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SYFY WIRE The Green Knight

How David Lowery's 'The Green Knight' was influenced by dark '80s fantasy like 'Willow' and 'Dragonslayer'

By Josh Weiss
The Green Knight

Way, way back in the 1980s, major Hollywood studios scared the proverbial pants off of young audiences with a number of dark fantasy films that were way more terrifying than they had any right to be. But since these movies were PG or PG-13 (the latter classification was famously created in the wake of Gremlins and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom), it was okay for children to watch them — emotional scarring be damned.

In all seriousness, those projects had a major impact on the people who grew up watching them (perhaps because they understood that kids are more willing to absorb mature themes and concepts than we give them credit for). One such individual was writer-director David Lowery, who looked to the fantasy flicks of his more formative years when it came time to embark on his own epic quest in The Green Knight, which, unlike its creative forebears, bears an R-rating.

"We looked at Willow, the Ron Howard film, which is one of my favorite fantasy films of all time," Lowery said during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "We looked at a lot of '80s fantasy, to be honest, like Ladyhawke and Dragonslayer and Willow. Those were big ones for us because they were fantasy. They weren't tied to a specific time and place in human history, and yet they still felt like a grounded reality."

Based on a 14th century poem composed in the British Isles, The Green Knight follows Sir Gawain (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel), a headstrong member of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, who sets out to test his might against the eponymous warrior. Production on the movie — which also stars Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, and Sean Harris — took place in Ireland around the same time HBO was filming the final season of its own fantasy opus: Game of Thrones.

"Most of our crew had worked on that. It was just so weird to think about how every episode of that season was far more expensive than our entire movie — and we were still trying to do the same thing that they were doing," Lowery explained. "It was an all-hands-on-deck problem-solving thing, but it was also really fun. I love pushing the boundaries no matter what movie I'm making, whether it's a tiny indie film [like] A Ghost Story or even what I'm doing now, which is gigantic [referring to Peter Pan & Wendy]. I'm always going to be pushing the boundaries of what we can do, what we can afford, what we can pull off."

The Green Knight rides into theaters Friday, July 30.