D&D is one of the most popular board games in the world, and it's extremely understandable why. It combines creative thinking, the quest for victory and magic, resulting in a worldwide fanbase. Now, the game is returning to the big screen as Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves.
Ahead of the release, we sat down with actor Jason Wong who portrays the evil sorcerer Dralas in this upcoming movie by directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. We talked about what it's like to make a much-anticipated film, creating massive fighting scenes and his upcoming projects.
Congratulations on the film. Were you a fan of the games before taking on the part of Dralas in Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves?
I'd never played the games. I was too young when the TV show came out and missed the hype. I was a fan of other board games similar to D&D, but I was generally more into video games like Street Fighter or Call of Duty. But my best friend is a huge fan of the show and the board game, so he plays religiously once every week on Saturday night – that was his D&D time. So, after the film comes out, I'll probably go to him and play with his crew. Hopefully he'll teach me how to play.
Great! Did the fact that you didn't play the games make it harder to prepare you for the role?
No, not really. My friend was the first person I called when I got the role so I was well-informed. But also, the internet is such a vast resource for the subject area, with so many people playing the game and all the active forums that I can access, so when I was trying to research my character, there was an abundance of information that I could capture. I also asked a lot of questions, such as, “What's the whole point of me having a green flame on my sword?,” “What's a Red Wizard?” etc. So these are questions that I constantly asked myself while reading through the script. But no, I didn't struggle too much, and I always could go to my friend and ask him for advice.
What was it about the script that made you want to take on the role of Dralas?
I've always liked the fantasy genre. Lord of the Rings first and D&D. When someone says to you D&D, I was like, yeah, I always heard about Dungeons and Dragons. I've only seen the original film from 2000, and I knew it was very popular amongst people who played the board game. What really attracted me to the project was that I could play this badass warrior Dralas, a classic antagonist character.
And when I was reading the script, I found out that I had this big fight scene where I also had to speak a specific language. When I heard a recording of the language, I found it pretty awesome – I really got into that. It was also my first real action fight scene, and it was incredible to do. So, for me, that was what really what attracted me to it. And also, I've never done CGI on this scale, so that was a whole different ball game for me as well.
Does the fact that D&D already has such a big fan base make it more daunting to make this movie or not?
It can sometimes come across as quite daunting, but luckily, our directors, John and Jonathan, are fans. They play the game and are fans of the genre, so I knew I was in good hands, even though I didn't necessarily know the game – I could always go to them for information. The scale of it didn't intimidate me until I got to set, but then I saw the set and I was surrounded by 100ft blue screens!
They made a massive ship and a whole mediaeval village, and the costume itself was so immense in detail. They had these model mannequins with all our costumes. It was a different scale than I've been used to and probably the biggest-budgeted film I've ever been a part of. I did Han Solo, which was on a similar scale as well. But then, when you get to set, there are 300 people watching me do this.
What was the first costume you put on? And how did it feel?
I felt like a kid in the candy shop! They showed me my sword which was made by the same swordsmith from Game of Thrones. They spent a good 20 days forging and making my sword. It was made out of Damascus and weighed about 6.5 kg. The sword was so detailed, and it was a beautiful work of art made by a beautiful swordsmith from Northern Ireland. And it was incredible! The artistry, the details, the leatherwork, even the smallest details. I feel like we've got some of the best craftsmen on this. Whether you look at Regé's [Regé-Jean Page] costume or my costume, it all looks amazing! It took hundreds of hours of manpower just to make my costume and the different types of moulds they used to make my dagger. My makeup took me 3.5 hours every morning and I had many Oscar-winning makeup artists doing my makeup. They did Gary Oldman's makeup for The Darkest Hour. That was pretty cool. And I was in such good hands. It was intense. It was immense. But it was great fun to be part of that every day. I was excited to be on set. Even though we had those of covid restrictions, it was great to be a part of that creative team.
It sounds like really fun! You mentioned that it took over more than three hours to put the makeup on. Do you do any rituals when they apply? Like learning the lines, playing on the phone, etc.?
Well, I was lucky. So, I had my lines set because they couldn't change my lines as much. After all, we had to learn this made-up language, so that wasn't too much of an issue. But I'd have my music on. I'll be playing country music, hip-hop, or different types of music. The makeup team and I also chose the music together so that everyone got a rotation of their favourite songs from a certain era or period. You get to know your hair and makeup team well. They become like family.
You talked about the fact that they made the entire ship and village. What set made the most like the biggest impression on you?
The one that I and Regé fall on during the big standoff. That was incredible because they made the steps as a homage to a place in Northern Ireland called the Giant Causeway. The steps are all uneven and were at least 20 to 30 ft. And each step was different, which was hard for us. We were fighting on uneven steps, which was a bit challenging.
Right before that scene, were you guys hyping each other up?
We would hype each other up and go for it like a real fight. We would look at each other with intensity and I was like, “Okay, it's on.” And he would look at me and be like, “Oh, yes.” We fought in a controlled environment, but the aggression and the loft are something you have to bring to every fight scene because otherwise, it just doesn't sell on camera. I and Regé did pretty much did all our stunts, like even a lot of the wire work which was well regulated.
Also, our stunt doubles did an incredible job. There are some things that we couldn't do. But for most of it, I would say that all the wire work was me. We also spent two weeks refining the fight every day for two hours. We're fighting and fighting and fighting; we run through it. It's a dance that we're practising, making sure all the timings were perfect.
