Giant mission for fairytale hero Jack
Peasant uses the beanstalk to climb classes in writes
N Bryan Singer’s latest film, Jack the Giant Slayer, the main protagonist climbs his way to the very top of society using a magical beanstalk.
But it’s no easy task breaking into the ranks of the noble class in medieval times.
Peasant Jack (Nicholas Hoult) discovers that saving the lives of the King’s knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and his daughter, Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), isn’t enough – he has to save the entire human race from being overrun by giants. ‘‘It’s a big opportunity for him,’’ Hoult says. ‘‘Even though he’s an unlikely hero – he’s scared of heights and shouldn’t really be of any use on the mission – he’s got a strong heart and is brave and luckily does well.’’
The film is based only loosely on the classic beanstalk fairytale. Rather than steal from the land of giants, Jack wins his rewards with brave deeds.
Singer, who directed the first X-Men films, says Jack and the princess are meant to be together – eventually. He argues the film is ‘‘aspirational’’ and shows that a kid coming ‘‘from nothing’’ can make it with a good heart and perseverance.
Singer famously had to be bullied into doing X-Men because he wasn’t into comics. However, he was exposed to fairytales as a youngster.
‘‘I grew up in suburbia and these fairytales were our childhood morality tales,’’ Singer says.
McGregor’s acting class shines through in the 3D adventure in a turn reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Because Slayer is set in a fairytale world the actors could play around with 12th-century costumes and hair. McGregor cuts a dashing figure in asymmetric black leather armour that includes a shoulder fin. His character also has impressively coiffed hair. Nicholas Hoult (above) as Jack and Cook (left), voiced by Philip Philmar, in
‘‘It didn’t matter that my hair isn’t period. I wanted high hair – that was it. Elmont is quite camp,’’ he says.
The actors spent a lot of time practising on a climbing wall before shooting on the actual beanstalk made of plywood, foam, plaster and rubber. McGregor says the wall was more fun than the beanstalk partly because they were often filming while being pummelled with rain machines. Indeed, Hoult wore a wetsuit under his costume most days.
While Jack’s plight is admirable, the film’s portrayal of Princess Isabelle is less so. She is constrained by her privilege and an overly protective father who won’t let her leave the palace without a retinue of guards.
‘‘Everywhere she goes she’s followed by guardians and protected. It’s very constraining for her when all she wants is adventure,’’ Tomlinson says.
As for the giants there’s no doubting their badness. They eat humans and use their bones as tooth-picks. Their ferocious two-headed leader General Fallon is played by Bill Nighy utilising a Northern Irish accent.
Singer says that before shooting, Nighy would sit in his car and scream for 20 minutes ‘‘to blow his vocal cords out’’ so he’d have a raspy voice.
Slayer has a bigger body count than all of Singer’s other films combined but is actually quite light-hearted and fun. What could have been a dark tale is made much less so as a result of McGregor’s playfulness and the interwoven love story with Hoult and Tomlinson.
‘‘I want kids to be scared and enthralled but not have nightmares for weeks – maybe a few days,’’ Singer says.