That large superhero canvas is very exciting for Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who wrote both Deadpool movies and are about to release Zombieland: Double Tap. While promoting that film, io9 asked the duo where their heads were at with a potential Deadpool 3 and the possibilities the Marvel Cinematic Universe may hold.
“The plan and the hope is that Marvel allows us to continue Deadpool in his R-rated universe that he lives in and also, hopefully over time, we get to play a little bit in the MCU sandbox as well,” Wernick told io9.
“It’s all undetermined, though,” added Reese.
When io9 then asked about their general ideas, it was obvious they’d thought about it a lot, but probably just couldn’t say that much. Even so, what they said was exciting.
“Marvel’s a rich universe of both heroes and also, wonderfully, villains,” Reese said. “So we would love to see Deadpool enter that universe in a fun way. It’s just about figuring out how and when.”
“[Plus] Ryan [Reynolds] is very busy and the transition has delayed everything because you just don’t know,” he continued. “[Marvel Studios] is figuring out the next version of the MCU obviously and that’s its own beast. Then you throw Deadpool in there and the X-Men and stuff, and it’s crazy.”
“But like Zombieland I think until we land on that one idea we’ll wait,” Wernick added. “It’s a special project for all of us. And one that deserves a wonderful, great idea. We will continue to trade texts back and forth with Ryan until we land on it, and then my guess is we’ll be off writing soon after that.”
So answer your texts, Ryan. And the same goes for you too, Kevin Feige.
Zombieland: Double Tap is out October 18 and we’ll have much more on it soon.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.
Rockstar Games has confirmed, in an interview with VG24/7, that they have no current plans to release DLC for Red Dead Redemption 2′s single-player mode. Rockstar will instead be working on expanding the game’s multiplayer mode, Red Dead Online.
“We’re 100% focused on online right now, because like I said, there’s just so much to do, and we’re just hoping to bring everything that a player can love about single-player into the online world, and fleshed out,” explained Pica.
Another Rockstar developer, Tarek Hamad, told VG24/7 that the team working on Red Dead Online wants the multiplayer game to “match the world” of the single-player campaign by adding new activities, events, and characters. The comments came as part of a longer interview with Rockstar developers about Red Dead Online.
For many fans, this will be disappointing news. Previous Rockstar games have received large single-player DLC expansions, including the extremely popular Undead Nightmare expansion for the original Red Dead Redemption and the Liberty City Episodes for GTA IV. But like GTA V, it seems Red Dead Redemption 2 will not be receiving large single-player expansions, at least for the foreseeable future. Instead, Rockstar will continue to build and expand both games’ multiplayer modes.
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There is no formula for surefire success on Steam, but there are at least some commonalities among games that pull ahead of the rest of the 30,000-strong pack. A big name. Roguelite elements. Survival. Multiplayer. Hundreds of hours of content. Frog Detective, a game about a detective who is also a frog, has none of those things. It is nonetheless beloved on Steam and is now getting a sequel. Or six.
The first Frog Detective, which came out last November, was a brief adventure in which players met a cast of quirky characters, looked at things with a magnifying glass, and collected items en route to solving the mystery of a haunted island. Largely, though, it was a vehicle for oddball dialogue and general absurdity. When the game’s creator, Grace Bruxner, released it onto Steam, her hopes were not high.
“I was a bit nervous,” she told Kotaku during an interview at PAX over the weekend. “I always put my games on Itch.io—like, every other game that I’ve made. I was nervous to put Frog Detective up on Steam because I figured my games wouldn’t hit the core mainstream gamer audience. I was worried that people who played it would have a really bad reaction to it because it was so short, it didn’t have any gameplay, and so on.”
To her surprise, hundreds of positive reviews poured in, and she had a minor hit on her hands. All this for a game she made part-time with her partner while in university. She’s still not entirely sure how it happened, but she has some theories. Like any good detective (who is also a frog), she did her homework. She believes that helped the game swim like a frog (who is also a detective), rather than sink like someone who is not a frog (nor a detective).
“I did a lot of research before I went on Steam to figure out whether it could feasibly succeed,” Bruxner said. “I looked at games of similar length and vibe. I looked at their price points and their reviews. I think a lot of people on Steam are like ‘I need a dollar per hour, or a dollar per ten hours.’ That’s their metric for whether a game is good, which is debatable, but that’s their business. If it was less than five hours and over $7, the reviews were bad. But under $7 and less than five hours, the reviews were positive.”
