Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Zack Snyder’s Cast Talk Rebel Moon – Part One

9 min read
The cast of Rebel Moon

Re-teaming with after the success of his zombie heist film Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder is bringing a new sci-fi vision to the streamer with his duology – a two-part sci-fi epic that begins with Part One: A Child of Fire this Christmas.

Initially devised as part of the Star Wars universe, Moon's mythology sees lone warrior Korra (Sofia Boutella) dispatched across the galaxy to recruit a team of rebels to fight the tyrannical armies of Admiral Atticus (Ed Skrein). The sensibilities of A Galaxy Far, Far Away are very much present in the film's visuals. Still, Snyder's take seems much better placed as its own thing with the filmmaker bringing his bombastic style to a much darker, more grounded sci-fi epic.

Heading up the rebel team alongside Korra are farmer Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), Kai (Charlie Hunnam), General Titus (Djimon Hounsou), Nemesis (Doona Bae), Tarak (Staz Nair), Milius (E. Duffy), and the Bloodaxes (Cleopatra Coleman and Ray Fisher). The cast was on hand to discuss the deep-rooted mythology of the world and just what the future of Rebel Moon entails.

In terms of worldbuilding and lore, how do you begin approaching that as an actor? What kind of prep are you doing to make sure you understand it all?


Staz Nair: I think it's subjective. I think, for me, personally, I try to understand — because there's so much to understand, you don't want to overwhelm yourself with worlds that may not pertain to you or may not directly affect your character — so it was trying to understand the specific worlds that I existed in. Zack created such a Bible for this and such a backstory. So it was a case of really understanding… What worlds would I have participated in? What worlds would I know and understand? What worlds would I love or hate and work from there and the story.


Djimon Honsou: I have to say that, in this story, the way Zack wrote it, everybody's backstory was quite well defined even within the epic scale of it all. But I think there's a slight danger of being a little too analytical about a story because you also want to stay somewhat innocent about what's taking place and what's going on as if you're living that reality.


Ray Fisher: The world is so massive so, for me, it helps if I make it small for myself, right? Figure out where I am in that world. No matter how hard you try, just having someone explain to you “Oh, this, this Velte, this is Providence, this is Daggus, this is a cobalt mining planet or whatever,” you have no idea what that visually will look like until you see it. And I know I was blown away when I saw the film. We're in so many different places. It's so expansive. The lore, like you said, is its own beast. So it helps if I make the circumstance a bit smaller, and deal with it on a very human and intimate level.


Michiel Huisman: I like how you put that. I think, for me, I kind of felt the same. It was important to understand the world that my character is from which is the village of Velte. And then once my character goes on this journey to find these fighters, to help them protect their village, he's out of his element. Like I was on a lot of those sets and I don't quite understand these worlds. This is a farmer who has never been off his own planet so I can use that.


  1. Duffy: There were there was also a lot of help because the props department had created just an immense amount of stuff for us to work with like the weapons themselves, they're completely designed by our props department, and the costumes and the practical sets. So like Ray said, you make it small. But there's also just so much guiding you along the way to be informed by.


The film is set in this other world, but so much of what we're seeing is practical. What's it like when you walk onto set and everything is realised in front of you?


SN: I think we were so lucky. If we look at Velte, which is what you're seeing here in the backdrop, Velte was 90% built by Zack. There were five acres of land with buildings, he built a rushing river through the desert and basically gave irrigation to a desert for about nine months. So that absolutely helps, when the fourth wall is there and everything is there, you participate and you get to use that as opposed to having to use imagination to build the world around you. It was such a privilege.


Sofia Boutella: As an actor, it just saves you the hassle. It's right there so you just have to be and not do as much work. You just exist. You do your work and learn your lines so you can just exist within the space. The first time stepping onto Daggus was unreal. The set looked incredible, and the lighting looked incredible. All the corridors that you see us walk through are really there and there was such a vastness to it. We had that whole place built. The space where the bird is was really there and it's so much fun to step into something that's just that well done and well designed. But I love imagining. In one scene, it's all completely green screen and I remember stepping on and asking Zack “What am I looking at? What's going on? Where's what?” and we had to imagine the ships, the Bloodaxes arriving and we got to imagine everything around us. I remember even asking Zack “What's the temperature on this planet? And what does it feel like? What does it sound like around this?” I love imagining things just like a kid does. When you're on this set, I love being like a kid and imagining it all.


MH: Oh we're like walking into one of our spaceships or dreadnoughts. And the way that looks and the combination between super sci-fi and very low-tech, steampunk is really cool.


RF: There's a bit of all of it, right? Like on Velte, you know, they're farmers, they're farming grain.


