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“Percy Jackson & the Olympians” cast

by on January 19, 2010
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A water-loving warrior – who also battles ADHD.  His best friend, a mythical protector masquerading as a physically disabled wisecracker.  A fierce female with an ax to grind, and a teenage demigod struggling with his own power.  All converging at a hidden enclave and fighting deadly beasts masquerading as ordinary people.

These are the four protagonists of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” the latest in young adult fantasy films that opens February 12.  Directed by Chris Columbus and based on Rick Riordan’s bestselling novels, “Percy Jackson”  follows modern-day demigods – half mortal, half god – on a quest to save the world while finding their own place in it.  Recently, “Percy”‘s quartet of rising young actors – Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, and Jake Abel – sat down in Chicago to discuss teen issues, special effects and their new status as relatable fantasy icons.

According to its cast, “Percy Jackson’s” Greek mythology mixed with contemporary aspects are what sets it apart from other fantasy franchises.  “There’s a modern twist that separates [the film] from anything that’s ever been done,” said Jake Abel (“The Lovely Bones”), who plays Luke, son of Hermes.  “And after all these years, the gods are still bickering.”

“There’s so much to relate to in the movie,” said Lerman, who plays the film’s title character.  Still in his teens (Lerman turned 18 the day of this interview), he has already appeared opposite Mel Gibson, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in “The Patriot” and “3:10 to Yuma,” respectively.  “It’s symbolic of everyday problems.  Percy is your average high school student with dyslexia and ADHD, and now he finds out he’s the son of Poseidon.”

“I think Percy is cooler than the Harry Potter character,” added Brandon T. Jackson, best known for his role as rapper Alpa Chino in “Tropic Thunder.”  “He’s from Brooklyn.  There’s a little bit of an edge to him.”  According to Jackson, the film is both surprising and down-to-earth.  “You think my character[Grover, a half-man, half-goat creature known as a satyr] is disabled this whole time, but he’s really a protector.  Then we’re in class, and this Fury comes out of nowhere that we thought was a substitute teacher.  It’s very based in reality.”

Alexandra Daddario (“Bereavement”) sees her character Annabeth, daughter of Athena, as a typical young  woman – albeit one with mean combat skills.  “She has her own weaknesses like any teenager,” said Daddario, who began her career at age 16 with a recurring role on “All My Children.”  “She struggles with school and her mother, and also has ADD.  I go through that in the acting business too: there’s a lot of rejection and questioning yourself.”

Despite the accessibility of their characters, however, the actors did have to balance their performances with the film’s considerable special effects.  Fortunately, an open-minded crew helped ease the transition.  “The CGI can be drawn in to what you imagine,” said Jackson.  “You can collaborate with Chris Columbus.  He’s the type of guy that’s like, ‘do whatever you want to do, and we can work around it.’  He’s not a dictator director.”

“I like when they tell you ‘it’s going to look better later.’  They know you feel like such an idiot doing certain things,” Abel said.  “There was one part where I had to [scream] with the lightning bolt, and they kept telling me, ‘you’re gonna be underwater, it’s gonna look so cool.'”

“We know they’re sitting in the editing room laughing at us!” added Daddario.

“It’s about finding a comfort level,” said Lerman.  “One thing that helped me a lot was embarrassing myself.  So I’d go out there and scream my head off before a take or do Ian McKellan [in “Lord of the Rings”] impressions.  And then when you’re able to get into a scene, it’s actually easier to work with the green screens.  You can work with a character that you create, that the visual artists are going to create with you, and you can do whatever you want.”

“Your only limitation is your imagination,” added Abel.

All four actors, who shared an easy camaraderie throughout the interview, were optimistic that “Percy Jackson’s” blend of modern-day conflict and impressive CGI will leave audiences of all ages entertained and inspired.  Said Jackson of the film’s underlying theme: “It’s about your greatest weaknesses becoming your greatest strengths.”