Witches, dragons and spells dominate the 3D supernatural fantasy world of “Seventh Son,” starring Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, but during the recent press conference, the stars joked the film was really a sequel to the 1998 Coen Brothers cult classic, “The Big Lebowski,” in which Moore played avant-garde artist Maude and Bridges was The Dude.
Based on the popular children’s stories by Joseph Delaney, “Seventh Son” is helmed by Russian director Sergei Bodrov. Bridges plays Master Gregory, the last warrior of a mystical order who fights dark forces led by the evil witch Queen, Mother Malkin (Moore). Gregory and Mother have a history; they were once lovers, but Gregory dumped Malkin for another woman. Out of jealousy, Malkin murdered Gregory’s wife and instead of killing her, Gregory threw her down a dark hole.
After some 100 years, Malkin escaped, hell bent on revenge. After murdering Gregory’s apprentice (Kit Harington), the grizzly warrior searches the kingdom to find the prophesized hero born with mystical powers (Ben Barnes) who can help him battle the dark Queen and her army of supernatural henchmen, led by Radu (Djimon Hounsou). One of the more nifty special effects is how Moore’s character shape-changes into a fire-breathing dragon with a spiny back and rapier-sharp talons.
Last week Moore, Bridges and Barnes participated in a press conferences to promote the film. Following are highlights from their exchange:
Q: Was it destiny that you chose the part? Or did the part choose you?
Julianne Moore: I don’t know, that’s a tough one. I don’t know if I believe in destiny. I do believe in desire and luck. I always say to my children that I remember when I was ten years old I said I’m gonna have two children, a boy and a girl. And I’d line up my dolls and stuff like that, and I had this idea I was gonna have a little boy and a little girl. I would say to them, I was lucky I got what I wished for. I desired something, and I knew what I wanted, and I was lucky I got it. In a way, I could reframe it now and say it was destiny. Sometimes a lot of what we want, you can say that in retrospect.
Ben Barnes: I think it’s discomforting to think about the idea of life where everything is fated and not having freedom of choice. That’s kind of unsettling, but it’s also unsettling to think of a life where the way you behave and treat other people doesn’t come back around and earn you something in return, which you could put into the category of something other than chaos. It’s an interesting balance and a question that affects every life. It’s an interesting theme to explore in any film, whether it’s in space exploration or the dark ages.
Jeff Bridges: I always stumble into an answer. This is why The Dude is like, “It’s just my opinion, man.” You got the universe, right? Black holes and the whole deal and other stuff we don’t know about, and here we are, right? And somehow we came out of the universe. I’m like Alan Watts, he’d say apple trees make apples and the universe peoples. It’s kind of destiny or fate, I guess, that here we are. The big bang resulted in this happening and all our challenges and dilemmas are our fate. And these challenges can be a wonderful lesson for us.
Q: Jeff, Julianne, it’s been almost two decades since you worked together on “The Big Lebowski.” What’s it like being together again? What was it like between the two movies?
Julianne Moore: It’s been 17 years, and I have the Little Lebowski to prove it. I actually got pregnant around then, and my son is 17 years old, so that’s how I know.
Jeff Bridges: Not many people know this, but I’ll let this out of the bag, this film is actually a prequel. There are some weird parallels. The Dude likes to smoke it and drink it, and I’m sure Gregory does too. Probably some similarities, but I haven’t thought much about it.
Julianne Moore: It’s great to be with Jeff again. Not only do we drag our relationship along as people and actors, but the audience does, too. So there’s that sense of “oh I remember those guys.” That comes along with you, and it’s something I hadn’t anticipated. It’s a cool thing.
Jeff Bridges: Positive baggage. Even what we’re doing now is kind of the same thing, just being together. We had the pleasure of doing a lot of interviews this morning, and it’s like performing with each other, living off of and being inspired by each other.
Q: What were the physical challenges of the role and what were the costumes like?
Julianne Moore: The costumes were tremendous. Not only did mine have a big tail, it had spines and feathers. I had hair, lenses, special makeup. It was the most daunting part, trying to carry it off. The costumes made the character and it was such a thrill. The costumes brought to life the beautiful sets, and that whole world they created gave us so much and allowed us to step into it so easily.
Jeff Bridges: That’s one of the wonderful things about making movies. It’s a collaboration of all these artists, and you get someone like Jackie West who’s focused on what your character looks like and why and the history of that. One of the early things they do when you’re making a movie is you meet with a costume designer, because it takes her a while to get all her stuff together, especially in a movie like this. All this information comes to you and, for me, that’s really instrumental in trying to figure out who my guy is and what he looks like. And as you start putting the stuff on, it all falls into place. Then you see the sets, my god, I was imagining great things, and every time I saw one, it exceeded my expectations.
Ben Barnes: I remember having a fitting and trying on these sandals and weird length pants … we went simple at the beginning and, subconsciously, the clothing does performance for you, because as you move through the story, gradually my clothes become like Master Gregory’s and it has a cloak, and a hood, and is more black. They play with subconscious turns of good and evil and who you’re becoming more or less like. It does some of the work establishing tones and colors and how you feel. You feel confident.
Q: Whenever you play a character, you have to suspend your presence in the now. What’s the most difficult part to give up?
Jeff Bridges: It’s the universe’s direction. Those are things you don’t fight. Master Gregory says to Ben’s character that what seems like a weakness or a bad thing can actually be a good thing. So everything that is happening in real life is informing what’s going on, and you can use all that. As for the bells at the end, one thing I was hoping the film could convey rather than the traditional battle between good and evil … in my research, I came across this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it was only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” I hope you see that in the movie somewhere.
As for the bells, that’s a little Bob Dylan “Ring them bells, ye heathen, from the city that dreams.” As it ends I say to Ben’s character, “Remember all those things I taught you? Don’t listen to those things, follow your own heart.” This is a journey that human beings are on. We still haven’t solved this problem of evil and how we deal with that. Not only the evil out there, but the evil in our own hearts.
Julianne Moore: That thing about distancing yourself, my favorite thing about acting is the duality that happens to us when we are working. You have to experience this character and the world around you, while at the same time remember where the camera is and where all the other technicians are, whether or not it’s going to rain. It requires a hyper-awareness that is my favorite thing. I love being on a film set. What you see is on the screen, but what we see is the mechanisms of our universe going back and back. There are boomer operators, camera operators, makeup artists all working together all the time. That duality, that awareness, is one of the most exciting things about acting.