil Marshall used to stand at the ruin of Hadrian's Wall and wonder about the forces that led to its construction.

"I'd look out on a misty rainy night and wonder what a Roman soldier might have thought, standing in the same place centuries earlier. What were the Romans afraid of, what was out there? Why did they retreat behind this massive structure?"

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Marshall, now a director of horror movies, is sitting in a pub, spitballing ideas for his next project when a buddy asks him if he's ever heard of the legend of the 9th Roman legion.

"An entire legion, three or four thousand men, marches into Scotland and into the mist and vanishes without a trace. I figured there had to be a movie in it," said Marshall, who helmed the cult horror fave "The Descent" about women who encounter bloodthirsty creatures in a rural cave.

"At first, given my background in horror, I was prone to go down a supernatural road. Maybe an alien spaceship, or the Loch Ness monster. But the real history turned out to be much more interesting."

It's likely, based on what historians now know, that the legion was badly beaten by barbarian Pict hordes in a guerrilla war the Romans didn't know how to fight. Such a defeat was a political disaster for Roman leaders, who squelched reports of the ignominious retreat, and quietly disbanded the 9th legion. Emperor Hadrian then built the wall, putting a 60-mile buffer between Rome and the enemy.

Marshall's action- and blood-drenched "Centurion" begins with the legion's massacre at the hands of Pict tribes. The rest of the movie is one long brutal chase, as barbarian riders pursue a handful of Romans (led by Michael Fassbender) who want nothing but to return home.

The movie is told mostly from the (sympathetic) point of view of Roman soldiers, whose enemies include their Pict pursuers and shiftless Roman politicians, who view the return of surviving witnesses to the legion's defeat as an inconvenience.

This soldier-friendly story of an occupying army fighting an unpopular war against entrenched guerrilla forces has led many to wonder whether Marshall isn't making some reference to current-day Afghanistan.

"To be honest, when I set down to write it, it had no context at all. It was as I was finishing that I considered the parallels - a superpower invading a country and encountering protracted guerrilla warfare and struggling with it for a long period of time. Of course for the Romans it was a REALLY long time, 60 or 70 years," Marshall said.

"I left it at that. If people want to make those connections, that's fine. That's good. I love that. My goal was to make an action-adventure movie, a piece of escapism, period. I'm not a political filmmaker. Still, it's interesting to consider that some of the same things happening today were also happening 2,000 years ago."

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:25 pm

Posted on Thu, Aug. 26, 2010

Neil Marshall's 'Centurion' takes his feral feminism to Roman Britain

By Tirdad Derakhshani

Inquirer Staff Writer
Writer-director Neil Marshall, whose historical war epic, Centurion, opens Friday, has done a lot for women.

And a lot to them.

His breakout hit, 2005's The Descent, featured an all-female cast. The women don't fare well: The film is about six spelunkers trapped in a cave populated by homicidally famished, slimy humanoids with really big pointy teeth.

In his follow-up, Doomsday, the horror auteur pitted the comely Rhona Mitra against a Mad Max-ian tribe of cannibal warriors, including a particularly nasty serial-killer chick who files her teeth into fangs.

Centurion, which stars Olga Kurylenko as the warrior to end all warriors, is little different.

Marshall and his wife, Belgian actress and writer Axelle Carolyn, are in town to promote Centurion, a blood-drenched take on the Roman army's disastrous attempt to subdue Scotland's indigenous Pict tribes in A.D. 117.

Marshall, 40, says the film is loosely based on the legend of Rome's Ninth Legion, "which marched into Scotland to battle the Picts and vanished without a trace."

Centurion boasts a cast including Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, David Morrissey, and Liam Cunningham, all as Roman soldiers.

But the film belongs to Kurylenko, who plays Etain, a feral, wolfskin-wearing Pict hunter who leads a small band of warriors - a sort of tribal Green Beret unit - in pursuit of a band of Roman soldiers who have murdered the tribe's crown prince.

Centurion also boasts an intense turn by Carolyn, 31, who plays Aeron, one of Etain's henchwomen. A fierce warrior with scary-bad yellow teeth, she seems to relish slicing Roman soldiers.

"You know, a lot of academics have written about Neil's heroines," says Carolyn, sharing a couch with Marshall in a hotel off Rittenhouse Square. "Some of them thought [his depiction of women] is amazing. Some, on the other hand, have written about how Neil hates women."

Marshall is by turns amused and nonplussed by his reputation as a feminist - or is it post-feminist? - filmmaker.

"I don't go into it thinking, 'Well, I'm going to include strong women.' I just want to create strong characters," he says. "I'm not really interested in seeing women as victims, but I'm not necessarily interested in women as femmes fatales, either."

Carolyn, who made her film debut in Brian Yuzna's 2006 there-are-demons-under-the-lake shocker Beneath Still Waters, says she was happy to land a part as a soldier.

"It was a very unusual part for me," she says. "Up until that point I was only offered victim roles."

For all its madness and mayhem, Centurion seems an unusual choice for Marshall, who is acclaimed for horror pics that mix gruesome visuals with off-the-wall humor. He made his feature debut with 2002's stunning shocker Dog Soldiers, about British soldiers beset by berserk werewolves.

"I've always been a big fan of so many different kinds of movies, including historical adventures," Marshall says. "I'm sort of just ticking off the list of the kinds of films I'd like to do."

Asked to name his favorite films, he reels off a list of the usual suspects - An American Werewolf in London, Wolfen, The Fog.

"But my all-time favorite film, the film that made me want to make movies, was Raiders of the Lost Ark," he says. "That was the biggest inspiration I have had."

Steven Spielberg? As inspiration for some of Britain's grisliest films?

"Look at Raiders and it has everything films could have," Marshall counters. "It has guys being pushed into propellers, [it has] guys with melting faces . . . a lot of skulls. And basically a lot of horror influence."

