Q: What was it like preparing for the film?
Clive Owen: The physical preparation of this film actually took quite some time. The biggest deal was the horse-riding. Your read the script and 70 percent of the movie is on horseback and it was very important that we got as proficient as we could. We were riding horses at very serious speeds in very hostile environments, wielding weapons. That really was the most demanding aspect of the film for me.
Ioan Gruffudd:The horse-riding was naturally one of the hardest skills to learn but what was even more difficult for me was learning to master the two swords together. That took many, many weeks and many rehearsals. I had to learn it almost like a dance, until it became second nature, part of my muscle memory.
Q: How important is the King Arthur legend in Britain?
Owen: Children in Britain are really brought up with King Arthur. It's in children's storybooks. As children, we play with knights and castles and little horses, so it's very much part of our childhood, part of the fabric of growing up.
Q: How did you feel when you got the part?
Owen: I had heard for a while that they were coming to the U.K. to shoot this big version of "King Arthur," and I assumed that the first thing that the people making it would be to secure an A-List, Hollywood superstar to play the lead role because it was huge movie. I was delighted when I was asked to do it. The most exciting and thrilling aspect is that the movie came to the U.K. It's a British story, and it was cast out of Britain and Europe. I was thrilled to be part of it.
Q: What were some of the most difficult aspects of the shoot?
Antoine Fuqua: Some of the most difficult things in directing this film were … everything. We had weather, horses, children, goats, fire, big battle scenes, just about everything was difficult. We were in some pretty tough locations. I think one of the most difficult things was that everything was unpredictable and these guys were on horses most of the time and it's complicated to film dialogue on horses, and I had huge wind machines blowing at all times, and the actors could barely hear themselves speak, and then there was snow in their faces. It was a complicated shoot.
Q: You were influenced by Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai"?
Fuqua: The way my love for "Seven Samurai" informed "King Arthur" is that it's about human beings doing something beyond themselves, self-sacrificing themselves, without reward, except for the reward of humanity. That's the influence. The most influential thing that I got out of "Seven Samurai" for the battle scenes was that Kurosawa always took his time to let you know the characters, so when there was a battle scene, you felt for them. That is what we strived to do.
Q: What do you think of the "realistic" take on the movie?
Owen: Sometimes Hollywood's been criticized for rewriting history. People see a movie and they say, "How can they do that? That's not what happened." That doesn't really apply to this movie. The King Arthur myth is a very elusive and a very enigmatic legend, and every version we've seen so far is somebody's perspective or interpretation of it. The radical difference of this one is that it's set in a very real, historical context, against the backdrop of the Romans pulling out of Britain — that's fact, it actually happened. This version is a very dynamic take on a very traditional story, and it is based on research and is as valid as any version before. I think the reason why it's a very relevant version for today is because it's a man who's trying to unite a very unstable, very volatile world, to make some sort of order in this chaos. We are really in very turbulent times today. I think this is very much a version for now.
Q: What is the appeal of King Arthur?
Owen: I think the reason that the story of King Arthur has lasted so long and will continue to last is that the central theme of the story is a man who's fighting for a better world, it's a man who's fighting for a just world, it's a man who's fiercely loyal to people around him. I think, whatever your political persuasions, those things have to be important.
Q: You're famous for costume dramas such as Hornblower. Do you prefer this to modern-dress productions?
Grufford:Yes, I have been predominantly in costume as an actor, but they are all such great characters to play, characters from literature, and characters from history, and because they are such great characters, I think, they reflect well on you as an actor. As for the future, I'm going from playing a hero to playing a superhero, so I'm going to be in a totally different costume again, this time, it's blue spandex.