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fight scenes: lights, camera, action ... and more action
Pulling off the scope, quantity and sheer daredevilry of the ambitious battles of "Immortals" required an army of fight choreographers, trainers and stunt people trained in everything from swordsmanship to karate. Choreography began six months in advance of shooting to make it as gritty, explosive and dangerous looking as possible.

At the outset, Singh decided he wanted the fight scenes to have a more realistic, less stylized feel than is typical of many contemporary films. "I wanted actual physical fighting with the weapons that they have. Some of it was done with wires, but there's just no substitute for physical combat. You can feel the impact."

The filmmakers brought in Artie Malesci, who worked on "Miami Vice," some of the "Transporter" films and television's "Burn Notice," as stunt coordinator. A core group of 13 fighters from Montreal trained and rehearsed for three months so when the filmmakers got on the set, all the stunts were ready to go.

The result is non-stop, beginning-to-end action, says Malesci. "We taped everything we did in advance for Tarsem to view. He'd say yes or no, and tweak it his way. All the time we were choreographing, we were also training the cast to get them prepared. The stunt people trained all day, five days a week. They really worked hard. If their bodies weren't right, they didn't have a job."

For Henry Cavill, intense physical training started six months prior to shooting. "When I met Henry, he was fit," says Singh. "But as I told him, it can't be a six-pack. You've got to come with an eight-pack. There has to be no body fat, because I don't have too many clothes for you to wear. He put himself through an incredible regime. I took one look at him and I knew that he had embraced the role."

Cavill was given what he calls "certain briefs for training" and asked to supply photographic evidence of his progress. "When we got our final brief of what they wanted me to look like, we just trained and trained and trained. It was eight hours a day in the gym, five days a week."

All that training paid off, according to Pinto. "Tarsem told me that the actors were undergoing this transformation, that their bodies were going to be really ripped," says Pinto. "But until I met Henry for the first time, I had no idea that this was what he meant. He looked god-like."

"I have never seen anybody in such a great shape," agrees Nunnari. "He dedicated months to sculpting his body."

The training also gave Cavill an array of skills to use in combat. "Every day was something new, so in the end, we had a big tool box to work with," he notes. "If anything was thrown at me on the day, which it was, I could go into my tool box and pick out the right stuff."

Still, he is mindful to say that the battle scenes could not have been accomplished without the expert stunt team. "They were mind-blowingly good. Some of the fight choreography was so complex and so difficult, and I had to get it exactly right every time because a lot of it was done in one continuous shot and if anyone messed up anything, we would have had to do it again. But we never did."

Theseus' final faceoff with King Hyperion was his most difficult scene, says Cavill, because it is so realistic. "The fight is brutal and messy. These are two exhausted, desperate men who want to tear each other's throats out. It's a non-stylized, painful experience in a very small space and they're throwing each other against the walls and hitting each other with anything they can get their hands on. It's the human representation of the conflict between the gods and the Titans. There's some jujitsu, some Greco-Roman grappling, but mostly it's two guys kicking the crap out of each other."

Singh says he intentionally shot this climactic scene in a confined area. "If we had people fighting outside in the open, that would have been very difficult for me," explains the director. "I like tighter places, so I created what I would call a bottleneck. We have this tunnel, and outside of it is the bigger army. Inside the tunnel, it becomes a personal fight."

The tunnel fight sequence is spectacular, according to Cavill. "So much hard work went into it by all the departments. The choreography was pretty complicated, but it looks fantastic, which made it all very rewarding. I was broken and exhausted at the end of day two. I just had to go home and collapse."

Singh posed himself an additional challenge in filming the film's denouement by creating three separate skirmishes within the larger battle. "I've got three fights happening simultaneously in the tunnel," explains Singh. "Theseus and Hyperion are fighting 'mano-a-mano,' humans are trying to stop the non-humans from coming through, and the gods are trying to contain the Titans. We have three different schools of fighting — one's got all the emotion, one's got all the wow factor, and the third one's got the scale."

The array of fighting styles posed additional challenges for the stuntmen. "When gods fight with humans, it's a completely different school. Then when gods fight with other gods or with Titans, which have the same power, how do we define that so they're completely different schools of fighting?" the director asks. "For stunt guys, it's been quite difficult. They crack one scene, but the next scene does not have the same rules at all."

But, say the producers, Singh never challenged anyone more than he did himself. "Tarsem was the first on the set and the last to leave," says producer Mark Canton. "He didn't sit and he didn't use a trailer. He came to paint his masterpiece and that's what he did. We're just happy that we brought the brushes for him.

"All of our movies are special," he adds. "But this one has something I can't put into words. It's an epic ride and that's something that only a visionary could have put together."