Posted tagged ‘Morocco’

HERCULES – The Tale of the Bull

August 7, 2009


About that bull.

King Minos’ bull was a creature sent from God, a snow white beauty that stopped all in their tracks. In fact it was so beautiful that King Minos’ wife fell in love with it… and… well, the result was the birth of the Minotaur, half man, half beast. But that’s another story…

The bull was also a symbol of Minos’ power–and he was a tyrant. Hercules, the great hero and civilizer of the ancient world was sent on a mission to wrestle and take down this huge and stunning bull. It was one of Hercules’ 12 impossible labors.

All this is great, until you need to find a snow-white and suitably godly bull to play the part. And you’re in Morocco, and it’s January (not that the month had much to do with it, but cold weather always makes everything worse).

Morocco is sheep country. In fact there is one sheep in Morocco for every 2 people. (thank you Wikipedia) And in the Atlas Mountains, where we were filming the Clash of the Gods, the sheep have to compete with the goats. There are no lush pastures, no green grasses; instead, freezing tumbleweed and wooden film sets precariously teetering and creaking in the desert wind.

Mohammed, one of our local crew, said he knew a guy who knew a guy who might have a bull. And the bull turned out to be white, amazing!…. OK, it also had some brown patches. But no problem! Let’s paint the cow!

Great idea, right?

5AM–the day of the shoot: Our team arrives on set bleary-eyed, and still wishing we were tucked safely into bed. Today is a big day. Hercules will wrestle one of the finest specimens of nature, the huge godly-white bull of Crete.

And there in the grey morning light is Mohammed–standing next to our bull and grinning with a bucket of white paint in his hand.

So we get to work. We all feel sorry for the bull, except for Tim who is, as a true DP, filming the majestic
creature with his digital camera and tittering to himself.

Jess & Jess from scrapbook

An hour later we check in on our bull. The paint has dried in large clumps on its fur. The brown patches are still visible. The bull is looking nonplused.

OK this is not working…Lets wash the bull down, get some spray paint, start this thing afresh. But the paint doesn’t come off easily. And the owner, oddly, picks this as the place to draw the line. He won’t let us spray paint his bull.

Plan Z: We shoot Hercules pretending to wrestle the bull supertight. And our actor, all the while, has to cover the bull’s very brown ears with his arms…

What’s that they say about working with animals?

–Jess Lyne de Ver
Clash of the Gods, Associate Producer


ZEUS–Bleached, dressed & on-set by 3pm

July 31, 2009


Our art directors at UVPH envisioned Zeus as a younger man, but with white hair, a white beard, and white markings across his face and chest. White has a purity and power about it that one would attribute to the king of the gods. Plus, the juxtaposition of a fairly young guy all in white would be striking. And it was.

But it took hours.

To make his call time, Joseph Beddelem–our actor playing Zeus–had to leave Tangier, where he was filming another project, the night before. It’s a 12 hour ride to Ouarzazate. He was expected to arrive in town around 9am, and go right to the local salon to have his black hair bleached THREE times, which would take 3-4 hours. We needed him bleached, dressed and on set by 3pm.

At 10 am, we got the call that he was still three hours away. A flash flood had washed out the road through the mountains. We’d never make our day.

Thankfully, the gods intervened on our behalf. The road was re-opened, and Joseph made it to town around 1pm, and went straight to the salon. Meanwhile, we shot without him as best we could.

By 4:30pm, he was on set, but his transformation wasn’t quite complete. Next came the make-up. Getting clean, crisp edges on a very intricate design for his face and chest didn’t come quickly. Plus, his hair was still blonde – no amount of bleach would make it white. So our whole make-up department swarmed around him like bees. Here he was, having driven all night from Tangier, having endured three uncomfortable bleach cycles, scalp burning, lying on the floor of our make-up tent while his hair, face and chest were hastily polished.

At 6pm, he was finally on set. And looking just how I would picture Zeus.

Zeus Lightning

Kudos to everyone who made it happen.

–Chris Cassel,
Clash of the Gods, Series Director & Writer

CLASH OF THE GODS: Experience with Lightning preferred

July 28, 2009

On Monday August 3, KPI’s new series for HISTORY launches at 10PM ET/PT.
CLASH OF THE GODS tackles myths–big gutsy unwieldy myths filled with sex, snakes, sirens, flying dragons and monsters eating people.

Zeus Typhon

First episode is ZEUS–the greatest of the Greek Gods. So how do you cast a god? That was the question we kept asking ourselves. Zeus. All-powerful. Larger than life. Experience with lightning preferred.

We were filming in Ouarzazate – a remote studio town in the Moroccan desert where films such as Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia filmed many of their scenes. You’d think you could find godlike superheros in a setting like that. You’d be wrong.

For days we scoured the town – home to about 80,000 people with droves of tourists passing through. We held casting calls at our hotel, scoured street corners, checked out the only gym in town, which looked more like janitor’s supply closet than a Bally’s. No one had the ZEUS “look”.

We extended our search across the country. Casting photos poured in from Casablanca, Marrakesh, Tangier. Where had all the superheros gone?

In the end, we settled for a mere mortal. We cast Joseph Beddelem, an experienced Moroccan stuntman with credits including The Bourne Identity, The Hills Have Eyes and Alexander as our Zeus.

Moroccan stuntman Joseph Beddelem

Moroccan stuntman Joseph Beddelem

Joseph is one strong and rugged dude. He had an air of authority about him and his screen experience suggested he’d be able to carry the role more convincingly than the janitor down the street (who usually has a steady side job thanks to small, poor productions like ours.)

We had our man.

Next…the task of turning him into a god.
(to be continued in our next blog post–)

–Chris Cassel,
Clash of the Gods, Series Director & Writer