On top of that, she decided to signal that Frog Detective was short with a “little wavy thing” on the game’s page that reads “This is a short game!” That way, people who might otherwise be inclined to believe that a game called Frog Detective is a survival crafting roguelite with hundreds of hours of gameplay could turn and walk away.
What players got instead were jokes. But not big, loud, in-your-face jokes. Dry humor, quiet, almost serene strangeness. Humor in games is no longer this rare unicorn of a thing, but much like the game genres with which it’s paired, it’s often over-the-top. Bruxner, a former standup comic who specialized in deadpan humor, wanted her game to be different. She wanted the conversations to feel casual and the characters, who are based on her own anxieties, to feel personal. She thinks that resonated with people.
“It’s kind of rare to see dry comedy in games,” she said. “I know what you mean by ‘punching with humor,’ and I wanted to avoid that. There are a couple jokes that were more in your face, but mostly it’s just weird silences and non-sequiturs… I think about a game like Breath of the Wild where there’s this huge action, but there’s also all these quiet moments. Or you’re playing an RPG, and you go to a town, and it feels peaceful. I wanted the whole game to feel like the quiet part before the action.”
When it comes to Steam success, it’s often the little things that make the loudest impacts. But it’s also intangibles, baby bolts of lighting you’ve unknowingly bottled. Bruxner thinks that, too, might explain Frog Detective’s rise on a platform where similar games have fallen into obscurity.
“Maybe we’re also underestimating what the gamer consumer market really wants,” she said. “Maybe we’ve kind of tapped into something that nobody understands.”
With a fanbase and developer-turned-publisher Superhot Presents behind it, Frog Detective is now getting a sequel. It’s called Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard, and it’ll be out later this year. This one, Bruxner said, will have gameplay. Now you interview characters and collect clues in a notebook. It’s a subtle change, but in the brief demo I played at PAX, I found that it led to a series of more focused but still very funny conversations with forest dwellers who wanted to figure out who wrecked the titular invisible wizard’s welcome parade.
Still, Bruxner doesn’t feel like the unexpected Steam popularity of the first game has altered her plans for the second. She’s inspired by environments, and she knew she wanted to make a game set in a dark forested location. She also wanted it to involve a wizard. Then she put a bunch of possible game names into a spreadsheet, and the rest came naturally.
“Once we had ‘The Case of the Invisible Wizard,’ it just kind of wrote itself,” she said with a chuckle. “Title first, gameplay second.”
Bruxner is grateful things have gone so swimmingly, but, she said, Frog Detective was never not going to get a sequel, even if the first game bellyflopped.
Her initial goal, in fact, was to keep doing it and doing it and doing it until her funky frog game had expanded into a series as large as some of gaming’s most hallowed.
“The original plan was for seven Frog Detective games,” she said, noting that she has a big lore bible for the series that she’s written down in a sketchbook for children “with sea creatures on it.”
“I don’t know why it was specifically seven, but that was my number. And then I had to be talked out of it because we take a year to make each game, so I’d be working on Frog Detective for almost a decade. But maybe that’s worth it. Maybe we’ll make seven games,” she said.
Bruxner has yet to solve the mystery of precisely why her game found an audience on Steam, but she knows it struck a chord. Given her expectations early on, she can’t imagine a better outcome.
“I don’t know why it resonated with people, but I guess because I believed in the project, and other people—if they see somebody making a game who really, really believes in the game, maybe they like that as well,” she said. “I put all my heart into this game. It’s not so much about promoting it for me. It’s like I’m actually living in this Frog Detective world. I just am the Frog Detective.”
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power returned packing a short but powerful punch. The six-episode season felt like a long movie, telling an epic story that raised the stakes in a big way—for both our heroes and villains. So, what does it all mean, and what’s next? We asked showrunner Noelle Stevenson to weigh in.
In our condensed, spoiler-filled interview, Stevenson shares her thoughts on Catra as a dual protagonist, the martyr complex in Chosen One narratives, and her recommended way to watch season three. She also told us her reasons behind making the portal do “that,” and the big shocker of the season. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
io9: Season three didn’t really have any standalone episodes like season two did. It was one long thread. Did you envision this more as a movie, or as something else? What was your process?
