Dwayne Johnson Hercules

Dwayne Johnson Hercules

Dwayne Johnson Hercules

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan, John Hurt, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Tobias Santelmann, Rebecca Ferguson, Isaac Andrews
Director: Brett Ratner
Genre: Action, Adventure

Synopsis: Both man and myth, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) leads a band of mercenaries to help end a bloody civil war in the land of Thrace and return the rightful king to his throne. A tormented soul from birth, Hercules has the strength of a God but feels the suffering of a human. Unimaginable villains will test the mythical power of Hercules in Director Brett Ratner's gritty take on one of the most epic action heroes of the ages.

Release Date: July 24th, 2014


About The Production

'Are you only the legend, or are you the truth behind the legend?"

The most towering myth of all time meets up with the mission of a real man leading a rag-tag band of warriors in 'Hercules," this summer's action-adventure thriller that reveals the famed symbol of lion-hearted courage as he's never been seen before: finding the hero's heart that beats beneath his colossal image.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Hercules, who was born with the strength of a god yet feels the suffering of a human. Notorious for his larger-than-life exploits, including the world-famous '12 Labors" – the most harrowing tasks in all of ancient Greece – but haunted by his past, he has become a wandering mercenary, cashing in on his legend with a brash group of loyal followers. But now, as he undertakes a bold campaign to end the bloody civil war in the land of Thrace and return the rightful king to his throne, he will be pushed to his own incredible limits. Unimaginable villains will test his mythical powers and a world thirsty for justice will test his humanity in Brett Ratner's new take on one of the most epic action heroes of the ages.

An Ageless Myth... A 21st Century Adventure

The immortal legend of Hercules - the demigod renowned for his mighty deeds and valor – gets a high-adrenaline 21st century makeover as director Brett Ratner and leading action star Dwayne Johnson bring Hercules to life in a modern incarnation . . . as a man struggling to live up to his own lore in a world of fearsome villainy.

This version of Hercules is an icon who has vanquished lions and hellhounds, and is publicly feared and revered as a super-human champion; but deep within, he remains wounded by tragedy and uncertain of his legacy. Accompanied by five faithful companions, he travels the empire selling his services for gold and using his formidable reputation to intimidate his enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of neighboring Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a terrifying warlord, Hercules can no longer skate by on the folklore surrounding him.

He must learn to embrace his own myth and become the hero people believe in.

Says Dwayne Johnson: 'Making a movie about Hercules has been a passion project of mine for a very, very, very long time. He's a character who over the centuries has been an inspiration to many, myself included. But this time, we wanted to give audiences a Hercules they've never seen before. When we meet Hercules in this movie, he's an exile suffering with regrets, fighting only for gold. He has to overcome his demons and find his heart to become the man people want him to be."

'What's different about our Hercules is that he is a regular man who has disavowed the fact that he's the son of a Greek god," adds Brett Ratner. 'Every legend starts with a true story and when I read the script based on the graphic novel Hercules - The Thracian Wars, what blew me away is that it was so grounded in a reality you could feel. That's what I wanted to bring to the screen."

For Brett Ratner, no stranger to high-octane screen action from the 'Rush Hour" series to 'X-Men: Last Stand," , taking on 'Hercules" would mean working on his most epic scale yet – but also zeroing in on Hercules' place in an era of potent anti-heroes. 'This is a story full of constant action, humour and kickass battles, which everyone loves seeing. But I hope people will also walk out of the movie feeling the power of Hercules' belief," says the director.

The inspiration for re-imagining Hercules began with the Radical Studios comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars, in which British comics writer Steve Moore thrilled readers with the story of a self-doubting fallen hero seeking redemption. Even in the earliest stages, Radical co-founders Barry Levine and Jesse Berger hoped the visually ambitious graphic novel would make the leap to the screen – and break the mold of movies based on classic mythology, which are so often steeped in fantasy or even animated.

The graphic novel first spiked the interest of Dwayne Johnson during a visit to the Radical offices. 'Their comic book was a unique take on Hercules that grabbed all of our attention," recalls the star. 'They took all the cool mythologies of Hercules and tweaked them in a way that gave the story a contemporary power. It was a Hercules audiences aren't yet familiar with."

Soon after, Brett Ratner joined the project and Radical Comics was thrilled with the synergy. 'It turned out that Brett Ratner was a Hercules fan from since he was a little kid," Barry Levine recalls. 'He brought in an unbridled enthusiasm and passion, and started coming up with incredible ideas."

