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Mike Newell on Prince of Persia

Published May 19, 2010 in Movie Interviews
By Ryan Parsons | Images property of Walt Disney Pictures
Prince of Persia Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has all the makings of a big budget action/adventure movie. The original video game was created 20 years ago based on the adventure movies of the era, so it’s no surprise that director Mike Newell went back to the same sources for inspiration.

Mike Newell Directs Prince of Persia

“I looked at everything you’d expect me to look at,” Newell said. “I looked at The Thief of Baghdad, Harrison Ford [in Indiana Jones], David Lean was very important. I longed to do the charge on Aqaba from Lawrence of Arabia. All of those great big movies of the ‘50s and further back as well, they were all very important to me. But I also reckoned that if what I can do was to make this great big booming five ring circus of a movie that has so much in it, also have an anchor of very intimate, frank, tender, one on one scenes where people were telling one another the emotional truth, then you would touch the audience in their hearts in a way that simply big battle scenes were never quite going to. You had to have the intimate with the colossal.”

That five-ring circus mentality is the specialty of producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His movies have it all. “I had reckoned right from the beginning that what I was doing was making a film in a very particular genre,” Newell said. “For me, it was like making a Western with John Ford sitting over there, because this was a Jerry Bruckheimer movie which, as we all know, is a kind of genre [itself]. They just aren’t like any other films, they’re very particular. But there’s Jerry, sitting across the corridor in his office. So there I was, with the man himself. When we shot it, cast it, did all the preparation work, he was very, very hands off. I didn’t see him more than half a dozen times while we shot. Then we moved into post production and I showed him the first cut, and then he began.”

Prince of Persia Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Don’t worry, Jerry. Newell only has good things to say about you. “He and I had a marvelous kind of sprightly, uncruel, un-nasty, adversarial relationship when we got into the cutting room. I said to myself, if this thing is going to be any good, and for Christ’s sake you’re working with the most successful producer in the Western world, then this guy, Jerry, has got to sell $200 million worth of tickets before this thing shows one cent in the black. So really, it should be part of what you the director do, not to impose your daft little, ‘But this shot’s so beautiful,’ kind of demands. You should be listening to what it takes to make a dollar at the box office. I think we then began to understand, certainly I began to understand him better. And it was kind of fun. It is like dealing with John Ford. People will say down the line, ‘My God, you worked with that guy!’ I’m glad to have done it. He’s instructive and I’ve learned all sorts of lessons I’ll never forget.”

Newell has pulled it together before, directing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. “It was really different because with Potter I was in halfway through a series that was already a franchise that was a huge success. But here we had all of the basic work to do absolutely from the ground up with no favors done. We had no idea whether we would find favor with an audience or not, so it’s more nervous. You’ve got to work harder, you’ve got to be cleverer and more original, and above all, don’t ever let the thing sag. But Jerry’s the boy for that.”

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens to theaters on May 28th.

For the photos, trailers, posters and more movie info, go the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Movie Page.

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Images property of Walt Disney Pictures

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