Released in 1980, Hawk The Slayer is a sword-and-sorcery, Dungeons & Dragons-infused tale of good and evil, seeing the titular Hawk (John Terry) facing off against his evil brother Voltan (Jack Palance). Now, 35 years on, it looks like Hawk’s story might finally continue.
On 30 August at FrightFest, a Kickstarter campaign was launched with the aim of raising funds for sequel Hawk The Hunter, which in turn will hopefully lead to a TV series, Hawk The Destroyer. We spoke to original director Terry Marcel and producer Andrew Grocock about what to expect…
Why is now the right time for a Hawk The Slayer sequel?
Terry: Andrew’s been working with me for a long time, and one day he said, “I’ve had a request for you to do this interview.” He said, “You ought to write a sequel to Hawk”, and I said “I’ve written a sequel to Hawk!” He said “We ought to go out and try and put this together.” So I got hold of the old script that Harry and I had written, and it needed a bit of work on it, so I did that.
And then we had some intro press from a company about a television series. Having done a television series (Dark Knight), I know what you’ve got to do. It took me about six months to create a whole new world, a new arc and new storylines, and then I went back to the original sequel, called Hawk The Hunter, and thought that could be a very good intro to a television series.
The sequel ends perfectly with the beginning of the TV series. And the moment we started to talk about doing it, the amount of interest from Facebook, Twitter, fans and people we never even knew/believed were fans were coming out of the woodwork. We thought, ‘How can we finance this?’ We were contacted by Jason [Kingsley] at Rebellion – a great fan, very interested in the story.
When I first went down to meet him, I took the original sword with me – I’ve still got it – and he was like, ‘Oh my god, is this the original sword?’ Jason was an integral part of this package. Once we had him in place, we said ‘We’re going to attempt a Kickstarter campaign, and try to raise this money through Kickstarter.’ That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this: there’s a fanbase out there, there’s people out there who want to know what happens. What happened when they went south? Well they didn’t actually go south; that’s another story!
What kind of demographic is Hawk The Hunter aimed at?
Terry: I totally believe that this is an 8pm slot, as per Hawk The Slayer. The fans will kill me if I don’t keep all the elements of Hawk in: we’ve got the giant, we will introduce a new dwarf called Hanfer; there’s a female in the new one; Crow, the new crow is still in it, but the old one’s in it as well, because in the sequel, the new character who plays Crow comes across an old elf dying.
This elf is called Bowman. Bowman is a very special kind of elf. He can’t save him; and that old elf is going to be Ray Charleson [who played Crow in the original]. But he comes again, because the elves always have a bowman, he makes their bows and arrows, and introduces the magic into them. And when a bowman dies, another one takes his place, but it’s always the same bowman. And Ray Charleson will be Bowman in that series.
Do you have any actors in mind?
Terry: Like we did in Hawk The Slayer, we will go for some very well-known English actors to play all those minor parts that they were so fantastic in the other script. People like Roy Kinnear, Annette Crosbie and Warren Clarke, I hope I can get one those named actors to come across and do this.
One of the new characters is called Panjem, and he’s a madman; he’s Caligula. When we originally wrote it, we were always going to offer it to [Carry On star] Kenneth Williams. He’s that type of character; he’s always talking to a homunculi, a little doll.
People say to me, “You’re not going to be able to compete,” and of course we’re not going to be able to compete. I’m fortunate enough to have Rebellion doing my CGI, which will give me a certain about of look, but the key is the story. Is it a good story? If it’s a good story, people will watch it. I’ve removed myself from it, and let other people read it. It’s got a good story, it’s got a great beginning, middle and end. It builds upwards all the way, and it’s got a lot of comedy in it.
One of the things people liked about Hawk was the giant and the dwarf. We have a bit more of that, and we have a couple more people. We have a changeling in it who’s called Grey Rook, and is actually a dwarf – but a real dwarf – and he changes into a rook. There’s a sequence where he gets drunk and doesn’t know whether he’s a bird or human. It’s almost like Jack Palance’s peformance [as Voltan], which is way up there – this has got to be way up there.
Hawk The Slayer seemed like a much bigger world than what you actually saw in the film. Was it always the intention to open it up?
Terry: Not really, no. The sequel in its original form was just another adventure with Hawk and his team. But I opened up the world because of the TV show. With TV, you have to know where you’re going. With Dark Knight, I only ended up doing the two series, but I knew where it was going, where it would end and what my arc was.
In this, you have to have a bigger view of the world, and so it was fairly obvious to me to start from, what was going to be the key to the series: magic. And where did the magic come from? Magic came from the stones. Where did the stones come from? And then bit by bit I rebuilt the whole thing and created a massive world.
What made you decide to use Kickstarter, and how much do you hope to raise?
Andrew: We’re trying to raise a million dollars. The thing is, we’ve been here before where financers have come in and offered the money to make the sequel. I’ve been sat with Terry, and then all of a sudden, right at the death they come out and they want to change things, and Terry’s very loyal to the sword-and-scorcery genre. Some of the stuff they come out with, you’re sat there thinking to yourself, “They’re not interested in the sequel; they just want to make something to make money, but it’s going to collapse.” Terry is so loyal to the fanbase; he’s not going to dilute or mess about with sword and sorcery.
Crowd-funding has become a reality for a lot of people in situations like ours, where we just need to close the gap. Terry has done a studio deal, he’s done a post-production deal, he’s got Rebellion aboard, and you end up with this gap that you’re trying to fill. You’re trying not to give away the essence of this project, and it’s a perfect scenario to go to the fans and say, ‘We can get this made, come on board, we will give you part of the show’, so they have rewards that they come in and take an interest in.
For us, it’s outside of the usual stuff: we’ve got a fantastic T-shirt. To get them involved, there’s a fan day. Terry’s got this fantastic scene that he’s going to direct with Gort and Hanfer, and there’s a big fight scene in a tavern. We’re asking fans to pay the money, come on the day and be in the movie. We’ve commissioned a coin. Hawk is a lord, so he’s got a currency. When people are gambling in the movie they use these silver coins. Those coins as a prop will be available as a reward. We’ve had RiffTrax, they’re huge Hawk fans. As a reward, they will riff Hawk. They’re going to do it anyway as a digital download, they will provide it for the film and take the mickey out of it. We’ve done loads of stuff.
Terry: And Rick Wakeman’s doing the music. When you look at what we’ve got: we have Rebellion behind us, we’ve got a fantastic deal in Lithuania, where I’m going to shoot it, because I worked there, shot there for two years; great post-production deal, and I think we’re going to attract some fantastic actors to it.
The important thing about this production is that we’re going to have an open-door policy. Rebellion are going to do a rolling daily filming, we’re going to do the opposite of everyone else: we’re going to smash it out, give people everything we can, without actually giving the ending away.
Can you tell us a bit more about Rebellion’s role?
Andrew: It’s the licensing, the games. They’re a genre publishing company. Jason’s a huge fan, and wants to expand the world of Hawk: all the characters that Terry’s created, he wants to branch off. Only Terry can do this: where did Crow come from? Where did Hawk come from? What were Hawk and Voltan like when they were younger?
Apart from the fact that Terry’s got all of this for the TV series, they want to do that, and integrally, the game – they did Sniper, these games. You know when you see an advertisement for a game on TV and it says ‘Not actual game footage’? This is game footage we’re going to shoot, so it’ll be exciting from that perspective. It expands that into different territory of fandom.
Terry: We’re constantly getting requests for merchandise, like, can we buy a sword? So apart from what Jason’s doing, there’s a whole other area that we never got into on Hawk The Slayer that we’ll get into on this. The offers for the sword itself don’t stop. They pester me like mad.
Andrew: It’s all down to the Kickstarter. It’s going to be interesting, Terry’s done so much work on not just the script, but the background he’s built into the world for the TV series. The sequel really is a cinematic pilot, basically. And we’ve got interest from actors that are aware of the situation. It’s quite an exciting time.
When does the Kickstarter campaign start?
It starts on August 30th at FrightFest, and runs from there until the last day of September. It’s about 31 days. You can run for 60 days, but doing research, the optimum is 30 days, then people know this is the window. One month is enough for us to know or not. It’s a case of trying to get as much as possible done up front to let people know what’s happening, and then just keep churning it out to try and drive traffic to the site and come abroad. We’ve got some good rewards, and we’re hopeful. Rebellion have been tremendous with helping put the site together, shot videos there. Ray Charleson has come up to shoot the video with Terry – there’s not much more we can do, to be honest.
Will any of the original cast return?
