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Screen Rant visited the set of Zack Snyder’s sci-fi epic Rebel Moon and spoke with Ed Skrein about his role as the film’s villain, Admiral Atticus Noble. We discuss Noble’s motivation, why Skrein loves working with Zack Snyder, how he got so jacked for the role, and how he relates to Rebel Moon’s heroine, Sofia Boutella’s Kora.
While Skrein has played multiple sinister villains in big blockbusters like Deadpool and Alita, he says Rebel Moon was even more immense that he could have imagined. Skrein is clearly passionate about the role, calling it a “dream,” and his physical efforts are manifest on screen. Noble should be a malevolent force when he arrives on screens for Rebel Moon: A Child of Fire in 2023 and Rebel Moon: The Scargiver in 2024.
Related: Rebel Moon Set Visit Interview With Zack Snyder and Sofia Boutella
Ed Skrein: I’m gonna apologize for eating an apple. I’m powered by apples.
Is Noble a very hands-on villain, not a stand back and order people forward or both.
Ed Skrein: Well, this is interesting. When we meet Noble, we meet a man with an incredible amount of military power, might, and an arsenal behind him. We meet a man with a fleet, a commander of the king’s gaze, and a fleets of soldiers. We meet a man with a pistol on his hip, and we meet a man who chooses to use his tongue as his weapon. A man who chooses to give people enough rope to let them hang themselves. And then sometimes there’s a small, very sharp burst of violence, but most of the time it’s a performative, eloquent, almost thespian, verbal, intellectual violence. So that’s how we meet Noble. And that is the, that’s his currency, the wickedness of his tongue. But when it, to myself not be so eloquent again, and to be, just to go back to how we would say it from London, when it kicks off, it really kicks off, with Noble. And he then becomes very hands-on. Well, he becomes hands-on selectively. It’s obviously a choice to, you know, not use all of these weapons at his disposal initially, but once he comes across the most wanted, known fugitive in the universe, once he sees a prize which will give him prestige and notoriety in the Senate, back in the mother world, he has a singular focus, which somewhat makes him lose his military pragmatism and intelligence and go more direct. And when you go direct, it’s win or bust. And you’ll see how it turns out.
Is his motivation more, is he more of an attack dog or does he have his own personal agenda?
Ed Skrein: He’s a loyal representative of the slain king, Belisarius. He wants to bring, first of all, the Boodaxe siblings, the insurgents. That’s the initial reason that I’ve been sent out to this backwater part of the galaxy, as he describes it. And so his motivation is to find these insurgents and bring them back to satisfy the Senate, to perhaps gain a seat in the Senate, to satisfy his father, Dominic Noble, and to perhaps gain a higher standing and not be sent out to the corners of the galaxy. He’s Amon Göth being sent, being given, it’s a crude analogy, but being given a concentration camp in the middle of nowhere and being able to just cause hell. What he wants is to be in offices in Berlin. So there is an allegiance to the mother world and the slain king and Belisarius, which drives him truly. But there is a self motivation which is inherent to him, which is very clear, which is almost a sadism in, much like Amon Göth, in the way he carries out his duties for the mother world. So, and that’s truly his choice and down to his personality. As much as the military might of the mother world is harsh and brutal and oppressive, he is cruel and sadistic and that’s on him and me.
Related: Everything We Learned on the Set of Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon
What kind of training have you been doing?
Ed Skrein: I’ve been doing a lot of training. I got this role in May Well, I mean, I train all decade long is how I say it. I’m training not for this movie, for when I turn 50, when I turn 60. So I train all the time. But as soon as this role came around, I switched things up. For the past couple of years, I’ve been just focusing entirely on Muay Thai, kickboxing, trying to prepare for the next time I got a role like this, so that I could be truly balanced, so that I could truly have the right footwork and understand things technically, so that I could truly act rather than just worry about the choreography as I kind of had to in the past. So when I Zoomed with Zack, I said to him, “Yeah, this is the right timing.” I’ve been, you know, I’m ready for this. I’ve been preparing “Southaw Orthodox” and all of this. However, I needed to go back to strength and conditioning and do a lot of that. So as soon as May came around, I started lifting weights again, alongside the Muay Thai, so that I could be ready for the stunts, training at my gym in London, “Bloodline” gym, and training with Muay Thai, thank you so much, training with my Muay Thai trainer over here, Greg Wootton, and doing supplementary strength and conditioning. But then on top of that, you add in an incredible amount of stunts, an incredible amount of, you know, today I’ll do at least 11 hours of stunts or whatever, on and off. And then, you know, over the weekend, it’s three hours of stunt. It was three hours of stunt training on Saturday, have an apple, powered by apples, and then an hour of strength and conditioning, and then home to rest. So I’ve given my body and my everything to this from “Mate.” I gave up my life and truly my body.