Carolyn and Marshall make for an interesting contrast. Marshall boasts a dark beard and is on the rotund side. He's loquacious. At ease.

Carolyn, clearly more reserved, has striking blond hair and pale skin. She's slim, waiflike.

She's also a little tense: A former film journalist and author - her movie guide, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium, came out last year - she's not used to being on the other side of the reporter's tape recorder.

But the couple, who have been married for three years, share an overriding, almost transcendent passion for horror movies.

They take turns describing their first meeting at a horror film festival.

"I was working for Fangoria [horror magazine] at the time, and I interviewed Neil," says Carolyn. "I had seen Dog Soldiers, and I just really wanted to meet him."

Marshall chimes in: "A few days later I started sending her e-mails. . . . She couldn't get rid of me."

In true goth-romance fashion, the couple wed in Edinburgh Castle on Halloween.

"Oh, and everyone wore masks," Marshall says, laughing.

"Mine was a kind of classic Venetian mask with a white feather," Carolyn says.

Adds Marshall, "Mine was like a skull."

Surely, these two have found the secret to a happy marriage.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:50 am

Interview with Centurion's Neil Marshall
by: Moye Ishimoto on 8.25.2010 at 11:00 am

The Romans are back on the big screen and they're bringing another bloody battle with them. Alison Haislip learns more about the new movie, Centurion and goes one on one with director Neil Marshall at the shooting range.

(click link to watch video)

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:51 pm

Published on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 1:19pm
Capone talks CENTURION and BURST (exploding bodies in 3D!) with writer-director Neil Marshall and co-star Axelle Carolyn!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Across a 24-hour period last week, I got to spend a great deal of time with one of my favorite, relatively new writer-directors, Neil Marshall and his lovely wife, the actress/writer/soon-to-be director Axelle Carolyn, who has quite a memorable role in Marshall's latest work CENTURION. One evening, we did a Q&A screening of the film for a largely AICN reader audience, then this interview occurred over breakfast the following morning, and finally Marshall and Carolyn joined me at the Chicago Comic-Con that afternoon to discuss the movie in all its magnificent violent glory.

Marshall came out of the gate strong with his World War II soldiers/werewolf story DOG SOLDIERS, and he never really showed signs of weakening. His previous film DOOMSDAY wasn't embraced by everyone, but there's no denying it has a following that reveled in its insanity. But his finest film remains what I consider to be one of the scariest films ever made, THE DESCENT, an accidental feminist horror film if ever there was one. CENTURION is Marshall's largest-scale film to date even if his budget was still fairly small. And it features a remarkable cast, including Dominic West and rising star Michael Fassbender (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS; HUNGER; and the upcoming X-MEN: FIRST CLASS--he'll play the young Magneto). CENTURION is beyond bloody and an incredibly realistic portrayal of the final days of the Roman Empire's siege on the guerilla-warfare-style Pict warrior of England, who defeated the Romans at every turn for decades.

I'd always heard Marshall was a great guy, and I have no evidence to the contrary. And his fans love his work unabashedly. And wait until you hear about his next film BURST, to be shot in 3-D. But I'll let Neil tell you himself. Please enjoy Neil Marshall, and look out for the occasional spoiler mixed in. If you don't want to know who dies and who doesn't, you may want to hold off reading this until you've seen CENTURION. It opens today in some cities, and expanding around the country into early October.

Capone: Good morning.

Axelle Carolyn: How are you doing?

Neil Marshall: Morning

Capone: You weren't kidding about making this a breakfast interview, were you?

AC: It was a great idea, and it bought us 30 minutes of sleep.

Capone: I'm going to pump up my level, so my recorder picks up every bite. [Everybody laughs] Forgive me if we cover some of the same ground we covered last night. What was that figure you put out about the shooting schedule of this film compared to the BRAVEHEART fight?

NM: The Battle of Sterling took them six weeks to shoot.

Capone: Right and you had seven.

NM: For the whole film.

Capone: That’s right.

AC: Something that I find very impressive too was that THE DESCENT was made on $6 million dollars and that was six unknown women in a cave. This shoot has been about two caves and 12 unknown woman, budget wise.

Capone: Did you find that the success of THE DESCENT kind of opened things up to you a bit in terms of what you got to do for the next couple of films?

NM: It must have because somebody allowed me to make DOOMSDAY.

[Everyone Laughs]

NM: Which I think in any other world people would just go “What?”

Capone: You had mentioned that there wasn’t a whole lot of historical record of Picts in general, so can you talk a little bit about your decision-making process in terms of everything about them--the costumes, the body art, etc.

NM: Well, the whole reason that they are called the Picts is because they were covered in pictures, which were the tattoos, so we knew about that. We knew about the tattoos and we knew roughly what the tattoos were going to be, based on artwork that they carved into rocks and stuff like that, and that’s kind of like the few bits of archeological evidence we have about them. And the Romans, as well, documented them to a degree. We knew about the “Blue Wode.” A wode is this flower that you grind down, it makes the blue color and that’s what they would paint themselves with. And we knew about the white lime in the hair, but beyond that it’s just a sense of making it up. There is record of the Picts fighting naked or semi-naked, but we were filming in the middle of winter, so not only was it not hugely impractical, but I kind of felt like “Maybe the Picts did that in the summer time.” There would be much of a battle with these naked guys running towards you and in the middle of winter,

Capone: It doesn’t make the most sense.

NM: No. So we tried to make sense of the fact that like “What materials did they have to work with?” Back then there were wolves in Scotland, so they would have had wolf fur and dear fur, sheep skins, goat skins, and anything like that, and that’s what we made their costumes out of and primitive kind of fabric weaving and stuff like that. So it was just based on logic really more than anything.

Capone: The guerilla-style war tactics, was that kind of a new idea back then? That idea that you might not fight in straight lines like the Romans

NM: I don’t know that it was new. These people had been fighting in small groups for quite a long time.

Capone: But that versus the more…

NM: Up against the Romans, probably not.

