Percy Jackson & The Olympians: Interview with director Chris Columbus

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Chris Columbus is the director of  "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," starring Logan Lerman, Uma Thurman, and Pierce Brosnan. The film is being released February 12 by 20th Century Fox.

Columbus was attracted to "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" because, as he relates, "We haven't seen the world of Greek Mythology in a story like this before," he elaborates. "I think Rick Riordan tapped into something quite unique, juxtaposing the world of the ancient Greeks with the underbelly of contemporary America."

 

Hybridizing Genres

 

Columbus describes his new genre effort as a contemporary adventure meets Greek-Mythology film, as opposed to a pure period-piece Greek myth with gods in flowing robes sitting on billowy clouds. "This story has a sense of reality and an epic quality while still portraying a sinister, supernatural battle between good and evil," he explains.



 

"To me, this story was perfect because it had this whole great world of Greek Mythology populated by monsters we could create and design and put in our world," says Columbus. "And, the heart of the story is about a young man who wants to save his mother and find out who is his father is. So that made it a very emotional story. The kind of story I respond to as a director." 



 

Casting 

 

Lerman nabbed the role of the titular hero after Chris Columbus had caught a screening of the western "3:10 to Yuma," in which Lerman co-starred, opposite Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. But the wheels were set in motion before then. Columbus recalls the casting process: "My assistant, who's been with me for several years, told me a couple of years ago that if I was ever looking for a young star to be in one of my films, I should check out this movie, '3:10 to Yuma', in which this young man, Logan Lerman, had a key role. I watched the picture and thought he was an amazing actor. When it came time to cast 'Percy Jackson,' I thought of Logan. When I met him, I thought he had the essence of a potential movie star. Then, he did a screen test and I was completely blown away. Logan is like a forty-year-old person in a seventeen-year-old's body. His instincts are so remarkable. Logan has a sense of reality and intensity about him that I haven't seen in many young people. He's that fantastic." 



 

"We had screen tested a lot of women for the role of Annabeth," Columbus relates. "When I saw a video test Alex had done in New York, I was intrigued. We then put her on film and I had never seen anyone's eyes photograph like that. She was mesmerizing. I also realized she had a tremendous amount of chemistry with Logan and Brandon."

 



Another big Percy Jackson draw is its gallery of creatures, chief among them the deadly Gorgon, Medusa, brought to life before the cameras by Uma Thurman. "I thought Uma would make a fascinating Medusa," Columbus recalls. "She is one of the most beautiful women in the world, yet at the same time she can create a real sense of fear and terror. I needed that combination for Medusa, someone who could entice you to look into her eyes because she was so hypnotic."

 

Bringing Greek Mythology to Life



 

The enormous Lotus Hotel and Casino set was built at Mammoth Studios' Stage 2 in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. "In Lotus Hotel and Casino, which is also based on Greek Mythology, these kids come into this casino which at first appears to be a regular casino," Columbus explains. "It's like this gigantic, never-ending amusement park – the ultimate kids' fantasy. Our three heroes are served edible flowers, which when you eat them, induce forgetfulness and make you never want to leave. So, if you stay in Lotus Hotel and Casino, you never age, and you can stay there forever. They realize that they're trapped in Lotus Hotel and Casino, and five days pass like a minute. So they need to get out and recover the lightning bolt." 



 

Columbus says, "I think the main challenge is to not overuse CGI, but to use it in an exciting way. The great thing about CGI and digital effects at this point is that they're getting very realistic and the challenging thing is to show people something they've never seen before."