While most old-school fans of 1988’s Willow have been happy to see the story continue on Disney+, the series isn’t without divisive aspects. A generation raised on Game of Thrones may find the modern slang jarring in a fantasy context. And then the show has those covers of rock songs, first over the end credits and later during the actual show. The tunes of the Beach Boys don’t exactly scream timeless fantasy, for example. In an interview with Variety, showrunner Jonathan Kasdan discussed why he feels the contrast of contemporary and fantastical is integral to that universe.
It all comes down to the way Val Kilmer played Madmartigan. “Val’s such a specific and critical part of the magic of it because he was such an odd thing for a fantasy movie to have,” Kasdan says. “You look at Tom Cruise in Legend and he’s doing Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or Rutger Hauer in Ladyhawke and it’s all this of English-y leaning into the ideas about fantasy. Then Val comes along and he’s a surfer boy from California, literally stumbling through the movie with this incredible physicality and humor that couldn’t have existed in any moment before the moment it happened.”
Ruby Cruz, playing Kilmer’s daughter, continued that spirit and set the tone, he adds. “Ruby emerged for me as the antidote to a lot of the challenges of this. When she came in to read, it reminded me in spirit of Val. Not that she was aping the thing at all, but that she was a contemporary actress in a fantasy, and that was cool to us.”
Whether or not Kasdan succeeds with the blend of tones is for audiences to judge. But clearly, for him, that was part of the property’s appeal all along.
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