After conquering the comic book movie as a young Howard Stark and as the titular Preacher, it looks like Dominic Cooper is having a crack at video game adaptations as well. Although cast in the much maligned video game movie, going head to head with Aaron Paul in 2014’s Need For Speed, the ubiquitous actor is back for another go with the highly anticipated Warcraft, the ascribed saviour of the video game genre. Donning the oversized armour of Azeroth, Cooper plays King Llane Wyrnn, leader of the humans in their fight against an army of Orcs fleeing their dying homeland. Now, chatting with FilmInk, Cooper tells us about his experiences with director Duncan Jones, whether he’s a gamer, and how he managed to ride a horse while decked out in that preposterous armour.
Had you met Duncan Jones before this?
“No. I had never met Duncan. I had been a great fan of his because I had watched his work a lot because I was doing something similar. I had to play two roles in The Devil’s Double and his film [Moon] was a cloning film so it was interesting to see, on a budget of a similar scale, how they’d cope with doing that and the different techniques that were used and I was completely blown away by it. When I met him for Warcraft I realised how much he knew about this world and I thought it was necessary that there was someone directing a piece such as this who totally immersed themselves and loved the world which it inhabited. I didn’t know a great deal about it so it was intriguing to listen to him in such great depth discuss what it was and how he wanted to tell this story and make it different from the computer game itself. Because my initial worry was that if you can already play this game and you can already create this world through illusion and for it to be played online with others then what are we going to do to make it even bigger and better than that? So I was very reassured to hear what he was saying and how the dynamics of the characters were going to work and how the motion capture was going to be different from anything that had already been shot before.”
Were you a gamer at all?
“I think I’m too old. I was of the generation where it just went from very slow tapes or discs in computers, so I spent a lot of hours waiting with that noise and then for the screen to say “broken down” or something and then have to wait another two hours. So I never actually played anything, I just watched a screen play fuzzy noises because my mum never got me a decent computer. They were always second hand and never worked. But then, when I did get a decent computer, I played a couple of football games and stuff for a while. But no, I was never someone who was immersed in a world that took up my time. I think I was desperate for there to be one but at the time I was playing those games there wasn’t really anything around. But I do remember it changing very rapidly. I had a Commodore Omega, or something, which was an amazing state of the art piece of equipment because it had a disc drive and some of the games I remember being blown away by but again they kept breaking down and never really worked, so there was a lot of that. And then when the games consoles came out I think I stopped myself from getting too attached because I could see that I’d just spend all my time on them. I went back and looked at some of the games which I hadn’t played for years and tried them out recently. I couldn’t quite believe it I thought ‘My god, I’m driving this car! This is unbelievable.’ I would spend a lot of my life playing them, so I try my hardest not to.”
In preparation for this, did you look into the Warcraft world at all?
“I took a look and saw who the characters were and who they were within this world and there is also so much material that can be read about them online because there is such a fanbase. It’s a world in which people inhabit a lot, almost more than life itself so there is so much material on there. I found that very exciting, if not slightly overwhelming. But, in a good way. You have a responsibility to make sure this lives up to the expectations of the fans who are so important to this game and I think they are going to be completely blown away by what is being created here. It’s going to be a very very special film. I’ve thought that since reading the very first versions of the script, that’s what drew me into it without even having known too much about the game, and if it survives on those merits alone then it’s going to be very special for the gamers. It’s a particularly different take on the story. It’s not good vs evil. There’s a lot of different aspects to it that are very intriguing even if you’ve never seen the game.”
Can you tell us more about your character and how he fits into this?
“I’m normally someone who has some sort of evil streak. There is something very dark and malicious about the characters I normally have played and actually, from what I can gather, he’s a very genuine, good man who wants to do best for his people, his kingdom and his family. He’s very much a hero. He’s confronted with a series of dilemmas and very difficult decisions that he has to make on his own. He finds himself in a situation where he would normally rely very much on the two people who have helped him in the past and he is rather sceptical as to whether they posses the power they once did and therefore he has to make more choices on his own. Some of which are the wrong choices. There is an imminent threat and he has to try and protect his people and there are a certain number of ways he can do that with the information he has to hand. You can always reference political points or things that are going on in the world at the minute. The news at the moment with people wanting different lands and taking over different lands and needing something because their resources are running low, that is very much part of our story and actually if you were in the position of power to make those decisions, it must be truly terrifying. Everything hinges upon that momentary decision, but you have to stand by it and stick with it and believe in what that decision is yourself. You’ve been put in that place of power for a reason. But he is there and he has to make one, whether it’s the right one or not. But he eventually does very much what a good man, who cares ultimately about his people, would do. He’s a very strong and powerful, good king. He’s who you would want your leader to be.”
Were you keen to play the good guy?
“It wasn’t something that I really thought about because the dark characters that I very much enjoy playing have a lot of layers to them. So no. It is nice to play someone who is just a good man, actually. It will be interesting to see the outcome of that and to see what it is like to be someone that an audience should ultimately be caring for the welfare of rather than someone they are against, in the hope that the hero survives or eventually wins.”
Was it a difficult shoot?
“It’s been hard to shoot a lot of the action sequences with the horses and the elaborate, larger than life costumes. It’s often armour for me and because of the way the game looks, these costumes have to look a certain way and maneuver in a certain way and sometimes that can be quite difficult when your horse also wears the same armour. That can be very, very frustrating. But it’s the nature of the work and you have to try your hardest not to let it effect the performance you want to give. But it can be quite frustrating because you’re trying to focus and to say the lines or to interact with a character when actually there is a horse behind you that you feel could at any moment kick you in the head.”
You must have become quite a good horseman then?
“Yeah, I know, I should have but I haven’t. I’m alright. It depends on the environment. Because we’re doing a lot of this horse stuff with green screen and a lot of the horse stuff has been amongst battle sequences which is not the best space for them to be in with a lot of movement around them and a lot of clanking of armour. But, no. I should be much better than I am. But again, it’s very much a thing about confidence. Often you feel like you’re under observation so just everything falls apart and you look like you’ve never been on a horse before and then they feel like they have to start from scratch with you. So it’s all to do with confidence. But it’s so good when it works and that’s why you really want it to work because you want to show that it is you that is doing the riding. You can always tell in films when they cut away and you see someone bobbing up and down on a pole and then cut to a wide of the horse and someone else riding it at speed. So you want to do it all yourself.”