At A Glance
Firedrake (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) the adolescent silver dragon yet to find his fire, embarks on a perilous journey to find the Rim of Heaven, but little does he know that the dragon-eating villain Nettlebrand (Patrick Stewart) is in hot pursuit determined to fulfil his own dastardly deeds.
Directed by Tomer Eshed
Written by Cornelia Funke (based on the book by), Johnny Smith (Screenplay by)
Released by Sky
2021, 91 minutes
Available from Sky Cinema 12th February
Images courtesy of © 2020 Constantin Film Produktion GmbH / Cyborn BV / Rise Picture
Social Media: #DragonRider
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Firedrake (voice)
Felicity Jones as Sorrell (voice)
Freddie Highmore as Ben (voice)
Patrick Stewart as Nettlebrand (voice)
Nonso Anozie as Mighty Djinn
Meera Syal as Subisha Gulab
Sanjeev Baskhar as Mad Doc
Thomas Brodie-Sangster reminds us that returning to our childhood is just fun.
By Claire Bueno
Ahead of Dragon Rider’s release on Sky Cinema on the 12th February I had the opportunity to interview Firedrake himself, the charming Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Queen’s Gambit, Maze Runner, Love Actually) as he shares with me what endeared him to the character, and he gives us some useful insights into how you prepare when lending your voice to an animated character.
I wanted to start off by asking. This film feels very much like a voyage of discovery and self-discovery for Firedrake is that something that you read in the script when you read it for the first time?
Yeah absolutely. They are all quite young characters that grow up in a certain environment with certain kind of rules and things put in place, and reach a level of frustration, and want to understand why there are certain restrictions put in place, and why there is a segregation between the humans and the old special ancient creatures, and to kind of bring the world together and make their world a little bit bigger and get rid of fears. And he has the courage to have these ideas and to act upon them and to go off and have this wonderful adventure where he is just kind of doing things for the betterment of everyone and his loved ones.
Well actually you mentioned about his character and I saw Firedrake as very much an idealist and he’s brave, was that something that resonated with you when the part?
Yeah, absolutely, I mean he’s charismatic, he’s full of energy, he’s enigmatic and quite intoxicating really, and it kind of rubs off on you. I think because his childlike passion towards wanting the world to be a bit better is a lovely thing and somewhat an appropriate message at the moment.
Absolutely and you touched upon that it is set around the ancient world obviously because we’ve got dragons in it, but it is also set in the modern world so it makes the story contemporary as well. Is that something that you thought was important to be able to bring that ancient world and bring modern story to a dragon story really?
Yeah, I like that, I think that kind of gives it a kind of grounding thing and I know for me as a child when stories did do that it made it feel like it was more real because you saw how this fantastical world could actually possibly exist parallel to the world that I do know. So I liked that side and definitely if I was a kid too.
And with regards to your preparation, when you’re working with a character that is animated are you presented with concept art from the director so you can visualise the character that you are going to be portraying?
Yeah, yes, absolutely because it is not animated yet, so all you’ve got are sketches which; I love sketching, I love drawing so I mean I think that there is so much character you can get from sketches. But they also sent over a whole pack of renderings and colour pallets and general synopsis so you can get a real feel of what the whole piece is going to be like and all the other characters and what they all mean and what they represent, so you are able to get a better idea of it, as opposed to it just being a script and a couple of little sketches.
You’re playing a character that obviously, I’m thinking about the body mass and weight and he’s height. So when you are lending your voice to a character how do you then prepare for it? You know? Because you can’t have a squeaky voice because you’re not playing a mouse, so how do you then adapt your voice for the character?
Yes, I know, yeah because my initial thought was to have a much deeper voice, but they thought it sounded too old and that he lacked that juvenile, fresh, spritely sound. So we experimented with different pitches, until we settled on what everyone was happy with which was kind of halfway in-between and then has the potential to sing-song a little bit so he can go a little bit deeper at certain moments, and then he can also shoot up when he gets very animated and very enthusiastic and go a little bit squeaky if he wants to. And also his fire doesn’t work yet, so it is almost like he is squeaking and his voice is starting to break a little bit and he’s experimenting with his voice. So just played around with that idea really.
There’s a lot of repetition isn’t there when you are lending your voice to a character, I imagine you’re in a booth and you’re having to repeat the words and intonate and phrase in different ways. So how do you then prepare your voice for something that is quite exhausting really?
Yeah you do, you have to go in and be able to have longevity in your voice. That’s just little things, like standing up helps a lot, having comfortable clothes on, comfortable shoes on and it sounds silly but it’s important. Also clothes that breathe like natural fibres, and clothes that don’t scratch and make noises either. And then everything comes from the diaphragm and you try not to use this part (points to throat) to add husks or squeaks and stuff, try not to use that too much, try and use more of the belly and more the diaphragm that helps give more power, but also more longevity. And stay away from chocolate and Coca-Cola or. What else is bad? Coffee is really bad, you get really bad tut, tut, tut sounds, horrible. So It’s mainly water and lemon, ginger teas work really, really well, if your voice starts to kind of go, or squeak or crack, that helps a lot. And, and sound engineers and everyone they all know the little secrets though, you just ask them, they know what they are doing.
And finally because I know we have to go, when you are lending your voice to an animated character is it just an opportunity to have fun and really just play with the character?
That’s exactly it, I mean we get to do parts that we never get cast in in a real movie, in a live-action movie, I don’t look much like a dragon so, you get to play and you get to really have fun and yeah, it’s for a younger audience as well so you kind of get to go back in time and literally just be a kid because that’s what acting basically is, just being a little kid and going away into your imagination and playing around and putting on silly voices and things, that’s kind of all it is. So it’s quite nice to be reminded of that.