AC: I don’t imagine that people in like ancient France would have been very organized in battle. I think the main thing was the environment, and it being so hostile.

NM: But they did kind of utilize the concept of war parties and hit-and-run kind of tactics.

Capone: It occurred to me the second time watching the film that in a lot of films that deal with the Roman Empire in some fashion, the Romans are the bad guys. The Romans are the villains that somebody else has to sort of overcome, and here we are clearly supposed to be rooting for them.

NM: The thing is that most films that I can think of about Rome are told, with the exception possibly of LIFE OF BRIAN or something like that, are told from the Roman point of view, be GLADIATOR or even the TV series "Rome." So that, I think, was kind of a given, but the fact that we are clearly portraying them as an invading army and capable of brutality and savagery towards the locals was slightly new.

Capone: And invading England. When are the English ever portrayed as the villains, especially in a film about invading Romans.

NM: Right, that hasn't happened before. But again, I wasn’t wanting to portray them as just straight forward villains. I wanted them to be equally sympathetic and certainly with Etain’s character.

Capone: For the actors, what were some of the most difficult aspects of making this?

AC: Well the climate definitely didn’t help, or it did help, according to which way you want to look at it. I’m sure for the guys who played the Romans that must have been the toughest part of it, because we were on horses most of the time, Olga and I and the Picts, didn’t get to go all the way up in the mountains, because the horses couldn’t get there. So we were reasonably--I wouldn’t say warm--but warmer, not quite as cold. I find that for me personally anyway--nd I’m sure that Olga [Kurylenko] would agree with that, the biggest challenge was to look like… When you put women warriors in films, you often have that kind of “Why are they not bodybuilders? Why are they not super huge? Why are they like girls who are so frail?” It’s kind of trying to make it work anyway, to make it look like, “Well, women, unless they do body building and eat in a certain way, they don’t put on bulk, even if they have muscles, they still remain reasonably thin,” and kind of sell the fact that we could fight and that we could use the speed to our advantage and we know how to strike and just fight in a different way from the men, but we can do it. I think that was a big thing trying to make that work.

Capone: Talk a little bit about how you made your character scary. She was supposed to be maybe the scariest person on that side.

AC: Well, she’s the one who’s the big villain. She’s the only one who’s got not excuse on screen for being that evil. For me, it was mostly just showing that she enjoyed the battle. My thing for that was just to try to show that she likes to fight and she’s going to fight no matter what and she likes it so much that she’s going to laugh if she manages to kill you or to harm you.

NM: I think she has a bloodlust.

AC: Yeah, a little bit of that. I originally wanted to have filed teeth, but they didn’t go with that, to show “This is my life. This is what I do; I kill people. You wont escape me, because I’m having too much fun doing it.” And the other thing that made the character work is just the makeup and the costume and the wig and everything. Really, the first time that I saw it was like when we were shooting.

Capone: It’s got to be tough to see yourself like that and not just go “Okay, I’m just going to go for it.”

AC: It was like “Yeah, I’m someone else. This is great.” It helped so much.

Capone: Speaking of bloodlust, as someone who has dabbled in bloodlust-like activities before, you’ve got some of the most creative kills in this kind of film I’ve ever seen. Can you talk a little bit about just applying that horror sensibility to a sword fight/axe fight movie?

NM: In a way it totally comes naturally that I would bring that sensibility to this, and you’ve been given a whole knew range of weapons to play with and how could you possibly use them creatively. Yeah it was just such a blast coming up with those kinds of creative kills, just things that are going to keep people interested with some surprises.

Capone: Do you have a favorite, one you are really proud of that?

NM: Well, there’s two and they both involve Axelle. One is her death, which again is just when I was writing it was the idea that this guy would get shot in the back by her and then snap the arrow off and stick it in her eye and then throw her over the wall as the final indignity.

AC: Throwing me over the wall, that's what I wanted. I wanted to, because you think--I’m spoiling way too much here--but she gets a kind of noble death and something a little bit more almost peaceful. I said, “Just treat me like a piece of garbage, and throw me over the wall. That was fun.”

NM: I like that and the kind of indignity about it. And then the other one is right at the start when I think it’s pretty much the second death. Well it’s the second kill of the movie. It’s the thing with the guy ringing the bell, and I wanted Axelle to shoot him in the back of the head, and then his head would gong the bell. The finishing touch on that was when it became a flaming arrow, so you really see this flaming arrow whack him in the back of the head, and all of these sparks fly off. I just love that, but there were so many other great ones like the first guy getting the spear up the groin.

Capone: Oh my God, yeah.

NM: Which gets everybody.

Capone: That’s a big groaner.

NM: There’s Liam’s death, when he pushes the steel threw himself again and kills the guy behind him, just so many fun things to do.

Capone: When the head gets cut off in the middle in that one shot. And I’m immediately thinking, “Of course, not ever beheading is going to be clean and across the neck.”

NM: As much as you want a nice clean beheading sometimes, but I just thought, “Yeah it is always pictured as being a neck job, but it really will take it off wherever. Can we have a head that like slices down the middle somewhere?” So it’s very fun coming up with that stuff.

Capone: Even though DOOMSDAY and CENTURIAN are bigger in scope, you do like these small packs of fighters, I guess that’s the best way to put it. Even in THE DESCENT, these women are not victims, by any stretch; they are survivors trying to survive. Tell me what you like about that group dynamic .

NM: It’s partly the group dynamic that I’m fascinated by, the interaction between not only the actors but the characters as well and the combination of the two. I am fascinated by the survival instinct and what people will do to survive and how far they will go and whether they will support each other or betray each other. Those kinds of interactions are what I find the most fascinating. A band on the run is always great cinematic stuff.

Capone: The number of people that actually make it to the end of the film, you could very much argue that this is a comment on the futility of war. You struggle and struggle and fight and everybody dies and in the end there’s just “that.”

