Christopher Eccleston is a force of Darkness in the upcoming Fox Walden fantasy epic
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising is the first film to be adapted from Susan Cooper's acclaimed book series of the same name. The story follows young Will Stanton, a boy whose everyday life is turned upside down when he learns that he is the last of the "Old Ones". This group of immortal warriors has dedicated their lives to fighting the forces of evil.
As Will uncovers a series of mysterious clues, some dating back to the founding of Britain and others going all the way back to biblical times, he discovers that with the Dark once again rising, the future of the world rests in his hands.
In the film, Christopher Eccleston plays The Rider, a sinister force out to destroy Will and the "Old Ones." We visited Eccleston while he was on set, preparing to shoot the role.
Here is that conversation:
Had you had much experience riding horses before you jumped aboard this particular project
Christopher Eccleston: No.
Did you have to go through a lot of training?
Christopher Eccleston: As much as we could in a very short time. I left the stunt men to do the easy stuff and I did all the dangerous stuff. That's the way I like to do it.
We heard that you were doing this really big stunt, where you and the horse both fall and they have to come in and rescue you?
Christopher Eccleston: You know more than I do. The last thing I heard was that the horse was going to very cleverly go down on all fours, which I've seen them do, which is pretty extraordinary. The last thing I heard was the horse was going to go down on all fours and I was going to step ever it so lightly. Sounds more like an American idea.
And then they are going to yank you from the horse?
Christopher Eccleston: I've heard some of that, but I thought that was going to come later.
Can you tell us more about your character? How different is he from the books?
Christopher Eccleston: The character of the Rider is the antagonist, the nemesis, the villain of the piece. He differs somewhat from the book. There's been some poetic license taken and there's an ability that the Rider has which he doesn't have in the book, which would be lightly spoiler-ish. But he's got a few surprises up his sleeve in how he manifests himself too. I'm teasing, but I want that kind of thing to be an element of surprise for the audience.
Most of your scenes are starring opposite Alex Ludwig. Can you discuss that at all?
Christopher Eccleston: Apart from a brief scene with the "Old Ones" at the beginning and at the end of the film, I'm exclusively with Alex. Yeah.
How was that experience?
Christopher Eccleston: He's an amazing young man. And he has to carry a film like this. I carried a film when I was 27 and couldn't really speak or think for two months afterwards. But he seems like its just water off a duck's back. The thing about him, apart from his abilities as actor, which are apparent, is that he's just a very, very decent young man. And I'm not just saying this to you. A few of us have said to his parents, who have been around, that they brought up an excellent young lad. I'd like to see him succeed because he doesn't seem tainted by all the Hollywood bullshit that we all know so much about.
Had you read the books before coming onto this project
Christopher Eccleston: No. I'd never heard of the books, but as a child I was one of those guys that was hugely passionate about Lord of the Rings. I understand the kind of passion that people feel for these books. I think they should be left for childhood. People say Lord of the Rings was the greatest novels ever written. You're like, no, they're not. They're about childhood. But I read the book for this and enjoyed it very much. And obviously it's close to me because it's couched in Celtic mysticism and it's a very, very intensely British book.
Are there any similarities between your look in this and some of the characters we've already seen in Lord of the Rings?
Christopher Eccleston: I think there must be. Yeah. When you read the book, I can't believe that Susan Cooper wasn't in some way influenced by Tolkien. By that time, in the mid '70's, Tolkien's books had made such a huge impact. But it actually predates Potter and all of that stuff. I think, I'm sure that if we dove into some of the mythology that a man on horseback spreading terror was probably lifted by Tolkien himself, you know. Probably from Greek stuff, the archetype being their problem. Yeah, I think there are some kinds of similarities and I think some of the terror resides in the fact that, for children at least, it's not about machinery. It's this man as an animal. The thing we've talked about with the Rider is that without the horse he's slightly powerless. And that him and the horse are kind of indivisible.
Is this the most detailed character you have ever played, and did you try to add your bit of textured shading to the part?
Christopher Eccleston: I've tried, but failed. You try adding extra colors to it, but I've had that debate throughout the entire shoot, whether you should just go for mongoloid one-dimensional savagery bad guy or if you should try to give him some smarts. I think there's virtues in both. I think I've tried to give it a twist, whether that's the right thing to do, I don't know.
Is the twist something you can't reveal at this time?
Christopher Eccleston: There are two sides to the Rider. And there's an area where I can kind of suggest things about his character while not actually appearing as him. They're just so cryptic.
