Getting the royal treatment

Getting the royal treatment

Before his remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrorized the box office in 2003, director Marcus Nispel was known primarily for his work on music videos. But now he has returned with an epic Viking action film, Pathfinder, which opens April 13.

If you believe King Booker, he is already a film legend (though 2000's Ready to Rumble was hardly a critical or commercial success). SmackDown's king and his lovely Queen Sharmell appreciate good films, and have been known to act as WWE's resident Ebert & Roeper.

Before he was severely injured by new World Champion Undertaker on Friday Night SmackDown, King Booker, accompanied by Queen Sharmell, had an opportunity to talk Nispel about Pathfinder. It looks like the movie is on his majesty's royal must-see list:

Booker: Greetings, Director Nispel. As you know, I am King Booker, and I am the ruler of the SmackDown Kingdom. I have my lovely bride with me, Queen Sharmell.

Nispel: Greetings.

Booker: I am not only the ruler of SmackDown, but I am the king and ruler of the cinema world. Tell me about your new film, Pathfinder.

Nispel: Pathfinder is about the little footnote in history where Vikings invaded North America before Christopher Columbus. I'd like to say Vikings were actually the first ones to rape America, not Christopher Columbus. They have it wrong in the history books.

Booker: Yes, hmmm...your film sounds somewhat like a gladiator film. Your film sounds like a wonderful story that really combines action with a compelling storyline. How did you come upon this story, and what made you decide to direct this film?

Nispel: You know I wanted to make a movie like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. I loved movies like Conan [the Barbarian].

Booker: Yes, yes I loved that movie. With Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Nispel: Yes, the governor [of California].

Booker: Yes! I loved that movie. That was one of the greatest movies of all time! I remember when he sat on the throne at the end of the movie with the scepter, and he had a glass of wine. It was great! My queen, do you have any questions?
Sharmell: What do you look for when you're deciding on film projects, and do you have a preference in what kind of films you direct?

Nispel: I watch a whole bunch of movies, but there are very specific ones I like to do. The ones I like to do are the ones where I feel like I'm in it myself. This movie, the way we went about it was that while were doing it, it was like a real experience. People got hurt; we were in the thick of it. We had over 100 hospitalizations. We had 20 hospitalizations just in a two-day period.

Sharmell: My God!

Nispel: We had a flesh-eating virus. We were in the middle of a rain forest and it was not that green screen stuff that makes most epic movies these days. This was the real McCoy.

Sharmell: Oh my gosh…. Now, you also directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and were known primarily for your music videos before that. Which do you prefer to direct, videos or films? Do you find one genre more challenging than the other?

Nispel: Good question. I enjoy it all. What I like about movies is they take on their own life. They become something living and breathing, and it lives with you for a long time. It's almost like raising children. So to me, it's different than music videos. The good thing about music videos is that they're over after about a week. The good thing about movies is that they're about a lifetime almost.

Sharmell: Now, my king is too humble to to ask this himself. But as you may know he is quite an accomplished actor himself. He was the star of the classic Ready to Rumble. What kind of film role could you see a regal, brave warrior like King Booker playing?

Nispel: Well, this one would have been a great opportunity because when we started it, we decided that we were looking for specific types of Vikings, which most likely can be found only among wrestlers or as when we went to Canada, perhaps hockey players. And actually Ralf Moeller who plays one of the Vikings, he is good friends with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was a Mr. Universe once. We were looking for a certain physical appearance that not everyone has. When we went to Canada, a whole bunch of the Vikings we had were wrestlers. It was kind of interesting -- the one area in the movie's budget where we were completely off was transportation. We thought we could fit those guys maybe four in an SUV or two in a SUV. They all needed an [individual] SUV for themselves because they were so damn big! And with the armor, everyday we had a caravan of 50 cars driving through the Canadian forest. It blew our budget completely! [laughing]

Sharmell: [laughing] That is amazing.