NM: Oh totally. I really liked the fact that this is essentially two outcasts who find each other at the end. That’s the only way that they are able to get on with this, to be outcasts.

Capone: Michael Fassbender, obviously in the last couple of years his profile has gone significantly up. Do you feel kind of lucky to have gotten him to be in this film, and what did he add to it? Clearly if he’s willing to run half naked through snow banks, that’s pretty committed.

NM: It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because within industry circles he’s huge and everybody is talking about him, but you as anybody on the street and they wont know who he is. I was lucky to get him at the time when we did. I know that he had just done INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and he had just done HUNGER, but we hadn’t seen him in any of those. I had actually auditioned him years before for DOOMSDAY, so I knew him kind of through that and wanted to work with him, but I had no idea that he was suddenly going to go through the roof. I’m waiting for that to happen.

Capone: I feel like he’s on the verge.

NM: He is. He is totally on the verge.

AC: It’s feeling like it’s going to pay off at some point that we got him now, but it hasn’t paid off yet. He’s brilliant in the film and he brings a lot to the film, but in terms of getting butts in seats, that’s going to change with X-MEN, though?

Capone: I agree. You have always been really good about even though these are horror films or more action-oriented films, you never have sacrificed anything in terms of character development, great performances, and complex story ideas. But there's always a bit of humor in your work, without resorting to jokes or one-liners.

NM: I think, yeah, with the humor, that’s the point--I don’t want to undermine the situation, but if it comes from within the characters then that’s fine. I am myself not mocking the situation that they are in, and that was very specific with DOG SOLDIERS. I think there are a couple of jokes in DESCENT. It’s not really a funny movie. I think DOOMSDAY was far more outrageous, and this one has humor again, more like DOG SOLDIERS where it comes from the characters, but yeah I do. That’s something that I applied to DOG SOLDIERS and I’ve applied ever since, that I want the characters to be interesting and real and have you care for them. I’m not out to make cardboard people running around dying, and who cares?

AC: Sometimes it’s even humor that isn’t necessarily obvious on the page, like the scene with the soup with Liam Cunningham. That scene, he makes it so funny with the way that he plays it, but on the page I never thought that was a great joke.

NM: No, I didn’t really read it that way, and it was a combination of taking what was on the page, working with the actors…

Capone: Whether the soup was poison or not? That part?

NM: Yeah.

AC: When he goes, “It’s delicious.”

NM: Their timing, as well. From my point of view, it was my choice to do it as one take and just let it play and not cut into it and just let it find its own timing. That natural timing between the three actors is what makes it funny. To mess around with that would have screwed it up. Liam managed to bring so much humor to the film and through his lines and the way he delivered stuff was just wonderful.

Capone: That’s a really interesting scene, because it’s one of the few moments when you just ease up a little bit, and in a lot of ways it’s the calm before the really awful storm atthe end of the film.

NM: That’s what I mean, some people think that that slows it down a bit.

Capone: I feel at that point, you need it to slow down for a second.

NM: I think you do and I really enjoy that little segment where they are in the hut, because there is more warmth and humor going around, but as you say, “It’s the calm before the storm.” It lulls you into a false sense of security thinking, “Actually, these guys might make it.”

Capone: That’s exactly it, you think “These are the survivors here.” Then immediately I get suspicious, so…

[Everyone Laughs]

AC: Do you mind if I talk about what’s missing in the end?

NM: No, not at all.

AC: I think it’s not really a secret that Neil had to fight a lot against producers in the script stage and the whole romance aspect to it, which kind of now feels like it’s a moment where you almost stop from the action and you take a breath. But at the time had a much more integrated payoff in a way.

NM: It feels like it’s just shoved in as a romance, and it was never just a romance.

AC: It feels a little like it’s just preparing you for the ending, but originally the ending was kind of different and had a payoff that made he whole thing look a lot less romantic and a lot more integrated in the action.

NM: There was a lot more backstory to it. What it actually turned out to be was Aeron was Etain’s half sister. And it was Etain that gave her the cut on the face, so there’s this big history between them, and originally Etain survived the full battle and when Quintus went back to Aeron’s house at the end, Etain was waiting for him and there’s this big fight, and it was actually Aeron who killed her.

Capone: What a difference.

NM: It made it much more integral to the story that it wasn’t some kind of…

AC: It had this awesome ending which was like, it’s a romance, but it’s a Neil Marshall romance, where he would have the fight inside the house, and Etain gets killed, and you just see from the outside opens the door, throws the body of Etain out of the house, closes the door and is like…

Capone: She's still garbage.

NM: It was literally like Quintus just walks out of the house dragging Etain by the leg, drops her in the mud, walks back in the house, and shuts the door--The End. The producers felt that was a bit harsh, but I felt like that was absolutely the ending the film on the right note, but what can you do?

Capone: That would have been a crowd pleasure. Real quick before they stop me, talk a little bit about where you are with BURST, which I guess is not very far, but that is definitely the next thing that you are doing?

NM: Not definitely; it just depends on how long it will take, so something might nip in before it, but it’s a very long drawn-out process. We are working on the script at the moment. We'll see.

Capone: Committed to filming in 3D?

NM: Oh totally. I’m totally up for that. What I’m most immediately doing now is Axelle’s movie. Axelle is directing her first feature and I’m producing that.

Capone: What is that?

AC: It’s a ghost story. It’s called THE GHOSTS OF SLAUGHTERFORD. It’s kind of an old-fashioned ghost story set in an English village after the second World War. I usually call it THE OTHERS meets FATAL ATTRACTION. It’s that kind of very atmospheric scares and some little twists in it. It’s a woman and a ghost in a house.

Capone: And you wrote it, too?

AC: I wrote it too.

Capone: How far along is that?

AC: Hopefully, we are shooting in October. The financing is kind of closing at the moment with the lawyers and everything else, and if that works out then we can start casting in a couple of weeks.

Capone: That’s great. Congratulations on that.

