Visionary Indian director Tarsem Singh is known for his bold visuals — as seen in his previous films the Cell and the Fall — so a fair amount of spectacle is to be expected for his take on Greek mythology, Immortals.
But the boldest visuals might be the gods themselves, portrayed here as fit, young specimens instead of the usual bearded old men. It’s an approach Tarsem knew would be controversial — though he admits he wasn’t prepared for just how much blowback he’d get.
Your Greek gods are a lot more fit in this movie than we’re used to seeing.
Immortals is an action flick, and I decided it wasn’t going to be CGI flying and fighting and pointing fingers and lightning coming out from people’s fingers.
Once I decided I wasn’t going to go there, I needed physically fit specimens. So I just said OK, why would I go young with them? And I started to look for reasons, and the reason just being that if you wanted to live forever, nobody wants to look old and miserable and be carrying a catheter around in later-on years. So I said at the peak is where you’d like to stay. And also that solved a lot of questions which in the end in the movie didn’t make it that much — the idea of all these Greek guys having incest and all that. It just made much more sense if you had body beautiful. You’d be sleeping with the daughter. We had a lot of that, and people balked against it. It makes a lot more sense. If everybody looked really beautiful and didn’t age, the daughters would have to move out of the house.
Greek mythology is very soap opera-y.
Very! And for most people, they don’t see it as that. They’re just, “No no no! Zeus was this mighty guy, a voice of reason.” The guy who got pissed off at everybody else and kept killing the wrong people? And then slept with so-and-so’s daughter, so-and-so’s son and everything? And then Poseidon coming down and impregnating people through water? It’s just like, no they were nasty f— ups. And basically soap opera is the right thing.
What did you think of the most recent depiction of the gods in Clash of the Titans?
Clash was unfortunately so hurried in competition, funnily enough, with us — just thinking that it had to come out before that. I said I had no interest in competing with a juggernaut that has three times my budget. If they want to turn something like that out, that’s fine. But I don’t know how to do gods turning cauldrons and going, “What are the humans up to?” That’s so dated.
People deal differently with gods. Ours, I see a lot of people actually going negatively against it, saying it’s such a fascist thing. It’s usually older people or people just thinking wisdom only comes with age — or when you’re old-looking. I say yes, wisdom can come with age, but I know a lot of stupid old people.