Noelle Stevenson: When we were first breaking down this season, we intended it to be one season along with season two. So it was first broken down as a drop of 13 episodes. We found out there were plans to break up the season, so we could bring them to viewers on Netflix more often. It exists as “Season 2.5.”
[She-Ra] sort of starts out more episodic, more fun and games, and then it gets more serialized toward the end of the season. This next episode chunk is just the serialized parts of the end of that 13-episode chunk.
io9: Do you feel it was the right choice to break it up, or would you have rather kept seasons two and three together?
Stevenson: We’re sort of reinventing how we bring cartoons to audiences, now that they’re being streamed on these streaming services. One of the potential issues [of streaming] is that you drop all the episodes and then it’s done, and everyone kind of binges it. You’re absorbing a lot of information really quickly. The idea of breaking up the season—so it does give people time to theorize and come up with ideas of what’s gonna happen next, instead of getting those answers right away—it’s definitely kind of one way of dealing with that potential issue.
In this case, I think we probably would’ve broken the season a little differently in hindsight. But I would recommend viewers watch seasons two and three together as one long runner. It should be like a really fun watch, with the threads that carry over those 13 episodes.
io9: Adora struggles a lot with identity and choice this season, as she learns she’s actually a First One who was brought to Etheria through a portal. How would you describe her journey so far?
Stevenson: Adora occupies this sort of classic hero’s journey archetype of the Chosen One. When she was being raised in the Horde, as part of this army, a child soldier, she was still being raised as this chosen one. She thought that her destiny was very clear cut, very predictable. She knew was she was supposed to be and she believes in that very strongly. When she ventured outside of her experience, she stumbled into a different chosen one destiny, with She-Ra.
I think that she’s really struggling with that. She really really wants to be the best She-Ra she can possibly be, but she doesn’t want to make the same mistakes she did last time—when she thought she was in the right, when she was really in the wrong.
io9: We also see Mara, who explains to Adora why she separated Etheria from the universe. Can we expect to learn about more She-Ras in the future? And will they be different ethnicities or gender identities?
Stevenson: I will say that we focus a lot on the relationship between Adora and Mara, those are the main She-Ras we discuss. Stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come.
io9: This season paid off Catra’s struggles in a big way. She tried out life by herself in the Crimson Waste but was pulled back in by her need for validation, and she chose to activate the portal rather than let Adora be right once again. Was this always where she was leading, or did her journey evolve through the storytelling?
Stevenson: When I pictured the series, I pitched a complete story arc with the characters, like major beats already kind of nailed down. But within that, I think our approach to the characters—we’ve set up the major plot points, and then we see how the characters react to them. That’s how I personally write. It helps to know what story you’re telling and where you’re going and generally what ending you have in mind. Once you have that set out, you look to see how your characters behave, and I think there are some surprises along the way.
For Shadow Weaver, all the plans I had for her, she’s bucked basically all of them. And I think Catra is someone, she’s one of them too. I see her as almost a dual protagonist to Adora. While Adora is on this path of becoming a hero, Catra’s on a darker mirror path of that. I think Catra has really surprised me in a lot of ways too. A lot of that comes from the voice acting, the writing, and the board artists. I’m really excited for her arc coming up. There’s a lot still in store.
io9: Out of all the things I expected the portal to do, a “What If?” episode—bringing Adora to a reality where she’d never left the Horde— was not among them. What made you decide to take this route?
Stevenson: [laughs] I think that it was something, it felt like we should do. Especially with what Adora and Catra are struggling with this season. We’ve gotten so far from where we were in this pilot episode—them in this much more childish way, a lot more carefree. I think both of them are sort of, they’ve gotten so far from it, but they’re still so hung up on it…Catra is turning into a person that I don’t think she ever expected to be, and someone she doesn’t even think she’d recognize.
