Paramount and eOne’s Dungeons & Dragons was the first major studio production to hit Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con in three years, bringing in swordplay, a trailer debut and a very funny and scene-stealing Hugh Grant in his first-ever Con appearance.
After some initial technical difficulties, the masked convention goers were delighted by behind-the-scenes footage from the Northern Ireland set that saw stars Chris Pine, Regé-Jean Page and Michelle Rodriguez clad in leather and armor and riding horses, fantastical creatures from the D&D universe, and massive fight sequences.
Pine took the stage with a high kick and high-fives, followed by Rodriguez, Page, Sophia Lillis and Grant, the latter playing the film’s villain.
The movie’s directors, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley — the duo behind sleeper hit Game Night — talked about their personal history with the game. “I have been an avid player since I was 14 years old when I acted on the show Freaks & Geeks,” said Daley, to generous applause. “Anyone who plays D&D knows it’s not just a game. It is the feeling you get when you play the game.”
“It was a surprise to me I hadn’t found it until I was 42,” laughed Pine. Rodriguez said she is playing a barbarian and that the movie brought back memories of “being a kid in a basement with friends just goofing off.”
As for Grant, the moderator joked that the acclaimed British actor had been a lifelong fan of the live-action role-playing game.
Riffed Rodriguez: “I think you mixed it up with S&M.”
“She is not wrong,” Grant batted back, teasing the audience with a well-timed pregnant pause. “I have been an enthusiastic dungeon master for some years. It’s a British pastime — a national sport almost.”
It was pointed out that this was Grant’s first Comic-Con, which drew big applause. Deadpanned Grant, “We did try to come with Sense and Sensibility but were turned away.”
The D&D tabletop game is known for its treasure hunts, camaraderie and reversals of fortune, all in a fantasy setting that combines humans, elves, orcs and hundreds of other creatures. Plot details for the film have long been kept under wraps, and not much was given away during the panel. “There is a lot of questing in the movie, I can tell you that,” said producer Jeremy Latcham. Added Daley, “There are a ton of Easter eggs loaded in there.”
Two clips were shown during the presentation: The first showed the heroes in a battle cemetery, resurrecting corpses on their quest for a special helmet. The second showed Grant’s character lording over a massive coliseum where the heroes were shown with other groups of adventurers, trying to make their way through a maze while being pursued by a homicidal jaguar-esque creature. The directors noted that they tried to use as many practical effects as they had VFX work.
Also debuting at Hall H was the first trailer for the film, which has Pine’s character beginning, “We didn’t mean to unleash the greatest evil the world has ever known, but we are gonna fix it.” The trailer, which was backed by Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” then flashed through massive fight sequences complete with an ax-wielding Rodriguez and creatures like owlbears and dragons, and was all finished off with a lute-playing Pine.
During the presentation, the cast also talked about the training that went into the production. “I had the best ass of my life,” joked Page of the training for the movie, where he plays a paladin. “We could wash clothes on them,” offered Rodriguez.
As for why he signed up for the project, Grant noted: “I hate all scripts. I am notoriously negative. And to my astonishment, I was sent a thing that really made me laugh.” He compared the movie to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The convention, which has been canceled or pared down for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will see major studios like Marvel and Warner Bros./DC heading back to Hall H, and debuts with anticipated shows like Rings of Power and House of the Dragon.
Watch the trailer for Dungeons & Dragons below.