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Monday, June 17, 2024

Unlikely heroes: Meet the guys of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

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Any adventure worth its weight in gold requires likable characters, and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has plenty.  

When the movie opens, unfailingly optimistic bard Edgin (played by Chris Pine) and his best friend, the barbarian fighter Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), are locked away in the notorious prison Revel’s End, a result of the betrayal by the nefarious Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), who took Edgin’s beloved daughter Kira to live as his ward in the great metropolis of Neverwinter where Forge installed himself as ruler. 

On a mission to take back what has been lost to him, Edgin escapes together with Holga. Along the way, they are joined in their quest by an insecure sorcerer, a paladin, and a Tiefling. 

Chris Pine (Edgin The Bard)

Leading the cast is Chris Pine, who plays extroverted bard Edgin Darvis. “He will make the best out of any situation,” says Pine of his character. “He might seem like he has his stuff together, but more often than not, he’s winging it. It makes him, I think, a likable thief.”

Chris Pine is the leader of the cast as he plays the extroverted bard Edgin Darvis

Although Pine is no stranger to blockbuster filmmaking—having starred as Capt. James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ trilogy of Star Trek films and having played Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman movies—he was new to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. In an ideal confluence of events, the same week he was offered the role in the new film, Pine happened to be hosting his nephew’s D&D group at his home. He decided to sit in on the campaign and was immediately hooked. 

“I ended up playing with my entire family – my parents, my sister, my nephew, the two Dungeon Masters that run the game for my nephew – and we had a blast,” Pine says. “It’s such an incredibly creative game. It’s a game that depends on performance and investment and allowing for whatever comes and not censoring yourself and having fun. It teaches so many things from camaraderie to friendship to strategizing to team building. It’s joyful.”

Regé-Jean Page (Xenk The Paladin)

Among the characters Edgin and his best friend Holga meet along the way is handsome paladin Xenk Yendar, played by breakout Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page. Despite the character’s youthful appearance, Xenk is cursed with an unnaturally long life after having narrowly escaped a ritual that transformed the residents of Thay into the undead. “Xenk is a very old man stuck in a young and virile man’s body,” says Page. “He is sworn to heroism. He’s infuriatingly upright, moral, and a perfect paladin hero.

Regé-Jean Page describes his character, Xenk The Paladin, as ‘infuriatingly upright, moral, and a perfect paladin hero’

Within D&D, paladins are known for being slightly overly heroic and showy. The joy of Xenk is that he’s all those things yet utterly unaware of them. He exists mostly to infuriate our group by being the hero that they’re not quite.” 

Justice Smith (Simon The Sorcerer) 

While Xenk exudes confidence, half-elf wizard Simon Aumar does not. He often struggles to perform even basic magic, despite the fact that wizarding runs in his blood—he is descended from the great sorcerer Elminster Aumar. 

“He is riddled with insecurity about his magic,” says actor Justice Smith who won the role. “He has internalized that he is never going to be enough and bathes in his own self-deprecation and has resorted to using his tricks for petty thievery.”

Justice Smith brings life to Simon The Sorcerer as he tries to unlock the full potential of his magical abilities

But Simon also displays a surprising level of acceptance of his own shortcomings. “The thing that I find beautiful about Simon is that he’s not necessarily upset that he’s not good at magic,” says Smith. “He really has come to terms with it, and I love the idea of someone who’s practical about where they’re at and not in a woe-is-me kind of way. But it definitely is his obstacle throughout the story, trying to come into his own power.”

A real D&D experience

Once all the principal roles had been cast (including Rodriguez as Holga, Sophia Lillis as Doric, Chloe Coleman as Kira, and Daisy Head as Sofina), the filmmakers created a unique opportunity for the actors to bond, organizing a D&D campaign run by an experienced DM from Seattle, Washington-based Wizards of the Coast. 

“We had the entire cast around the table, playing this unique one-shot adventure that she’d come up with for the team,” producer  Jeremy Latcham explains, noting that directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley joined as the character Jarnathan, who represents the race of nomadic bird-people known as the Aarakocra.

“They were there for four-and-a-half, five hours around the table playing, getting to know each other, understanding each other’s sense of humor, understanding each other’s sense of timing,” the producer says. “To see them all come together, having fun was a delight.”

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, distributed in the Philippines by Paramount Pictures through Columbia Pictures, opens nationwide on March 29.


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