Hercules: The Legendary Journeys -- Movies

Opening sequence


Josh Becker: I was 2nd unit director on the "Amazon Women". <...> One of my first jobs was to shoot the front title sequence of the show. However, nothing had been written or storyboarded or even vaguely conceived, so I just kept going out and getting random shots of Kevin running in different locations, at various film speeds, and swinging his sword and stuff. <...> The casting people went out and found the biggest man they could in New Zealand, named Alistair, who was over 500 pounds. <...> Tapert was on the phone and said that he suddenly hated the idea of arm wrestling, and I should instead make it a real fight sequence. <...> So I had Kevin and Alistair throwing fake punches at each other, and within three or four punches Alistair was huffing and puffing, wheezing, verging on coronary arrest and out of control. I called cut and explained to Alistair, again, that all he need to do was sell one punch at a time. There could be as much reset time as he need between punches. I called, "Action," Alistair pulled his fist way back, launched an enormous punch which threw him off balance and he mistakenly punched Kevin Sorbo in the mouth and decked him. I ran over to find Kevin flat on his back in the grass with blood coming out of his nose and mouth. I saw my career flash before my eyes. Ice was quickly applied to Kevin's face. Moments later the assistant director's phone rang, and naturally Kevin was needed immediately back on main unit. He was quickly hustled into a car and driven away. Apparently, when Kevin arrived back on main unit his face was so swollen and bruised and that they couldn't shoot with him anymore that day. Had this been my hair-brained idea I suppose I would have been fired, but luckily it wasn't. Kevin was also very good about saying he didn't think it was my fault. (20.03.01 BeckerFilms Site - check it for the full version)
Kevin Sorbo: I got hit by a guy that weighed 400 pounds. He was a seven-time New Zealand weightlifting champion. This guy wanted to hit me. He didn't like the fact I got to beat him up. "I could kick this guy's ass." I'm like, 'Dude, it's a TV show. Get your own show.' And he clocked me. He hit me so hard, he broke two of my teeth. I was not happy. (12.11.96 Total TV)  
I wasn't sure where to place this fragment of the interview. The descriptions of the attacker looks different... But Mr. Becker obviously tends to mix things up in the way he likes them more. On the other hand, Kevin really may be speaking about Fred Craig (Mong from "Centaur Mentor Journey") or some unnamed thug from any fight, who must be twice Kevin's calibre. I tried to verify this and failed. So I placed the bit here just because the bleeding mouth and broken teeth seem to click well.


Hercules and the Amazon Women

Robert Tapert (executive producer): When we did the local casting for "The Amazon Women", Lucy Lawless initially tested for the lead role of the head Amazon. But, in the end, everybody got cold feet about casting that lead role out of New Zealand and so we ended up casting an actress from Ireland who had to fly all the way down to New Zealand. Lucy, however, was ultimately cast as the bad-ass Amazon lieutenant. (12.97 Dreamwatch)  
Iolaus is wearing his signature Kiwi amulet around his neck, a Maori symbol called a manaia (pronounced man-EYE-uh). Says Michael Hurst: Maori elders wear them. The more elaborate ones contain a linage. They often represent a monster or guardians against evil. Of course on the show mine is plastic, except when I'm fighting. When I'm fighting I wear one made of cheap sponge because one day the plastic one flipped back and chipped my tooth. We think it's really neat to have something really New Zealand on this show. (05.10.96 Orange County Register)

"I had to do my first nude scene," Kevin Sorbo roars, "and I was really nervous. I said, 'Closed set! Nobody here who doesn't have to be here!' " (02.95 Starlog #211)

The actor laughed, remembering the experience. "They put me in a fetal position. The one person who really had a good time during that scene was the makeup lady, who had to apply tanning makeup. At one point, I turned around and said, 'Are you having a good time back there?" (16.10.96 Glitter #2)