AC: Thank you, it’s very exciting.

Capone: So back to BURST for one second. You like the idea of 3D bodies blowing up? It appeals to you in some way?

NM: Oh yeah. I wanted to have a go with 3D at some point. I think it’s a fascinating tool that some directors are using very well and others not so much, and I definitely want to have a go with that, and the idea of doing this thing with people exploding in 3D was kind of very appealing and working with [producer] Sam Raimi as well, so I couldn’t really turn that down.

Capone: No, I don’t see how you could. Alright, well great and I guess I will see you guys in a few hours up at the convention center.

AC: Really appreciating the support from Ain’t It Cool News, by the way, since the first screening in the states it’s been great.

Capone: I know a lot of us saw it at SXSW. What was it the person from Magnolia said about the CENTURION views On-Demand?

AC: Most successful ever for Magnolia, and in three weeks.

Capone: That’s incredible. How did you feel about On-Demand being the first place people got to see your movie?

NM: I have been and I still am a little bit dubious about it, because I don’t fully understand it, and as a director, obviously, theatrical is the thing. But I suppose at the end of the day, as long as people are seeing it and enjoying it and not pirating it, then it’s all a bonus.

Capone: That’s true. I’ve got a lot of emails last night when I got back. The people who were there last night were just going crazy for it.

NM: As far as I can say, to me it’s a big-screen movie. I made it to be a big screen movie, so that should be the first experience with that. I’ve seen it on BluRay back at home, and it looks amazing, and you'll have that treat yet to come, but for the moment see it on the big screen if you can.

Capone: Yeah, I’ve seen it twice, so I agree.

NM: And also it’s a good audience movie. They get into it, especially when Axelle dies, and when he gets it between the legs. [Laughs]

Capone: Even some of the anonymous deaths are great, so it’s not just the main characters. All right, well great. I will see you in a few hours then.

NM: See you shortly.

AC: See you there.

-- Capone

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:52 pm

The Post-Movie Podcast

Post-Movie Interviews: Neil Marshall and Axelle Carolyn

In this special episode, John and I are joined by director Neil Marshall, the man responsible for Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday, and actor/author Axelle Carolyn (It Lives Again!: Horror Movies in the New Millennium). We cover their careers, their inspirations, and the making of their latest film, Centurion, which is now playing in limited release.

You can download the show or play now in your browser.
Total running time: 29:59

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:14 pm

Marshall of the Legion
by Bob "MovieBob" Chipman, 27 August 2010 9:00 am

English writer/director Neil Marshall is a modern-day rarity: A director of horror/action genre movies who's become a name in the field with original screenplays as opposed to remakes or adaptations. He first caught attention for Dog Soldiers, which violently pitted a British Army squad against vicious werewolves. Later, he garnered mainstream acclaim for The Descent, in which a group of female cave explorers are hunted by subterranean ghouls. He followed that with Doomsday, an ultra-violent homage to the '80s sci-fi/action films of John Carpenter and George Miller, with Rhona Mitra as an action heroine stuck in a walled-off Plague Zone. (It's fashionable to dismiss Doomsday as a step backward for him, but I for one loved the bloody thing.)

In 2007, he married writer/actress Axelle Carolyn, having met her when she interviewed him for Fangoria Magazine - a match made in Horror Geek Heaven. Now he's back with Centurion, a bloody work of historical fiction loosely based on the legend of the Ninth Legion - a Roman military detachment that vanished during the violent conflict with the Picts in A.D. 117 Scotland. In Marshall's film, the Ninth is massacred by Picts led by Olga Kurylenko and Axelle herself, and a lone Centurion (Michael Fassbender of Inglorious Basterds) must lead a handful of survivors back to Roman lines.

I and other writers sat down for a round table interview with both Marshall and Carolyn about the film and their respective careers. In lieu of presenting the entire session, here's a look back at Marshall's films, along with some noteworthy quotations from the interview itself.

I grew up watching Westerns. To me this is a Western - it's a Western from the Romans' point of view, this was their first Wild West, their West Frontier, 'the lawless land'. From a film point of view it's very much parallel to the Western with the landscape. What I particularly had in mind were John Ford's cavalry Westerns; the Romans as the cavalry and the Picts as the Commanches, Apaches, whatever. It comes from that same kind of world. (Neil Marshall on Centurion)

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Marshall's debut feature actually has a lot in common with other "arrival films" of genre filmmakers who start out in the world of indie horror, particularly Bad Taste, the kickoff film by the now-ominipresent Peter Jackson. Both are just-for-fun gore-fests built on the premise of heavily-armed soldiers battling monsters, (cannibal aliens for Jackson, werewolves for Marshall) and both are imbued with the infectious moviemaking-as-playtime vibe of fans eagerly recreating their favorite Hollywood genre tropes locally (the New Zealand coast for Taste, the Scottish wilderness for Soldiers).

The setup couldn't be more basic - or more promising: While engaged in a war game exercise in the middle of nowhere, a group of hard-bitten British soldiers find themselves instead facing a pack of werewolves. In genre terms, it's built to satisfy jaded horror/action fans right off the bat with its plentiful splatter and werewolves that actually do look like immense human/lupine hybrids rather than unshaven men or Twilight-style inflated puppies. But it's the details that caught critical attention and flagged Marshall as a talent to watch. His compositions and sense of action-geography are clean and professional, his pacing is tight and he puts just enough focus onto the personalities of the human characters.

It's good drama! War provides great stories, heroes, fantastic characters. In this case, what was interesting about it to me was all the gray area. Heroes and villains on both sides, I kind of embrace that, not to make it clean cut. I was doing a difficult thing anyway - tell the story from the Roman point of view when they are, in essence, the villains. But I wanted it not to be about the Roman Way, but the individuals - these men who just want to get home. (Neil Marshall, on Centurion)

The Descent (2005)

In his follow-up film, Marshall opts to break a whole bunch of Hollywood rules all at once: a morally ambiguous genre film with an all-female hero cast, set mostly in near-total darkness. The result remains arguably his best film.
A group of female cave explorers are trapped in a maze of underground tunnels inhabited by a family of nocturnal subhuman flesh-eaters. Another simple premise, once again all about the execution. It's a rare movie that can make what is essentially 90 minutes of claustrophobia, grueling violence and emotionally-unstable leads into entertainment, but it manages spectacularly.

