The evil queen Ravenna never seems to die.
In the second installment of the series, THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR focuses on Eric, the huntsman, with his origin story and servitude under Queen Freya, the sister of Ravenna. He commits a forbidden love with a fellow huntswoman, Sara, and later must confront both Queens in their diabolical intentions for the kingdoms.
The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron. It was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
LRM had an exclusive phone interview with Cedric Nicolas-Troyan earlier this month. We talked about visual effects, his first feature film directorial debut and the cast.
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.
Read the full transcript of the interview below.
LRM: You were a visual effects supervisor and a second unit director before. Was it nerve wracking or intimidating to take that leap to be a full features film director?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Not really. When you’re a visual effects director, you [constantly] working with the main unit and the director all the time. You know on what’s up. You know what is coming. You know on what you’re signing up for. It’s not like you’re living in a separate world. It’s not like you’re not aware on what’s happening in the main unit. You see all the stuff happening all the time.
So when you make the decision to take over the main unit, you’ll know exactly on what’s going to happen. Any second unit director that says, “Oh, I didn’t know what’s going to happen to me.” I would be like “What!?!” [Laughter]
At no moments that I was surprised on what was coming my way. Sometimes you think you were prepared and sometimes you think you should be more prepared. I was never surprised on what was coming my way.
LRM: Why was THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR was perfect to be your first feature project? How did you want to approach this?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: It’s funny since I didn’t know it was going to be my first project. As a matter of fact, I never thought it would be my first movie. I was working on many other projects and was thinking that those movies would be my first movie.
All of the sudden, I just got the call from the produce and told me it was twelve weeks from shooting. To be honest, I jumped on it, because it was a great opportunity to work with a world that I knew. It’s also with the crew and studio that I knew and appreciated very much. Of course, it was to work with Joe Roth, the producer of it and my godfather figure in this industry. I have a tremendous respect for him. The chance to work with him was a no-brainer for me. That’s why I said ‘yes’ right away.
LRM: So what was your overall experience? Did you enjoy it very much? Now are you addicted to be the main unit director?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Oh, my God! I was like this has to be the best experience in my professional life. That’s something I’m going to look back very fondly. It was a year of my life. Honestly, I look back and have zero regrets. I had the best time with the cast. I had the best time making the movie. I hope you can certainly see it through the special features in the DVD.
We all a great time doing it. I have zero regrets and it had been the best experience in my professional life—for sure.
LRM: Well, that sounds great. So what were some of the challenges or lessons you learned through your first project?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: There’s always a ton of things. For me, it’s very important that I don’t just walk away from something. I can’t do everything perfectly and say I could’ve done it better. I’m not going to get any better if I think that way. You learn as you go. You’ll find yourself in [an argument] or do you need to compromise. Sometimes you would think that you should’ve fought this or maybe you compromised too much.
As a first-time director, you’re not all-powerful. You have a lot of battles in front of you. Granted, I had a good team that had amazing battles fought for me. You learn about that kind of things such as what is the battle you’ll win and what is the battle you’ll have to let go.
You’ll also learn about the craft to make you a better director on the next project. That obviously did happen.
There is a story that Jessica [Chastain] told me. Are you going to remember exactly twenty years from now on how much money the movie made? You’ll not going to remember that much of it, but you’ll remember on making it. I think that’s very true. So the process for me is very important.
LRM: So it sounds like having experienced actors on the set really helped you.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: I think having experienced actors can only help the director no matter what. There is no downside having experienced actors. Great actors make a director work better. The most important thing to me is the relationship between the actor and director. It’ll reflect the work we do on set.
It's a challenging thing on paper for a first time director and you have all this cast. But, when you get into it, you’ll realize those same great actors are very professional actors. By being professionals, there are proper exchanges we have with each other. We try to make the best scenes we can make. I’m very grateful for that and to work with them. I hope we can do that again. I know we talked about to work again on different projects. I certainly hope we can make those projects happen. It was such a great experience for me.
