Comic-Con International has long celebrated realms of fantasy. And whether those worlds take place in a four-color universe, outer space, or medieval landscapes, fans of each of genre can find something to cheer about at the annual San Diego event.
The “sword and sorcery” contingent took its turn to celebrate at Comic-Con, as one its fictional heroes – Solomon Kane – has finally received the big-screen treatment. The “Solomon Kane” panel began with an introduction of the people responsible for the upcoming film: producer Samuel Hadida, director Michael Bassett, and actor James Purefoy.
The trailer screened… and swords and blood began to fly! A bloodthirsty warrior who tries to change his ways, Kane is confronted by demons and evil men, and his true nature comes to the surface. There was plenty of broadsword fighting, demons, and gore in the trailer for even the most diehard fan.
Bassett began the discussion started by explaining that this is an origin film for Kane, who was created by Robert E. Howard (who also created Conan). And although Howard didn’t give many details in his novel about how the character came to be such a violent force of nature, the filmmakers picked up on “hints” scattered throughout various books. They did confess tthere were one or two elements in the Kane books that indicated he had a pirating background, but the filmmakers wanted to go with something that best set up the character for future films. Bassett said he hopes to tell many of the chapters of Kane’s life – particularly his African adventures.
Purefoy said he liked the character because he begins as such a nasty individual – one that doesn’t care about anyone or anything, who then gets taken to hell. Kane manages to return from this, and knows he doesn’t ever want to go back. “He’s on a path of redemption – he’s trying to purify himself. From this point on, he only draws his sword for a reason.”
One of those reasons is a family Kane comes across. He travels with them and gets to see what it’s like to be part of something bigger than himself. Basically, “they give him hope,” a panelist said. Therefore, when this family is attacked, he has plenty of cause to unsheathe his sword.
Two more scenes from the movie were then unspooled for the crowd. The first featured Kane – presumably from before he is set on his path of purification – leading a crew of men on a raid of a castle. They mercilessly kill many soldiers and head down to a “treasure room” where they are attacked by demons that leap out of mirrors. The audience jumped when this occurred onscreen.
The second scene showed Kane walking with the family and gave an idea of the bond he forms with them. It also showed the family getting attacked, and what Kane does to the villains who perpetrate this crime – it ain’t pretty.
The director then explained how it was very important to tackle this material from a serious angle. Fans won’t find jokes or “cheese” in this movie – it’s a straight-faced take on a solemn character. Bassett said he’s always been a fan of films like “Ladyhawke” and “Beastmaster,” and he thanked Hadida for allowing him to take the genre seriously.
Part of what gives the film a realistic feel is the research the filmmakers and actors did, particularly when it came to the swordplay. As part of their investigations, Bassett and Purefoy went to a butcher, got a pig carcass, dressed it in leather (as the characters would be dressed), and went about “sword research.” For example, is the sword a stabbing or slashing weapon? “Stabbing,” answered Bassett. He explained that they discovered slashing really didn’t do much damage to the skin, as pockets of air get trapped between leather and the individual’s body. They found when broadswords were used to swing at people, it was more about breaking bones than cutting. Something else they noted (and were proud of) was how a decapitation in the film took three swings. “Because we know.”
As there were lots of swords flying on set, injuries did occur. Purefoy went to the hospital when he was stabbed in the head, requiring stitches. Bassett said they had a fantastic fight/sword choreographer (the same one who trained Heath Ledger on “The Dark Knight”), and that his goal was to shoot the film’s swordfights in one master take. This means that most of the swordplay in the film was actually done by Purefoy, including one scene where he’s forced to take on twelve men.
Purefoy went through other hardships while making “Solomon Kane.” Since the film was shot in Czechoslovakia during the winter, it was very cold. This was obviously inconvenient when the actor had to fight outdoors while rain machines poured down on him. Purefoy mentioned that after finishing one particular day of filming, his clothes were literally frozen to his body, and the crew needed to pour hot water on his garments so they could loosen up enough to be removed.
The panel was also asked about their reasons for choosing to make “Solomon Kane” instead of another of Howard’s characters. Hadida explained that he knew someone who helped manage the properties of Robert E. Howard, and that many of the author’s novels were already set up elsewhere. In addition, Bassett came to him with a full-blown concept and art, and the filmmaker’s passion won the producer over.
One question came from an audience member who was interested in the mention of future Kane films based on his African adventures. They pointed out that while the books are fantastic, Robert E. Howard referred to Africans in very politically incorrect ways. Bassett agreed, and – while not defending Howard – said the author lived during a different time, in a small Texas town. Bassett said their plans for any future adaptations would definitely address these issues because the filmmakers couldn’t do things specifically as written.
With that, the audience was treated to the trailer one more time, and the crowds left to join the other barbarians outside of the convention hall.