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October 16, 2011
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SJP


'Musketeers' all in the family
By JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency


Milla Jovovich, centre, and cast members from "The Three Musketeers" (Supplied photo)

Director/actor-spouses often talk about working together. Sometimes they even do it.

But rare are the ones who work together almost exclusively. Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich are two such rare birds, having made four (soon to be five) Resident Evil movies together ("the family business," as they call it), plus this week's sci-fi-ish blown-up, 3D reimagining of The Three Musketeers, in theatres Friday.

So in the Anderson household, a director's dream project like The Three Musketeers must be sold, not just to a studio, but to a person on the other side of the bed.

"I said to Paul, 'Really?' " Jovovich recalls. " 'Musketeers? Floppy hats? Weird outfits? Why do you want to do Musketeers?' And he said, 'Because every generation deserves their own Musketeers.' "


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"And when he spoke his mind, I felt proud of him," says the actress who has turned Alexandre Dumas' duplicitous Milady de Winter into a Ninja-like physical threat, kicking foppish French butt in slow-motion and bullet-time.

Anderson does make a good argument for his love of Dumas' Musketeers.

"Richard Lester's (1973) Three Musketeers was one of the first films my father ever took me to see," he says. "I was one of those kids who ran around the playground hitting people with sticks, being a musketeer. So it's always been a dream to make a movie like this."

At the same time, the spectacle-minded Anderson, an acolyte of Jim Cameron (he even uses the King of the World's same 3D technology) believes the days of entertaining audiences with a simple sword fight are over.

So, yes. There's Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and the young Musketeer wannabe D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) swordfighting like Neo in The Matrix. There's the scheme by Milady to frame the Queen of France as an adultress and a stealth mission by the Musketeers to retrieve the Queen's jewels from England. There's location filming in the still-unbelievably opulent French-styled castles of Bavaria.

There are also creative anachronisms, like Titanic-sized airships with Gatling-style rotating cannons that never made it into the 17th Century history books.

"My version of it was not going to be my father's Three Musketeers," Anderson says. "I wanted to keep things that were great in the book. But the thing we could do differently was combine a period story with the best visual effects.

"I felt that the days were over where we could just have a swordfight and that would be the climax. I mean, you can if you're making just a straight historical drama, I guess.

"But we're operating in a post-Pirates of the Caribbean world. If Pirates had just been a straight pirate movie, it wouldn't have worked. The reason Pirates works is because you have the element of magic, and that allows you to have these bigger elaborate fight scenes and over-the-top imagery. That's what people liked about it.

"We don't have magic, obviously, but it was that element of (invented) technology that allowed us to crank the action scenes to the next level.

"As regards to the fights, what I asked Nick Powell -- he was the swordmaster on Gladiator and The Last Samurai, two of the best sword movies ever made -- was there to be swordfights with the actors really swordfighting so we don't have to use stunt doubles. And it's one of the things that dictated the use of slow motion. Because when you see Matthew Macfadyen literally pulling people off their feet and killing them in midair, you want to see him doing it. And when swords hit and you see sparks, none of that is CG, because the guys were fighting with real metal swords."

And if all this was going to be happening, Jovovich was not going to be left out. "I loved Faye Dunaway (in the Lester version), but I didn't want to watch it now, because I might, like, fall in love with it all over again. And then I'm like a monkey or a parrot just doing what I've seen before."

Her twist: A lethal Milady who wields a sword in a dress.

"We looked at portraits and paintings of the French court, and I said, 'Wouldn't it be crazy to have this noblewoman in this beautiful silk dress take out her sword and do some crazy spin in the air and knock all the guys out?' "

It was not Anderson's favourite idea. "Once we realized we were trying to block these fights, Milla's dress was everywhere and people were tripping on it. Then you realize with the corsets it's hard enough for the actresses to just stand and breathe."

Still, Jovovich stood firm on the issue. "To train, I had them make a canvas Milady costume and every day they would tie me in tighter. So by the end of the month, I had the Milady waist and the full skirts and was able to do the stunt sequences."

The only bump in the road came when Jovovich almost lost her favourite action scene.

"There was one shot in particular I insisted on. It was the big spinning-through-the-air-with-a-sword shot you can see in the trailer."

Anderson called it a day, "and I was like, 'Paul, what about the shot?' -- 'What shot?' -- 'You know, Paul, the shot with me spinning through the air with a sword!' - 'Oh, that shot.'

"That was MY trailer shot. I thought it was important because it shows how powerful she was and how strong she was.

"And it was really sweet, because he apologized and said, 'Thank you.' And it was one in the morning and the last shot of the day.

"But we were really lucky, because everybody really loves me on set, and everybody loves Paul."

‘Musketeers’ star gets used to sword

Growing up in working class neighbourhood in Newcastle, Ray Stevenson never dreamed he'd grow up slinging a sword -- or riding a horse.

But the actor, who played the gladiator Pullo in Rome, Volstagg in Thor and now swashbuckles as Porthos in The Three Musketeers, has recently given the subject thought. "I was recently cast in a movie where the character has to ride a motorbike, and I can't ride one. I've spent most of my time on horseback with a sword in my hand."

There's something about British actors in period pieces. Ancient Rome? British. Nazi Germany? British. 17th Century France? British. Ancient fantasy lands of hobbits and elves? British.

Along with Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, who plays Aramis, is one of two cast members of The Three Musketeers who's working in New Zealand through to the end of next year on Peter Jackson's two-movie version of The Hobbit. Evans plays the dragon-slaying Bard the Bowman. Bloom's reprising his Lord of the Rings role of Legolas. I asked the Musketeers -- the jovial Stevenson, Evans and Matthew Macfadyen -- why Brits dominate so many genre roles. "We have a great foundation in this country of theatre. It does help with being diverse. I'm not fearful of becoming known as a character actor. I relish the bad guys," says Macfadyen, who played the Sheriff of Nottingham in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.

And then there's the accent. Stevenson just finished filming G.I. Joe 2, playing a villain with a Southern accent. We point out, you don't see Matthew McConaughey playing a South London yob. The idea tickles Stevenson, who says to his mates, "Could you imagine Matthew McConaughey?" and following it up with a bizarre but convincing impression of Texas-inflected Cockney. "The American accent is such a young accent," Stevenson says. "As soon as you get an American doing Caesar, it sounds like cheap porn."

 

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