Those ideas merged with the work of screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos, who put Hercules right in the thick of a volatile time of shifting alliances, military conquests, tribal unrest and imperial ambitions. It's a world in need of mythic powers, but Hercules isn't exactly convinced he has them to spare.

'The screenplay deconstructed the myth of Hercules," Flynn observes. 'He has completely rejected the famous legends about himself – and you see that he is someone close to giving up. But he has one last chance to cleanse his demons and become whole again."

With Dwayne Johnson cast as Hercules, the screenplay took on new dimensions. 'Once Dwayne Johnson came aboard, we really started bringing out the fun and charisma of Hercules," explains Evan Spiliotopoulos.

'We wanted the audience to enjoy Dwayne Johnson's humour, his charm, and the thrill of a summer action movie about Hercules."

Summarises Dwayne Johnson: 'For me, the tone of -Hercules' had to be right on the money, it had to find that balance between humor, heart, and big, epic action – and I think we were able to do that and ground the story in characters who are a lot of fun. I wanted Hercules to have a cool charm, and to be everything physically that people always imagined he would be."

Cast & Characters

Hercules/Dwayne Johnson:

He was born the son of Zeus, but now he's a jaded and very human warrior living on the last dregs of his reputation – until he discovers just what his strength can do when it's combined with belief.
To make Hercules flesh and blood – and bring to life both his iconic prowess and his witty, magnetic charm – there was only one person who stood out as the obvious choice: Dwayne Johnson. Like the Greek myth, the action star has himself emerged as a pop-culture icon, transforming from a WWE superstar into an action hero and one of film's most sought-after leading men. Johnson not only had all the attributes of the character, he had dreamed nonstop of playing him since childhood.

'Dwayne Johnson was born to play Hercules," says Brett Ratner. 'And his dedication to embodying him was amazing. He trained from the crack of dawn every day. Of course Dwayne has done many big action movies before - but I don't think he's ever played a role quite like this one. This has the big spectacles, the fighting and the fun, but it also has incredible emotion and heart."

Dwayne Johnson recalls: 'I grew up admiring Hercules and it was the first project I talked about doing when I first broke into Hollywood. So this is a movie and a role that has been many, many years in the making for me."

'Plus, I've always wanted to get into a loin cloth," he quips.

As soon as the project was in motion, Dwayne Johnson hit the ground running with an eight-month training program that took him through the wringer and back again, beefing up and sculpting his already extraordinary physique and amplifying his fighting skills. But it was all essential to creating the rippling but flawed Hercules he had in mind – wryly sarcastic, massively fearsome, and adept at hand-to-hand combat, yet in search of a reason to become the hero he is fabled to be.

'In my mind, you only get one shot at the iconic Hercules, so I really wanted to make sure that the version I had in my head was the version that the audiences would see on screen," Dwayne Johnson explains. 'And that was an experienced beast of a man, which I knew would require really hardcore strength and conditioning training and really hardcore dieting."

He adds: 'Creating and maintaining that kind of physique requires astute attention to detail. Sometimes you have to back off on cardio or add cardio or train three times a day or bump calories to 8,000 a day or back off calories. It's a big challenge, but it should be a challenge to play Hercules!"

For all the extreme physical demands of the role – which were even more extreme given that Dwayne Johnson had to have major surgery shortly before production began - Dwayne Johnson was equally interested in embodying the volatile emotions and relationships Hercules experiences as he comes to grip with who he is as a supposed demigod.

'When we first meet him, it doesn't matter to him if he's the son of Zeus or not," Dwayne Johnson reflects. 'The only thing that matters to him is righting the wrongs of the past. But he has this band of brothers and sisters – and they are the ones who push Hercules to believe that he can be a better man."

Amphiaraus/Ian McShane:

The soothsayer Amphiaraus joins Hercules' band of mercenaries as a much-needed spiritual adviser. Now, having seen a vision of his own future death, Amphiaraus fights without a drop of fear because he believes it is not yet his time. Taking the key role is one of today's most intriguing actors: Golden Globe Award® winner Ian McShane, who came to the fore as roguish Al Swearengen on HBO's 'Deadwood," and has gone on to play multi-faceted characters spanning from comedy to action.

'Ian McShane is brilliant, and it is his character that pounds one thing into Hercules' head: face your demons," says Brett Ratner. Adds Dwayne Johnson: 'Ian McShane came in and grabbed this role by the throat."

Ian McShane right away was drawn to the character. 'He's someone who says don't blame the gods for the acts of man – you must take responsibility for your own fate," he explains.

