Honor Among Thieves’ Directors on D&D Lore & VFX Shots
Mar 30, 2023
Set in faraway fantasy lands based on the lore of the classic tabletop game, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is one of this year’s most anticipated adventure features. Aside from the action-packed premise and the ensemble cast including Chris Pine and Hugh Grant, the movie is helmed by Game Night creators, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who are, themselves, huge fans of the game. Ahead of its theatrical release on March 31, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Daley and Goldstein, with producer Jeremy Latcham, about all things lore, VFX, and Dungeonheads! (It’s a thing now.)
In Honor Among Thieves, the world of D&D is brought to life, and like many a campaign, the movie centers on a particularly bizarre team of petty thieves who must embark on a hero’s journey. When Edgin the Bard (Pine) and his partner and friend, Holga the Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez), accidentally retrieve an ancient artifact for a cult of Red Wizards looking to bring about the destruction of life as they know it, the pair enlist help to right their wrong. Aided by a ragtag team of individuals, they set out to defeat the most menacing evil they’ve ever faced. Honor Among Thieves also features Justice Smith as Simon the Sorcerer, Regé-Jean Page as Xenk the Paladin, and Sophia Lillis as Doric the Druid.
In their interview, Daley, Goldstein, and Latcham discuss how they managed to load the movie up with tons of D&D lore and Easter eggs, working with Wizards of the Coast on creature designs and specific details, and how “every scene has something in it that’s directly from the lore.” The trio share what they’re most excited about for audiences to see, the surprising emotional aspect of the movie, which moments they kept despite early feedback, VFX, and which shot was the most difficult to pull off. For all of this and more, you can watch the conversation in the video above, or read the full transcript below.
Image via Paramount Pictures
COLLIDER: I want to start by saying how much I love the movie, and congrats. I generally don’t watch a lot of reaction videos, but I watched the reaction video yesterday for the trailer for some Dungeons & Dragons [Dungeon Masters] that were breaking it down, and I learned a lot that I did not realize about how many things that you guys put in the movie that’s actual stuff from Dungeons & Dragons. Can you talk about the fact that you guys really did load this movie up with stuff that players are gonna know?
JOHN FRACIS DALEY: Yeah, well, it was crucial to us to have a film that worked for fans and non-fans alike. That said, if you are a fan and you do know the lore, we loaded it with as much of the actual details from D&D as we possibly could. We had a consultant, Ashley Alexander from eOne Entertainment, who is a huge Dungeonhead – is that a thing? She made sure to sort of guide us in keeping those details as specific and authentic as possible.
JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: In a way, it made our jobs easier because there’s so much to draw from. You know, [there are] literally dozens of books filled with creatures and all kinds of cool stuff, and so we didn’t have to actually come up with it, we just have to figure out how best to utilize it.
JEREMY LATCHAM: And there’s also a really fun loop of like, if something exists in the lore, but there’s not art to support it, it’s only existed in the written text, we would then go to the [Wizards of the Coast] and Ashley would talk to the Wizards and all of a sudden we would get artwork come down. It would be like, “Well, this is the fanfare for this faction, and this is the fanfare for this thing.” And all of a sudden you have all this new stuff to work with.
GOLDSTEIN: That’s right. I remember talking about the owlbear, and we decided to make it a more snowy owl look, and there hadn’t really been that. It was more of a grizzly bear before.
LATCHAM: Yeah, and some of the flags and stuff like that, you know? Like the Neverwinter flags, and it was really cool process and every scene has something in it that’s directly from the lore.
One of the things I love is how you guys balance the humor with the action. The humor is very funny, and the action is very well-staged. For the three of you, what are you actually most looking forward to for audiences to see in the movie?
DALEY: For me personally, as much as I love seeing the reactions to the action and humor, it’s the heartfelt moments that bring a tear to the audiences’ eye. That, to me, is the most gratifying because I don’t think a lot of people go into a film called Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and expect to feel something and cry. And that, to me, is really nice.
GOLDSTEIN: And I’m a laugh whore, so I’ll take those laughs. I love when they laugh at the stuff. I mean, there’s a moment in watching a movie with a crowd where you know you have them, and when that comes fairly early in our screenings, it’s a thrill because then they’ll follow you on the journey.
LATCHAM: And I think [there are] just moments where we always thought they were gonna work and people really were unsure if they were going to work. People in the early screening process would be like, “We think you guys should cut this moment out. We’re not sure that moment works.” And we watch it now with the crowd and those little moments that are really subtle, the crowds are eating up, and it’s really gratifying to be like, “Oh, we thought that was gonna be a moment for people,” and it is. It’s like the littlest things, like Simon banging his head on a wall in the back of a scene is like a funny laugh at the screening at SXSW, and that’s cool. Like, that’s such a detail.
Image via Paramount
Obviously, VFX is always a challenge when the whole movie rides on VFX and I know the state of the VFX industry. Which shot ended up being the one that you guys had to send back or tweak or work on because it was a really tough one to pull off?
GOLDSTEIN: It was probably the latter half of the Doric chase oner with the deer, the axe beaks. All of that was very hard to get right, to get the lighting integration right, to, you know, get the animation believable. We still would love to have had a couple more months on it, but they took it away from us.
LATHAM: Yeah, we spent 10 extra weeks on that shot than we were planning. It was a real collaboration with the vendors, and look, the VFX industry, it’s very… it’s tricky right now. [There are] so many big movies, everyone’s using effects.
DALEY: Yeah, it’s fraught, it’s fraught, and these people work insane hours, and they’re such hard workers and artists, and they don’t get enough credit. So, I’d like to say, on this program, that I really do appreciate and acknowledge the incredibly hard work that these VFX artists do. And they’re working behind the curtain, behind the scenes, where people don’t often give them their own, you know, acknowledgment.
LATCHAM: And the fact that they were like, “Listen, we aren’t happy with the shot either and we’re gonna dig down and keep going, and how much time can you give us?” was incredible. I mean, they really went to the mat for us, and, you know, I think it’s a cool shot, but it was hard, it was really hard.
DALEY: It was freaking hard.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters on March 31.
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