Michael Hurst: "I was in the first one and the fifth one [as Iolaus], and if you look at the two together, you'll notice quite a marked change both in Kevin Sorbo and me. We had suddenly become more mature somehow. I think we were feeling our way around in that first movie, and things changed; our costumes changed, things shifted a lot." It almost goes without saying that the easy-going comraderie between Hercules and Iolaus was one of the TV movies' major attractions. According to Hurst, he and Sorbo managed to click fairly quickly. "With the first two-hour movie, Hercules and the Amazon Women, we were getting feedback almost immediately that there was good chemistry between us. For my part, that was just doing the job: serving the hero. If you look after your hero, your hero will look after you. That's a very important principle." (08.96 Starlog Yearbook)



Hercules and the Lost Kingdom


As it was proposed to be the first aired telemovie, it's working title was "The Journey Begins". Thanks to script complications, "Amazon Women" was moved up in the production schedule. Ironically, in the most frequently quoted version of this part of Herakles' myth the visit to the Troy happened on his way back from the adventures with Amazons.
Funny, that English film "Hercules and the Princess of Troy" (1965) with Gordon Scott as Hercules, battling a Giant Sea Monster that have interest in virgins and is gripping Troy in a wave of terror, was originally supposed to be the pilot for a proposed television series.


Working moments
Sorbo points out that he had to figure out for himself the overall demeanour that a Hercules for the '90s needed to attract a large audience. "Nobody gave me a guidebook to playing the character in a way that works for today," he says. "We did five movies before we went to series, and it was the second one where I found the answer." (16.12.95 TV Guide)  
Robert Trebor: It was a slave called Waylin, and in the original casting specs, they wanted somebody like John Gielgud in Arthur - this very fussy butler-type person who would be attending Hercules. When they realized they couldn't get somebody of that stature, they wanted a fat black comedian, somebody like Louie Anderson but black; they didn't know what they wanted. A week later the casting director called and said, "Come on in, they want to meet you". (02.97 Starlog #235)  
Robert Trebor: Kevin and I saw each other for the first time on the set. We got really good friends. I am older than Kevin, but it seems that I am his younger brother, it's that kind of a relation. (12.98 SF Report Mag)
Doug Lefter: I did second unit work on "Hercules and the Lost Kingdom", which Harley Cokeliss directed. We got to do a lot of low and hi-tech FX. For example, there was a sequence in Harley's film with Hercules fighting this big guy. Harley really wanted it to be a giant, but we didn't have any more FX budget, until I thought I knew how we could do it all in camera using forced perspective. I called Eric Brevig, who is one of the smartest FX people I ever worked with, and knows a lot about the old-style techniques as well as the new style. So when we shot those sequences, where Hercules fights the giant, there are no opticals or composites. Everything was in camera, and it just baffled people; nobody had any idea how we did it. (08.98 Starlog Yearbook)
Kevin Sorbo: Another scene I remember was in "The Lost Kingdom". The scene where I had to fight the sea monster. I spent a full day climbing up inside the monster's arteries, covered with all this slime and gore, and they never used the footage. Boy, WAS I MAD! (16.10.96 Glitter #2) [Memorable scene can be found in the video version.]  
Kevin Sorbo: The egg compass from "The Lost Kingdom", that's in my living room. (23.01.00 Fan Club Reception, Pasadena)  

