Q: What were your feelings when you finally saw the film?
Mechner: Firstly the original Prince Of Persia was a character 40 pixels
high on the Apple II screen, running and jumping. The technology at the time was
quite primitive, I think in my mind I imagined a much grander spectacle, and to
see Jake [Gyllenhaal] in the best shape of his life running around the rooftops
of Morocco and doing parkour and all this stuff was more than I could imagine.
Q: What initially drew you to the setting of Ancient Persia? And how does
that culture and mythology inspire you?
Mechner: I was inspired 25 years ago to make the game really by the tales of
the Arabian Nights, and by old Persian legends like the Shahnameh, the Persian
Book of Kings. And also those great old Hollywood swashbuckling movies like the
1940 Thief of Baghdad, by Alexander Korda. As a kid I must have heard those
stories, the storybook versions are in all of our cultural DNA. We know of that
world without really knowing exactly where or when we first heard it.
Q: How did you start the world of Prince Of Persia?
Mechner: You go back to 1985 when I was right out of college and I took my
brother down to the parking lot across the street from the high school. He was
in a pair of baggy trousers and I had him run and jump and climb and fall down
and I video-taped him doing these moves. Then I set about the three year process
of bringing these animations into the computer and that was the first Prince Of
Q: How successful was the game and how come it has taken so long for the
movie to be made?
Mechner: It was successful. This was in those days when the industry was
one tenth of the size that it is now. It was very much a fringe thing. My
friends and I who liked to play games were geeks. We were not in the cultural
mainstream. What has happened since then is that video games have evolved
technologically and culturally. So we finally came to the point, years later,
where a producer and director of the stature of Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike
Newell would look at a video game as something worth considering.
Q: Since it started as a video game Prince Of Persia has grown hasnt it?
Mechner: Prince Of Persia from its first game has become a franchise. So
there are now at least seven or eight versions of the game since then. The one
that the movie is based on is also called Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time.
That is the first modern console game. It reinvented the old Prince Of Persia
game for a new generation of gamers. That was in 2003 and at that point I
brought Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney the pitch for the movie along with a two
minute trailer that I cut together on my Mac. The screenplay that I wrote is
loosely based on The Sands Of Time but the movie production drew on all of those
games that came out since then like Warrior Within. And not just for
storyalso costumes, weapons, physical action and production design. The whole
movie making team was influenced by the games at many levels.
Q: Are you a fan of ancient history?
Mechner: I love research, thats one of the great perks of this great
line of work. You get the chance to go back and try and figure out what things
were like in a different time and place. You also get to read the great
mythological sources of legends like the Persian Book Of Kings. So you take all
that and try to bring it to life.
Q: Why until now have attempts to turn games into movies floundered?
Mechner: It is hard to make a good movieperiod! And to make a movie
based on a video game is particularly tricky. Novels and stage plays and other
things that you might adapt into a movie, really begin with a story and
characters. Video games really begin with the game play, that is with the
players experience controlling the character and facing the challenges of the
game. And that is the one aspect of the game that doesnt translate to film. No
matter how you do it, you are never going to have that attractive element and
things that are fun to play are not necessarily fun to watch an actor doing on
screen. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is the first time that a video game
creator actually adapted their own game as a screen play. Even though I have
just spent a year adapting the game version of The Sands Of Time, I had to set
that aside and put on a different hat and take a different approach to that
story, because I was writing a story that was going to be watched by an
audience. As opposed to be played.
Q: Was it hard to write a film after doing games?
Mechner: I wouldnt say that a games story needs to be less complex than
a movie story. I am very proud of The Sands Of Time game. It has an interesting
relationship between the main characters. There is a romance and a banter and
there is a voice over narration. So not only are you playing the game but you
are also hearing it narrated. There is a counterpoint between what you are
hearing and what you are seeing which is very interesting. It is almost like a
literary kind of effect. So it is not that one is more complex than the other,
its just that they are different. It goes back to the fact that games are
played and movies are watched. Even in this case where it is the same world, the
same characters and the same type of genre and the same emotional themes in
both the game and the movie the specifics of how the story is translated into
scenes has to be different. The difference in translating a game into a movie is
even greater than if you were turning a stage play into a movie. You have to
take that extra step of figuring what is it about the material that is going to
make a good story; that the viewers are going to connect with emotionally.
Q: Did you have in mind the fact that the characters in the movie are
playing games with each other?
Mechner: Of course, we set out to make a movie for audiences that didnt
play games but at the same time, for gamers the movie is full of things that
they can enjoy on another level.
Q: What did you think of the cast?
Mechner: Mike Newell put together a fantastic cast. Jake Gyllenhaal makes
a terrific prince. He is a very good actor but he also has the right spirit
besides being a warrior and in the best shape of his life, he has got a humanity
that is really important.
Q: Are you a fan of DVD?
Mechner: I have a pretty substantial DVD collection which now needs to be
a Blu-ray collection. I love all kinds of movies. My favorites include
Hitchcocks North By Northwest, David Leans Dr Zhivago and Lawrence Of
ArabiaRaiders Of The Lost Ark and then all the old films that influenced
Raiders, like Alexander Kordas Thief of Bagdad. And Kurosawas The Seven
Samurai is one of my all-time favourites.
Q: Are you a Disney fan?
Mechner: Since I was a kid, growing up in New York, I had a map of
Disneyland on my wall. I had never been there but I knew where all the rides
were. Now that Prince Of Persia is a Disney movie that is really wonderful. If
Prince Of Persia was one day to become a Disney ride that would be a dream come
Q: How emotional was it for you when you saw Prince Of Persia: The Sands
Of Time for the first time?
Mechner: Oh my gosh there have been so many moments along the way from
the last six years, going from script to screen. Setting foot on the set in
Morocco was one of them. And seeing the movie and getting an idea of how it
would be experienced by an audience was a huge thrill.
Q: You could never have dreamed of anything like this when you filmed
your brother in baggy pants for the first game all those years ago?
Mechner: No, I was just worried about finishing the game while there was
still a computer games market! I was afraid I would be too late. It is pretty
mind boggling to me that we are still talking about Prince Of Persia 25 years