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The Three Musketeers - Paul WS Anderson interview

The Three Musketeers

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PAUL WS Anderson talks about some of the challenges of making The Three Musketeers in 3D, including tackling the accents so that they didn’t become distracting and getting the tone right for family viewing.

He also talks about his decision to include airships and fancy weaponry into the mix and why he would love to do a sequel if the first film proves to be a success.

Q. When did you first become aware of The Three Musketeers?
Paul WS Anderson: One of the first movies that my dad took me to see, that I remember, was the Richard Lester version and I read the book at school and chased kids around in the playground with a stick pretending to be a Musketeer!

Q. There’s always a decision to be made about accents in a film like this, so how did you approach that challenge?
Paul WS Anderson: Well, it’s obviously something we thought about a lot – the idea that an Englishman was going to make a classic French novel in Germany! I had to decide what nationality we’d use because obviously we weren’t going to use any French people. I find it terribly distracting in movies when people do accents, I must say, because quite often… unless it’s terribly serious and the story is rooted in South Africa and you’re doing a South African accent. But in period movies I think nothing can be more distracting than people doing accents and we looked at Amadeus. That film is a perfect example… Tom speaks with an American accent because he is American. But one of the interesting things is that he’s also from outside of that area, an outsider from Vienna, so Neil [producer] and I looked at Amadeus quite a bit actually and learned quite a lot from that with the way the accents were done. There were lots of different accents but they tended to be grouped together.

And that’s what we did, so that the young, feisty, energetic one – and when I think of that it’s always American – became Logan Lerman. But also we had his father and mother speak with an American accent as well. When he travels to Paris and he meets more cultured people, they all speak with a British accent of course! And anyone associated with being evil tended to speak with a slightly Germanic accent. So, no stereotyping of nationalities here whatsoever [laughs]! So, that was the general approach – not to have anything too extreme but to kind of have it unified a little bit more and for it not to be distracting so you can just have fun. It’s a popcorn movie, you’re supposed to have fun. We worked quite a bit with a voice coach to take out any really modern references or words that may kind of bump the flow.

Q. How did you enjoy researching the costumes?
Paul WS Anderson: Well, one of the things about doing a period movie is the costumes and the Cardinal’s guards… because there are so many of them, there are a lot of people wearing boots and at the end of every day during the week we shot that fight scene with the guards, there would literally be a hundred boot heels lying everywhere waiting to be cleared up!

Q. The film carries a 12A certificate. Was that what you were aiming for?
Paul WS Anderson: Well, I set out to make a family movie because, for me, it was really the first movie I’ve ever made since having a family and thinking about the kind of movies my daughter might like to go and see with me. There’s no blood in it… well, a tiny bit on Mads Mikkelsen’s costume, and there’s no nudity or really bad language in it. So, I think it depends on how sensitive your kids are because I think the only thing it does have is a certain intensity in the action scenes. So, if your kids are up for that, I would say definitely go for it.

The Three Musketeers

Q. So, how did you balance the tone between the humour and the intensity of the fight sequences?
Paul WS Anderson: It starts as simple as thinking about when people get stabbed, what are you going to see? Are you going to see blood? So, on the one hand this film is a little unrealistic. I mean, these guys decimate dozens and dozens of Cardinal guards and you’ve got loads of bodies lying around without one drop of blood! But that was the intention. I really saw the movie as a big popcorn entertainment. It was the kind of movie I had gone to see as a kid and really enjoyed and I wanted to make one of those kinds of movies. A lot of my films have a lot of blood in them, so I feel like I’ve got it out of my system!

Q. Can you talk about the decision to stay largely faithful to the book but also bring in some changes, such as the inclusion of airships?
Paul WS Anderson: Well, we did a lot of research on the 17th Century and its weaponry and they were really inspired in the 17th Century into looking into ways to kill one another. I mean, there’s the most fantastic James Bond-style weapons that they built and that we visited and saw in museums, such as swords that were also guns, axes that you could turn around and the handle had guns built into them… And that rotating cannon device that Luke Evans’ uses towards the end of the movie is straight out of a Bavarian museum. We built our own version of it, obviously, but it looks exactly the same and it was a real device that was built.

So, there’s a lot of kind of very modern thinking going on. And then that time, with the idea of Da Vinci, and the idea that he designed so many futuristic kind of things that were never built but what if? So, that became the basis of the airships. Also, Richard Lester had them in his movie, The Return of The Musketeers, only his was a balloon hanging from a crane. So, I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to take a classic story, plus the latest in visual effects, and kind of tell a more operatic tale that perhaps would resonate more with a modern audience.

Q. You seem to lay the foundations for a sequel. Is one planned?
Paul WS Anderson: I loved making this movie and working with the people involved, so I certainly wouldn’t say ‘no’ to doing it again. But my approach has always been to put 100% into the movie we’re making right now. I think sometimes filmmakers put too much thought into the grand franchise they’re going to build. And guess what? If the first movie doesn’t work there is no franchise, so we always concentrated on making the best, best possible movie right now.

Q. Why did you have that final scene at the end then?
Paul WS Anderson: Well, because I really liked the characters of the Duke of Buckingham and M’Lady and I definitely wanted to come back to them. Really, we did the first half of the first book and of course M’Lady doesn’t die in the first half… it’s towards the end of the book, so we didn’t want to kill M’Lady and I wanted to see the Duke of Buckingham again and his enormous fleet.

Read our review of The Three Musketeers

Read our interview with Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson