On the surface, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves may seem like standard fare – it follows a ragtag bunch of outcasts brought together to complete a mission with the help and hindrance of magic, mysterious villains, and mythical creatures. However, this movie has an extra layer to it: it's bringing a beloved table-top roleplaying game to life.
Co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the movie follows Edgin the bard (Chris Pine) and Holga the barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez) as they attempt to reunite with Edgin's daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) and rescue her from her nefarious guardian Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). Along the way, the pair recruit Simon, a self-deprecating sorcerer (Justice Smith) and Doric, a revenge-driven tiefling (Sophia Lillis)
Total Film sat down with Smith and Lillis to talk stunts, Chris Pine's favorite D&D spell, and why they hope the film starts a "new age" of action movies. The following exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
Total Film: What was it like doing the stunts and learning the fight scene choreography in this movie? Is this something that's quite new to both of you, at least with something of this scale?
Justice Smith: I didn't get to do a lot of hand-to-hand combat because my character is a sorcerer and so he's more of a projectile offender, a long-distance fighter. However, the stunts were a lot of fun for me because I got to do a lot of harness work, because I was flying through the air and getting thrown around, and my character is terrified of that, but I very much enjoyed it. I really liked being weightless – I love roller coasters, so that's fitting. In between takes, I would do lots of flips in the air and I gave myself a headache before I had to keep shooting.
Sophia Lillis: [Laughs] I didn't do that. I had a mixture of both close combat and... I've done both because [Doric] has the slingshot and she also has the hand-to-hand combat, so best of both worlds. I do wish I got to do more.
I like that the movie is about found family, and the aim of the group is smaller in the grand scheme of things when other big genre movies are often about saving the universe. So, although it's a large-scale movie, what were your thoughts on the aims of the characters being on a smaller scale?
JS: John [Francis Daley] and Jonathan [Goldstein] never sacrificed character for the plot, which I think is important for a popcorn movie. I think we're slowly creeping into an age where people don't just want spectacle, they also want heart, and John and Jonathan balance that really well. That's the spirit of the game, there's a lot of heart in it, and there's a lot of humor in it, sitting around a table making your friends laugh and having a good time. I think that spirit is alive and well in the movie.
SL: And I feel like it does have something that differentiates it from other action films, and I hope it'll start a new age of action that we haven't seen before.
Yeah, definitely. I read in a previous interview that you guys all played D&D together as a bonding exercise. What was that like?
SL: I wonder what other people say about this?
JS: I know what Regé[-Jean Page] says. 'It was a very real bonding moment.' I mean, I think he says very similar to what I just said, which is [that] it's the spirit of the movie, the spirit of the game. I had never played before, and when we played for the first time I got an insight into what the world was like. We did just yell over each other for about two hours, and then Sophia told me that that's how the game was normally played.
SL: Have you played before?
Very briefly, a little while ago, and that rings true to my experience.
JS: It was just like, 'No, we should do this!' 'No, we should do that.' No, we shouldn't go there! We should do this.'
SL: 'Animal friendship spell!'
JS: Chris Pine kept yelling 'animal friendship spell'.
SL: He fell into a hole at one point and we were like, 'Oh, he's gonna die.' And he's like, 'I know what to do – animal friendship spell!'
Is that a real spell?
JS: For bards.
SL: I think it's a cantrip. I could be wrong though. It was fun to see because I've played before, and I know Michelle [Rodriguez] played before, but the rest of the group hasn't, so it was nice to see their first time, like, 'Oh, so this is what it's like,' dawning on them like, 'Oh, I see now.' It was fun to see that.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is in theaters now. For more viewing inspiration, fill out your watch list with our picks of the other most exciting movie release dates coming our way in 2023.