He was also intrigued by the chance to be part of a tight-knit action ensemble. 'This film follows in that grand tradition of westerns and samurai movies, where you have a group of renegades who each have their agenda but have to figure out how to work together as a group," he observes. 'They're slightly dodgy mercenaries who fight for money, but now they've found a higher calling."

Playing a man who is so staunch in his belief – including his belief that he cannot die - was also a fascinating challenge. 'Amphiaraus is fearless but at the same time, he's not stupid," notes Ian McShane. 'I think he really wants to just remind Hercules that they can all do the right thing."

Autolycus/Rufus Sewell:

Autolycus might lack for Hercules' astonishing strength, but he has more than made up for it with the sharp blade of his wit, ultimately becoming Hercules' master strategist. Rufus Sewell, the English actor recently seen in 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," takes on the role of Hercules' wisecracking friend.

'Autolycus and Hercules go way back, and they've got each other's backs," Rufus Sewell explains. 'They have a kind of communication that goes beyond words. They've always worked together, and that's a source of great pride to Autolycus, that he knows Hercules better than anyone else."

At the same time, Autolycus has a cheeky side Rufus Sewell found a lot of fun. 'He's a bit of a wheeler dealer," Rufus Sewell confesses. 'He's got a sarcastic tongue and a real sense of humour with Hercules. He not only is the brains of the operation but he's also the one who is always thinking about the gold coinage. He does have a good heart, but he often keeps it hidden."

In battle, Autolycus utilises a series of blades to his advantage – which for Rufus Sewell, meant he knew he had to start training the minute he accepted the role. 'You know there's going to be a lot of training when you have to stand next to Dwayne Johnson, and be even remotely believable as the same species," jokes Rufus Sewell. 'I did fight training, weight training and weapons training. Since we're mercenaries, the fighting in the film is very much to the point. There isn't a lot of fancy footwork. At the same time, what I love about the film is that it has so much humor and humanity."

Tydeus/Aksel Hennie:

Mute Tydeus, the lone survivor of an onslaught on the city of Thebes, is loyal to Hercules, but when he is unleashed, the beast within can take over. Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie, who came to international acclaim in 'Headhunters," takes on the role.

'Aksel Hennie is one of the first people we cast for -Hercules,'" notes Flynn. 'He is a phenomenal actor and wonderful in this unusual role – the mute of Thebes who is a bit of a berserker."

Aksel Hennie was intrigued by his character's way of dealing with the world. 'I love the fact that you have this character has all these feelings, and all this rage, but he's not able to express that verbally. It gives him a mystique," says the actor.

As for his relationship with Hercules, Aksel Hennie explains: 'Tydeus is 120% towards Hercules and their crew, which makes him quite dangerous because he will do anything you ask of him."

Like his cast mates, Aksel Hennie threw himself into rigorous training, but he says it all became apparent how vital it was when they shot the big Bessi battle. 'You could feel that all the work and training paying off in that sequence, as our characters truly banded together, and became friends fighting for one another," he says. 'It was an overwhelming experience."

Atalanta/Ingrid Bolsø Berdal:

The archer Atalanta possesses the world-famous feminine strength of an Amazon – and owes Hercules a blood debt. Taking the role is Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, the Norwegian star known for 'Cold Prey," 'Chernobyl Diaries" and 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."

Says Ingrid Bolsø Berdal: 'Atalanta is the icon of strong women, so it took a bit of self-confidence to take that on. But the story was so good, an epic action blockbuster full of interesting characters with their own arcs and agendas, it was irresistible. And it attracted great actors which made it even more thrilling."

To prepare to play Atalanta, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal spent several months in grueling training, teaming up with archery expert Steve Ralphs, known as 'the bow and arrow man," to learn the ways of an archer. Everyone was impressed with the results. Comments Flynn: 'Ingrid Bolsø Berdal is so beautiful and strong. As a female mercenary, you really need to believe that she is as tough and badass as anyone, and Ingrid pulled that off. She came to the set in incredible shape, probably more than any of the guys."

Iolaus/Reece Ritchie:

The mercenary Iolaus is Hercules' cousin and the storyteller who has spread his legend across the land. He is played by Reece Ritchie, who made his debut in Roland Emmerich's '10,000 B.C." and played the role of Bis in 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

Reece Ritchie says of Iolaus: 'He's always followed Hercules, but I don't think he's ever been on an adventure this big or incredible, and it gives him lots of new material for his stories. He is someone who is full of wonder, but he wants to prove himself as a worthy warrior also."