And I’ve reached this really interesting point where I feel like now I’m watching I’m just trying to get Ed’s body through this every day. And up there, I’m like flying and, you know, I’m looking like, you know, nothing can stop me. But when I wake up in the morning, I’m broken into pieces and I’m like, “My back’s seizing up.” And after I go home tonight, I’m gonna get beaten up by my body work guy, and, you know, and looked after, and get some salt baths. And on the weekend, I’m in bed by 8:30, you know, everyone’s first couple of weeks, the cast would be like, “Oh, do you wanna come to this?” And I’d be like, “Nah, I’m good, I’m good.” Now, after a couple of weeks, I’d have to be like, “Oh, I’ve gotta warn you. Anyone that works with me knows this. I am so boring, it’s not personal. But I need to be in bed by 8.30 ’cause I wanna be up for training at 10.” And, you know, everything is just about the right vitamins and, you know, working with a nutritionist, Aaron Blevins, and, you know, just getting everything calibrated right. So I’m in this really privileged and interesting position where I’m supported by all of these amazing people, the body work people, nutritionists, personal trainers, Muay Thai coaches, stunt coordinators, and men and women who are training me. And I’m in kind of like the most, I feel like so alive and so vibrant and so strong, and I feel so tired and so broken at the same time. And this is the coin of life, you know, heads and tails. And yeah, I’m looking forward to, in three weeks time, when I can have a cheeseburger and maybe a little whiskey. But, you know, when that happens, I know that I’m gonna feel a loss, a loss of this clarity that I feel right now and focus, but I just know it’s not sustainable. So I’ll go back to training six times a week, but just eating cheeseburgers as well and enjoying life more.
It’s an amazing thing to do a project like this. Before I came on “Rebel Moon,” I thought I’d done big movies. You know, my agent kept saying to me, “Yeah, you know, it’s a big project.” And I was kind of thinking like, “I’ve done a lot of big projects, you know, “in the hundreds of millions, you know, in the budgets.” And then I came on this, I was like, “Yeah, I’ve never done anything like this.” Like, it’s crazy, 150 shooting days, seven months and everything that we’re giving to it, it’s quite something. And while I sit here and talk to you guys, I’m completely on autopilot and I almost have no idea what I’ve done the last six months. And after I finished this, I definitely need to compartmentalize what we’ve done, what we’ve achieved, what I’ve learned, what, you know, count the blessings and also make sense of the challenges rather than just get home and get back to the kids and just drive forward and go on to more projects. So yeah, it’s a big one.
And how does Zack motivate you?
Ed Skrein: Oh man, he’s the greatest, man. He, I mean, first of all, just from a professional, I don’t need to be my director’s friend. I don’t need to like my director. I need to be informed by them creatively. They need to assist me. They have the God’s eye, you know, and especially if they’re the writer, they have the God brain to say, “You know, I see your instinct, but let’s try this.” And the God’s eye, he sees what I’m doing, says, “Okay, but Zack understands this piece. All of this is inside Zack’s head. It’s nowhere else. I am so deep in this and I know so much. I know everyone’s lines and every scene and all this. And I know 10% of what Zack knows, 5%. He has the answers to all of this. Sometimes I ask Misha the first AD questions and it’s like, there’s only one person to ask this.” So just from a intellectual and creative technical point of view, this is the most informative I’ve ever had a director.
But then aside from that, what I also want from a director is to give me space. Maybe what I want subconsciously is for, maybe what actors want subconsciously is they want the directors to make them feel like they made the choices. Like it was their instinct. Like it’s what we brought to the table. Zack does, from the beginning, he’s really not precious over it and he’s not prescriptive over how we perform it. But he guides us like a river, and just kind of just tweaks it a bit and then lets us just flow off. And my favorite thing about him is his pragmatism. If he sees something, he’ll just stop everything. We’ve got 13 setups to do. And he sees a look between two people. He’ll go, “Let’s get this, let’s cover this look.” And so what you feel that what you bring to the table will be noticed and respected. So we’ve got highly informed. We’ve got making the process smooth and making you feel empowered and like the character is yours, not his.