Neil made it very clear, day one, "We're going to put you through hell." And then he pretty much did. It was unbelievably cold, we shot in the Highlands of Scotland in February - sometimes it's cold, sometimes it's wind, sometimes it's snow, and everything, every single shot was outdoors. (Axelle Carolyn, on making Centurion with her husband Neil Marshall)

Doomsday (2008)

If Dog Soldiers was the quintessential fan-turned-filmmaker debut, Doomsday is the quintessential fan-turned-filmmaker-with-clout epic of indulgence. It's neither as solid as Soldiers nor as polished as The Descent, but that doesn't mean it's not a total blast.

An unashamed, affectionate mash-up of John Carpenter's Escape From New York and George Miller's Mad Max films, the premise finds Amazonian model/actress Rhona Mitra (currently wasting her time on TV's The Gates,) as a refugee from a walled-off, plague-devastated Scotland, turned British super-soldier and dropped back into the plague zone to investigate rumors of survivors and a possible cure. Instead she finds a war between two plague-immune tribes - one cannibalistic, the other ... well, you kinda have to see it.

It has its problems. The wide-scale scope frequently runs away with the story, and it crosses the line from "homage" to "retread" too frequently. But as a drive-in style throwback you can do a lot worse, and the aforementioned surprise of the second tribe is just too inventive not to find impressive.

Centurion, starring Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko, is now playing in limited release, and is reviewed on this week's episode of Escape to The Movies. Neil Marshall is next slated to direct Burst - a 3D horror film "about people exploding" for producer Sam Raimi. He is currently executive-producing wife Axelle Carolyn's debut horror film, The Ghost of Slaughterford.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:20 pm

"CENTURION": Marshall-ing Forces Part One

Simply put, CENTURION is a blast. The fourth film from DESCENT director Neil Marshall hits theaters today in limited release from Magnolia/Magnet Releasing (see official website and list of theaters here), and is nothing short of a solid, period action film with plenty of gore and badass-ery throughout. Marshall recently sat down for an exclusive interview with FANGORIA to discuss Romans, Picts, the Middle East and everything in between. Hit the break to check it out!

For starters, here’s the film’s official synopsis: “CENTURION is set during the war between Roman soldiers and Pict tribesmen during the 2nd century Roman conquest of Britain. Michael Fassbender stars as Quintus Dias, Roman centurion and son of a legendary gladiator who leads a group of soldiers on a raid of a Pict camp to rescue a captured general (Dominic West). The son of the Pict leader is murdered during the raid, and the Romans find themselves hunted by a seemingly unstoppable group of the Pict’s most vicious and skilled warriors, led by a beautiful and deadly tracker (Olga Kurylenko), and hell bent on revenge.”

FANGORIA: How did you get become interested in the tale of the ninth legion?

NEIL MARSHALL: It started about 10 years ago. I was sitting in a bar with a mate of mine and having a few drinks and chatting about s$#! and he mentioned to me this legend that he’d heard of, of the ninth legion of Rome—this entire legion of Roman soldiers that marched into Scotland in 117 AD and vanished without a trace. That’s the legend; it’s pretty straightforward. There’s not much to it, but I was instantly hooked. I thought, “This is going to make a great movie. There’s got to be a story in there.” I’d just come off the back of doing DOG SOLDIERS when I’d heard about this and initially I thought we could add some sort of fantastic element to it; they all got slaughtered by the Loch Ness monster or something. But then I quickly thought, “That’s not the road that I want to go down. I’d really like to know what could’ve potentially happened to them if this thing was real.” The thing is, the more research you do into it, you find out that historians have since disproved the whole thing. The legion did get attacked, but they didn’t get wiped out, just kind of dispersed afterward, which is all a bit boring because you think, “Oh, the legend’s really cool, so I’ll stick with that.” So I came up with this whole story based on what might have actually happened to the Romans where they’re battling these tribes in Scotland called the Picts, and how the Picts might have fought against the Romans in a kind of guerrilla war and they’ve beaten the Romans somehow and then actually it’s the Romans that create the myth as a cover-up for their own screw-up, basically. In order to cover it all up, they create this myth and it’s a mystery that they disappeared.

FANG: Would it have been easier to go the supernatural route?

MARSHALL: It would’ve been easy to come up with some supernatural element or whatever, but I just felt it was too similar to DOG SOLDIERS, that being werewolves in Scotland. I set myself the challenge of—the legend states that they vanished without a trace, that there was no trace of them whatsoever, so when I was just writing the script, I was trying to figure out what the Picts could possibly do to remove all evidence that these people were ever there. So not only do they kill them, but they melt down their armor and burn all the bodies and do something with the ashes so there is literally, physically, no evidence that the Romans were ever there. And this was all in the script at an early stage. Then we realized that it was actually quite long winded and was going to distract from the story so some of those elements got lost. The ashes thing is still there to a point. It just became more about telling a good, solid story about these survivors trying to find their way home and then the cover-up. For me the big thing was, if I wasn’t going to do it supernatural, I still wanted to maintain a horror aesthetic to it by making it as bloody and realistic as possible. I figured, “If I’m going to make a battle film, it’s inevitably going to be full of blood and guts.” We’re dealing with people who are attacking each other with swords and spears and axes. There’s no clean way of killing somebody with an ax. I had to be honest to the world and the subject matter by doing that.

FANG: Obviously you’re a supporter of more on-set and practical FX. How was it making the transition to epic battle scenes as opposed to one kill at a time?

