Seventh Son is based on the book series by Joseph Delaney. It centers on a magician’s apprentice (Ben Barnes) who learns magic and faces his first major threat: Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore). She’s a witch that challenges both master (Jeff Bridges) and student. Bridges, Barnes and Kit Harington chatted about their adaptation, which expands on bigger ideas about good and evil. They also recount how things got pretty epic off — camera.
Jeff Bridges on his inspiration behind playing Gregory the Spook (The Magician).
Jeff Bridges: I’m a big fan of myth and mythology, and I saw this as a chance to make a modern-day myth. It also talks about good and evil. My idea is that good and evil are really different sides of the same coin. I ran across a quote that really set me off. I thought, ‘If we can accomplish in turning people onto this idea, this would be something I’d like to be involved with.’ It’s from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the quote is, ‘If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But, the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’ And that rang true for me. I think that is something that is evident in the world that we live in today, and certainly in the past. It’s something that’s a work in progress for us human beings. As an artist, I see it as our task to help bring that dream of peace about.
Ben Barnes and Kit Harington on staying in the fantasy genre and what brought them to the project:
Ben Barnes: I’ve done some work in the fantasy realm before, but I think a lot of films are presented as an allegory of good versus evil, and they have very interesting subtexts. Not all too often are the characters really explored to the point of what dilemmas they’re going through in their approach to what they’re doing. I think that whole concept of good versus evil, and are you evil if you’re attempting to kill or murder something that you believe to be evil, are dilemmas that these characters are struggling with, particularly my character, as an apprentice. He’s somebody who’s new to it, but knows that he’s meant for something more in this world. How exactly that’s going to play out is something that he doesn’t know, and the idea of fate and destiny is painted on top of that as well. They are pretty interesting, special books. They’re quite microcosmic and particular to the north of England, but they have these incredible themes that run through them and these great characters. It’s something new and exciting. But I knew that Sergei’s [Bodrov, the director] international vision for it, with ghosts and warlocks and creatures that turn into other creatures and witches, would be a really cool idea. The tone of it was going to be something very different from what any of us had done before.
Kit Harington: I have worked in this genre before, but what was interesting about this project was working in a different category within this genre. People seem to forget there are different categories sometimes. They group everything into fantasy or sci-fi, but within those genres, there are other things. This was different from anything I had done. It was a wonderful mixture between dark and light. It has the elements of the children’s novel in it, and it also has the elements of what horrible acts can be done by humans. I thought that was a really interesting mix to play with.
Ben Barnes on the reaction to the changes to the novel’s hero Thomas:
Ben Barnes: When the trailer came out, I was so excited to see it. I saw it on YouTube, the first day it came out, and the first couple of comments below it, but then you try to avoid all of that stuff. I don’t go anywhere near reviews, ever. But it’s hard, even when you’re looking at a video, because they pop up. They’re going, ‘Oh, no, they’ve ruined it! He’s supposed to be 13!’ And you’re thinking, ‘They’re so down on me already, and I haven’t even done anything.’ But sometimes these things have to be a visualization. Other people’s imaginations come into play, and you have to reserve your judgement until you see the whole thing, in context and in its entirety. I think it’s gonna be pretty cool.
The cast on their fondest or craziest moments on set:
Jeff Bridges: I remember working in Alberta, we had such a wild time. We were on top of the world on this mountain. There’s a place mentioned in the script, and Sergei found it. No CGI was required. There it was. And we went there and shot, and we had a wild time being helicoptered in there. It was really terrific. It was an unusual experience.
Ben Barnes: There was the day of the lightning strikes. We kept having to run and hide under the trees, but the trees were only two feet tall and it was raining. Every five minutes, they had these mountain guides who were like, ‘Everyone under the trees!,’ so 200 people went to hide under these two-foot shubberies, looking up like, ‘Please, don’t kill me, wrath of the weather!’
Jeff Bridges: And then, there was an announcement that I’m not sure whether it turned out to be fiction or not, that said, ‘Be careful and don’t have any food out because there is a grizzly bear, just over the river.’
Ben Barnes: It was that same day. That was a terrifying day.
Jeff Bridges: Another time was very unusual. I got terribly sick, I was down for like ten days and with a terrible bronchial infection and they put me on steroids. Have you ever had steroids? [Chuckles] Geez! Very bizarre. And I didn’t know what to expect, it was so bizarre — the emotions. We had to shoot and I was feeling even better but with these steroids you can’t stop. You have to taper them down. So I worked for a few days on these steroids. And it was pretty amazing. Was it bizarre for you? (to the cast and director) I’m sorry! I was like manic!
The Seventh Son opens in theaters January 17.