In playing Iolaus, Reece Ritchie encountered a new side to Dwayne Johnson. 'I was surprised by how dry and funny he is because our characters have this kind of fun, family banter," he says. 'And he also brings a vulnerability that I wasn't really expecting."

Training helped bring Reece Ritchie closer to Dwayne Johnson and the other mercenaries. 'We were all thrown into this intense physical world together and it was a great bonding process – not too different from what our characters go through," he muses.

Rhesus/Tobias Santelmann:

As the story gets underway, Hercules immediately faces a perilously skilled foe in Rhesus, the rebel leader who Hercules is hired to assassinate by Lord Cotys. Tobais Santelmann, the Norwegian actor who came to the fore in the Oscar®-nominated adventure film 'Kon-Tiki," plays the golden-locked revolutionary who guides a populist army of renegades from every tribe.

Knowing he would be going head-to-head with Dwayne Johnson was a motivating factor right from the get-go for Tobias Santelmann. 'I had to train as much as I could and eat right and work with fantastic costumes because when Rhesus faces Hercules, you have to sense this is not going to be an easy match," he says. 'One of the interesting things is that Rhesus has more speed than strength. Hercules has a lot of things he doesn't, but Rhesus uses speed as a very important technique."

Rhesus may be the heavy, and a ferocious warrior in action, but Tobias Santelmann notes there's also more to him: 'He's more of an idealist, like a Che Guevara figure who is leading a people's army."

The tricky lines between good and evil were fun for the entire cast. Says Ian McShane: 'Is Rhesus the bad guy? Is Lord Cotys a good guy? Is anything as it seems? That's all to be found out in the course of the story."

King Eurystheus/Joseph Fiennes:

The imperious King of Athens inherited his throne from his father – and he'll stop at nothing to keep his rivals at bay. Playing King Eurystheus is Joseph Fiennes, the diverse actor recently seen as Monsignor Timothy Howard in television's 'American Horror Story."

'Joseph Fiennes has created a wonderful character with a lot of twists and turns," notes Ratner. Dwayne Johnson adds: 'I was chomping at the bit to work with Joseph and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Says Joseph Fiennes of his character: 'He's part politician, part pampered playboy. On the outside, he's approachable and light, but he harbors some darkness, especially when it comes to the power of Hercules."

He goes on: 'He publicly celebrates Hercules as an athlete and warrior, but that sets the seed of his jealousy, and a concern that Hercules is becoming a force to be reckoned with."

Cotys/John Hurt:

Power-hungry and fiercely clever Lord Cotys has a dream of building his own empire. He is played by John Hurt, a two-time Academy Award® nominee recently seen in Bong Joon-Ho's sci-fi epic 'Snowpiercer."

'John Hurt is another brilliant English actor who plays Lord Cotys. He hires Hercules and his band of mercenaries as assassins – and that is where our story begins," explains Brett Ratner.

John Hurt was drawn to the epically unhinged nature of his character. 'It's a very dramatic kind of role– and Cotys is not exactly what you might call sane, which always interests me," muses John Hurt. 'These characters mix myth and reality, and the actors were able to have a lot of fun playing them."

Ergenia/Rebecca Ferguson:

Born the daughter of Lord Cotys, and married off to the King of Thrace, the healer Ergenia has vowed to keep her son and heir to the throne safe, no matter what it takes. Jumping into the role is Swedish-born actress Rebecca Ferguson making her major Hollywood film debut.

Rebecca Ferguson notes that when Ergenia meets Hercules, she immediately senses a kinship between them. 'At first, she sees him as this figure she has heard so many stories about, and she doesn't know what to expect. But they both have a past with their parents they have to reconcile, and that is what unites them."

Rebecca Ferguson was especially excited to work with Dwayne Johnson. 'Of course he's big and muscular and fun as Hercules, but Dwayne Johnson also has an enormous ability to reveal vulnerability," she says. 'I loved doing emotional scenes with him, because there's such a contrast between what he looks like and what he shows."

Says Dwayne Johnson of Rebecca Ferguson: 'There's an intangible, X-factor quality to Rebecca Ferguson that knocks your socks off. She's very beautiful and she brings life to this role."

Back To B.C.

To bring audiences back to the B.C. era of fabled Greek heroes in an exciting, modern way, Brett Ratner decided early on he would go old school – building epic sets from scratch. In search of the square footage to pull off such a feat, the production journeyed to the Origio Film Studios in Hungary, where 'Hercules" would use all seven of their soundstages as well as a vast backlot.