The director said that he is aiming to make this movie a little more realistic than some of the other fantasy films. And Ian McShane says he has stuck to that esthetic. But he said that your character needed to be a little bit more operatic in tone and appearance.
Christopher Eccleston: Who said that? McShane? He's loaded me with all this. Typical actors. Spineless. "Don't blame me, blame Chris."
Is what he said true, though?
Christopher Eccleston: I've been watching him, he's pretty camp. Old McShane. I think the Rider is slightly less defined actually than most of the characters. He doesn't have as much screen time as the Rider per se, but even within that, I'm sure a much better actor than me would say you've got to find a kind of truthfulness to it. You've got to. Audiences are pretty exacting nowadays and know when you aren't telling the truth that is apparent in the story.
What appealed to you about this character?
Christopher Eccleston: The spoiler thing that I'm not allowed to talk about, actually. Yeah. When you see it, you'll understand. There's an opportunity with the Rider for humor and subversion and satire that I've not seen before in these kind of films and it was that. It was that most of all. 99.9 percent of the dramas I've made have been for adults, especially with film and television and this was a real opportunity to try something new. I've had some experience with Doctor Who. I think it's a real important area if we can provide them complexity and gray area rather than just a fun fair ride. That's what appeals to me.
You also play a doctor in this film?
Christopher Eccleston: Yeah. That's the spoiler, yeah.
Has working for a younger audience opened your mind to the way that you act?
Christopher Eccleston: I think children are much more exacting than adults, actually. I think they're much harder to fill. And they're much fiercer in their attachment once they've taken you to your heart, but they have better bullshit detectors than us. And I remember that as a child myself. And that appeals to me because I've always tried to involve myself in stuff that is in some ways sophisticated and challenging to the audience. That respects its intelligence.
Does working for a younger audience keep you more grounded in the truth of the subject matter?
Christopher Eccleston: Possibly. It does make sense. Yeah. They're very straight about how they feel about you. And they've far more sophisticated than some of the product that is aimed at them. I think we probably all feel that.
They are using a number of cameras on this project. Does that effect your performance, knowing that there is a camera that is capturing you, that you may not be playing to?
Christopher Eccleston: The camera team on this film is fantastic in terms of telling you exactly what's going on, but I kind of believe that if you're being truthful you're being truthful. I think to a certain extent one can get obsessed with what lens is on and I do like to know if they're right in there and if they're also very wide, I'm going to concentrate on the fact and try not to look too much like Popeye in my close up, not that I ever succeed.
Do you share your co-star, Ian McShane's deep love for the country of Romania, where you guys have been shooting this film?
Christopher Eccleston: I fell in love first. Romania's been unfaithful to me with Ian McShane. The Romanian people have been absolutely fantastic, but the problem the actors have experienced is, particularly the Americans is, that when you're here and you're not working you are stuck in a hotel. And you're a long way from home. I mean the Romanian crew on this film has been extraordinary and it's a very different culture, particularly for Americans to come into. I'm somewhat familiar with the European poker face. I've been made very welcome here.
The director says that he is taking a more practical approach to this film, using less CGI. How do you feel about that?
Christopher Eccleston: Have you seen some of the sets on this? I mean one of the great things for me on this film has been wandering around the sets and seeing the work that the Romanian crew have done on it. With too much CGI it becomes soulless.
About the horseback riding, how much do you actually do, and how much do the stuntmen do?
Christopher Eccleston: I've done as much as I possibly could. But no matter how skilled a rider you are, the studio is watching you like a hawk because of insurance and because this is a comparatively low budget film for what they're trying to make. So they do not need actors embedded in walls and things.
How was your relationship with the horse they have you using?
Christopher Eccleston: The main horse we've used who I am in love with. Ian McShane may be in love with Romania, but I am love with this horse. He's called Rusty and incredibly skilled. If you get a chance, watch him in action. I mean, watching actors act is boring, watching Stefan and Taz wrangle that horse and the relationship with them is amazing.
Does your character return throughout the book series?
Christopher Eccleston: I've not read the other books. According to the number one dork, my character does come back.
Were you concerned about that when you first approached doing the role?
Christopher Eccleston: Well, that was addressed at the contractual level anyway. But you know, it's nice to work. I wouldn't want to just keep doing the same thing. I think my career kind of shows that. I guess. Kind of. Commercial consideration is not at the top of my tree.
Were you hesitant about signing up for something that you may have to return to, not knowing if you were going to enjoy the experience?
Christopher Eccleston: Of course I'm hesitant. Of course. But that was the deal.
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising opens October 5th, 2007.