They both have reasons to go back to the beginning. Where Catra wants to hide from everything she’s done, and Adora’s going, “How can I go back and fix it?” Throwing them back and asking those questions again: Who were you then, who are you now? It was something I wanted to do, something that was unexpected
The portal was such a great opportunity to try something really weird and different, also while asking questions about our characters and delving a bit more into their interiority and how they’re processing what’s happening.
io9: Even though Adora’s storyline is about choice, in the end, the final choice—to close the portal and sacrifice herself—is taken away from her by Glimmer’s mother, Angela. What was the reason behind having Angela sacrifice herself instead?
Stevenson: Adora is this person with kind of a martyr complex. She’s always worried she’s not doing it right. I think what we wanted to say was the answer is not that simple. It might be really hard to figure out the right thing to do—you might hurt people, even when you have good intentions.
Adora, she’s got a lot of story left to tell. She has to use her power as She-Ra to try and help people. It’s not enough [to say], “Okay, if I just throw myself on this sword, then I can fix everything and then I’ll be this martyr and everyone will be proud of me. I’ll have done it right this time.” It’s more complicated than that for her. She has to stick around because they need her. Angela knew that and trusted Adora—and trusted Glimmer to run things after she’s gone. It’s not something that she can hide from.
io9: The season included the shocking revelation that Hordak, our supposed Big Bad, is a clone of a much-greater enemy—one whose eye is now pointed squarely at Etheria. Is Horde Prime’s arrival going to unite our heroes and villains, or will it further drive them apart?
Stevenson: I think that we throw a lot of really big status quo out the window. Not only is Angela gone, which is obviously going to have huge implications for Glimmer and for the whole rebellion and the Horde, but we’ve only been focused on Etheria so far. There haven’t been any other planets or intergalactic visitors. There is this much, much bigger conflict going on outside this hidden empty dimension that they’re in.
There is so much ground still to cover with what that actually means. That’s going to be what the next season about. We want to push our characters out of their comfort zone…I can’t go much deeper than that. But what I can say is the way that all of this plays out is so epic. The characters’ relationships are going to change, their relationshIp to the world is going to change, and we’re going to see so much more in the future.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is currently available to stream on Netflix.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.
And yet, in the Access video below, the interviewer refuses to believe that Carrey will not be lending his rubber-faced charms to Sonic himself.
The first mistake comes early. The interviewer has crossed some wires and asks Carrey what it was like to be “the only animated character” in the otherwise live-action movie.
“Well…y’know, I’m totally live-action in this,” Carrey replies. “It’s just acting. It’s just fun.”
Having gracefully side-stepped the mistake, he continues talking about what it was like to be Dr. Robotnik—the non-computer animated character he plays in the movie.
“So, are you wearing some sort of special suit?” she asks next. “Or how does it work…once they turn you into the animated Sonic?”
“Well, I’m not animated at all. My character’s Robotnik so…I don’t do that,” Carrey replies, still smiling warmly and likely hoping to get things back on track.
“When I played Sonic growing up, he doesn’t really have a voice,” the interviewer continues, refusing to take a hint. “So, we’re going to really get to know him through you. What can we expect and what’s the story going to be like?”
“You can expect me eventually, as Robotnik, to get that little blue boob,” Carrey answers, going through another question where he makes very clear that he will be playing Robotnik, not Sonic.
Though the clip is misleadingly titled “Jim Carrey Goes Off The Rails In This Hilarious Interview!,” the whole thing is Carrey trying his very best to stay on the rails, despite being given every opportunity to fuck with his interviewer. Maybe he just felt like being nice, doing his best to keep the talk rolling without embarrassing the reporter. Or maybe he’s saving his energy for better targets—like the Trump administration and Mussolini’s granddaughter.
Long before Disney’s remake of The Lion King hit theaters, it was a beacon of curiosity. Obviously, director Jon Favreau and his team weren’t going to film real lions, they were going to use digital technology to create all the animals, as he did with great success in The Jungle Book. But The Jungle Book is The Jungle Book. This was The Lion King, a remake of an even more popular, culturally resonant film. What would making this movie look like in real life? I was lucky enough to find out.
On December 7, 2017, myself and a group of journalists traveled to Playa Vista, California to visit the “set” of The Lion King. I put “set” in quotes because, really, there were no sets. There was no grass or trees or animals in this building. The building is about three miles from the Pacific Ocean and so non-descript you could drive by it every day for your entire life and have no idea what was going on inside. It could be an Amazon distribution center or have the Ark of the Covenant in it. You’d have no idea unless you were allowed inside.
