Age of Heroes is a new British thriller based on the real-life events of Ian Fleming’s 30 Commando the template for the modern SAS during World War 2. It stars Sean Bean and Danny Dyer in the lead roles. I caught up with the film’s director, Adrian Vitoria, to have a chat about it.
FLICKFEAST: On paper at least the subject matter of this film seems to be one for a niche audience, were you conscious going in that it might only appeal to a certain group of people, or were you confident that it would appeal across the board?
ADRIAN VITORIA: It is a tough one, there has traditionally been a certain crowd who grew up watching War movies, and I include myself as part of that audience, and that period of history is of special interest to me. On the other hand I hope the film will pull in a new crowd, not so familiar with that time in British history.
FF: What attracted you to this project?
AV: First and foremost I wanted to make a war film. I think most directors would jump at the chance. To me it was a dream ever since seeing The Great Escape with my grandfather that film was an inspiration, and I felt it was time that the British made a film about the British at war.
FF: Because you have worked on a lot of long running television series such as The Bill and Hollyoaks, was it a challenge here getting a much more serious and gritty tone?
AV: No, because I did not become a director just to make those kinds of shows, but even making Hollyoaks was a challenge, and it taught me a lot, like how to tell a story in a different kind of way. As a kid I always wanted to make films.
FF: How does your approach differ when working on a TV Show compared with on a film?
AV: It is completely different, with TV you are working for a company which is like a well oiled machine, and you have a certain routine. Whereas on a film a lot more is left up to you, and there is more of a struggle getting the funding, but in television you have the broadcaster’s money.
FF: Sean Bean has said that we as a country seem ashamed to tell these kinds of stories, and that various governments have swept this part of our history under the carpet. Is this a view you share and if so was it on your mind when making the film?
AV: I would agree up to a point, in this country we tend to shy away from telling positive stories concerning our history out of fear that it might come across as flag waving. Also when you have a certain depression happening like the current financial crisis it is not seen as the thing to do to be celebrating our past. Because of this I have struggled to get a number of projects like this off the ground. It is much more of an American thing, but I wanted to tell a story of our history that we could be proud of.
FF: What was it like working with Sean Bean and was he the first choice for the part of Major Jones?
AV: It was a pleasure to work with Sean, he is a great actor, and I have admired him for a long time. What he brings is a meticulous approach to every scene, Sean always thinks that he can do it better.
He was the first choice for the part yes.
FF: Many people are likely to question the casting of Danny Dyer as Corporal Rains, what qualities do you think he brought to the role?
AV: Danny is someone who has made good and bad choices, but I think he is a good actor. One film of his I saw him in for example was Nick Love’s The Business, and he was very impressive in it. Danny just got caught up playing the same kind of roles and this was a challenge for him, Rains was a perfect role for him.
FF: Was there a frame of reference for you when working on Age of Heroes as far as other war movies are concerned?
AV: A lot of films really, as far as the battle scenes go something like Saving Private Ryan was a huge influence, we were obviously limited budget wise on what we could do, quite often we would fire off a weapon and be worried about running out of money (laughs). Another film which inspired me was a Russian movie called Come and See, it was a very stylish film and really showed just how brutal the German army were. I wanted to create an entertaining action film, which people could enjoy, but at the same time I wanted to create a realistic insight into war.
FF: The film is being sold mostly as an action thriller, with a bit of a human element also, how would you describe Age of Heroes?
AV: The problem with film today is you have to sell it to a certain audience. War will always be sold as action for the target audience. I would have liked to have had more focus on the intelligence side of it. I wanted to get the action scenes right, and paint a realistic view of the life of these soldiers, but it is also an entertaining action movie, which is another way of getting this story across to a more mainstream audience, but I wasn’t setting out to compete with other movies from this genre.
FF: What made you decide on James D’Arcy to play Ian Fleming?
AV: James is an actor who has played a number of different roles in the past, and when you meet him he is a charming and intelligent fellow much like Ian Fleming was. When I looked at James on camera he came across with that authority without seeming arrogant, he was perfect for the part.
FF: There seemed to be a lot of bonding happening in the film, did you work a lot with the cast to establish their relationships?
AV: Quite often what you see in the film is real, they were a great bunch of lads who knuckled down and gave it all for the shoot. At the end of the day we were all in it together, it was a tough shoot and some of the weather conditions when filming in Switzerland made it difficult, so as a group they bonded and I think that came across on screen. It would have been nice to have seen more of the relationship between them, there are a number of scenes not in the film of them in Scotland getting to know one another and a scene which may turn up on the DVD of them writing their wills together. Yes I told them who the characters were and maybe what I was looking for, but they were left alone to form those parts and the relationships.
Age Of Heroes is out on DVD and blu-ray 13th June 2011.