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Clash of the Titans – Director Louis Leterrier and his chats with Harryhausen

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Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington, Director Louis Leterrier and Liam Neeson
Perseus (Sam Worthington), Director Louis Leterrier and Liam Neeson on location © Warner Bros

Louis Leterrier is no stranger to blockbuster movies, having recently directed The Incredible Hulk, so he seemed a natural to helm the re-imagining of the classic fantasy Clash of the Titans, which pits men against gods.

After Perseus’ (Sam Worthington) family is wiped out by Hades (Ralph Fiennes), he volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades, before the god of the underworld can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson), Perseus’ father, and take over the world.

Leterrier spoke of remaking a classic, and casting Sam Worthington before he was a household name.

Why do a remake of this?

It was (producer) Basil Iwanyk’s idea. He was the guy for twelve years who has been saying, ‘Let’s do it.’ He’s the one that came to me and I was like, ‘Are you insane, we’re remaking this classic?’ I obviously say, ‘No, I don’t want to do it.’ But I got home and I watched it and I was like, ‘Oh man, I’ll never be offered this film again,’ so I called Basil and I said, ‘How can we make it different?’ He said there was a screenplay by Travis (Beacham) and I read it and it was so exciting.

I was so happy with what the screenwriters did. It wasn’t just a shot-for-shot remake to be done with modern technology. It maintained the integrity of the original, but it was completely different.

Did you go back and watch the original when you were offered the movie?

Clash of the Titans - Director Louis Leterrier
Director Louis Leterrier (center) on location © Warner Bros

It was the first thing I did. I was a huge fan of the original. That was the movie that made me want to become a filmmaker. I wanted to make it different, but not for the sake of being different, but just because I felt the story could be told differently. It’s Greek mythology; it’s not an original screenplay. There are tons of characters that were unused or slightly used, or differently used by Desmond Davis and Ray Harryhausen in the original one. But the original movie was really a creature movie, this one I wanted the human part and the God part to be struggling and clashing.

As much as I loved it watching it again, my issue with the original movie was the initial starting point, the catalyst of the love story was not working for me, and we decided together to make it more of a revenge story. If you watch Gladiator or Braveheart, these are heroes that don’t know they are, and the catalyst is the death of their loved ones which sent them on the road to go on this impossible journey, this suicide mission. We decided to make it more human than in the original movie.

There are more creatures, but also more characters in our movie. I actually called Ray Harryhausen twice and said, ‘I’m doing this movie,’ and it was very funny, because he didn’t talk about the creatures, I thought he would talk about the visual effects, ‘Don’t make it CG, you’ll ruin everything,’ but he talked about the characters and he talked about the cast.

Speaking of the cast, can you talk about casting Sam Worthington to play Perseus?

Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington and director Louis Leterrier
Perseus (Sam Worthington) and director Louis Leterrier on the set © Warner Bros

It was a challenge to find the perfect Perseus. Everybody had the Harry Hamlin idea in their head, and I met a lot of actors and this kid from Australia was available. I didn’t know him. I went to see McG and I saw some of Terminator and it was amazing. Sam was so great in it.

After four years of shooting Avatar and Terminator Salvation he was exhausted, but he was coming to Los Angeles, and I said I would love to meet him to see what he was like. I sat down with him and he was perfect, he had heart, he had guts, he had strength, not physical, but just emotional strength, and he loved the same movies I loved, he loved the same stories I loved; he was Perseus.

Was it overwhelming making this movie?

I went crazy a couple of times, but I had great support from a great studio, Warner Brothers. That’s the studio that did 300, that’s the studio that realized that guys wearing little loin cloths can be emotional and can be exciting for men and women alike.

When we finished the first week of principal photography in Medusa’s lair, we were all sitting down exhausted, sweating, deaf from these explosions that were blasting, burnt because of all the fire. And we loved it. We looked at each other, out of breath, and just smiled and exploded into laughter. We all said, ‘Making this movie is going to be a great ride.’