With robot boxing drama Real Steel (2011) released in the UK on 14 October, fans gathered outside the Empire Leicester Square to watch footage from the film and meet its star, Hugh Jackman. Joined by his director, Shawn Levy and producer Don Murphy, Jackman signed autographs and took photos with the crowd on the red carpet before the film’s exclusive UK premiere. CineVue joined Jackman to talk about the film and discuss its innovative approach to special effects.
Based on a short story by Richard Matheson (author of I Am Legend), Real Steel is set ten years in the future with robots having replaced humans as boxers. Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, an ex-professional whose chance of glory ended with the advent of the new technology and is now restricted to bit-time work promoting the sport. When his son (Dakota Goyo) discovers the shell of a burnt out robot he reluctantly agrees to rebuild it and train it to compete in the championship.
“I loved sport movies like Rocky and Chariots of Fire growing up”, Jackman explained, “this is one of those movies, it’s a real underdog story. When you first meet Charlie he’s a desperate character and a bad father who’s low on luck and looking for a way out. He’s got mountains to climb but sets about it pretty good”.
Training for the part under the supervision of American boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, Jackman joked that despite his roles in Real Steel and the X-Men franchise he’s not as tough as he’s perceived to be. “I got into a fight in Bath singing Aussie songs in a bar and pissed someone off and the next thing I knew I was on the ground”.
While Jackman and his co-stars tried to cover as much of the crowd as they could, the film’s producer, Don Murphy, was much more eager to talk up the technology used on the shoot and was very keen to explain just how it worked. Unlike the Transformers franchise he’d worked on, the robots in Real Steel were built and filmed using motion capture technology so the fights would look more realistic. “All of the fights were done with real fighters using motion capture suits”, Murphy clarified, “by the time we got on set we actually had all the fights done in the camera so we just filmed around them. It’s very similar to Avatar and we ended up using two-thirds of Avatar’s crew”.
Director, Shawn Levy, was less willing to give much away but did mention that attention had now turned to Real Steel 2, despite the first installment not being released for a month. With previous works including Date Night (2009) and Night at the Museum (2006), Real Steel marks a change in direction for Levy. The largely action-based drama of Real Steel is very different from Levy’s comedic roots but, like Murphy, he was far more enthusiastic about the films animatronics.
On a parting note Jackson mentioned that the next opportunity to see him, before next year’s comedy Movie 43, would be back on stage, where his career began. Prompted by another source as to whether or not he’d be willing to appear on Glee he seemed genuinely interested, replying “I would actually, I’ve seen one episode so maybe, you’ll see”.
Real Steel is due for release in the UK on 14 October, 2011.