Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger action director Renny Harlin is making his long-awaited return to big-budget filmmaking with the just-announced Hercules 3D, and the Finnish filmmaker reveals to ET that his mythological hero will not be a "hulking mass of muscles," but rather a "real man who's struggling with being a demi-god" in a film that more closely resembles Ridley Scott's Gladiator.
In the past, muscle-bound stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Steve Reeves portrayed the classic hero, the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene who is famous for his super strength and Twelve Labors, including slaying the nine-headed hydra and capturing the three-headed dog Ceberus. But Harlin says that his star will be of a more modest physique.
"I'm looking for a great actor to be the lead, and obviously he needs to be in good physical shape, but the size of the muscles and the size of his body aren't important to me," explains Harlin. "I think it's much more important to tell a real story about a real man who's struggling with being a demi-god. But him being a hulking mass of muscles is not at all what we are [looking for]."
Harlin is racing to get his big-budget epic in front of the cameras, eyeing a March 2014 release before a competing project starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner hits theaters.
"[My version] is a big-budget movie and it's obviously the legend and mythology of Hercules … but my intention is to clear the Hercules myth in a movie that is not a fantasy movie in terms of flying horses or three-headed dogs," clarifies Harlin, "but really kind of a journey of this man -- learning who he is, his father being a god and his mother being a mortal, and learning to come to terms with that, and the kind of responsibility and destiny he has."
The 54-year-old helmer continues, "It's his journey, and hopefully a very action-packed, exciting, epic story, but told closer to the likes of Gladiator than some kind of a fantasy film."
Harlin spoke to ETonline while revisiting his first American film, the little-seen supernatural cult thriller Prison starring Viggo Mortensen, now getting a special edition Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory on February 19.
Stay tuned to ETonline for more with Harlin's one-on-one about making Prison and such films as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cliffhanger and Cutthroat Island.