In 2006, Legendary Pictures announced it had aqcuired the Warcraft film rights and entered into a development partnership with Blizzard Entertainment to produce a live-action motion picture.
During this process, blockbuster producer Charles Roven and his producing partner, Alex Gartner, were approached by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni to partner in the production of a movie that would do justice to this remarkable entertainment franchise. Legendary and Atlas had worked together since the production of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and Warcraft would be their next monumental project together.
The filmmaking team, along with partners at Blizzard, brought writer Charles Leavitt on board to distill the franchise’s complex mythology into a feature-length epic-adventure drama. A strategy emerged to tell the story predominantly from the perspective of the Alliance, with a brand new hero being introduced into the character array. Naturally, in the ensuing decade, development ensued, as other premises and the ideal director were considered.
Then, in early 2013, it was announced that filmmaker Duncan Jones was on board to direct. Finding this perfect storyteller would ultimately prove to be easier than the producers first imagined. Best known for his BAFTA award-winning masterpiece Moon, as well as the twist-a-minute Source Code, Jones had another valuable asset to bring to the table: his intimate understanding and deeply personal love for the game.
Of the development, producer Tull reflects: “Blizzard took the time to create an entire history. They did a lot of the heavy lifting, and we were able to stand on their shoulders. I think they felt from us a genuine love for the property and a desire to tell, not just a good story, but a great story in the universe that they’ve created.”
Tull offers massive respect for the story creators and the team’s collaborators. “The people that are making videogames are astute storytellers,” he says. “We’re now in a place where we can use these worlds that they’ve created, and these characters that people want to spend more time with. Frankly, at the end of the day it’s all storytelling, whether it’s based on a short story, a graphic novel, or a comic book. So anywhere that storytellers can find inspiration, we get excited. We absolutely have that inspiration in Warcraft.”
Producer Roven discusses the team’s process in securing the director: “We worked hard to get the screenplay right and, Quite frankly, it was Duncan who came to us with the missing ingredients. One of the things that makes Warcraft such a great game to play, besides the environment it is set in and the innovative things that the characters can do, is the fact that you can pick which side you want to be on.
“You can choose the avatar, whether it is from the Horde, which is made up of orcs, or the various humanoid races from Azeroth,” he continues. “So, Duncan raised the fact that if you can play either side, he wanted to make sure that we tell the story from both sides-good and bad-and let the audiences root for both points of view.”
Roven’s producing partner at Atlas Entertainment, Alex Gartner, long believed it was key for the filmic version of Warcraft to celebrate players’ experiences and welcome those unfamiliar with Draenor and Azeroth into these imaginative worlds. He reflects that it all began with one simple rule: “What guides our films are characters. The story has to come from incredible characters, ones you want to go on a journey with. I don’t care how elaborate, amazing and visual the world is, if you don’t have characters that you want to be on the ride with-and ones who you want to stay with after the film ends-then you don’t have a movie.”