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Antoine Fuqua - King Arthur
It's no small task bringing the history behind the legend of King Arthur to the big screen. Now imagine being half way through directing the 'gritty' history behind the legend and finding out that you've got to change your film drastically to get a PG-13 rating. Director Antoine Fuqua (best known for Training Day) spun his film around 180 degrees half way through production, but is now able to spin it back to it's 'R' Rated roots in an Unrated Director's Cut DVD. We had the opportunity to speak with Antoine Fuqua about his experience making King Arthur, how things got changed back for the DVD and what exactly it was like working with Keira Knightley.

What's different between the Unrated Director's Cut DVD version of King Arthur and the one that was released in theaters?

AF: Little details really. The biggest difference is the tone and the graphicness of the action scenes.

Things the MPAA made you lose to get the PG-13 Rating?

AF: Yes. Little bizarre things. Sometimes they have you cut the way someone swings a sword, just all sorts of things, that I never knew existed in order to get a rating. I had to do quite a bit of editing and manipulating to get to that PG-13 rating.

One of the things I really liked on the DVD was the alternative ending. I agreed with what you said in the audio commentary that the film worked better with a darker ending.

AF: The ending I had was much darker and a little more visceral. I just felt like the big wedding was....

Hollywood

AF: Thanks! I appreciate that, because it's very Hollywood.

I've got to razz you a bit here, this DVD is THE DIRECTOR'S CUT, so why go with the Hollywood ending on the DVD when you've got this wonderful alternate ending there that could really set this movie apart they way it was in theaters?

AF: Yeah, exactly, exactly. That was a big fight. They wanted that ending real bad, so...I'm just a darker person.

What lead to the decision to release King Arthur as a Director's Cut?

AF: Jerry and those guys are trying to stay true to what I signed on for, and they had promised me that early on. When I first signed on to the movie it was to shoot an R movie, and then half way through it - that changed, for all sorts of reasons. Obviously it's always money...That was very difficult for me and I had a tough time adjusting to that. I had to change a lot of my shooting style that I had set up because it just wouldn't have been possible to do certain things and get a PG-13 rating, just because it would have been more graphic. Like I said, tonally, I had a whole different mindset. So once that happened, while I was filming, it made it difficult. Jerry Bruckheimer promised me that he'd get a version out on DVD that would be closer to what I wanted.

So you had to abandon the 'Raging Bullesque' blood spatter, the graphic eviscerations...

AF: Yeah, let's just get into it. The reality of it is, you're making a movie about 400 AD and you're saying that this is based on some reality. So for me, everything had to be that. These knights were not pretty boys in shinny suits. These guys were living in the middle of nowhere, protecting a wall. They had descent food because they were Roman officers, but most of them were enslaved officers. They were fighting 24 hours a day, protecting a wall or protecting a piece of land, they weren't happy about it. Most of them were from foreign places, from Russia to Arabia. Arthur wasn't happy being there, he had a dream of going to Rome, so he wasn't happy-go-lucky. I couldn't imagine Guinevere running around in a flowery dress and not fighting for her country. So when you change the tone of that sort of thinking it's very difficult to capture what I intended to capture, which is definitely more Raging Bull, grittier, meaner tougher environment, which nobody would want to live in. That was the intention of the movie.

The big tagline used to promote the King Arthur film was see the history behind the legend. Did you ever feel constrained with the need to stick close to the history of the story?

AF: It wasn't difficult because I like the reality of it. I wasn't trying to go off to a fantasy land, really. The problem was when I got calls about making it a PG-13 movie, that's when the studio wanted to go off into fantasy land. I was really comfortable staying in the reality of a world that I had done research on, keeping it grounded. My conflict really came with the rating, I didn't feel constrained at all by the history of Arthur because there isn't a lot known about him except about what he did. You can look at all of the Arthurian legends, mysticism and all the people who create their own version of it, but no one really knows all the details of Arthur. There are all kinds of hints here and there, so as a director you can create what you think would have been that world, without having your hands tied. Because, there are certain things that are fact: we know where Hadrian's Wall was, we know where a lot of the knights came from, we know that Arthur was of British decent but had a Roman father, because he was a Roman officer, we know where the name Arturious comes from - the Latin word for Arthur. There are certain things we know that I was comfortable living in, I was uncomfortable going into a fantasy.

