Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves filmmakers discuss heist movies, visual effects and Freaks And Geeks - SciFiNow

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves filmmakers discuss heist movies, visual effects and Freaks And Geeks

We speak to Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves co-writer and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, producer Jeremy Latcham and stars Justice Smith and Sophia Lillis.   

If you’re at all familiar with the TV show Freaks and Geeks, a coming-of-ager set in a 1980s high-school, you’ll know that John Francis Daley, one of the writer-directors (alongside Jonathan Goldstein) of the new live-action film, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves,played Sam Weir, an enthusiastic D&D player. In fact, for the release of the film, he has reunited with fellow actors Samm Levine and Martin Starr in a skit that celebrates everything about the table-top RPG.

Daley was actually introduced to the game on Freaks and Geeks, telling us: “I was fourteen and immediately took a liking to it. I think Sam Weir is very much an extension of myself which is a testament to the casting of that show. Everyone was some form of the character they represent. As for me and to a certain extent, Sam Weir, I’m very proud of what we ended up accomplishing with the film.”

Sophia Lillis, who plays tiefling druid Doric, is a fan of the TV Show and an avid D&D player in real life but didn’t realise who John was exactly: “I didn’t realise he was in Freaks and Geeks until one day on set, I was like ‘you know what, John looks so familiar and I don’t know why’!”

She continues on her love of the RPG: “It was fun! It’s just a fun time hanging out with friends and making up shit. That’s basically all it is with a set of rules. But you can pretty much do anything within the rule book.”

Sophia Lillis (pictured) is a fan of RPG: “It’s just a fun time!”

The ensemble cast of the movie is made up of Lillis, Chris Pine as thief Edgin, Michelle Rodriguez as Barbarian Holga, Justice Smith, as a wizard, Regé-Jean Page and Hugh Grant (whose villainous performance is, as producer Jeremy Latcham describes it, “wickedly devious!”).

“I love his portrayal of Forge,” Latcham expands. “There’s so many layers of text, and subtext and context to play with. Hugh is truly a treasure.”

Producer Jeremy Latcham describes Hugh Grant’s performance as “wickedly devious!”

The film blends heist movie with fantasy, action and comedy, something which Daley and Goldstein are well seasoned with having worked together on Spider-Man: Homecoming and Game Night.

Goldstein explains how they approached the screenplay: “Ocean’s Eleven was a big inspiration structurally and the ‘getting the team together’ format. The comedy element and the tone overall was probably the biggest challenge. If you go too far in that direction it becomes farcical and the audience stops getting invested in the characters and their struggles.”

Director and writer Jonathan Goldstein (pictured with actor Chris Pine) cites Ocean’s Eleven as an inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves

All good heist movies comment on social inequality and wealth distribution, something which this fantasy film does in multiple ways. “No matter where you stand on things I think that all people kind of agree people aren’t getting the best deal these days,” Latcham says. “I think it’s really fun that our band of thieves end up having good hearts and have the people in mind. The politics of the movie, no matter where you stand, everyone thinks, yeah the government’s got some issues. Everyone on both sides thinks that. The issues may be different but the outcome is the same.”

“There’s definitely a parallel with what’s going on in the world through our film,” Daley expands. “We never wanted to indoctrinate people or hit it over the head what we were trying to say but I think there’s a universality to a lot of the things our characters are dealing with and the way that Forge is taking advantage of his position.”

The filmmakers didn’t want to hit audiences over the head what we were trying to say.

Throughout the film, the characters embark on many quests, some of which end in disaster or failure. Justice Smith reflects on why failure can sometimes guide you in the right direction: “If it’s not meant for you, it means that there is something out there that is probably better and more aligned with what you should be doing or who you are. That’s what I tell myself every time I hear a no or face rejection. It’s brought me a lot of peace because I no longer pine over things or people who don’t want me. I feel like that’s out of my power.”

Daley comments on the visual aspects of the film, and the influences in that regard: “It was a lot of filmmaking influences that we tried to put together in a way that felt cohesive and not jarring. [Steven] Spielberg in terms of being able to fuse practical and visual effects in a way that you don’t necessarily know which is which. [Ray] Harryhausen, absolutely with our Stone Dragon. John Carpenter with the body horror and Sam Raimi too, to a certain extent.”

A lot of influences went into the visual effects of the movie.

“We used all the latest tools to make a movie that feels not at all sophisticated,” Latcham concludes. “Part of why people are responding to the visuals is because it feels handmade. We built 190 sets, we went to 50 different locations, we built all these giant animatronics and puppets.

“There’s a lot of Raiders [of the Lost Ark], there’s a lot of The Goonies, there’s a lot of [The] Princess Bride. They’re all visual touchstones. We really tried really hard to make something that felt old school, something that felt wonderfully practical.”

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland March 31st 2023.

Read more exclusive interviews at SciFiNow.