In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale with Uwe Boll

Director Uwe Boll conjures up a treacherous and magical medieval world filled with thrilling adventure, spectacular battles, and warring wizards. Set against rugged, breathtaking terrain, “In the Name of the King” features an all-star cast headed by Jason Statham (“Transporter 1, 2 and 3”), Ray Liotta, John Rhys-Davies, Matthew Lillard, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Leelee Sobieski, Will Sanderson, Brian J. White, Kristanna Loken, and Burt Reynolds.

The Story

“In the Name of the King” tells the story of a hardworking man, known only as Farmer (Jason Statham), whose life is changed forever when a marauding band of Kruganimalistic brutes in the thrall of an evil sorcererthunders down upon the unsuspecting village of Stonebridge, killing his son and kidnapping his wife, Solana (Claire Forlani). Galvanized by his grief, the once peace-loving peasant leads his mentor Norick (Ron Perlman) and brother-in-law Bastian (Will Sanderson) in pursuit of the Krug army to free Solana.

Best known for transforming video games into onscreen adventures, Uwe Boll has directed, written or produced almost two-dozen films in a career that has spanned two decades. Bolls latest directorial effort, the medieval epic In the Name of the King, marks the filmmakers first big-budget, all-star movie.

When Boll was approached by videogame maker Gas Powered Games to translate Chris Taylors game 'Dungeon Siege' to the big screen, he knew it was a unique opportunity. This was a game that lent itself to becoming a PG-13 rated adventure fantasy, says the director, whose previous work includes the R-rated features “BloodRayne” and “House of the Dead.” It was clear that we had a chance to reach a much wider audience with this one.

It didnt hurt that the budget for In the Name of the King was $60 million, the biggest ever for a German production and by far the biggest Boll had overseen. It was three times what I had to work with for “BloodRayne” or “Alone in the Dark, says the director.

After years of working under tight financial constraints, Boll was thrilled to have the opportunity to deliver a Hollywood-style action film. Giving me $60 million is the equivalent of giving someone like Michael Bay $150 million, he says. It has been the best experience of my life to finally have enough money for a big movie.

As he has on most of his previous films, Boll put together the financing himself, with the bulk of the money coming from German investors. He raised an additional $10 million in Canada, where the film was shot, and also received investment by CGI production companies.

With a mainstream film and studio-level production bankroll, the director found himself being courted by top Hollywood agencies including CAA and ICM for the first time. They really liked that script and recommended it to their top actors, he says. I met Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan. A lot of people were interested in working on the film.

Casting Jason Statham

Because Boll envisioned Farmer as the father of a small boy, he cast one of Hollywood younger action stars, Jason Statham in the lead role. Besides once again displaying the charisma and physicality he has brought to such films as Transporter, Crank and The Italian Job, Statham, a former member of the British Olympic diving team, did almost all of his own stunt work.

Put simply, Jason has the ability to kick ass, says Boll. There was very little he couldnt handle. Despite Stathams status as one of todays most in-demand action heroes, Boll says he was a super-easy guy to work with on the set. That was crucial because we were shooting for over three-and-a-half months under extremely difficult conditions. His attitude rubbed off on the other actors. He didnt ask for a lot of perks. There were no superstar extras. Everyone had the same trailer; everyone ate normal food. Jason is a totally normal guy, and that helped make the whole shoot a dream.

Ray Liotta

With Statham signed on, Boll was able to assemble a star-studded supporting cast. Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Wild Hogs), who had become friends with Statham when they worked together on director Guy Ritchies film Revolver, lends his street gangster credibility to the scheming sorcerer Gallian. Boll describes Liotta as the other side of the acting coin from Statham. Ray is a real Method actor, he says. He stayed in character throughout the shoot. He would be sitting in darkness in between takes. He didnt want to have contact with other people. Matthew Lillard and Ron Perlman can make jokes and then just shoot a scene. You cannot do that with Ray. Even as a director you have to treat him like the evil king of the movie.

In addition to Lillard (Scream), who plays the conniving Duke, and Perlman (Hellboy), who portrays Farmers dedicated mentor Norick, Boll assembled a first-rate cast. Claire Forlani (CSI: NY)-whom the director calls one of the most beautiful women in the world-lays Farmers wife, John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings) is Merick, the kings devoted magus and Leelee Sobieski (The Wicker Man) plays his equally gifted daughter Muriella. Rounding out the cast are Burt Reynolds (Dukes of Hazzard) as King Konreid, Will Sanderson (BloodRayne) as Farmers brother-in-law Bastian, Brian J. White (Stomp the Yard) as the captain of the kings guard and Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) as Elora, a sexy tree-dwelling Amazon.