This particular building had one purpose only: remaking The Lion King. Every step of the process, from the story, to the design, all the way through the edit, visual effects, sound and more took place here. In fact, 90 percent of The Lion King was made in this building by about 150 people. (Outside visual effects houses helped too.)
Most of that is easy to picture. Conference rooms with photos on the walls. Giant computers for editing or effects. Normal movie stuff. But it’s the filming that’s so unique.
Filming took place in a large room that felt more like a Best Buy than a film set. It’s mostly empty and industrial save for all the wild tech everywhere. There are 120-inch touchscreen monitors positioned all around. Custom camera rigs for people to use. Wires, chairs, desktop computers and, most importantly, VR headsets all over the place. And that’s where the sets actually are. In virtual reality.
To visit them, the filmmakers either had to put on VR headsets or watch on the screens. Instantly, they’re transported to Africa, where Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and everyone else lives. This is possible with custom software that, in the simplest terms, is basically an elaborate video game you could call “make a movie.” That’s how Ben Grossman, the virtual producer supervisor on the film, described it.
Grossman works at Magnopus, a company that pioneered a VR system enabling the filmmakers to create the scene they wanted in VR, then shoot it in the real world. Using the Unity game engine (which is increasingly being used for non-game stuff like The Lion King), filmmakers put on a VR headset (primarily the HTC Vive) and are transported to their virtual set. Then, using all the different options in the software, they can put down lights, change the landscapes, lay dolly track, change camera lenses, basically anything someone would be able to do on a real set, but they can do it virtually. Once everything is just right, real film production people, including director of photography Caleb Deschanel (Passion of the Christ), use real cameras hooked into a computer and film scenes in reality with the results showing up virtually.
I know. It’s hard to picture. But imagine putting on a VR headset and then you’re standing in Africa as a huge virtual environment. You start to compose your shot. You pick the area, set up virtual lights, figure out what camera you want to use and how it’s going to move, and then shoot it. This happens around pre-animated animals which, at this stage, are very rough. Those will be greatly improved in VFX later once the shots are locked.
Plus, because the actual filming is in VR, the filmmakers aren’t beholden to any physical reality. Would the shot look better if the sun was in another place? Just move it. Want some trees in the shot? Add them. Should there be a few hills over there? Sounds good. Anything is possible. When we were watching the filming, the filmmakers were working on the “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” scene, with Simba and Nala frolicking in the plains, as the camera swept along the side of them.
It’s all very elaborate and complex. Which raises the question, “Why?” Why develop a whole new way of making movies to make a movie fans have already seen? For Favreau, the question was less “Why?” and more “Why not?”
“I don’t think anybody wants to see another animated Lion King, because it still holds up really, really well,” Favreau said back on set. “The challenge here, and I think what we laid out for ourselves as a goal, is to create something that feels like a completely different medium than either [the film or the stage show] so it could stand as yet a third way of telling this story…And also, using these techniques and really making the visual effects department a creative partner from the inception allows us to present visual effects, I think, hopefully, in a way that you haven’t seen it before. So, just the spectacle of it—of if we can present something like a BBC documentary, on top of telling the story, and having those two exist together.”
He’s right. Visiting the set of The Lion King wasn’t like any set I’ve visited before. It felt more like what I’d imagine visiting a video game studio would be like, rather than a movie studio. Innovation like that is exciting—but, if this was a project that was less well-known than The Lion King, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. Maybe the fact it is such a popular title is what made it okay to film in such a unique way.
Which, ultimately, could be the legacy of The Lion King. Sure it’s making a ton of money, but more importantly, it could be a movie that opens the door for other filmmakers to one day make their own unique visions using this technique. If that’s the case, the fact that The Lion King is still just The Lion King won’t matter as much. Peeking behind the curtain could give the film an added layer of appreciation.
The Lion King is now in theaters.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.
Snowpiercer is about a giant train that contains all of humanity and can never stop running. That might sound like a fun concept for a two-hour movie, but how do you keep it going for a couple of seasons without audiences getting bored? As star Jennifer Connelly explained to io9, there’s a device that helps passengers experience life off the train, and the showrunner teased one day disembarking for real.
