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SYFY WIRE Dungeons & Dragons

'Dungeons & Dragons' star Justice Smith brought real-life sign language to his magic spell-casting

One of the stars of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves added a little something extra to his magic.

By Matthew Jackson
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

When you head to theaters to watch Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves this coming spring, you might notice a little something extra when one character in particular starts slinging spells: Sign language.

Speaking to Collider about the upcoming fantasy adventure, co-star Justice Smith, who plays Simon, the sorcerer of the party, revealed that he worked with a choreographer to build out his spellcasting for the movie, and even made sure his hands were often spelling a version of the words used in each individual spell. 

"I do a lot of spell casting in the film, and I worked with this lovely choreographer to create unique gestures for each spell," Smith explained. "And I know a bit of sign language, so I try to incorporate that [into] it. Whatever the spell does, I try to incorporate the word in sign language into the gesture of this spell. Not for every gesture."

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Smith isn't the first actor to work with a choreographer to create a sense of movement when it comes to movie magic -- Elizabeth Olsen famously did that to get Scarlet Witch's hand gestures right -- but it's very interesting that he went a step further to incorporate an actual language into his fictional spells. For him, it was a matter of making it look dynamic, while also adding something members of the film's audience might recognize.

"I hate [in] movies, when they have magic powers, and they just go like this [gestures vaguely with hand]. I was like, 'I want everything to be unique and creative,'" Smith said. "So, remembering which spoken word of the spell goes with which gesture, and at what time. I guess it wasn't difficult."

In the same interview, Smith's co-star Regé-Jean Page explained that, as the film's sword-wielding Paladin, Xenk, he got to put his own spin on one of the most classic bits of imagination in D&D: Fighting monsters, which were often really on the film's set thanks to puppeteers.

"Half the time the creatures in front of you are giving scary good performances," Page said. "The way that actors get competitive, I got competitive with the puppets, so I was like, 'Nah, you're not going to act me out of this. That's not happening.'  But it's a lot easier than you'd think, and at least twice as much fun."

One of the joys of playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends around a table is seeing all the different ways the players make the characters and the world their own, and while the film as a fixed story that's not necessarily changing with the roll of a dice, it sounds like the cast got to do their own version of adapting the characters and the world to fit their personalities. It'll be fun to see how the whole party adapted to the world when Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters March 31.

Looking for more epic fantasy adventure? Warcraft is streaming now on Peacock, along with the Harry Potter film saga.