Nispel: What's also funny is most of the Vikings I knew only in their armor, and their armor covered most of them. So on weekends, when we were not shooting and I would go to dinner or walk through Vancouver, every now and then a gigantic, gigantic giant of a man would run toward me and give me a bear hug. I would go, "Who the hell is this? I'm getting mugged here, somebody help!" [laughs] It would be one of my actors out of costume.

Sharmell: [laughs} That is awesome. Well, King Booker has more questions.

Booker: Now this next question is one of splendid nature: What about my beautiful queen, Queen Sharmell? She is more beautiful than Jessica Biel, Janet Jackson, and any other woman you have worked with in the past. What kind of role could you see her in, as I see her now, sitting before me?

Nispel: I think the queen is too big to be a "scream queen."

Booker: Yes, yes. Of course …

Nispel: That's a whole different category of actress. I think …

Booker: Maybe she could be queen like in this last movie -- the movie about the Queen of England [The Queen] -- I see someone [actress Helen Mirren] got a big award for that role. What was her name?

Nispel: Oh, oh...Geez…

Booker: Yes, yes, exactly! [Nispel laughs] You know exactly who I'm talking about! My Queen Sharmell would have to have a role of something of that magnitude, of course.

Nispel: An important, Oscar-winning type of movie.

Booker: Yes, yes, yes.

Nispel: It looks like the other queen stole her crown.

Booker: Yes.

Nispel: It's a conspiracy.

Booker: But there is only one Queen Sharmell, of course.... I have read that you are working on a film that has a rather unique take on Alice in Wonderland. Tell me about this new project.

Nispel: There's a queen right in there.

Booker: Yes, there is a queen in Alice in Wonderland, but that is something too small for my queen.

Nispel: Oh, I see. So you want something where the queen wins at the end.

Booker: My queen has to be the main star, the main everything. As I look at her now sitting before me, I glance into her eyes -- I gaze into her eyes --  and she looks at me, and I say this is something the entire world, the world, would have to come out and pay homage to this woman. Because I know that without her, King Booker, king and ruler of the SmackDown world, would not be here today. But tell me about that new project. It sounds great.

Nispel: Alice in Wonderland is based on the American McGee video game that takes a more sinister, R-rated twist on the Alice scene. It should be quite a ride.

Booker: Wow, wow … maybe that may be something for my queen. We may have to reconvene at a later time. But my queen has a question.

Sharmell: Thank you, my king. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a Frankenstein TV movie -- is it fair to say that you have a love for horror films? If so, when did that infatuation start?

Nispel: I guess you can say I have a penchant for the dark because I did 200 music videos and something like 2000 commercials, and they're all bright and cheery and pop. So, when I got to do movies, I got [a chance] to explore my dark side.
Sharmell: I love it. Do you have any favorite directors, or films that inspired you? Also, whose work, past and present, do you admire?

Nispel: You know what? I think it's like wrestling: Once, you do the job yourself, you start to find admiration for all those who do that job. I certainly have some favorites, and I think I have fairly popular tastes in who I like. I remember when I started out, I was a big Star Wars kid. And of course, I'm a big Spielberg fan. I like a lot of them. I like Coppola. I have popular tastes. And usually the public is right [laughs].

Sharmell: [laughs] Here's one last comment from my king. 

Booker: Yes, yes. Director Nispel, I must say you have been a wonderful, wonderful guest for King Booker and my Queen Sharmell. And I hope we have an opportunity to collaborate on a film at some time in the future. But in closing I just want to ask what is next for Director Nispel?

Nispel: One of the biggest things coming up for me, and one of the more exotic things for me to do is to spend some time with my kids and my family.

Booker: You know, I understand that totally. That sounds like a great, great venture. I do say in closing, once again, that you have been a great guest. You have been wonderful. We appreciate, myself and Queen Sharmell, your time and everything you have given us today. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Nispel: Thank you, and bye-bye now.

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