MARSHALL: It’s definitely more complicated. It was kind of a new experience for me. We did as much as we possibly could, but we didn’t have very long to make the film at all. In comparison, for BRAVEHEART, Mel Gibson had six weeks to shoot one battle. We had seven weeks to shoot our entire film. We had like three days to shoot our big battle, and obviously we’re trying to move as fast as possible and we did. Maybe about 90 percent of the gore effects in it are practical and on-set. Unlike a lot of other directors, I don’t like to leave that stuff until the end of the day, unless I absolutely have to. Most of the time, that’s just as important as anything else in the movie, so we schedule it properly and get it in there. You have to know how long these things take to do. One particular kill in the movie involves Olga cutting this guy’s head off in the middle of a river. Well, that was going to be hard enough for the effects guys because they’re in the middle of a freezing cold river and they’re just standing around with this mannequin that they had that was rigged full of blood. It was incredible, the dummy that Paul [Hyett] built, it was fully armatured and it had like a skin on it as well and inside it was pumped full of pressurized blood. The idea being that whenever Olga hit it with a real ax, no matter where you hit it, blood would pump out, and under pressure as well, so it looked very realistic. She had to hold onto it by the head and with a real ax had to hack its head off, but its own weight kind of kept it there. What’s funny about it was, it was really hard work. It was a little ax and Olga was about 20 hits in and had blood spurting all over the place and she’s just like, “I can’t do it anymore.” I said, “Cut it there, take five minutes and we’ll start again and literally pick up where we left off.” She goes back in there and is hacking away at it and eventually the head comes tearing off and falls off into the river or something like that, and it was kind of messy because she tripped just as the head came off, and because she tripped, tore it off and I was like, “That looks great! That’s going in the movie!”


Stop back tomorrow for more exclusive Q&A time with Neil Marshall.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:31 pm

INTERVIEW with Centurion director NEIL MARSHALL: “I deliberately put everybody through hell.”
categories | Interview, Movies
Friday, August 27th, 2010 at 10:00 am
posted by Eric Henney

British director Neil Marshall made bloody, gory waves in 2007 with The Descent, a bleak and decidedly atmospheric horror film following an ill-fated cave exploration in the Appalachians. But since then, the media whirlwind has died down, and Marshall has moved on to other projects, including two new movies and an entrancing, writer, model actress, horror buff, artistic collaborator, and ball-and-chain by the name of Axelle Carolyn.

His newest flick, Centurion (in theaters today), is a different direction for the filmmaker: A period film based on the wars between the Picts, an indigenous ancient British tribe, and the invading Roman Empire in the first century. It’s a historical adventure or sorts, revolving around a band of Roman soldiers who survive the famous Pictish attack on the Roman Ninth Legion and must endure further hunting by their guerilla attackers.

I sat down with both Marshall and Carolyn to talk about the making of Centurion, production races with another film and Mel Gibson.

City Paper: Centurion is a new direction for you. You’ve done horror with Dog Soldiers and The Descent, and post-apocalypse with Doomsday, but this is a period piece. Why did you decide to go in that direction?

Neil Marshall: It’s the kind of film that I’ve always wanted to make. I love watching that kind of movie, so … it’s just another genre that I wanted to tackle. And I guess it’s kind of a mix-and-match as well. It’s very much in the model of a Western, with an ancient history sensibility as well.

CP: Westerns are obviously tied into the American mythos. Is the history here — the focus on an ancient British tribe like the Picts — tied to a kind of British mythos?

NM: Well that particular frontier of Rome was the farthest frontier, and it was, to them, the Wild West; it was untamed … And so I treated it very much like that. I modeled it in some ways on the old John Ford cavalry movies, and it has a similar sensibility in that it’s very un-PC: telling the story from the invader’s point of view and the gray areas that result from that. There are heroes and villains on both sides. The Picts are like the Comanches, and there are a lot of similarities, like the fact that they wear the war paint. And yet, that’s not fabricated, that is what the Picts did. So the parallels already exist, I just put them on film.

CP: In that sense it’s obliquely political not only because you’re conflicting sympathies between the Picts and the Romans, but also because it’s bound up in the idea of the individual being forsaken by the society to which he or she has been so patriotic.

NM: There was the general overview that emerged as I was writing it that it is about the superpower of the time going into this country and having to deal with guerrilla warfare, and the results of that. And obviously that’s going to have comparisons with events in the world over the past 40 years, as well as what’s going on now in Afghanistan.

But once I came to that comparison, I didn’t want to ram it down the audience’s throats. People will see it if they want to see it. But at heart I’m making a historical adventure movie, and I don’t want to turn it into some kind of gratuitous allegory.

Axelle Carolyn: I think that Neil is the least political person you could possibly find … I think that very often that makes the most interesting and personal films, when you don’t set out to ram a message down the throats of people.

NM: … My dad was in the army, my granddad was in the army. So I definitely have an affinity for soldiers and the like. And so my film is about the individual. It’s about the fact that, regardless of what you may think about these campaigns, be it Rome, be it what’s going on in Afghanistan, whatever — I, for one, totally support the soldiers and want them to come home. And that’s primarily what the story’s about — this bunch of guys who are betrayed and become disillusioned by the job that they’re doing and just want to get home.

CP: It seems like there’s a bit of tension here. Centurion is very heavily genre-influenced. In a lot of ways, it’s just kind of a history thriller. But at the same time, there’s something more intimate and melancholy about it than the average period piece. How do you want your audience to react to the film?

NM: I think that, at first, I want it to be a thrill ride. But they will hopefully carry something else away from it. It’s not necessarily a film of happy endings. There’s a resolution, but in this situation I don’t know what a happy ending would be. My endings are always a big ambiguous anyway … this was no different. But is it melancholy?
Centurion direction Neil Marshall

CP: I guess maybe more doleful.