'Brett Ratner was adamant from the beginning that he wanted epic, memorable sets," Beau Flynn recalls, 'and shooting in Budapest really allowed us to go for it."

Adds Brett Ratner: 'We were able to create incredible battle sequences on a scale I never dreamed you could shoot, let alone survive, with horses, chariots and hundreds of warriors."

The experience was often surreal as hundreds of Greek soldiers marched to the set carrying their shields, followed by tattooed, bald Bessi warriors bearing fearsome blades, and then teams of horses pulling chariots. For many, the feeling was of being transported in a time machine.

'Every set was like something out of Cecil B. DeMille, with that kind of scope," recalls Rufus Sewell. 'It makes a big difference to actors because you're reacting to a real environment."

Brett Ratner also recruited a crack creative team. 'These were all people I had dreamed of working with in the past and I finally had that chance," says the director.

Heading the team was Brett Ratner's long-time collaborator, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, a two-time Oscar® nominee for 'The Insider" and 'LA Confidential." 'Dante makes you forget that the camera exists," says Brett Ratner. 'He really invites you into Hercules' world."

The duo also worked closely with production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, who most recently worked with Michael Haneke on the Academy Award®-winning 'Amour." 'Jean-Vincent and I talked about 'Hercules" for over a year before production," explains Brett Ratner. 'He came up with amazing designs that always brought a new and fascinating slant. It was his idea to get away from the classic white marble look - and the dark, textured look he created works so well for our story."

The centerpiece of Puzos' design was the Bessi village of Thrace, which becomes the site of a ferocious battle. He had one goal: to make it feel as alive as any neighborhood in the 21st century. We built the houses with wood, stone, and mud," explains set decorator Tina Jones. 'Jean-Vincent wanted it to be gritty and dirty. He wanted you to be able to almost smell how awful it was."

On a soundstage at Origio Studios, Puzos fabricated another colossal set: Cotys' courtyard citadel rising like a phoenix, and featuring a magnificent altar to the goddess Hera atop a huge staircase lined with flame-filled braziers. Here, the classical white marble beauty of Hera contrasted dramatically with the grittiness of the rest of the set. 'I decided to paint all the wood red. In Greece they used to paint everything in bull's blood because it is very dense. It connected everything to the primitive feeling that the bull was protecting the people," says Puzos.

Brett Ratner was gratified by the work of Puzos and his team. 'The citadel set looked and felt real, and the audience will feel that when they watch the film," he says.

The piece de resistance for Puzos was the dungeon set, where Hercules is chained and taunted by King Eurystheus and Cotys. 'I think it is the most impressive of all the sets," he says, 'because of the patterns we created with the stones, the fire and the green river of sulfur."

Jones had a lot of fun with it. 'We had cages full of skeletons, an executioner's block and chains everywhere," she says. 'It takes you to a shocking place."

Costumes & Weapons

As the sets came to life, so too did the wide-ranging costumes created by Jany Temime, known for her work on 'Gravity," 'Skyfall," and the 'Harry Potter" series. As with Puzos, her designs had a heightened focus on realism. 'Brett Ratner was adamant that everything had to feel real and lived in. There were no washing machines back then," points out Beau Flynn. 'With Jany Temime's work, it's all handcrafted. You can smell it. You can feel it. You can taste it. She pulled it off in a big way."

Jany Temime's work began with Hercules himself, who dresses to match his reputation. 'I dug into the mythology and gave him the lion's head, the lion-skin cape, and the big belt," the designer notes. 'It works because Dwayne Johnson can carry all that. From the moment Dwayne Johnson put the lion's head on, he was Hercules. We gave him long hair for balance, and he looks beautiful in it."

Says Dwayne Johnson of his look: 'The goal was to be completely transformed, aged up a little bit, with longer hair, matted beard, tattoos all gone and scars everywhere. It was a tremendous transformational process, one that I'll never, ever forget, and one that I was really grateful for, as much as it was a pain in the ass to sit there for 4 hours every single day for 95 days."

Each of the mercenaries who follow Hercules wears armor that reflects their personalities and background. 'Their armor is very personal to them and specific to the way they each fight," explains Jany Temime. 'For example, Amphiaraus, played by Ian McShane, has seen his own death so he has the shortest and softest armor because he doesn't even believe he needs it."

Rebecca Ferguson was thrilled with Jany Temime's edgy designs for Ergenia. 'It was very important for me to make Ergenia not a typical princess who walks around in beautiful clothes, but someone who will get her hands in the soil and muck, someone who is very earthy, and Jany did that so beautifully in the details and colors."