During a red carpet event at San Diego Comic-Con, io9 asked Connelly how Snowpiercer could keep audiences engaged for at least two seasons (the show received an early renewal) when the whole thing takes place on a train they can, theoretically, never escape. She teased a “device” that takes passengers off of the train…in a sense.
“I’m gonna be a little cryptic, but there is a device which lets us explore other times and other places on the train as well,” Connelly said.
We asked the other stars of the show to elaborate—which you can watch in the video above—and we found out about the Night Car’s true capabilities. Lena Hall plays Miss Audrey, the madame of the Night Car, which is a nightclub that hosts the train’s sex workers. But according to Hall, that’s not her character’s only purpose. Miss Audrey is the device. She’s the train’s archivist and unsanctioned therapist, who has a special ability to access people’s memories and give them a chance to experience their lives from before the world basically ended.
“I run the brothel, but I’m also this empath. And through psychic connection, I’m able to help people through their grief from their past life. And so we get to watch and see what they went through during The Freeze.” Hall said. “So there’s there are ways that we get off the train, you know, and get out and see what happened in the past.”
“These people lived in the world we live in today, and then it was all taken away. So they have their memories, and they have their lost family and lost friends and lost possessions and their homes. I think, through them and their stories and that loss, you kind of escape into that past world. Through their eyes and their memories,” Mickey Sumner, who plays Bess Till, elaborated.
But the Night Car is not the only way Snowpiercer could get us off the train over the course of the show. As a reminder, the series follows the original graphic novel series, Le Transperceneige, and not the 2013 movie adaptation. The survivors venture into other locations in later books and showrunner Graeme Manson shared that the TV show can and may very well do the same—after a couple of seasons.
“After the first graphic novel, they really break the mold. People leave the train. The train leaves the tracks. They go to bunkers. They discover other worlds. There’s elements of that, that can come into this show as we move along,” Manson said. “I feel really confident for a couple—or three seasons, of not leaving the train. But then it’s possible, you know, that…we’ve got to go to Ice Station Zebra.”
“You’ve got to go to Ice Station Zebra,” he added, pointing at Steven Ogg, who’s playing Pike. “And basically we do Moon, you, that’s the whole season.”
“I love that,” Ogg replied. “So there, I mean there’s yet another [idea]. I don’t know how many you’re looking for here. I mean, we can go on. He’s a writer, I’m a man of ideas. How many do you want?”
I asked for as many as he’d like, so we’ll see what happens. Snowpiercer debuts on TBS sometime in 2020.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.
When Netflix first pitched Lauren Schmidt Hissrich the idea of doing a series based onThe Witcher, she turned it down. She was a fan of the books and video games—so much so she even included a bathtub Easter egg in the first season—but was afraid of taking on a fantasy saga. What finally convinced her? Getting to tell the story she wanted in a way that not just appealed to fans of the books, but the games which are even more famous than the source material.
During a press roundtable at San Diego Comic-Con, Hissrich talked about why she ultimately decided to do The Witcher. Joking how “Netflix loves that story,” Hissrich shared that she agreed once the streaming network showed how much they cared for and valued the story she was most interested in telling:
I read the books and I basically said, “I loved The Last Wish.It was an incredible read. But I’m not a fantasy writer, guys, like I’m not who you’re looking for.” And they said, “Well, what would be your entrance into the story? If we said you have to write this, What would be your entrance in?”
I said it would be about what happens when Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer meet, and how we can craft a really disjointed family that’s meant to be together. That’s something that I knew that I could bring. That’s the base of all fantasy right? It’s just human experience. It’s maybe human experience in a world that we don’t live in, with monsters and with magic, but it really comes down to just what it’s like to walk through the world.
Hissrich emphasized that the core of the first season is about bringing Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer together and creating that core which defines many of the books and games. However, it is going to take some time to get there. Freya Allan, who plays Ciri, told io9 that Ciri and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) don’t spend a lot of time together this season—at least, not without Geralt—but that she’s looking forward to having more of that relationship develop between the two of them in the future.
“That’s something we haven’t explored yet. But I’m really looking forward to looking at that more, and I think it’s going to be a great relationship, because I think it’ll be very maternal one, [with] two strong female characters together and so I’m very excited,” Allan said.