NM: I always knew that the visual tone of the movie was going to be very downbeat; I set out to make a bleak movie in every sense. It was going to be about these people getting massacred, and it was in a bleak environment with bleak conditions, and I wanted that. I deliberately filmed it in winter and deliberately put everybody through hell. I graded it so it would feel even colder and bleaker. … You know, this was inspired by me standing up on Hadrian’s Wall as a child in the pouring rain in the bleak Northeast of England and thinking, God, what must have it been like for these people to come from the Mediterranean and face this enemy that is so terrifying that they built this 60-mile long wall to keep them out?

CP: It was shot in seven weeks, right? Which is five weeks under the normal length for such a movie.

NM: Yes, we worked very fast. I like to work fast anyway, but with this one, a part of it was that I got a lot of criticism on Doomsday for overcutting the movie, for making it really frenetic and fast. So with this one, I was making kind of an older style movie, I watched a lot of older movies as well and noticed how they were perfectly happy to just sit back and watch a scene play and not have to cut in or do any of that. So it was a conscious effort to try to shoot more of that style and let the actors move and not try and mess around with it so much — just let the scene play out.

AC: I think that for most people, seven weeks sounds like a lot of time, if they don’t work in film. But at the same time, The Wolfman was doing reshoots, and their reshoots took longer than the entire shoot for Centurion.

NM: The comparison I use is The Battle of Sterling in Braveheart. [Mel Gibson] had six weeks to shoot that entire battle. We did our entire film in seven.

CP: Well I guess Mel Gibson isn’t one to do something on a small scale if he doesn’t have to. But it does have, despite being kind of an epic, a more intimate feel than a lot of others, and I assume that was intentional.

NM: I’m sure I would have loved to do a huge Braveheart-style battle, but we simply couldn’t afford the extras or visual effects to do that, so I had to plan around the money that we had at the time, the time that we had, and make it feel bigger than it actually was. The bigger scenes with the crowds, literally if you turned the camera that way or that way, there was nobody there. Everybody that we had was in the shot. And we just tried to plan it so that there were a few shots within that scale; the rest was into the nitty-gritty of the individuals hacking and slashing.

CP: I wanted to ask you a question or two about the language in the film. There were obviously certain things you wanted to keep historically accurate, but why did you decide to make the Romans speak English and leave the Picts speaking Pictish.

NM: It was always the case that I wanted the Picts to speak something other than the Romans did … But obviously the problem that we had was that there is no recorded language of the Picts, so we had to come up with the most ancient language that would fit the profile. The experts will tell you that Welsh is the most ancient language that we have in the U.K., but it just seemed inappropriate to have these Scots speaking Welsh. However authentic it might be, it’s still not the right language. So what we actually had them speak was Scots-Gaelic, which is a very ancient language; maybe not as old as Welsh, but old enough.

AC: I think the problem is that there’ve been talks of making the film in Latin. The thing is, not only is that very impractical, especially when you shoot on a reasonably low budget where you cast your actors a few weeks before they start shooting — they don’t really have the time to learn the language. But also, commercially you can’t really get away with it. Mel Gibson can get away with it because he made the most profitable independent film of all time; he’s got his own following.

NM: You come under fire from people online saying things like they wouldn’t have been swearing like that. And yeah, but they wouldn’t have been speaking in English either. If they’re going to speak English, they might as well swear in English. But I wanted to get a sense of this kind of banter between the guys that represented what I think the soldiers would have been like then: just as they are now.

AC: I do see your point though, that it’s not so much about trying to make it historically accurate as it is about depicting the Picts as being the ones that you don’t necessarily straight away identify with, because they have this other language … It wasn’t so much to show one side as being more foreign or more remote.

NM: It was also a part with Etain [a mute], who can’t speak any language. Which is all about that lack of communication.

CP: You just want her to be more of a force.

NM: Yeah. A lot of people have asked if I made her mute because I cast Olga Kurylenko in the role, and a Ukrainian actor wouldn’t have fit the part, and that’s absolutely not the case. The character was mute from the very first draft of the script. I wanted her to be a force of nature who expressed herself purely through violence and action and aggression. I thought that was really interesting for a character. I also thought it would be really interesting for an actor to play a totally mute character. It’s a real challenge for them…. Even Olga was like, “Just let me say a few lines.” And the answer was, “No, you get to scream, and that’s it.” And ultimately she embraced that.

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:43 pm

Friday, August 27, 2010
Neil Marshall - Centurion Q&A

Senior Editor Jeff Goldsmith interviews writer-director Neil Marshall, actor Noel Clarke and actress Axelle Carolyn about Centurion

Download my podcast here

posted by Jeff at 5:06 AM

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

Post by Admin on Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:41 pm

Neil Marshall on CENTURION: Fantasy Film Podcast Interview

By Dan Persons • August 28, 2010
Centuri-run!: Michael Fassbender gets a workout in CENTURION.

CENTURION tends to focus on the resilience side of human existance, what with swords, hatchets, and various other implements of death being wielded hither and yon and a small clutch of battle-scarred soldiers trying to survive their onslaughts. Based on the historical myth of a legion of Roman warriors who vanished into the mists of northern Britain, never to return, Neil Marshall’s violent imagining of their fate offers a propulsive adventure in which Michael Fassbender’s dedicated centurion seeks to lead a small band of soldiers out of enemy territory while being hunted down by a relentless Pict tracker (played by Olga Kurylenko, whose inspirational physique would make anyone wish that surrender was an option). And if you remember Marshall from DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT, you know that once the narrative gets going, it’ll be at least as relentless as the soldier’s adversaries, and once things get violent, man, you’d better duck (and this isn’t even in 3D!). A fitting way to commemorate the end of summer methinks.

Also in this episode, an interview with director Danièle Thompson about her sharply observed dinner comedy, CHANGE OF PLANS. Not genre, but worthwhile, anyway.

Click on the player to hear the interviews.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

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Re: Director Neil Marshall

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