INTERVIEW: The Man Who Created Prince Of Persia

Video game creator/filmmaker/graphic novelist Jordan Mechner may be the first person to adapt his own video game into a feature film, having scripted the first two drafts of Prince Of Persia

Most film adaptations of video games haven’t worked. What is it about Prince of Persia that lends itself to the process?

“I think games and movies are such different media. What’s fun to play as a game isn’t necessarily fun to watch. I think Prince Of Persia lends itself well to cinema. It’s a game that’s got a very likable human hero. There’s an actual love story, there’s action that’s like that found in a lot of movies, going back to the old swashbuckling movies. A lot of games are just a tougher nut to crack.”

What inspired you to create the world of the game?

“The original Prince Of Persia was really a game, in large part, inspired by movies. Raiders Of The Lost Ark , in particular the opening sequence with the spikes and the jumping and the pulling yourself up. I was in high school and I wanted to capture that kind of excitement, that kind of physical action, in a game… And the world of A Thousand Ond One Nights , which is sort of in our collective unconscious – read in storybooks as a kid, seen in movies like the 1940s Thief Of Baghdad . Bringing that universe into a video game.”

How satisfied are you with the final film?

“I love the film. It’s been six years since the first draft. It’s evolved. But I feel like it’s still very much the film I pitched to Jerry [Bruckheimer], the first draft I wrote in 2004. It’s certainly a different version, but the story, I feel, is very true to the one I wrote and to the games that it’s based on.”

Above: Prince Of Persia from its early days to The Sands Of Time

What are the principal differences between game and movie?

“A lot of Sands Of Time , the game… I’m terrifically proud of the story and the script, and I think they work fantastically in the game. But so much of what makes the Sands Of Time story work is that I created it as a game. The way the voiceover narration works throughout the game is a counterpoint to what you see on the screen; finding out only at the end who the prince had been telling the story to. If I tried to translate the game story directly to film, it wouldn’t have come to life. A major example is how the game starts. While playing Sands Of Time , the villager unleashes the Sands Of Time and transforms everybody in the world into sand monsters, except for the heroes. The reason why we did that in the game is to create an inexhaustible supply of enemies for our heroes to fight. But I didn’t want to write a movie and waste two hours of it fighting monsters. What happens at the beginning of the game, unleashing the Sands Of Time, kind of becomes the danger the hero tries to avoid. So it’s more of a set-up. It’s the same premise, but developed in a different direction.”

What do you think of Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role?

“I think Jake’s terrific. He looks a lot like the Prince in the game, but more importantly, the kind of hero that I see the Prince Of Persia as being. He’s not just a warrior. He’s got this vulnerable side, and sort of a mischievous streak.”