For now, it’s about setting the stage. In fact, there are a few other things we won’t be seeing in the first season, but Hissrich hinted they could arrive in the second season should the series get one. She wouldn’t go into detail, as she doesn’t want to spoil things, but she did note how Istredd, one of Yennefer’s many lovers, is being introduced in the first season. He’s only in one of the original stories, but his early, more teasing presence in the first season hints at something bigger later on. Hissrich said it’s all about laying the groundwork for a larger story, instead of overloading the first season with too many characters or references.
“There is so much that I intended to put in this season, but I’m actually a really big believer in not cramming in story just for the sake of cramming in story,” Hissrich said. “It’s about letting these characters breathe and grow, so there’s definitely things that we didn’t get to.”
However, letting the characters do their own thing might be especially challenging for fans of the video games. Hissrich confirmed in the interview that the series is based on the original books, and will not be a video game adaptation. However, there will be Easter eggs and references that game fans will appreciate, like the aforementioned bathtub, but it’s it’s not based on the version most fans will recognize. It presents a unique problem because the games are arguably more well-known than the books. Several folks, including myself, weren’t even aware there were books until fairly recently.
I asked Hissrich about the unique challenges in developing a TV show based on a series where arguably the adaptation, meaning the video games, is more famous than the source material. She said video games are a powerful medium in that viewers, or players, feel a sense of control and autonomy over Geralt. But in this case, that control is being handed over to Henry Cavill. The themes and tones are similar but the presentation is different, and she trusts that audiences will be able to move seamlessly through both:
What I will always say to gaming fans when they say, “Is the show for me?” And I say well, what you love is based on the same books as this show is going to be based on, which means we’re all dealing with the same set of characters, the same themes, the same tones. What’s different is is the look, of course.
I think that people who really love the games are gonna love the show too. I think you just have to be open to seeing it as a journey where you’re sitting back and it’s happening, as opposed to you being in charge of it. And I think that’s gonna be a challenge for some people, certainly it’s a challenge for me to not feel like I get to control everything. I mean, I guess in this case I kind of do!
The Witcher hits Netflix later this year.
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When Netflix revealed it was making a television adaptation of The Witcher, Henry Cavill immediately wanted in. However, producers still auditioned over 200 actors for Geralt before choosing him for the job. Why did it take four months and hundreds of actors before going with the leading man who wanted to be there in the first place? Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explains.
During a press roundtable at San Diego Comic-Con, io9 asked Hissrich to elaborate on a revelation from The Witcher panel that they’d auditioned 207 other actors before choosing Cavill—even though he’d gone to the streaming network expressing interest, well, basically as soon as he heard about the show existing.
“As soon as it was announced it was going to be a show, he contacted his agents who contacted Netflix and said he wants to be part of this. And Netflix was like, ‘We don’t have a show yet, there’s nothing to be a part of!’” Hissrich told me. “Once I came on board they expressed that to me, and I sat down and met him. But I was really honest with him and I said, ‘It’s really great to meet you, you seem like a nice guy. But we don’t have a script, we’re not even casting.’ And he sat back and understood.”
Over the course of about four months, Hissrich and the other producers auditioned 207 actors for the part of Geralt of Rivia. That’s not necessarily an unprecedented number, but it is pretty high—especially knowing that Cavill, a headliner who played Superman in several DC films, not only wanted the part but knew TheWitcher series like the back of his hand. Hissrich explained that she thought it would be best to cast a wider net and see who else was out there, because she wasn’t sure Cavill was the right fit. But as talented as the actors were, it kept coming back to him:
The really interesting thing is that I do think with casting you have to see everything to know that you have the right thing. And having met with Henry, I knew he wanted the show but that didn’t mean that he necessarily was the right person for the show. So I met everyone else that also thought they were the right person for the show.
We had great auditions, but honestly I couldn’t get Henry’s voice out of my head as I started writing, and ultimately I called him back and said, “Are you still interested?” And he was like, “Absolutely. What do I need to do?” And I said, “I need to hear you be Geralt.” So we both flew to New York and basically did an audition, and he was pretty much hired on the spot.
Cavill’s casting did result in some interesting choices and changes for the character. For example, Cavill insisted on doing all of his own stunts. Every time you see Geralt performing an action sequence, it’s actually Cavill, and Hissrich explained that the actor had all the cuts, bruises, and “exhaustion to prove it.”
