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Gerard Butler GALS

Interview with Kit Mallet-stuntman on 300

Guest greyeyegoddess

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Guest greyeyegoddess


SWH: I've read stories of 300 training & preparation in interviews with the actors. Based upon what they've expressed, am I correct in saying that you and the principle actors worked together as a unit in training? And, the movie presents what looks like a true sense of camaraderie among the Spartans. Was there reality to that bonding?

Kit: There were approximately 6 weeks of training prior to shooting. Some people had more, and I assume most of the actors were put on some sort of program prior to this, as a certain look was required by the Spartans that does not happen overnight. The average training day was 8 hours. Even on shooting days just about everyone did some sort of training program. Every time the actors trained, the stunt performers were there. With this amount of intense exercise regime an incredible level of camaraderie is attained. Incorporating the stunt aspect where a high level of trust is needed to perform as well as we did, this brotherhood flourished. It manifested itself into relationships that you would not normally find on sets. On many occasions we would find ourselves hanging out together for dinner or parties on the weekends... Yes, Spartans do party, especially in a city like Montreal.

SWH: There was a wealth of video diary footage released in the months leading up to 300's release, some of which showed us snippets of your training. One of the things that struck me was the way in which you trained with weapons. Some of the actors have commented that you were trained to use the weapons in the film as realistically as possible. Was that your experience? Since you played multiple characters from multiple cultures and used a range of weapons, were there any that presented a particular challenge for you?

Kit: Weapon training and choreography were the majority of our training. The training was so intense we had a full time massage therapist and physiotherapist every day working on us. The actors' training was much more specific to the Spartan style of fighting that was created. The rest of us worked on broader styles incorporating double sword that the Immortals used, sword and shield, and spear and shield. The actual techniques were developed by Damon Caro and Chad Stahelski. The styles took real techniques but modified to accommodate the look of the film. The movie was like a painting in motion and the action needed to look like a dance.

I am generally left-handed which can cause problems in a right-handed world. Doubling actors can be quite difficult when they are right-handed. But having said that, I spend much of my career working on my right-handed skills, firing guns with the right, and other tasks. These last few years I concentrated on swords so when it came to double swords both my hands were equally able to perform, where most of the guys had a problem with their neglected left hand. The biggest challenge for me was my age (lol)... I don't seem to heal like I used to!

SWH: Many viewers have commented on the realistic nature of the battle sequences. They don't look obviously choreographed. How much of the fighting was choreographed vs. organic?

Kit: All of the actors' actions were choreographed. Most of the background action was choreographed on the spot just prior to filming, incorporating the specific styles that were taught to us. All of the stunt men on this film were incredibly talented performers and while on many shows the background fighting will be a free for all, we all realized the importance of the choreography and by keeping to this it made it seem more natural.

There were several key fights where you saw Leonidas fighting 70 guys, or any one of the other main cast fight, and these were rehearsed daily for months to make sure that every move was perfected. Since we were swinging around spears and swords (although they were not steel) there is a danger of making mistakes. By the time we got to shooting the action, the actors were so confident in their choreography that it seemed natural, because all the movements were like second nature. Many people don't realize the time put in to some of these scenes. In most fights you see in films, they are almost never one uncut shot. However in this film there were a few fights lasting over a minute with over 100 moves that needed to be perfected.

SWH: Bringing the focus back to training, could you give us a basic idea what a typical training day was like, including the diet?

Kit: The typical training day was incomprehensibly brutal! I have been in this industry for 17 years and normally when we go to a rehearsal we show up, stretch a little, and work on some choreography while not usually breaking a sweat. I remember day one. It was a Monday. On Sunday 10 of us arrived from Vancouver, and we were the last group to show up for the training. All the other guys were already there for a few weeks. So most of us, knowing what normal rehearsal/training days are like, took advantage of Montreal's club scene and spent too many hours "out on the town"... Big mistake! We showed up at 8 am, and started to swing swords around for a couple hours. Imagine the hardest aerobics class and do it twice in a row. Next up was meeting the personal trainer, Mark Twight. Mark is a mountaineer. For fun he has competing in marathon mountain climbs, climbing for 48 hours non-stop. Only to take one day off to do it again! His job was to make us look like Spartans... (I still think he was actually trying to kill us!) This training lasted another hour or two until lunch. After lunch, specific choreography with the actors for two hours, then another two hours of conditioning with the weapons. Generally, each day would have been equivalent to about 6 or more hardcore aerobics classes. After the rehearsal/training day we would usually all go to the gym to do about an hour of weight lifting. Tired yet???