Terry: Anyone who is alive, we’re going to try and get back in different roles. Patricia Quinn – she doesn’t know it yet, but there’s a new character called Fod. She’s in the television series. A lot of the strategy for the new series is based around the kitchen. She sort of runs the household for Hawk and the others, and of course, although she’s a rough, fairy-type creature, she loves Hawk; she calls him the Master, and she’d do anything for him. And so, all the planning, plotting – it’s all done in the kitchen, and Fod oversees it.
She has a little bit of magic, which I won’t reveal now. I’d love to give that to Patricia Quinn. Likewise, Christopher Benjamin, I’d love to have him back. If we can cast the Panjem with a really good name – there’s another character called the Antiquarium, we were always going to offer him to Roy Kinnear. There are lots of them that I wish we could get. There’s a troll in it, I’d love Brian Blessed to play him. I’ve worked with Brian before on The Castle Of Adventure, he’d be fantastic.
After all these years, how does it feel to have a cult hit on your hands?
Terry: Listen, you guys made me into a cult. You bowl along for 35 years, do other things, and Hawk goes along, sometimes it gets a 2-star rating, sometimes it gets a 1, and suddenly, it says ‘cult classic’. When did I become a cult classic? Is it just a build up? It’s like when Rick Wakeman said, ‘Did they call me a cult, or something else?’
Andrew: You make it, and the generation in which it was made watch it and go away, and then their kids discover it, and they start to like it. Because it’s got two generations of fandom, it becomes a cult, you’ve got an older and a younger generation, it becomes a cult, because the younger generation discover it, and the older generation say, ‘That was ours’, and that’s what happened to Hawk.
Terry: People we’ve talked to say, ‘You’ve got to realise, when you did this movie, you were the first one to go from green tights into the costumes that everybody uses now.’ And I think, ‘Did I? Okay, maybe I did.’ When we discussed the look of it, we weren’t going to be Robin of Sherwood with green tights; that was out. We always knew that we wanted these costumes to feel like they were… I always knew the fights could only be quick and fast, because I didn’t have the time to do them. It’s interesting how these things develop. I’m delighted in my twilight years to be a cult classic.
When we wrote that sequel, we were writing things in it that couldn’t be done. I don’t know what the hell we thought we were going to do, but it’s only now that we can do what we were going to do. Now, because of the abilities to use the CGI, we can now do the things we wrote, whereas I don’t know how we were going to do it then! A lot of it was ‘We’ll worry about it when we’re there!’
I read somewhere that Tom Hardy was attached to a sequel at one point. What happened there?
Terry: I had him. I went to a fairly well-known distributor, and they said, ‘Tom Hardy’s never going to make it.’ Lost him. That’s the trouble with working with a studio. This isn’t going to have a huge budget. Hawk The Slayer was £61,000. You need to be in a sensible budget area. You need to be able to say, ‘Those people are investing in this, I believe I’ve got a good chance of getting their money back,’ and I believe that if the audience is there, we can get a TV series, which is the ultimate aim.
Is there any competition that you’re weary of?
Terry: Shannara was the series that worried me more than anything, and lo and behold [The Shannara Chronicles will air on MTV early next year] ! But then again, they’re going to make a massive show – very Lord Of The Rings, but I’m not worried, because mine isn’t attempting to be anything like that. And Shannara is fairly serious stuff. Mine’s got something that the kids can have a laugh with and enjoy. Particularly the new dwarf: I’ve got characters like Grey Rook, a changeling, which they don’t have. I can’t compete – they’re probably spending on their tea what I’m going to be spending on the movie.
It’s a big cast, I saw the trailer, all I kept thinking was Lord Of The Rings. I hope it works, because I want people to be aware of sword and sorcery. I hope it’s a big success, but I don’t think competition-wise I’ve got much to worry about. There’s a sword and sorcery space, and they’re going to eat up part of that space, but there’ll be plenty left for little old Hawk The Slayer. It’s six episodes of advertising to us, and it’s a great story; Terry Brooks is a hell of a writer.
Finally, for those who are new to Hawk, why should they get behind this Kickstarter campaign?
Terry: If you’re a sword and sorcery fan, come take a look, because I think this’ll be worth watching. It’s going to be a good script, and if people enjoy a good story, and you haven’t seen Hawk The Slayer, there’s a reprise at the beginning that tells you why the brothers fought and what happened. So at least you can come into this without having watched the original and still enjoy it. It’s for anybody, but if you’re a sword and sorcery you’ve got to come and see this.