LRM: With the previous film SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, how did you approach the tone of the movie to make this your own baby rather than copying on what previously done before.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Well, I think that’s what people liked and what some people didn’t like. It’s one of those things that were surprising and fun. Some people were expecting something more dark and very moody-moody like the first one. That’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted more a fantasy take on it. It was a conscience choice to make the movie in the tone similar to WILLOW or LEGEND. And maybe not like LORD OF THE RINGS.
We wanted to change the tone. So people loved it and some people didn’t. That was also our way to offer something completely different. And it was something in a way to take itself less seriously.
LRM: So how did you then approach movie this in your head as sequel, prequel or a stand-alone film?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Honestly, I approached it as a stand-alone film. I approached it as a stand-alone film on the story standpoint. Visually, I wanted to make it visually interesting and not necessarily the same as in the first one. You want it stylistically in the same ballpark and not completely change it. The tone is different, but visually it didn’t want to completely be too different.
With it being a stand-alone film and with a different tone, visually it had to remain in the same ballpark.
LRM: Since you were a visual effects supervisor before, were there any pressure to up the ante for yourself in visual effects? It’s impressive. The mirror scene was great.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Not really. I’m not a fan of big visual effects extravaganza. I have this theory that too much visual effects will dull down the visual effects for a movie. I would say that too much sauce on a dish will kill the dish. I would never look to put more or too much on the visual effects—it’s never my thing.
I would be very happy with doing a movie with no visual effects. It’s not something that drives me. I love doing it. I love the look of it. I love designing creatures and stuff like that. But, I’m also would be happy doing a movie with zero visual effects. I do have an upcoming project like that. It’s not something that it indispensable for me. You see what I mean?
LRM: I do. I read somewhere that you are absolutely involved in this upcoming Blu-ray release. Did you handle the extras? What can we expect on the Blu-ray/DVD release?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Yeah, for me, it’s the part of making the movie. I like all those special features on a Blu-ray/DVD. When I buy a movie, I tend to watch all those features. For me, it’s doing all the commentaries. To go back on what we talked about, it’s the fact that the experience was amazing. We had a great time. I wanted to get the audience to see a little bit of that. I wanted to share a little bit of that with them. It’s to share my enthusiasm, my actors’ enthusiasm and our experience together on the set. To me, it’s giving a little insight and letting you be part of the project.
That’s how I feel about this. I’m a movie-goer like the next guy. When I go see the movie, I buy their DVDs and love looking at their stuff. I loved to find out on how they figured it out or on how they did that. It makes me feel like I’m part of the process. It’s very important.
So if you like the movie, this is going to expand the good times and experience you have with the movie. That’s great! Why not experience it all over again?
LRM: Could you talk about the future projects you may have on the plate? Or maybe give us a status on the HIGHLANDER project?
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: [Laughter] God, everybody asks me that question. [Laughter] It’s kind of funny. I think HIGHLANDER has become a timing thing. I love HIGHLANDER. I love doing the development for this movie. But, now we’re getting into some timing issue.
Again, it’s that my first movie is a sequel. Now will my second movie be a reboot? I don’t know.
I have other projects that are originals and that different. They are less visual effects heavy. For me, it’s just trying to figure out on what my next movie. Is HIGHLANDER my next movie? Hmmm….
LRM: [Laughter] I guess we’ll see. So my last question is what was your best memory on this production? Just tell me a quick fun short story.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Oh, my God. There are so many. It had to be a moment with the cast on set. There were so many of them. It’s hard to say. Emily [Blunt] makes me laugh so much behind the camera. And so did Jessica. Or then it maybe it’s the bromance with Chris [Hemsworth] really. It’s just so many. You’re just going to have to watch the DVD. You gotta see it.
LRM: [Laughter] I’m going to definitely check it out. Now I’m all curious. Thank you for this conversation. It was very pleasant.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Thank you. Thank you very much.
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.