Someone is up to no good in The Lightning Thief, the first movie based on the popular Percy Jackson and The Olympians children book series. In the film, Percy (Logan Lerman), a newly discovered demigod is sent on a quest to recover Zeus stolen lightning bolt and stop a war between the Greek gods. To aid him on his mission, Percy partners up with his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who just happens to be a satyr on the dl and a kick-butt hottie demigod named Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario).
The three young talents who drive this movie have an impressive cache in film and television to their credit. Lerman gained momentum at an early age as a film actor in The Patriot, What Women Want and 3:10 to Yuma. A sharp contrast to her co-star, Alexandra Daddario has been consistently seen on the small screen for over eight years starting with a role on the daytime soap opera, All My Children. Since then, shes appeared on Law & Order, Nurse Jackie and the sleek drama White Collar on USA network. Brandon T. Jackson, the elder of the trio has over 20 films under his belt including 8 Mile, Tropic Thunder and Fast & Furious.
During a recent press tour, the three actors stopped by to speak with students and the media at Dunwoody Elementary School to discuss their expectations for Percy Jackson movie and clear up some myths about future projects.
Do you think Percy Jackson will be another household name like Harry Potter, is that something you guys hope for?
Lerman: In reference to Harry Potter, do you want it to be successful and as loved as the Harry Potter movies - of course. You get talk about it being similar because Chris Columbus name is attached to both films and theyre marketing this film as From the director of Harry Potter, but the movies are different. theyre different stories. Were just trying to introduce classic Greek mythology into the modern day and give it a clever twist.
Chris [Columbus] described you as A forty year old person trapped in a 17 year old boy.
Lerman: Its because I lie about my age. [laughs] Im really a middle-aged man. I dont even really know. I grew up quickly LA does that to you sometimes.
Daddario: He has a very mature way of approaching his job and approaching relationships. And working with people in a way most 18 year olds wouldnt.
Lerman: Im really serious about movies. I have a real passion for it. I guess thats hard to find nowadays because most young actors want to be a pop star, be famous - its all for social gain. Im just really interested in making films.
So how do you show that interest?
Jackson: Well were all film geeks. We made a pact when we did the film and said were not going to have some corny movie that we just pucker our lips and try to look good. Not to reference Twilight just joking, thats my comic bone coming out. But the thing is we wanted to make a real film like how Back to the Future was and not to reference Robert Zemekis but hes such a great director I love him, but Chris [Columbus] has a classic. He has a way of making movies marvelous, extraordinary, and classic. And with that style he goes with the older crew - with Spielberg and you know, that whole feel. So its hard when you have that and a lot of your peers just wanna be teeny boppers.
Lerman: Its also about maintaining your passion for it. I dont use if for social gain at all - not at all, its just so I can work with directors that I really like.
How do you reconcile your passion for film with the nuance of the character for the audience level
Lerman: Obviously this is an entertainment. Youre not going to go in there and try to dissect it and make into something crazy. The truth is were not making it about one person being bigger than the film. Im nothing like Percy in real life. I made him a real character just like Alexandra did with Annabeth and Brandon did it with Grover. We made sure that theyre not us playing the character whereas you find that in a lot of movies a nowadays is that theyre just selling the person rather than actually having the character sell the movie or the story lines.
Jackson: We wanted to be entertaining for adults and kids which is hard to do and the thing is lines that I say are more for the adults. The recession line - all that stuff of course thats not in the script, but at the same time you give it that thing. Like Medusa, Uma Thurmans character - she gives you guys a reason to like the movie. We have to entertain, but were not going to dumb down lines too much. So its not Hey, how you doin, [nasally voice] all right, lets go on a quest! Even though some parts are like that, dont get me wrong because you have to get it to the kids but you know, the Lotus room is for the adults, but this is for the kids so we try to even it out.
After seeing the film, out of all the characters [Jackson] your character [Grover] is the more mature and made me think of Alpo Chino. How did you prepare to make your character more of an adult-situated character?
Jackson: Well hes 32 but thats a teenager in satyr years but hes still been around longer than these guys. Hes already had back history with Chiron and Zeus daughter Thalia he lost her a long time ago, so Percy is his last way to become a full protector, because hes kinda that kid that flunked a couple of times. So the way I prepared for it was to make sure I can relate to everybody, dont play him one way play him as well rounded and play him a little bit cooler not like Mr. Tumnus, James McAvoy on Narnia because I want to make it relevant to you guys.
As an African American male in this movie and Im saying that because Im a satyr, Ive already got my friends going Dog, what you doing with them goat legs, man? Im being real. Its like youre looking at what our people represents, you got T.I, you got Ice Cube, you got 50cent, you got Jay-Z, Chris Brown - and then me and Im the one with the goat legs and making fun of rappers so I have to play it well rounded for everybody.
Did your experience as a stand up comedian help you with this character?
Jackson: I always look at Will Smith and Fresh Prince or in MIB. It would be something awkward, like a bully and hes talking mess to him then he turns around and the bully is bigger than him. And it puts you in universal feelings it makes it awkward and that makes it funny. To be talking to Virgil (Death) going Yo, waddup man aiight. Its that awkward you know why would a satyr be talking to your boy like that? Its that weirdness. Human emotions are funny, not just certain types. If I was in the movie saying [nasally voice] Percy, you got to get out of there, come on! youd say Grover is so annoying [laughs]. Chris had to fine tune that because sometimes I would comment on everything and thats one thing you learn as a comedian is you cant comment on everything you got to know how to be
Lerman: Youre in a difficult role in the film because youre the comedic relief for some serious situations. So people can still have a good time in these moments.
Jackson: And its tough because you have Logan and Alex who are great actors and you have to make sure all your emotions match and not talk so much.
Thats Chris job, you lay your options on the table and he shapes it around to make the film. So in his situation you throw a whole bunch of options out there and see what makes it in the film. Every scene hes constantly throwing stuff out here. We only see some of it.
How did the script change when you added your dialog to it as opposed to the original script?
Lerman: Basically the way we did it. Chris made us feel there was a freedom we could make it as natural as we wanted to make it. I think you can really tell when were really going off script.
Jackson: There was lot of freedom where wed have a moment that Chris would notice.
Lerman: The best part to movies are spontaneous. Its right on the spot, you come up with something that just feels right that no one would even notice. I like doing on the spot because the best things come the first time. Im not good at recreating it twice., especially small pieces.
Daddario: Thats what you do in life, you bounce off each others energies and have spontaneous moments so things arent planned out. But theyre the best and funniest things in life.
Lerman: But its all about feeling comfortable enough to do that. Because a lot of times you dont feel comfortable at all. Youre on a set thats really stiff and makes you feel insecure - youre not going to want to experiment with things.
What can you tell us about Spider-Man?
Lerman: I got nothing. People take a small bit of information and blow it out of proportion
Its our job.
Lerman: Yeah I know, all Im saying is Im a big fan of the work. Anybody my age would die to play that role, Im just hoping to be considered for it.
Brandon, you were here [in Atlanta] filming Lottery Ticket how did that go?
Jackson: I dont know yet. I dont know what it is. I hope it hits its demo and makes a little money. To be honest, I got to see the movie first. Im more excited about Percy because thats what I like to do. I like action-adventure, so I have to see the movie. Im not hating on Bow Wow, but I like being in scenes with actors and working with actors, not entourages, and girls in my eye line and video chicks.
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