Following on from the first trailer release for “Exodus: Gods and Kings” yesterday, the film’s director Ridley Scott has done a breakdown of it with Empire and spoken about various aspects of the big-budget Biblical epic.
Scott’s done some big films, but is this the biggest? “In terms of the metaphorical aspects, yes. Even budgetarily it’s probably the biggest, yeah. But I didn’t approach it as my biggest. I never do that. I always approach it from the point of view of the characters, of the story.”
Indeed, the subject matter and how it’s handled is tricky with a story like this: “In this one the characters are conventionally historic. There have always been discussions about Moses. Was he in fact one of the princes of Egypt? I’ve accepted the conventional story on the origin of Moses. As I do more and more movies I get more and more centralised on the characterisation. This is a challenge because you are dealing with a very, very delicate subject. It’s like politics – you don’t necessarily want to talk about it because it’s very personal.”
Scott confirms there are 1,300 visual effects shots throughout the film, with a lot of it focused on grounding the reality of the characters (i.e. epic but realistic set extensions). Yet there’s also fantastical elements which can be glimpsed in the trailer like the various plagues of Egypt. The trailer shows us the rivers of blood and the giant hail storm, but that is only the start according to Scott: “I’ve held back a bit – wait till you see the movie. You must never oversell yourself. You’ve got to wait till you’re three weeks out, then you go for it. This is a big movie.”
He also gives a hint about one sequence not seen in the preview: “The hardest thing to do on this movie for me would be the crocodiles. They have to be absolutely real. That sequence is one of the first things up in the movie and I’ll be flat, I’ll be dead in the water, if they don’t come off.”
The most complicated sequence glimpsed in the trailer, unsurprisingly, is the parting of the Red Sea and the riderless horse standing in front of the giant wave: “That sequence probably took more time than any other on this movie. We were mucking around on this beach, eleven miles of it, for days. It had mountain ranges behind it. That was the trickiest thing. I had to prepare plates on the assumption of the sea going back and then returning. As for the riderless horse, that was me, just mucking about. I wanted the horse because I want to show early on how big the wave is. It’s riderless because it has escaped and run off. I’m sure many animals escaped. And I wanted to show the wave but also not really show it… The white horse is tiny, and I wanted to show it galloping to what you think is sky… Then you realise, oh my God, it’s moving… That’s not sky! That worked, didn’t it?”
Finally there’s the film’s title and the unexpected cover of Simple Minds’ ‘Belfast Child’ for the trailer music (itself a riff on an Irish folk song). Scott says the music’s use was simply because he liked it, it comes out of the blue, it feels modern and it gets your attention which is what advertising is all about. Title wise he simply wanted to call it “Exodus” but had to add ‘Gods And Kings’ due to ownership rights.