And then the third thing is you just got this lovely fella who’s just so humble, who is one of us, who’s one of the crew, who will sit there and talk to the PAs, to the stand-ins, or crack joke with the grips, everyone. He’s exactly, has the same philosophy on filmmaking as I have. Like let’s smile while we do it. Let’s focus. Let’s have that killer instinct. But let’s be relaxed while we do it. And let’s enjoy our time. 150 shooting days, sometimes in 115-degree weather, wearing my full suit, leather gloves, all of that. This has to be fun. I left my family in London to come and do this. This must be a positive experience for my life. I’m not here for fame and money and all of this. The process, when the movie comes out, I was gonna say it’s 90 minutes long. It’s not gonna be 90 minutes long. When the Snyder Cut comes out and it’s 90 hours long, but that still won’t even be close to what we, to my experience and our experience of this. And I always think that, that the world experiences our film, they just go to the cinema, eat popcorn, watch it for two hours, judge it, and go home. And that’s their experience for better, for worse. It’s completely different from ours. We’re in another realm. They’re out of water, we’re underwater. We, in this relay race, all we can experience is the leg that we run, you know? And once we pass that battle on, it’s gone. So I wanna enjoy the time on set and have a positive experience. I want everyone to feel relaxed. I don’t like directors. I said I didn’t need to like directors, but I don’t like directors that are not nice to people. And hierarchical, whatever the word is, he is completely, he runs a communist set. Don’t quote me on that. That’s a bad quote. But he’s like, you know, it’s a set of equality, or rather, it seems like it’s a set of equality, but there’s only one leader. There’s only one captain. And we all will run through brick walls for him and run to the end of the mother world for him.
Related: Rebel Moon Characters & Backstories Explained: All Heroes, Villains & Cameos
A Zack Snyder movie is a very specific, that phrase means something specific. What was his like pitch to you that sold you on it when he told you about the character? Or the movie in general? What did he say to you that got you to say, “I wanna do this?”
Ed Skrein: I can’t remember if he said it or if someone else said it to me, but I, this is how, when people say, “Oh, what are you working on?” I say, “It’s like Star Wars, but with violence, sex and swearing.” I don’t know if you want to say that. Yeah, okay. Well, that is, yeah. And once I heard it, I was like, sign me up. Because in this age where we’re not making new IP so much, you know, this formulaic age, it’s such a privilege to be part of new world-building. Also, as someone who, my taste is so much more in a subversive underground arts, to be part of such a commercial behemoth such as this with such subversive tendencies, it was just a mouthwatering prospect. And then I got on set and was like, “Yeah, Zack’s sick in the head like me. Yeah, that’s a craz-” You know, I think a scene was dark and he’d be like, “Okay, we’re just gonna bring out the priestesses.” And I’d be like, “Priestesses?” And he’d be like “Yeah, we’re doing it.” I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, really? We’re doing that?” You know, and we’re, “Okay.” And then I’d see the shot and I’d go, “Okay, this is the movie we’re making.” But it’s the type of movie that I would be so excited by. And Noble is the type of character that I would see and go, “Oh, that’s a dream.” And when I read the script, I said, “This guy is a dream role?” It’s a dream role for me and for anyone. And yeah, it’s been, it has been an amazing experience bringing him to life. And as soon as I read it, I said, “I understand this. And I’m built for this. And I’ve been building for this.” Like with the Muay Thai and everything, I’m like, “Yeah, this is the rightful way.” You know?
And then after this, I’ll probably go straight back into independent European cinema and try and stay away from the big ones for a while and I don’t know, maybe do some theater, you know, and just spend time with the family and kind of pull back a little bit. But if you’re gonna step on the big stage, it’s the one. And Noble is the one.
What is Kora to him? Is it a thorn in his side or a respected adversary?
Ed Skrein: She’s not a respected adversary in the slightest. I think a thorn in the side would be… I think she begins as a prize. She begins as a prize bounty and simply that. And as it becomes complicated or more complicated in bringing that bounty in, it becomes very personal. Very, very personal. And through the evolution of his character, let’s say, of his character and even biology, he becomes even more singularly minded and almost corrodes from the inside with the acidic determination and single-mindedness to bring her to justice. And that she will be his ticket to becoming a savior of his people and lauded and to be almost a religious figure as he brings in this bounty. But it becomes personal, very personal, as you may have seen from my energy on my face.
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