Designing for Ingrid Bolsø Berdal was a joy for Jany Temime. 'She is an Amazon," explains Jany Temime. 'She has a body like a sculpture, so I wanted to give her a costume to show it off."

Jany Temime pushed the boundaries for King Eurystheus. 'Eurystheus is a very cruel man," says Jany Temime. 'He has sadism to him and yet Joseph Fiennes brings out a regal elegance. His clothing is blue and gold with a cape with thousands of peacock feathers cut out of silk."

The warriors are defined not only by their clothing but their weaponry, which was created at the renowned Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand, then fabricated in England and Hungary. Hercules carries a hefty club; Tydeus dons two axes on his belt, which he uses in a thrashing motion; Atalanta's weapon of choice is a bow and arrow with blades on each end; Amphiaraus uses a staff with a surprise sword that shoots from the bottom; Autolycus conceals a selection of throwing knives beneath his cloak; Iolaus bears just a single bronze dagger; King Eurystheus has an elegant dagger designed to match his costume; while Lord Cotys transports his dagger in a jeweled scabbard.

'All of the designs helped the actors go to work each day and become these characters," summarises Brett Ratner.

Hercules In Battle

Though Brett Ratner is a veteran of high-style modern action, having collaborated closely with Jackie Chan for years, this film would take him into fresh territory. He aimed to create fierce, primal fights that might come out of myth, but feel like they are happening right this moment.

Brett Ratner recruited a formidable team to work with the cast, headed by second unit director Alexander Witt, stunt coordinator Greg Powell and fight coordinator Allan Poppleton, who in turn brought in daring stunt performers from England, Canada, New Zealand, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, as well as a group of sensationally skilled horsemen from Spain headed up by Ricardo Cruz Sr.

As soon as Greg Powell read the script, he started thinking about just how enormous Hercules' strength might be. 'He's not supernatural," notes Greg Powell, 'but he is a big guy, probably twice as big as I am, so if I can throw someone six feet, then he can throw them twelve. I worked on that principle throughout the fight sequences."

He then began working closely both with Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson to develop Hercules' distinctive fighting style. Despite having just recovered from surgery, Johnson insisted on doing all his fights himself and immediately started training with the Hercules' club and hefty sword. 'Dwayne Johnson is massive, so we incorporated his size and all wrestling skill into Hercules' style," explains Allan Poppleton. 'He was very hand-on with ideas – for example, coming up with his own methods of using the club." 'He needed to wield this thing like the back of his hand," says Dwayne Johnson of the wooden club Hercules employs with deadly aplomb, 'because it has been his weapon of choice over the years."

Greg Powell and Allan Poppleton worked with the cast for a month prior to shooting. The culmination of all their work would come to a boil in the tricky battle between Hercules, his mercenary band, the Cotys Army and the Bessi warriors who breach the wall and start wreaking total havoc. 'What was unusual is that Brett Ratner wanted the Cotys army to be ill-trained in that battle, so that Hercules realises that he needs to whip them into shape," Allan Poppleton explains. 'At the same time, he wanted the Bessi warriors to be crazy, berserk, almost animalistic kinds of creatures."

'The Bessis come in strangling, punching, and kicking anyone in sight," adds Greg Powell, 'and our boys did an amazing job there."

Says Dwayne Johnson: 'The Bessi battle is an epic, epic fight with a unique twist – and it becomes a defining moment for Hercules and his band."

Throughout filming, the production was able to work with horses that had been carefully trained over many months to fall in battle and other teams trained to haul the chariots driven by Hercules and his band. Four magnificent black Friesians thrilled cast and crew as they pulled Hercules' chariot, nostrils flaring, manes flying, and shiny black flanks gleaming in the sun.

Driving the chariots was another ancient skill that had to be mastered by cast members – and took 6 weeks of daily training to master the balance. Ian McShane says that it was a unique test. 'I ride horses, I love horses, but driving a chariot is something completely different," he remarks.

Between the chariots and ancient weaponry and graphic choreography, the action was so challenging on 'Hercules," it kept all the actors and stuntmen on their toes. But for Dwayne Johnson, it's the way Hercules comes to approach his battles that explains his endless appeal. 'Hercules might get knocked down, but then he comes back stronger, and that's a lot like how life is. We all come back after a fall and we come back stronger. We've all got a little Hercules in us."

Release Date: July 24th, 2014