Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore Highlight the International Facets of 'Seventh Son'
"We went into it, when developing, trying to make it as internationally friendly as possible," said co-producer Erica Lee. "[China] is a market that is so large, you can't ignore it."
When Jeff Bridges agreed to play a mystical warrior in the action-fantasy Seventh Son, he brought director Sergei Bodrov a quote by Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "If only it were all 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?"
"I thought that was something we could bring to the film," Bridges told The Hollywood Reporter at the Universal film's 3D screening on Friday at New York City's Crosby Street Hotel. "I wanted to somehow elevate the movie past just good versus evil."
For example, the big-screen adaptation of Joseph Delaney's novel The Spook’s Apprentice casts Julianne Moore as a sympathetic yet very wicked witch, "somebody who is so bad that she actually eats babies and turns into a dragon," Moore said lightheartedly. "But at the root is her fury and rage at the way she and her people have been treated, so it makes sense. As fantastical as it was, it had a base."
Bridges' borrowed quote is the universal theme grounding the heroic fantasy epic, which stars Bridges as a mentor to a young warrior (Ben Barnes). Its release was delayed for nearly two years due to postproduction woes and issues with Legendary Pictures' then-partner Warner Bros. Now distributed by Universal, the film opened Dec. 17 in France and has already performed strongly in China, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and producers hope the title's momentum will translate in its U.S. debut.
Additionally, state-owned film company China Film Group made a groundbreaking, "eight-figure" equity investment in Seventh Son (and in Warcraft, another project by ThomasTull's Legendary Entertainment feature film division), and Chinese mobile gaming company Locojoy partnered with Legendary for the country's first major link-up of its kind with a Hollywood film company.
"China is a big, booming business.... Being able to come out strong there is a big thing, and I think a fantasy movie like this tends to do well over there," said co-producer Jillian Share of Legendary East, who introduced the film as "a labor of love" to the audience. "The U.S. and China — that's where the majority of your box office is coming from, those two territories mainly, so whatever you can do to be as honest and authentic as possible, not just shoehorn something in to make it work in China, but actually think about what's working over there and here."
Added co-producer Erica Lee of Thunder Road Film, "We went into it, when developing, trying to make it as internationally friendly as possible, by making the witches from other countries and casting a wide variety of faces. It's [China is] a market that is so large, you can't ignore it. It's really important for the movies to work in these places."
Moore applauded the title's strategic international appeal and box-office performance. "The world has certainly changed so quickly in the last 20 years or so. I think the more we participate in each other's culture and entertainment as a way of communication, the better it is for everybody, really."
Barnes cheerfully posed for photos with guests alongside the film's posters — a release-date ritual that was a long time coming. "I was almost a boy when I made [Seventh Son], and now I feel like man, partly because the last three roles I've played since then have been more manly," he said. "But at the same time, the delays had nothing to do with the film; it was all this behind-the-scenes stuff. It's the same film that would've come out then, and I'm just as excited now as I would've been then."
Seventh Son hits U.S. theaters Feb. 6.