Prince of Persia Mechner Interview

Taking a leap of faith…

The Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown district is a place I have not been to in a while. The last time I remember being there was as a rambunctious adolescent, hopped up on god-knows-what going to see a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And those youthful days were, sadly, a long time ago (not too long, though… still not as old as Duke and never will be). So what would bring me back to this Cineplex, especially when there are so many other theaters I could go to that don’t involve me having to bike up one of the city’s famously steep hills? I’ll tell you what it was: The chance to be one of the first people to see the trailer for Disney’s upcoming Prince of Persia feature film and the opportunity to speak with the game’s creator, Jordan Mechner.

The event, appropriately enough, started with the trailer, which opens up with an impressive Arabic cityscape and cascades from there to a shot of a very large door that looked like it was plucked straight out of Sands of Time. It wouldn’t be the only part of the trailer that made me make that comparison, either. Sands of Time looks to be the main influence overall, most noticeably in the appearance of Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan with his time-manipulating dagger.

Other features prevalent to the overall series are also there as well. The beautiful Princess Tamina played by the lovely Gemma Arterton and a conniving villain named Nizam played by none other than Ghandi Sir Ben Kingsley round out the classic game plot trifecta, outlined by Mario Bros. so long ago.

Most of the trailer focused on the relationship between Dastan and Tamina, showing them flirting with witty quips back and forth. The rest was showing off what looks to be some impressive special effects-laden action sequences, such as parkour-leaping around a falling tower and freezing time just before a viper makes its killing strike. All in all, it looks to be the exact type of thing you would expect from a Bruckheimer action epic (Pirates of the Caribbean much?). You can get his own thoughts on the film in this Bruckheimer interview.

After being both razzled and dazzled respectively by the impressive preview, it was time for us – the greasy, nerdy journalists of the video game world – to get our chance to talk about the film and the franchise at large with the man who we have to thank for the PoP’s existence in the first place.

Jordan Mechner comes off as a laid-back, soft-spoken individual, but I find it hard to believe that someone with a work ethic like his isn't intensely stressing out all the time. Truly, he’s a jack of all trades. Not only did he create the Prince of Persia video game way back in the '80s, but he’s also the screenplay writer for the film and the author of an upcoming graphic novel based on it. He must be some sort of robot that doesn’t eat or sleep who plans to conquer the world. Hey! That would make a great Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

For him, the transition from game to the silver screen is very much a labor of love. He’s been trying to get this project green-lighted for quite some time, about 20 years roughly. He even went as far as to put together his own movie trailer using gameplay footage from the Sands of Time to pitch the idea to film companies back in 2004. Obviously, he was onto something as now that dream has become a reality. And in making that transition has created, “[a] movie that stands on its own”, outside of its inspired medium.

Cinema has always been a big influence on him: The first fifteen minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark were the inspiration for the original game. He loves classic adventure films like “The Thief of Bhagdad” and the spectacular “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn. So you can imagine how pleased he was when he found out they’d cast Alfred Molina, who gave the famous “Throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip” line in Raiders as the colorful and humor-providing Sheik Amar in Prince of Persia.

He feels his prince is the type of character that transitions well into film, and it’s hard to disagree after seeing Gyllenhaal in action in the trailer. He told us about how Jake had done a particularly unusual amount of his own stunts for such a high-profile actor and went through rigorous training, learning how to horse ride and taking on various workout routines to prepare for the role. Sure, he may be a little *ahem* light-skinned for Eastern royalty, but you quickly forget about that when you get lost in those dreamy lead-man eyes of his *sigh*… er, I mean, he’s such a good actor you forget he’s white, yeah, that’s it…

But not all the talk was about the film. The obvious tie-ins needed plugging too. Keep an eye out for a line of action figures from MacFarlane Toys along with what’s sure to be some of the coolest Lego sets ever made. The aforementioned graphic novel is still in the works and will hopefully arrive around the time of the movie’s release. Could there be a game based off the movie based off a game as well? John mentioned that there may be something in the works but was rather aloof on the details, which I think means it’s safe to say the we haven’t seen the last of the Prince’s console exploits.

The trailer is now out and you can scope it out right now at the end of this article along with Jake’s original pitch trailer. You can follow his adventures through the world of the entertainment industry at his blog site and look for the movie to drop in May 2010.




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