Percy Jackson director Chris Columbus talks sequels, rejects Harry Potter comparisons

By David Bentley on Jul 6, 10 09:31 AM

Chris Columbus newofficialpic.jpg

THE director of family fantasy film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, released on DVD and Blu-ray this week, is Chris Columbus.

He directed the first two Harry Potter films - Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets - and also produced the third, Prisoner of Azkaban.

As I noted in my Blu-ray review yesterday, I felt that Lightning Thief has echoes of the Potter films. It's pretty obvious that Hollywood is looking for the next big children's fantasy adventure franchise on the big screen.

Here's what Columbus had to say about his work on Percy Jackson, his thoughts on possible sequels and his view on any perceived parallels with the world of Hogwarts...

Is there any link between Percy Jackson and the Harry Potter movies?
Chris Columbus: All fantasy films are connected in some way, whether it's Spider-Man or The Lord Of The Rings or Percy Jackson or Potter, they're connected at their heart by a hero who is sometimes severely flawed, looking to fill this emptiness inside by going on a quest. Potter is more about wizardry whereas this is Greek mythology. I wouldn't have wanted to get involved in a film that was like Potter but this was something I hadn't seen before.

How was this different from making Harry Potter?
Well, the schedule was a little more intense for this particular picture. I had actors that were a little more seasoned than the first Potter film where the kids had never acted before. If you see that first film there is a lot of cuts back and forth but it was great to have the experience on those pictures to bring it onto this film in terms of visual effects.

How much has CGI changed since the first Harry Potter movies?
The first three Harry Potter films were like a graduate course in CGI filming for myself. If you notice in the first film it's a little creaky, it's OK, then as we subsequently went to picture number two and picture number three it got a lot better. I learned a lot on those films and there was a certain method of just being obsessive about special effects to get them to a point where they are seamless and I think we succeeded.

Are you planning to work on sequels?
I would like to do five. I was going to do seven Potter films - but I got burned out. This is much more spread out so I can see myself doing these.

What made you want to film this story?
My daughter, who happens to be dyslexic like Percy Jackson, was listening to the book on CD and I started listening to it with her and I was really taken by it. If I am going to do a film of this size I wanted it to feel like it was something new and original. What I loved about this story is the idea of Greek mythology and the gods and the monsters living amongst us in modern day America in a contemporary setting. I thought it was a very unique storyline and it allowed me visually as a director to get excited about doing this world and these creatures in a way children today had a chance to see them. They may be able to go back and look at Jason and the Argonauts and the Ray Harryhausen films, but with the way CGI is today we can really create a brand new unique world for these kids. That's why I fell in love with it.

Logan Lerman officialpic1.jpgWhat can kids learn from this?
They learn the basics of Greek mythology andthese stories have lasted forever. Great stories have been told from generation to generation. They last for centuries because they are great stories and the way we've done the film there is not a lot of backstory but there is enough for a basic primer in Greek mythology and if it gets kids interested in Greek mythology than that's great. There is the kid's version of Greek mythology and then the very R-rated version which we avoid in this film.

How did you pick Logan Lerman for the lead?
I saw 3:10 to Yuma and I thought his performance was interesting and something I hadn't seen before from a 14 year old kid, There is a real sense of depth and emotion in that performance. So I kept that in the back of my head in case I was ever casting a young man in a role. Then Percy came along and I brought him into the office and we met and he did a screen test. His performance was so strong and mature and I felt I had the perfect Percy and I feel he is going on to have a great career as an actor like a Matt Damon or Robert DeNiro and I have never said that before about anyone - but he is that good. He is not concerned about fame - he wants to make great movies. He wants to act and write and direct. It's a great performance in our movie and I'm really proud of him.

You have worked a lot with child actors. What have you learned?

I learnt a big lesson way back when we did Home Alone because when I cast that I wasn't really looking at the kid's family life. I was casting a kid who truly had a troubled family life. I don't think it worked out for him or his family. When I did Potter I realised that you really have to cast the family as well, and look at their parents, and those Potter kids have turned out pretty well. In this film the kids are a little older and they are already on their separate paths but everyone was committed and excited to be in the film. That's one of the reasons I like to work with younger people - because they are so excited to be there - to have that strong work ethic that I strive for on set.

Do you have a good eye to cast young actors?
I'm lucky enough to say no a lot. Once you set a standard and you say no enough times, the right kid will appear - it's a matter of never compromising.

Do you think you have a particular gift to direct young actors?
I don't think it's a gift. I think I respond to their energy - to that sort of enthusiasm and excitement. If you get a jaded adult they don't want to give you 200 per cent. To me it's like a tennis match and younger people tend to really give you more than anyone else.

How do you approach directing - is it from a more visual stance?
First and foremost never loosing sight of the story is the most important. What was exciting to me about this movie is that we could go visually on film to places I hadn't seen before. The concept that Percy can control water to me was tremendously exciting because for the last year and half, CGI water has been almost impossible to achieve in a realistic way. Now they've been able to figure it out so we've been able to give Percy this incredible power of controlling water and using it as a weapon and that hasn't been done before. When I was working with the script we came up with a scene where Percy is fighting Hydra - who is a fire-breathing five-headed dragon - and the concept of the flames mixed with the water was an image that was in my head from day one because Percy creates this incredible wall of water to protect himself. Those kinds of visual images are exciting to me.

