Director Brett Ratner Makes Over "Hercules" for New Audiences

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The immortal legend of “Hercules” -- the demigod renowned for his mighty deeds and valor – gets a high-adrenaline 21st century makeover as director Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and leading action star Dwayne Johnson bring Hercules to life in a modern incarnation . . . as a man struggling to live up to his own lore in a world of fearsome villainy.

This version of Hercules is an icon who has vanquished lions and hellhounds, and is publicly feared and revered as a super-human champion; but deep within, he remains wounded by tragedy and uncertain of his legacy. Accompanied by five faithful companions, he travels the empire selling his services for gold and using his formidable reputation to intimidate his enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of neighboring Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a terrifying warlord, Hercules can no longer skate by on the folklore surrounding him.

He must learn to embrace his own myth and become the hero people believe in.

Says Dwayne Johnson: “Making a movie about Hercules has been a passion project of mine for a very, very, very long time. He’s a character who over the centuries has been an inspiration to many, myself included. But this time, we wanted to give audiences a Hercules they’ve never seen before. When we meet Hercules in this movie, he’s an exile suffering with regrets, fighting only for gold. He has to overcome his demons and find his heart to become the man people want him to be.”

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“What’s different about our Hercules is that he is a regular man who has disavowed the fact that he’s the son of a Greek god,” adds Brett Ratner. “Every legend starts with a true story and when I read the script based on the graphic novel Hercules - The Thracian Wars, what blew me away is that it was so grounded in a reality you could feel. That’s what I wanted to bring to the screen.”

For Ratner, no stranger to high-octane screen action from the “Rush Hour” series to “X-Men: Last Stand,” taking on “Hercules” would mean working on his most epic scale yet – but also zeroing in on Hercules’ place in an era of potent anti-heroes. “This is a story full of constant action, humor and kickass battles, which everyone loves seeing. But I hope people will also walk out of the movie feeling the power of Hercules’ belief,” says the director.

The inspiration for re-imagining Hercules began with the Radical Studios comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars, in which British comics writer Steve Moore thrilled readers with the story of a self-doubting fallen hero seeking redemption. Even in the earliest stages, Radical co-founders Barry Levine and Jesse Berger hoped the visually ambitious graphic novel would make the leap to the screen – and break the mold of movies based on classic mythology, which are so often steeped in fantasy or even animated.

The graphic novel first spiked the interest of Johnson during a visit to the Radical offices. “Their comic book was a unique take on Hercules that grabbed all of our attention,” recalls the star. “They took all the cool mythologies of Hercules and tweaked them in a way that gave the story a contemporary power. It was a Hercules audiences aren’t yet familiar with.”

Soon after, Ratner joined the project and Radical Comics was thrilled with the synergy. “It turned out that Brett was a Hercules fan from since he was a little kid,” Levine recalls. “He brought in an unbridled enthusiasm and passion, and started coming up with incredible ideas.”

Summarizes Johnson: “For me, the tone of ‘Hercules’ had to be right on the money, it had to find that balance between humor, heart, and big, epic action – and I think we were able to do that and ground the story in characters who are a lot of fun. I wanted Hercules to have a cool charm, and to be everything physically that people always imagined he would be.”

Opening across the Philippines on July 23 in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D cinemas, “Hercules” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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