Kristanna Loken as Sexy Amazon

Having previously worked with Loken, Boll was sure she was up to the physical challenges of the role. I cast her as the leader of the tree women because I knew that this part will be hard on an actress, he says. She had to perform most of it in a harness that made it appear that she was hanging from a vine. I needed a really tough, acrobatic, athletic woman and I knew from Kristannas work in BloodRayne, which we shot under extraordinarily harsh conditions in Romania, that she would be perfect and that she could endure the pain.

Concept of Tree Women

It was fight director Tony Ching, veteran of dozens of Chinese action films including House of Flying Daggers, who came up with the concept of the tree women, aerial nymphs who call to mind the agile acrobats of Cirque du Soleil. “I brought Tony in because I didnt want to have the same kind of action scenes you see all the time in period films like Kingdom of Heaven and Troy, says Boll. Its always the same stuff. I was looking for something that would be ifferent and new for a big adventure movie.

Ching also brought with him ten specially trained stunt people from China to play the kings personal guards, black-clad ninjas who perform some of the most stunning and complicated action sequences in the film. Another bonus for Boll was Chings ability to work extremely fast, having spent years as a stunt choreographer on thrifty Hong Kong productions. Working quickly is perfect for me, says the director. I think that if this film was a big studio movie, it would have taken at least 30 days longer. Im a very effective worker for the money. Its all about discipline and planning.

Shooting in British Columbia

Boll chose to shoot In the Name of the King in British Columbia, using the photogenic Canadian Rocky Mountains and rustic Vancouver Island to stand in for the majestic vistas of Ehb. We didnt have to create any of the landscape in the computer, he says. We worked in places where you have only helicopter access. We were surrounded by huge mountains and big waterfalls. The medieval-style castles are CGI, but the mountains and the lakes around them are completely real.

The films sizable budget allowed Boll the luxury of creating the village of Stonebridge in Sooke, a hidden nature reserve at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Its one of the most beautiful places Ive ever been, and completely isolated, Boll says. There is no public access. To work there, you have to make a deal with the native tribal people. The area is breathtakingevery morning we would see killer whales popping up just off shore.

Working in the rugged Rocky Mountains presented some unusual challenges for the crew. We shot a scene where Farmer, Muriella and Elora are walking over the ridge of a mountain, the director says. The only quick way to get to that peak was by helicopter. We had flown up, but a fog came in so the helicopter couldnt fly. We ended up sitting up there for three hours, waiting for the fog to lift. We finally had to walk down.

Not everyone was that lucky. The film company had established an encampment at the top of the mountain for the horses and the cowboys who cared for them. They were stuck there for a long time. With the fog, it was too risky to bring the horses down. It was an adventure all around.

Working on a film of this scale was exhilarating for the director. It has become commonplace to use computer effects to create crowds in films, but Boll was adamant that they would use real people whenever possible. We traveled with up to 200 horses, 100 trucks and 800 extras. The huge battle scene in the forest is all real people. The only CGI crowd duplication we did was in front of castle when the King is speaking to all his troops. We all know that we can duplicate people in a computer, but it becomes boring. Does it make the movie better I dont think so.

Crazy Logistics

At times, the films logistics were overwhelming. Everybody was in elaborate
costumes, shooting in summer. It was crazy. The Krug are played by people in full body suits. It got up to between 90 and 100 degrees some days and they had to fight, jump and run through the forest in their suits. We did everything we could to get water to them. Sometimes you would see them lying on the ground and think they were resting, but they had actually passed out. At one point, even veteran actor Burt Reynolds succumbed to the conditions. He was wearing metal and leather armor, and he fell from a platform. Luckily, the stunt guys caught him. It was brutal.

Not a Literal Adaptation

Was it all worth it Boll is certain that it was. When you see it on a big screen, it doesnt seem like just another fantasy film. In the Name of the King has romance and drama. Its not just for video game fans. While the film uses Dungeon Siege as a starting point, it is far from a literal adaptation of the video game. We knew from the beginning that the Dungeon Siege title would be a subtitle for this film, because we were aiming for something much bigger. The videogame begins with the Krug looting a farm and killing everyone on it. From there, the scriptwriters developed a completely original plot. We had to develop characters from scratch. Farmer is in the game, but the other characters are almost completely new.

Boll raised the stakes for his hero by having the Krug kidnap Farmers wife and hold her hostage. In the game, everyone, including his wife, is killed and he goes on a revenge trip. I didnt want it to be just an ongoing massacre. I wanted a real story. We put Farmer in a situation where he basically has to save the whole kingdom in order to get his wife back.

That story-driven approach to the adaptation is the most important difference between In the Name of the King and Bolls previous efforts, according to the director, who sees it as by far his most commercial film to date. We developed the script over a period of one-and-a-half years with various writers. It was essential that our hero has a real reason for what hes doing. Thats part of the reason its not extremely violent. Its rated PG-13, so the whole family can see it. It wont just appeal to guys; it is a fantasy adventure with a happy ending, which will appeal to a much bigger crowd. Its a movie you could see on a date.