What about visualising Medusa?
The idea of creating a Medusa that is very real was also exciting. In the past Medusa was always this hideous, evil, one-dimensional monster. I think Medusa was someone who is incredibly seductive particularly if she has 75 snakes on her head and she gets you to look at her and turn to stone. So the first goal was to cast someone who is seductive but who also had a tough dangerous side because Medusa is extremely deadly, so Uma Thurman was perfect for the role. It was Uma's idea that these snakes had lived with her for hundreds of years so she knew them, so if she looks at them they will turn. CGI is sometimes accused of being cold and distant but this time they were given a motivation from an actress and it's based on everything Uma is doing and how she is controlling them. I get excited about the visual aspect and in tandem with the performances.

Which Greek god would you imagine yourself to be?
I was so exhausted after doing this movie, it might be Dionysus, the god of wine.

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Trisha said:

Would love to see sequels to The Lightning Thief, however would like it to follow the book more. Rather disappointing when few of the people looked like they are described in the book. Also, you left out some major characters.

Chris said:

Why did nobody ask him why he chose to leave so many things out and change the story?

Skylar said:

Logan's only 14!?! dang he looks like he's 15 or 16. he's 2 years older than me!

David Bentley Author Profile Pagesaid:

The director means he was aged 14 in 3:10 To Yuma which came out in 2007. In fact he was 15. He's now 18.

olga said:

logan is not 14!!!!!!!! he is 18 just when he played the movie that chris columbus saw then he was 14!!!!! duhhhhh do that little thing that the brain does ..what is it called.......oh yeah THINKING!!!

jess said:

no acually logans 18 he was sayig he was 14 in 3:10 to yuma hes now 18 not 14

Gwena said:

yeah, yeah, I think we've established the fact that Logan was 14 when filming 3:10 to Yuma, and is 18 now. I would love to see a sequel, there are ways to return to the plots from the books, my main concern is Luke and Kronos, but even there, there are ways to avoid obstacles. Anyways, isn't it the writers that decide what is and what isn't in the movie, not the director?

Keaton said:

I wat to know gow you can make the sequels when you left out all the information to the next four books. And most of the chracters didnt look ANYTHING like they were described in the book.

Anonymous said:

well he didnt really answer the question about sequels. So when is the 2nd gonna come out??

Mallory said:

What the crap? At the end of this movie Luke got a trident stabbed in his neck and he was thrown into the sea, or lake or whereever that water came from. There's no way he could have survived that, so that pretty much ruins the whole plot for all the next books. *sniff sniff* And they messed up on Artemis! Artemis is supposed to be a young girl, not a middle aged adult! Plus, poor Nico and Bianca will never get their time of the big screen...

sarah said:

when will you be holding adoutions for the titian's curse. conntect me at

Anthony said:

Yes there's going to be more sequels.
(please stick with the book ) :)

Are you planning to work on sequels?
I would like to do five. I was going to do seven Potter films - but I got burned out. This is much more spread out so I can see myself doing these.

I would like to do five meaning, he IS planning on more sequels

Sher said:

I just watched Percy Jackson and the Olympians for the first time this past week. I really enjoyed it and love the fact that it is kid and family friendly. Very little to no language which is great! It teaches kids about Greek Mythology. Hip and modern. Though I do not have any children, I am a teacher and am critical about what children watch. This film is fantastic. I hope they do make more sequels to this film.

Sacha said:

I thought although it did not follow the book it was a very impressive movie. It must;ve taken so much time to make it. Sequals would be fabulous! I would very much like to play the role of Thalia, I look like her book description almost to a "T", Thalia and I think alot alike, and people tell me I'm a very good actress. If there is any information on sequals and auditions I would be very appreciative. Thank you!

ModernMythology What? said:

idk. i wish annabeth was her "typical california girl except with startling grey eyes.." but w/e. Yea they left out alot of the foundation for the next books so i dont know how they would suddenly set it up in Sea of Monsters...

"Sometimes I feel like climbing the trees too, stupid squirrel..."

Deirdre Johnson said:

I was very diappointed in how off topic this was from the book. yes you did get that the bolt was stolen but the characters. annabeth and athena are blonde. gods cannot become mortal again. hades doesnt look like a wigned beast. grover is not a sex addict. i was really mad about this movie i would love to help the director do the next one so that he doesnt get anything wrong. this movie is an insult to all of the percy jackson books. if you read the books you will agree with me that the director needs to read the book not skim it before making a movie because there are just so many things wrong with the movie. so please director mr.columbus consider my offer to help you get the second movie right.

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David Bentley

David Bentley - Journalist and award-winning super-blogger David Bentley uses his mutant powers to bring you the latest news, reviews and gossip on sci-fi, fantasy, cult TV, film and related pop culture
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