The Buffy and Merlin star talks about playing a centaur in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters , out now on Blu-ray and DVD
Fantasy film Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters , the sequel to 2010's The Lightning Thief , hits DVD and Blu-ray this week – so we took the opportunity to catch up with one of its stars, none other than a certain Mr Anthony Head . Famous to all our readers from his much-loved roles in Buffy , Merlin and Little Britain , the British actor plays the part of Chiron, the teacher and mentor at Camp Halfblood (a role played by Pierce Brosnan in the first Percy Jackson film). Here's the trailer and then our exclusive interview...
I also came to a very early conclusion that I wanted to change up the fact that normally it looks like a man standing on his own legs with a sort of horses bottom attached to it And I wanted to change the silhouette. So I came up with this idea and I had to work with stilts. First they talked about these fantastic things like a big bow springs, but when I actually got there they decided to put me on plasterer's stilts – which are actually much harder to make look like an animal because they have got this sort of great big foot on the end! But I was tethered by a rope so I that I could lean right against it, so that I was at a completely different angle, as if I was coming out of the horses neck... And It worked.
With Pierce Brosnan in the first one they'd stuck him on a sort of 4x4, and sort of drove him around. And interestingly he, in the first one, had a staff. And I thought “Why would a centaur have a staff?” Bizarrely, when I first put the stilts on in the offices they handed me a staff to balance, and I said, “No don’t give me that, because I might get used to that. As a horse you don’t need a staff, you’ve got four legs.” So we did away with the staff.
SFX: Have you any interest in Greek myths and legends yourself?
AH: It was fun, it’s a fascinating thing to research: part animal, part human, to try to make it believable and make it work so that the viewer is transported enough to believe it.
When I was younger I was given this illustrated book, a version of the Odyssey and the Iliad. I loved the Greek myths (more than the Roman mythology, although there are great parallels. I always thought that the Greek gods were much cooler for some reason). The story of Perseus is fascinating. Rick Riordan has taken something that are like kids stories anyway, folk tales - and made it more for kids, a more accessible world to young people. Consequently, Percy Jackson is a great family film series. You know the adults aren’t being talked down to but the kids love it, so it reaches a very wide demographic.
SFX: That early scene with the mechanical bull looks fun. How much were you involved in that sort of stuff?
AH: I didn’t, unfortunately, get to be part of that bit. I worked really hard, I said, “Hold on a minute, Chiron, he should be here, he should be looking after the kids!” But ultimately watching the film I didn’t miss Chiron at all, you’re so caught up with Percy and with the chase. It's interesting because when I was doing Buffy , they always had to get rid of Giles when the fights started! As an adult his natural impulse would be to protect his ward, but you know, it wasn’t called Giles it was called Buffy , so she had to fight her own way out of any scrapes. So they used to knock me out and it was the same sort of thing - ultimately it was Percy’s journey, it didn’t matter where his teacher was.
SFX: Chiron as a mentor figure is like a watcher with four legs! Do you think that the role had a lot in common with Giles?
AH: He is a mentor and, yes, he's more aware of the mythology that’s attached to Percy – he knows more about Percy’s life than Percy knows! So therefore he's the go-to guy. Though in Buffy it was a clash between us, but I don’t think the relationship is the same between Chiron and Percy – because his journey is more of a quest. Whereas Buffy’s was basically protect the world and get on with it!
SFX: Chiron was played by Pierce Brosnan in that first film. Did your paths cross at all? Did you take anything from his performance?
AH: No, our paths have never crossed. But I think he's a wonderful actor. They put so much hair on him in the first one that all you were thinking was, “Oh my god, there’s an awful lot of hair!". But no I didn’t sit down and think, "How can I make this different?" Because as far as I’m concerned it was just looking at a part, a character and thinking how to make it real. "How can I make it work so that the viewer is drawn into it and believes the world that we're in?"
SFX: Nathan Fillion is in this film, isn’t he?
AH: I missed him! He left literally the day before I arrived. And I know Nathan very well. He’s a lovely guy and he’s a close friend of Joss Whedon, so we see each other then we’re both in LA and we hook up with Joss. I missed him and I was gutted, because he’s brilliant in this film, absolutely brilliant as Hermes.
I think that Sea Of Monsters is a better film than the first one simply because its not spending so much time trying to introduce characters - it's just getting on with the quest. And casting Stanley Tucci was genius, and Nathan as well! It's a family film so it's one of those that should end up in most stockings!
Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters is available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD now from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
David Bradley | Dave Golder | Cecily Mumby