And as I said, the floor was so uneven, like there'll be a rock in the way and then suddenly, the statue in the battle space was a lot smaller, so we couldn't jump around it. There were many of these things that we had to over-choreograph. The full choreography was long and only a quarter of it managed to appear on screen, but it still made an impact. There was so much going on. Hopefully, you guys enjoyed it. When I watched it, I was happy with the fight scene, and I hope when you're watching it, you know that there was a lot of blood and sweat.
There were a lot of blue and green screens. What was a scene for you that looked different on screen because of the CGI than when you filmed it?
The one thing that stuck in my mind was the dragon. On set, it was just this man in a blue suit on. He's holding this stick with a tennis ball, and he's running after us, and we have to look at this tennis ball and run away from the dragon. It's a scene you can see in the trailer.
We're just trying to react to the tennis ball. So, you have to use your whole imagination for that, and getting all the other cast members to look at it simultaneously, react and move simultaneously is very challenging. It took us a few takes to capture that moment and ensuring you got it right was not easy. 20 times the same reaction on that same day. You've got to go back into the same position. It was a lot of resetting, and it got a bit tedious. But it was a fun experience to do.
You guys seem to have a lot of fun when watching the movie. Was there a moment on set you had to pause for a bit because it just became too funny?
I had a lot of fun! There was a day on set where I wasn't acting and was just there watching, and I think Hugh Grant had a little bit of a moment on set where he lost his cool because someone was in his eyeline and that had everyone in stitches. That was the funniest moment on set for me because he's the nicest, friendliest, and funniest guy, but when he's grumpy, it has everyone in stitches. Most of the time, we were all quite focused.
The set wasn't what it could have been because we were all restricted due to COVID because we shot pretty much during the height of the pandemic in Northern Ireland. We all had to wear masks and tried to keep our spirits up. Michelle was great because she always brought the music and the energy.
Besides Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, another one coming out in April, The Covenant. What can you tell us about that one?
Yes, indeed. That's a Guy Ritchie film and is my third picture with him, which is crazy to say. The Covenant is a film you wouldn't have seen Guy Ritchie do yet. For me, the film is beautiful, and that's not something you normally hear when you hear about Guy Ritchie films. When you think of a Guy Ritchie movie, you think guns, fast car chases, violence, and quick one-liners. This is probably the most beautiful film he's done, and many people have said that.
Working with him was working on a different level. He's an incredible director and being on set with him was incredible. It was also great to work with Jonny Lee Miller. When I was a kid, he was one of my heroes growing up. We had the same drama teacher, and I studied his performance since I was 16. Alexander Ludwig is fearless on camera. He's so poised and incredible to work with, just like the other cast members. Dar Salim delivers an incredible and beautiful performance.
What we see on screen has happened very recently. The US and UK forces exiting Afghanistan only happened less than two years ago. This film looks at the relationship between a soldier and an interpreter. It's about brotherhood, promise and, essentially, a man who wants to back safely to his family. So, it's a family story. It's about a man's promise to go back to help this man that saved his life.
Because you had the fight scenes in Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, were the fight scenes in The Covenant easier or not?
Doing an action sequence is never easy because it takes time. But I've done a few war films in which we used firearms and guns, so I'm used to it and have enjoyed these sorts of projects. D&D was more challenging physically because I had to train every morning for three hours. In The Covenant, we also had a great stunt coordinator and the military adviser, Kawa, a former Green Beret in the U. S. Army – he was on set teaching us the movements to make sure we looked authentic on screen because there's nothing worse than looking like you don't know how to handle a rifle when you're supposed to be a trained warrior. They do it every day. It's muscle memory. We wanted to replicate that same energy.
Based on the trailer, The Covenant is emotional and action-packed. There are also a lot of explosions and gunfights. What was the biggest and most challenging scene to film in this movie?
The most challenging scenes are certainly the ones with a lot of explosions. It doesn't matter how safe they make it for you. When things explode behind your head, and a massive flame is coming up, there's no way you can be cool about it as a human. You will always have that feeling that you have to go and run. The reactions are real, even though you do it many times. The reaction is still real because you're like, “Something exploded behind me; I have to run.”
They said, “Jason, on action to make sure you run. I was like, don't worry, I will be running.” So that was quite challenging. And I always feel a bit nervous doing that. I know that I was always safe. But you know, there's still an explosion happening. My biggest fear was not tripping up. Because I'm the sort of person that would end up tripping on my feet and falling on my face. There's a scene in The Covenant where I'm running up a hill. That was the steepest hill I've ever run up. I never ran up that hill so fast. And when they ask you to come down again to reset the scene, you've got to come down slowly. Those are the moments I found a bit daunting, but hopefully, we captured some realism when you see those on camera.
Apart from the two films we discussed. Do you have any other projects coming up?
Yeah. So, I've got HBO Max's series Warrior, coming out at the end of this year. That's with Andrew Koji, and the series is based on the writings of Bruce Lee. So, he's the one who did the whole writing, and then HBO picked it up. And then they did the whole full series. I will also star in the third season of Alex Rider as the new lead antagonist, Nile, an assassin. The series is based on the novels by Anthony Horowitz. So, lots of exciting projects coming up, and hopefully, there are a few more in the pipeline that will be coming out soon, but about which I can't talk about just yet.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is in cinemas now.