Hercules and the Circle of Fire


Doug Lefler (director): I think Anthony Quinn's contribution was maybe greater than was obvious. We all learned from him, and it was good for Kevin to work with somebody like Tony. We all got something from it, and he really kept us on our toes because he liked to improvise and didn't necessarily follow the script. Kevin was able to do things later that were enhanced by his association with Anthony Quinn. Any actor who works with somebody of Quinn's calibre, who has had as much experience as he had, is going to get something out of that. (12.00 Xena Magazine #13)
Kevin Sorbo: It's very physically demanding. I'm not a martial artist, but I do about 90 percent of my own stunts. In one fight, I was inside a temple on a scaffolding system and fought fifty doublesword-wielding guys. It was hard work, but I loved the fight - we did it in two days, and I'm quite proud of the results. (04.96 Sci-Fi Entertainment)  
Kevin Sorbo: I loved the fight in "The Circle of Fire" when I first meet Deianeira and want to impress her. I walk into that temple and it's a three-tiered temple. I have that huge fight. I have a torch and a sword and 50 guys come at me with double swords and we're fighting. I used to have that power. I was not only strong but I could do these kung fu, karate things. We're down to our last bamboo thing, I get him to flip, I flip over him, fall down, pick up the ladder with my foot, I crawl to her, and hand her the torch and it goes out! I thought that was an adorable scene. I though that was a great fight. That probably sticks out as my most favorite fight sequence of all the movies and of all the shows. (06.96 Sorbo answers for H:TLJ's Forum)
The blooper reel offers an opportunity to see legendary buns totally bared. When in the inn Herc saw Deianeira on the threshold of his room, he rushed out of the bed with two uninvited ladies and grabbed the sheet to cover his nakedness... Kevin's grasp wasn't firm enough and he lost connection with the cloth. (Video can be seen on the Rosemary Appleton's Kevin Sorbo Page - it takes time!)  
Doug Lefler (director): Lawless actually auditioned for one of the parts, but it was a minor part, and I felt by not casting her, she would be cast again in another part that was more substantial. (02.01 TV Zone Special, UK)  
Kevin Sorbo: There was a scene where I had to jump through a wall of flames. The fire marshal said, "You're going to feel a little warm when you reach a certain point, but you should be okay." Well, halfway through the first take, somebody yelled "Stop!" I asked what the problem was and they told me that my costume was starting to smolder. (16.10.96 Glitter #2)  

Hercules in the Underworld


Michael Hurst: I don't think we've really made a secret of it, so it's there for people to find out. My name is in the credits as Charon. It's just one of those things that happened, and I played him in the second or third movie. That was kind of a highlight for me, because of the three-hour makeup job and the difference in the character and the way he is. I play him as a sort of New York taxi driver. The accent just happened at a moment's notice, in a fit of inspiration, and everyone like it. At that stage, I wasn't expecting to be in Hercules ever again, so it's interesting that both characters have popped up again. (08.96 Starlog Yearbook)
Actually, in this movie Michael also played Aelus - a drunk villager from Gryphon, who died in the opening scene.


Tawny Kitaen (Deianeira) was said to be discourteous lady on the set and it is not hard to believe considering her behavioural problems another year. Once she was on the phone with her agent screaming at him because she hated the script, the people and so on. Kevin being Kevin seized up the phone and took her into his dressing room and spoke in reproof of her bad manners.  

Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur


Josh Becker (director): [A dialog scene in a barn between Hercules and Zeus.] Mr. Quinn absolutely hated his reveal entrance, which he had already done numerous times in the previous four films. He wouldn't do it, and that was that. He then raged on and on against his dialog, which he'd rewritten, referring to the writers as "Shakespeare and Homer." Eric [Gruendemann, producer] and Kevin were nodding placatingly and agreeing wholeheartedly. I asked, "And how are you going to enter instead of the reveal?" "I'll just be there already," Mr. Quinn explained. "He'll hear me laugh." "And where will you be?" I inquired. "I'll be up on a platform, like boxes and barrels, or what have you." This was a scene that was supposedly shooting within the next hour. (01.95 BeckerFilms Site - check it for the full version)
Michael Hurst: When I did the fifth movie, I was actually directing and playing Hamlet in the same production. The Hamlet company took a week off in the middle of rehearsals, and I went in and did Iolaus, so there was this brief period where there was a very serious, introverted Iolaus for a while. <...> I felt fairly comfortable with that, so there was really no competition between us. It was a very easy gateway for friendship. Kevin and I agree that there's a scene in the fifth movie where we do a little bit of dialogue which we made up on the spot. It was then that it caught up with us and we caught up with it, and we realized, "Hey, we can do this!" It was a scene involving a few one-liners that we improvised and the crew and the director liked them, and since then we've really cemented that. (08.96 Starlog Yearbook)


Josh Becker (director): A funny thing that immediately comes to mind about Michael and that film was that several times it's Iolaus that remembers the flashback, so the scenes begin with the camera pushing into a his close-up as he says, "Why, it's just like when me and Hercules fought the Amazon women..." and that would be all of the dialog written in the script. Michael, being a first-rate actor, knows to never stop acting until the director calls cut. Well, I simply wouldn't call cut just to see what he'd improvise, and it was always hysterically funny. (01.95 BeckerFilms Site)  


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