MH: Using a scythe. Old school.


RF: Old school scythes but they have, you know, mechanised sliding


MH: A floating wagon without wheels!


RF: It's the fact that they choose to do it by hand because that's the ritual. It's like, okay, yeah, no, we get to hold on to the things that we enjoy from our past but also move forward in ways that we feel comfortable doing.


 Zack's notorious for his style of action, and those scenes in this are some of the film's best. There's such a physicality to the set pieces. What is it like when you're preparing for that and having these big sequences with creatures that aren't necessarily there?


SN: Well, that's a good question. I mean, on one side, you have to remember — going back to your question about how do you exist in these worlds – what other worlds do you know? Like my interaction with the Benout. The Benout, to me, it's like a horse, right? The Benout is native to my country, Samandrei, and so whilst it is larger than life and deserves its respect, I would have grown up around these birds. So it's also a case of sometimes normalising these things. Because relative to my experience, this is not “Oh, my God, I'm taming this massive beast… I get a chance to live the experience of my childhood and I get the chance to go back to my world and have a glimpse of it again by taming this creature and finding my freedom.”


RF: At least for me, the stunt team helped prepare us in a really big way. Zack has worked with a great stunt crew for a really long time, a lot of whom worked on this film with us. They got us in really good shape to be able to get on set and be able to deal with any of the variables. And if there's something on the day, where the move is not quite working like we rehearsed, we'd either adjust or figure out a way to make it work.


What's the practicality of fighting a creature that isn't there like a giant spider monster? What does that entail?


SB: You're going to have to ask Doona that. Doona and Jena Malone did such incredible work. It was quite the scene right? I did not fight but we were in the background during that scene. It was so cool to see. Her makeup was so real and there was a team of stunt guys holding the legs of the spider so it was all really practical out there which is just the magic of it. I did get to fight Ed on screen though and that was quite something.


Korra is a very tragic character because of her past which is teased in Part One. She's hardened by what she has gone through. What are the challenges of playing a character where so much of them exists in between the lines?


SB: Yeah, for me, the joy of acting is to find those nuances and those pockets and moments that make your character human, even though you're in a sci-fi that's set completely out of this world. But what humanises my character? And how can you make it relatable? And our relationships, the human relationships that you have between the characters, there needs to be an important aspect of humanity in that.


When I read the script, I was really wondering where I begin. There are several details, basically, that can indicate what the character is like, where they go, where they come from, and the intention in their heart. There's one particular thing that we will discover in Part Two that was quite particular though and quite difficult for me to wrap my head around in defining Korra. I think, ultimately, because I was judging her and I was judging a particular action that she had done. I had a hard time forgiving her but that's what you want for a character. It's impossible, I think, for any actor, anywhere, to play a character that they're judging negatively — you have to be able to defend your characters. So that particular instance gave me the whole tonality of Korra. I thought it was interesting to play a character that was a badass but did not want to be a badass. She's the badass who didn't have a choice. She didn't want to open that door and that particular detail gave Korra that vulnerability, that shyness. She's different from everybody when you meet her first and she has a mysteriousness about her because she has a secret ultimately, that she doesn't want to be revealed.


Rebel Moon has two parts and an extended cut. What is it like juggling three versions at once? Are you guys aware of that? Or is it shot as one big thing?


MH: You do one more take of the same scene but just don't curse.


RF: And shooting as one big film is helpful for me because taking a break between things, you forget where you were or you forget what your throughline was but doing it this way is really helpful.


MH: Totally. Plus this is such a big world. Such an original world. So it's great to have time, two full-length movies, to introduce all these characters.


Part One ends with a glimmer of hope for these characters. But we also know that there's something darker looming. What does that entail for your characters going into Part Two? How does that dynamic evolve between this group?


DH: I think with Part Two, you will really dive into the personal nature of these characters that obviously have so much to redeem about their own past lives. Our pasts were pretty challenging. Certainly, you're going to see all that built through the backstories.


SN: I think what Djimon is saying there, he's absolutely right. I think what you get to see is a delve into our pasts, how we got to where we are, the inner workings of the seven individuals coming together for a greater good, how it works, how it doesn't and it's a deeper dive into these relationships, these individuals and into the war that's going to ensue. Part One is prep for the spectator to start investing in the character and Part Two is why you've been investing in the character. The war, without saying too much, is a long chunk of that movie and it's set in this beautiful part of this farming town so it's a very contrasting story that happens there.


ED: Yeah, it's interesting, because you have these disparate characters from completely different backgrounds but they're united around one cause which is, I think, one of the special messages in the movie.


Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is on Netflix from December 22nd, 2023 with Part Two: The Scargiver following on April 19th, 2024.