Clash of the Titans (2010): Casting Heroes and Gods

Louis Leterrier’s “Clash of the Titans” stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes. The film is being released in 3-D on April 2 by Warner.

Sam Worthington as Perseus

The hero of the film, Perseus, having just lost the only family he’s ever known, is torn between the two worlds: that of man, inwhich he was raised, and the world of the gods, where many believe he belongs. Sam Worthington portrays the demigod who is reluctant to embrace, or even accept, his birthright as the son of Zeus.

“The actor playing Perseus had to have that rare combination of a great heart and a strong exterior,” asserts Leterrier. “Sam is one of the most wonderfully explosive actors I know, but what was most important to me is what he wanted to say through the character. He gave us a robust, determined, yet questioning Perseus, which is exactly what I felt the role required.”

Iwanyk offers, “When Sam walked into the room, we knew he was Perseus. We immediately liked him, and we liked the fact that he wanted to work hard as an actor, and understood what the role would require of him. There’s both an intensity and a youthfulness to Sam. He’s tough and he has an incredible physicality. You believe he has a god in him.”

“Perseus is a simple fisherman when you first meet him, he leads a simple life,” notes Worthington. “But circumstances throw him on this quest to avenge his family’s death at the hands of the gods. Apart from the epic nature of the film, what really appealed to me was the idea of family–of fathers trying to reacquaint themselves with sons, sons wanting to know why fathers don’t love them or why they rejected them, as well as brothers of a sort bonding on different levels.”

Perseus’ refusal to acknowledge his Olympian side was an important factor for Worthington, who says he “didn’t want Perseus to have to be a god in order to succeed. I think the fact that he rejects it, that he wants to do everything as a man, is a good message. He doesn’t like bullies, which is how he sees the gods, and he thinks enough’s enough; someone’s got to take a stand and it may as well be him. He starts off quite petulant and bombastic of course, but he’ll have to grow up and learn to accept his birthright if he’s going to survive.”

Liam Neeson

One character who doesn’t appreciate Perseus’ independence is his natural father and king of the gods, Zeus, who feels that Perseus should not only want, but should ask for, his help. Having been accustomed to unquestioning love from his own creation–humanity–Zeus is uncertain as to how to deal with its wavering devotion and mounting uprisings.

“Zeus, more than any other god, loves humans,” says Leterrier. “He created them, and he is torn because he loves them so much he doesn’t want to strike them with all his might and destroy entire armies. So he has found cunning ways to get them to obey…but the times are changing.”

It doesn’t help that his brother Hades, lord of the underworld, is pressing Zeus to allow him to handle things in his own way. Esteemed actor Liam Neeson, who took on the role of the conflicted king of Olympus, explains the delicate relationship. “Eons ago, Zeus, Hades and their brother, Poseidon, took control of the universe from their parents, the Titans,” says Neeson. “Zeus took over the heavens and Poseidon got the oceans, but Zeus tricked Hades into ruling the underworld. So Hades now sees his chance for revenge by tricking Zeus into starting a war with the humans. Initially fooled by Hades’ brotherly pleas, Zeus thinks maybe Hades is right…maybe they’ve got to teach humanity a lesson.”

“We could have gone two routes with Zeus,” observes Leterrier. “We could’ve gone with the white hair, white beard, toga, throne-sitting Zeus. But that’s not what I wanted. This Zeus leads a war; he’s active, he’s tough. His weakness is that he loves mortals–especially mortal women.”

“Liam’s physicality was perfect for the part,” Iwanyk states of the actor. “He’s big, he’s strong, he has that great, authoritative voice, but he has a very sweet face and very emotional eyes. The Zeus that we conceived is king of the gods and very powerful, but he’s also hurt; he’s thrown, he’s confused, he’s gone soft. Liam’s a very intense, imposing figure, but he can play that softness, that emotion in his face.”

Ralph Fiennes

Preying on his brother’s pain at the loss of mortal devotion, Hades convinces Zeus to let him put fear into the hearts of men, saying that fear will bring their prayers back to Zeus and, along with them, Zeus’ power over them. But in reality, human fear makes Hades stronger, not Zeus. Acclaimed actor Ralph Fiennes plays the part of the cunning underworld ruler eager to take his rightful place in the heavens.

“Ralph is not what you would consider a physically imposing man,” Iwanyk says, “but he has an ability to convey tremendous intensity, rage and strength. He wanted to bring this incredibly terrifying, unique character to the screen, and he did.” The producer also appreciated what Fiennes real-life friendship with Neeson added to the mix. “Hades and Zeus have a very complicated relationship onscreen, because they are not just adversaries, they are brothers. Ralph and Liam’s friendship really added to that dynamic.”

“The gods are in a state of emergency,” states Fiennes, “and Hades walks onto Olympus, with its vast marble hall set up high in the clouds, and sees what he has been missing being down below with the damned and the dead for so long. And he isn’t a god of compassion. He’s been betrayed by Zeus, and he figures it’s his turn now. So he goes to the city of Argos and demonstrates his wrath and his power over them. He demands the sacrifice that ultimately sends Perseus on his expedition.”

The sacrifice Hades demands is a heavy one indeed–the life of Argos’ princess, Andromeda, to be fed to his monstrous spawn, the Kraken, at the coming eclipse. Alexa Davalos plays the fated royal, a kind and generous young woman who is prepared to give her life if it will save the people of Argos.

“Andromeda is definitely headstrong and rebellious,” says Davalos. “But there’s a vulnerability that goes along with those qualities. She’s fighting the history and the royalty of her family and forging her own way; she’s truly connected to the people in a way her parents aren’t.” Despite Andromeda’s willingness to sacrifice her life, Perseus is not willing to let her die without a fight, which becomes the impetus for his heroic mission.