Hissrich also noted that there was one thing she ended up changing to better suit Cavill’s take on the character: This version of Geralt talks way less than he was originally supposed to.
“One of the things that probably shifted the most once we cast Henry is that Geralt speaks a lot less than I initially intended. In the books, Geralt’s actually quite chatty. He talks a lot. What I found, though, is that on-screen—especially with Henry portraying him—a lot can be done in looks and in grunts. Henry’s a big grunter. I mean that in the best way possible,” she said. “It’s kind of amazing what is accomplished in silence, and I think makes him that much more powerful of a character.”
The other interesting casting story from The Witcher is connected to Ciri, played in the series by Freya Allan. According to Hissrich, the whole process was “really difficult.” She’d initially planned for Ciri to be played by a child, following the character’s story and trajectory in the books. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the right young actor for the part—especially because they needed someone who could “grow up fast” to match the show’s faster-paced progression. Combined with complicated child labor laws that limit an actor’s ability to shoot at night, eventually, Hissrich came to an impasse.
“Someone said to me: ‘I’m not sure that Ciri is going to be able to be a big part of the series.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s not gonna work for me.’ So we skewed a little bit older,” she said.
Hissrich went on to share the story of choosing Allan for the part of Ciri, who was a newcomer who’d initially been cast for a different part:
We had actually cast her for another role. She had signed the contract, and was signed on for a one-episode role in episode one. We met everyone we could meet for for Ciri and I still just wasn’t finding it, I couldn’t find that sort of the person who embodied her in the way that I wanted them to…Sophie Holland, our casting director, actually called me and said, “I think we should think about Freya Allan for this.”
In the end, the casting of Cavill, Allan, and Anya Chalotra as Yennefer was kind of kismet. While Chalotra was the first and easiest casting of the trio, all three actors were hired on the spot once they’d finally gotten a chance to read for the roles. As Hissrich put it, it showed they’d found the right fit.
“For Henry, for Anya, and for Freya, each of them was cast in the room when we finally got in the room, which was incredible,” she said. “That’s how you know [you have] the right person.”
The Witcher debuts on Netflix later this year.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s name in a few places. We have updated to correct and we regret the error.
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Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed Geralt (Henry Cavill) and Yennefer at what appears a masquerade sex party in Netflix’s first The Witcher trailer. But apparently, that’s not going to be the only nudity on the show. There’s a certain bathtub. You may have heard of it. And yes, it’s making a comeback—in a manner of speaking.
During a press roundtable for The Witcher, io9 asked showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich (Daredevil) about what Easter eggs fans of the books and video games can expect in the series. Of course, by that we meant the bathtub that Geralt takes a sexy dip in during Witcher 3. Obviously.
The scene has practically taken on a life of its own, inspiring memes, statues, even a birthday cake. But it also showed us a softer, more vulnerable side of Geralt. So, will Netflix’s The Witcher have a bathtub scene of its own?
“There is a bathtub this season. There is a bathtub,” Hissrich revealed. “I won’t tell you who’s in the bathtub, but there is a bathtub.”
Hissrich went on to explain that—as fans of the original books and video game adaptation—she and the writers wanted to honor the little details they’d come to love about the series. Whether it’s a little Easter egg, like the bathtub, or a much-bigger part of the lore.
She mentioned that the story she personally wanted to include was “A Question of Price,” a short story that explains how Ciri became Geralt’s surprise child, from the now-obsolete book, Wiedźmin, which is now part of The Last Wish.
We’re fans of the series too. We’re fans of the franchise. So one of the things that I asked the writers when they showed up on the first day was, having read the books, what did you love the most? It could be the tiniest thing. It could be, you know, something Jaskier says over and over again, or it could be something huge. For me, it was ‘A Question of Price.’ I was like I have to do ‘A Question of Price.’ And so I think people who are big fans of the franchise will find a lot of fun stuff.
The Witcher debuts on Netflix later this year. We’ll have more on the way from our interviews so stay tuned.
Update: Thanks so much to our internet sleuths who were able to identify the name Hissrich was citing: Jaskier, also known as Dandelion! Y’all are the best.
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