One of the impressive qualities of the film is the costume and set design. How involved were you in these fronts pushing your vision of the darker world of Arthur?

AF: I was involved with everything. I was involved with every bit of it. Coming from commercials, I love to design and create a world that feels real, I love the details of it. Penny, who did the costume design, I had her change the costumes five or six times. I had her bring the actors in and I involved them as well. Based on the history it would have been more leather and dirt than anything. The Sarmations would have brought elements from their home. They would have probably tried to hold on to some of those traditions within their battle gear.

Not your typical knights in shining armor

AF: No, not at all. When I went to Hadrian's Wall , the woman who heads the museum there showed me some of the pieces they had from some of the knights, and they were leather and spikes and dirt, it was vicious, it wasn't pretty. The horses had masks to look like dragon heads with spikes. They had these things there, and it was amazing to see it, because right away you say 'where did this shining armor come from?'. It came much much later in the 1300's or 1400's. In 400 A.D. that wasn't the case.

What was it like working again with Jerry Bruckheimer? What kinds of things does he bring to a film?

AF: Jerry is a guy whose had a lot of success, a lot of experience, and a lot of life experience along the way, but he comes to the set and he's still like a kid. If you're feeling kind of tired and jaded and beat up, Jerry comes along and is so positive about the idea of making movies for the audience - he kind of injects you with that. He's a reminder that we make movies for the audience. Directors, we all want to go make our Academy Award winning movie, we want to make the dark gritty films, we want to make the films that sometimes us and our friends want to see. Jerry is a reminder sometimes that in Hollywood, if you're making films in Hollywood it is about satisfying the audience. It's hard for a director to swallow that sometimes because you want to satisfy your vision but Jerry is a reminder of why we make movies.

How about Keira Knightley? You've manage to catch a raising star fairly early in her career.

AF: She's a dream to work with. She's young, but what was most surprising was just how mature and steady she was. She was always there as a character, as a partner in making a movie. To be so young, you'd think she'd be listening to boy bands, and running around, just being a teenage girl. She's not that at all, she's such a little lady, such a little woman. I was watching her grow up while making the movie. She was training every day. On her off days she'd come to the set and train, that's a lot of discipline. She could have flown to Paris or Rome, where ever she wanted to go, but she would come in and train. I was surprised at that, that discipline, and that love for her work.

What's next for you?

AF: I don't know. I'm attached to The Untouchables, the Al Capone story with Paramount. I'm just developing some projects now, just taking my time before I make a decision.

Do you have any insight into the whole buzz around Bruce Willis and his lawsuit about the injury he got on Tears of The Sun?

AF: Not really. I really I don't. I don't even know what that's about. I heard about it jut like you did, I heard it in the news ... it's a bizarre business we're in.

In terms of DVDs, are there any which are your favorites, any you keep coming back to?

AF: I go back to old movies that have been revamped. I go see Scarface, or watch foreign films, Cinema Paradiso which was revamped, Scorsese films and watch the commentaries on them. Directors that I admire or films that I was interested in. I'm a theater buff

Now having done it, would ever want to go and do another epic film?

AF: Yeah, I'd like to go back and do an epic film. I'd like to do Hannibal, but I'd like to do it as an R rated film.

Going back to the 'Unrated' version of Arthur that's on the DVD. Are you happy with it? Do you feel like it captured what you were trying to do?

AF: Yeah I think it captures a lot of it. What's the saying...'films are abandoned, never finished'... so that's hard to answer because I feel like I abandoned it and never got to finish it properly. I got close. I got to do it. It's pretty amazing to get it done and an to say I made ab epic move about King Arthur.

Read our Review of King Arthur - Unrated Director's Cut

- Geoffrey Kleinman

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