Over the next 5 days, we’ll be bringing you the interviews with Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, and Sir Ben Kingsley but to start us off, let’s find out where the game came from and how it was turned into a movie by it’s creator, Jordan Mechner.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is released in UK cinemas this Friday, 21st May and you can check out my review here.
Many games have converted badly to the big screen in the past. What made you think Prince of Persia would work on the big screen?
I’d be the first to say that not every video game should be a movie but I always thought Prince of Persia would make a good one, since it’s really a game that is inspired by movies. Especially those old fashioned, romantic adventure movies which I think we really set out to make the modern version. To me the final version that we’ve made is like the old swashbuckling movies of the 40s and is just the kind of movie that inspired me to create the original game.
Do you have creative input into the entire movie and is there anything you’d change in the finished movie now that you’ve seen it?
It’s been a long time since the Apple 2 when I had the task of creating everything from the design, the art, the animation, the sound effects to the best of my ability myself. All the of the recent games have been collaborative projects just like the movie. In fact that’s what most exciting to me in the movie, to see the creative process come to life and then to see the final product.
If I had a dagger of time, I would give myself a cameo! I think that was an oversight!
Going back to 1989 when you created the game, what gave you the inspiration?
I think I must have grown up with these ancient tales like A Tail of a Thousand Knights, reading storybooks and I’d always been intruiged by that world and it was until recently until writing the movie and making the game The Sands of Time that I read the Book of Kings.
Have you ever been to Persia?
No, I live in LA!
How did the process begin from game to movie?
I brought the game to Disney & Jerry as a pitch right after the game The Sands of Time was released and I cut together a trailer from bits of the game. I pitched the story which I proposed to write and I think the trailer that I made using clips from the game really helped and gave them a real vision for what the movie could be.
How do you go about writing a game compared to writing a movie?
I approach them both from very different directions. When writing a game, it’s all about the game experience and the game-play. When I created the game, I look at what is the player doing, what skills does he learn, what can a user do with the controller. The game and the movie are very different, but have many similarities. In the game, the Sands of Time are a cataclysm, a form of play that transforms everyone except for the hero and his love interest into monsters because in the game the only way to interact with other characters is to fight with them.
Movies are great for character interactions and when you have a the scope that a producer like Jerry Bruckheimer or a director like Mike Newell can bring, you have the possibility of creating a whole world with cities and towns and a broad canvas and so many different character interactions that would be more difficult to integrate into game play. So I set out to write a new story that was inspired by the Sands of Time but had these tweeks.
Were there tweeks that were in the game that we might see in the movie as nods for gameplayers?
The whole movie is full of little moments that if you played the games you can experience them on a second level but really we were making a movie for a wider audience, for people who hadn’t played games as well as the gamers who had played it.
The dagger of time for example is a button on the console controllers that can turn back time in the game and it was fun to bring that into the movie. In the scene when he’s running over the rooftops and infiltrating the palace, the parkour elements are the cinematic version of the action sequences in the game.
Hundreds of people involved in the production drew from the game in all aspects like the costumes, the weapons and much more. The whole production is infused with the game in many elements, not just the script.
Were you on set for the whole shoot and did you have the opportunity to make changes?
Not all the time but I did visit the set. By the time you get to the set and the sequence needs to be set, it’s past the point where the screenwriter can make changes.
Were you involved in the casting?
I wasn’t but I was thrilled when I heard Jake was going to be Dastan. He looks like the character in the game and more importantly he embodies a humanity that’s as important to the character as his physical warrior aspects.
Jerry Bruckheimer has said that in 10 years, you won’t be able to tell the difference between video games and movies. Do you agree?
Games are becoming more and more like movies, and are approaching the realism of movies using tools like photo-realism. That said, that is one artistic choice and much like animated films you can do an animation that that is ultra-realistic like Avatar but with an animation like Toy Story, that might not be the way you want to go and the same can be true of games. Not every movie will feature fantastic CGI, video game-like action sequences and not every game needs cinematic cuts scenes and dialogue.
Do you play your own games?
The Sands of Time is the last game that I really played all the way through inside and out. These days as much as I love games, I don’t have the time to play 10, 20 or 40 hours to play a game all the way through so for fun I gravitate to more casual games like Beatles Rock band which I’ve been playing recently!
When you did the pitch for Disney, was it important for you to be part of the production team to be protective of your characters and story?
The great thing about working with a producer like Jerry Bruckheimer and on a movie of this scale, it goes so far beyond what I could do on my own on a an Apple 2 with a character that’s 40 pixels high to actually having Jake in the best shape of his life with thousands of people doing parkour on the rooftops. I just love that aspect of seeing something go beyond and go so much bigger!
Where does the name Dastan come from?
Dastan means ‘trickster’ in Persian.
Are you already writing a sequel?
I’m currently working on a couple of other movie projects but as far as Prince of Persia, we’ve just been focused on this one movie and hopefully people will like it.
Prince of Persia is released in the UK May 21st. You can see interviews with all the cast on HeyUGuys so stay tuned or check out all our Prince of Persia Coverage here.