Disney's Maleficent offers a live-action re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty, giving a new perspective on the tale's big bad fairy. Angelina Jolie plays Maleficent in the flesh and in a way we'd never seen this horned villainess before: with wings. And we've got an inside line on how director Robert Stromberg made them look like an enviable weapon that could level an army.
In a major action sequence early on in Maleficent, the titular anti-heroine is forced to face off against a magic-hating King Henry and his vast army of armed and armored soldiers. She calls upon the inhabitants of the The Moor, where the faries rule. But more importantly, she uses her massive and powerful wings to throw herself into battle and throw back those who would raze her homeland.
You can get a glimpse of this sprawling battle scene in the Maleficent trailer:
As Maleficent boasts a wide array of computer-generated beasties and landscapes, you might assume that much of the battle sequence was likewise CGI soldiers. But we spoke with Bobby Holland Hanton, a celebrated stunts performer who has doubled for Daniel Craig (Quantum of Solace), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises), Chris Hemsworth (Thor: The Dark World), and Chris Evans (Avengers: Age of Ultron). In Maleficent, he was called in to bring his unique skills of flying and falling into play for the movie's biggest battle. And he told us just how it came together.
Bobby Holland Hanton got the call to work on Maleficent from stunt co-ordinator Eunice Huthart, who'd previously worked as Angelina Jolie's stunt double on the Tomb Raider movies, as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith. She'd asked Hanton to come in for five-weeks to do what he described as "generic stunts where Maleficent flies down and takes out a sea of soldiers." Realizing he could wedge Maleficent's shoot into his schedule before production began for him on Thor: The Dark World, Hanton became one of those soldiers. This meant two-weeks of rehearsal before taking to the location shoot, a field with backdrops of green screen, where Angelina Jolie's enraged warrior fairy was replaced by a green object hurdling at them on its own rig.
Initially, Hanton was reluctant to go into too many details. A true professional, he didn't want to drop spoilers. I had an advantage on Hanton, as he hadn't actually seen the finished film yet. (It's not open in England, where he is currently on set for Avengers: Age of Ultron). But once I explained that his scene was early on in the film and also teased heavily in the trailers, he opened up.
He compared the green screen arm that stood in for Angelina Jolie as one he'd seen before working on Green Lantern:
Disney has recently released a featurette on this battle from Maleficent, and you can see some of the rigs and falls to which Bobby Holland Hanton refers, as well as Angelina Jolie in a flying rig of her own.
As someone not very well-versed in the ins and outs of stuntwork, I expressed surprise that a sequence that takes up just a few minutes of screen time took so much time to rehearse for and shoot. Hanton explained that it's not just the screen time they are prepping for. A lot of it is making the stunts as safe as possible.
Maleficent is now in theaters.
Staff writer at CinemaBlend.
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