The diet was critical... Seven meals each day. Breakfast was always chicken breast, egg whites, and oatmeal. All very bland. We started to add peanut butter to the oatmeal to make it more palatable. Lunch was meat and salad, and a big salmon or chicken wrap for dinner. Throughout the day, a couple protein shakes and lots of snacks like ham and cheese plates... protein protein protein...

SWH: Once it came to filming, was it odd to work in such a blue screen & CG heavy environment for so long, or was that something you'd encountered before?

Kit: I worked on many CG heavy films. Chronicles of Riddick was one where 40% of the shots were green screen. I, Robot was also CG heavy as were two of the X-Men films I worked on. 300 was a little different as every scene we worked on was blue screen. There were a total of 1500 shots in the final edit, of which about 1300-1400 were CG. It can be difficult doing scenes like with the elephants. The Visual effects director is trying to convey his invisible vision, looking at us and the lens of the camera, giving us marks to make sure we don't get stepped on by the elephant. Can be a little hard to react to nothing, but it all worked out in the end. At times it can be a little time consuming.

SWH: You had the benefit of playing characters on both sides of the battle, the 'good' and the 'bad'. Was that enjoyable? Did you have a preference for Spartan or Immortal (or another)?

Kit: I loved that fact that I played more characters than most of the stunt performers. I think that only a few of us played 5 roles. But I loved getting into the Spartan costume, not because of the leather codpiece (lol), but because of what the Spartans represented. My favourite role was the Immortal. They were more skilled than the rest of the Persian army and I loved the double sword. The deaths were a lot more dramatic as well with the Immortals; instead of just running in and getting killed, there was a huge interaction and a volley of strikes with the Spartans. The Spartan stunt guys generally did not do much except killing, and the majority of fun for a stuntguy is getting killed!

SWH: Obviously this was physically demanding filming and Gerard has mentioned sustaining a few injuries. Were you at all injured?

Kit: Everyone on the fight team, including the actors I believe, had tendonitis in their elbow from the constant swinging of the swords. I know Gerry had a problem with his arm for a while. It took me a month or two after the show to clear up my tennis elbow. With the amount of combat in 300 there were very few serious injuries. Someone got a spear in the eye during rehearsals and a flap of his eyeball was hanging. I think the doctors wanted to stitch it back to his eyeball! He refused and was actually back after a week of rest.

The was one other minor knee injury where one of the stunt men landed on someone's leg, putting him out for about a month. All in all it was an incredibly accident-free film. And this could be all attributed to the daily rehearsals. In my career most of my injuries were a result of the actors' lack of skills or stunt knowledge. The actors on this show are probably more skilled now than many stunt performers, in terms of fight ability.

SWH: Many of the readers at SWH came to 300 as fans of particular actors. I know that Gerard Butler and David Wenham are particularly well represented in the fan base. But for the benefit of those who have a special interest in the various leads, could you tell us anything about what it was like working with Gerard, David, or others in the cast? Do you have any enduring impressions or memories of working with them?

Kit: What a cast we had! Every single one of them came into the film totally willing to work with us and to do what it took to make what I think is one of the best fight films to date! Gerry is a brilliantly funny, charismatic gentleman. David was more of the quiet type, and was a true gentleman. Micheal Fassbender was just one of the guys and could be found hanging out with us on the weekends. We were all just members of the team, and I am sure each and every one of the actors will always remember 300 in this way. No one put themselves on a pedestal because they truly realized that every one of the jobs played a huge role in the final product.

It was quite funny though; when we first showed up on set every one of us was slightly self-conscious about the Spartan costume. We would walk in draping our robes around us as everyone's eyes were on us! By the end of the film it seemed like we belonged in the costume, like it was nothing out of the ordinary. We all became a part of the Spartan machine and were nothing else. All thoughts were on our "next battle" and not the codpiece...

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Thanks for such a good article. The more I read about the physical preparation which went into this movie the more impressed I am at the dedication of everyone involved.

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