Ten years back the idea of a Warcraft movie, with a budget vast enough to do the larger-than-life universe justice, was a pipe dream of Blizzard and a dream of the hardcore fans. One such fan was and is Rob Kazinsky, who played right-hand-orc Orgrim Doomhammer in the film and has been a WoW player for most of his life.
For what’s coming next for the game, here’s our rundown of WoW patch 7.1: Return to Karazhan.
He’s killed Illidan, Arthas and Deathwing, though a busy life of making movies and TV – such as Pacific Rim and Second Chance, as well as spending his super-hardcore-WoW years on Eastenders – means he’s had to drop the endless farming lifestyle in recent times. Still, it’s a game that’s defined him, and we spoke to him about that, the movie, its reception and much more.
PCGN: So I just want to take you all the way back to when you first got involved in the Warcraft project, and you play yourself, right? Or you did at the time.
Rob Kazinsky: I still play, yeah. I certainly did play and do play.
Did they call you because of that, or did you apply for it because of that?
What happened was I was doing Pacific Rim, which was also a Legendary production and Jillian Share was the producer. I had a break during filming one day, so I pulled out my computer to kill time, I had about 4-5 hours and I load up Warcraft so I can do my grinding for the day and get ready. And she looks at me and she’s like ‘don’t do that’.
I’m like ‘do what?’. She says ‘you know exactly what we’re doing, you know we’re making that movie’ and that’s the worst thing she ever could have possibly ever said, because for two and a half years on a bi-weekly basis I would harass her and harang her and say ‘what’s the deal?’ because at that point Sam Raimi was possibly attached and I was like ‘can I see a script? I just wanna know. I just want something. Trust me, I’m a dedicated, hardcore player, I could maybe give you some feedback on what the player base might think of it.’
And that went on for two and a half years, and then Duncan Jones came on board and Jillian set me up with a producer there, Stuart Fenegan and we went for a beer, couldn’t find a part for me in it, we were really struggling and really looking. They needed like a name to play like [Anduin] Lothar, and they had who they wanted for all the other characters, then suddenly I get a phone call from Stuart saying ‘what about Orgrim Doomhammer?’
Then I auditioned for Duncan twice and then they gave me the job. It was very much… For any of us to grow up playing computer games – especially ones that are incredibly story based – these films come along and you dream that you might get to play a part of it, so for me it was very much a dream come true because I used to put 18 hours a day into that game.
I suppose that’s the sort of thing where even if they’d given you an unimportant bit part they just went ‘well, are you interested?’ and you probably would have been like ‘yeah, that’ll do’.
Oh, honestly I’d have been a fluffer in everyone’s trailer, I don’t care. I’d have cleaned up the floors, I’d have just held Duncan’s hand while he made the movie, I’d have literally done anything in that movie. And then when they give me Orgrim it was like ‘oh, you just gave me the best character in the lore, thank you very much’. He’s like seriously, seriously important, the capital is named after him and then the character goes on from strength to strength in the next movies, it was like all my Christmases and birthdays rolled into one.
Was it difficult to record? With all the CG and prosthetics, have you done that sort of thing before?
I’ve never done motion capture before. We had zero prosthetics, I’ve done prosthetics before, which is the worst thing in the whole world, honestly. It’s very funny when you’re working with prosthetics, because there’s two types of people, there’s people that can do it, and there’s people that can’t handle it. And I am very much one of those people that cannot handle prosthetics. I am the most miserable, most uncomfortable, my skin hates that stuff, it doesn’t work.
So when we were doing motion capture it was such a wonderful relief, the most unbelievable feeling that all the stars were aligning that I was going to play Orgrim Doomhammer and I didn’t have to wear make up. And you just go in every day and you calibrate and you put the dots on your face and you wear all the gear and stuff like that.
It’s very, very interesting from a performance standpoint because usually you have a costume and you have your props and you have your sets and you have all that stuff which helps kind of inform that character – you put on the armour and you can’t help but move like you’re in armour because you’re in armour. But when you’ve only got pyjamas and some balls on you, you have to completely shroud yourself in imagination and affect your movement and ability from an intelligent point of view rather than a practical point of view, and that, for me, was a real learning experience. It was probably the most satisfying work I’ve ever done to date, for me.
Because of getting to take that experience and learning forward?
Exactly right, take it forward. Because up until that point I’d never really considered, to the degree that I did [there], how much physical mannerisms and how much physical gait affects a character. And since that time I’ve kind of applied ‘how does this guy walk, how does he move?’ to everything I’ve ever done. It’s very funny, because you can step into a character’s shoes, literally, and you can also do it physically and figuratively with just putting on layers of character from this point on. It was one of the greatest lessons I ever learned.
When the movie came out there were two very polar reactions from fanbase and critics. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I could sit here and I could talk about that all day if you’d like. We wanted to make the greatest video game movie ever made and essentially that’s quite a low bar. Do I think we achieved that? Yes, I think we made the greatest video game movie ever made. Does that make it in itself a great movie? I don’t think so. I don’t think we made the perfect film because we couldn’t. We can’t take that story from the lore and do it 100% honestly because the contradictions of when they created it where there, and what works filmically doesn’t work thematically.
So there’s obviously going to be some people who are upset because we didn’t have Mannoroth for example, or any sign of Sargeras or the Legion. We had to make a film that worked on its own, that kind of thing. And we were very limited, essentially, in how we were going to do that.
We made a solid film, I think. We made a really good starting point for a universe, and the next films, two and three, are the ones that can expand on that world-building movie that we’ve made. I like to say that we made A New Hope, which by no means is the greatest Star Wars movie, but it sets up the next two until Return of the Jedi, which in my opinion – you can argue with me about Empire as much as you like but I think Return of the Jedi’s a better film.
We will go on in the second and third films, if we get to make them, to make even greater stories and to really expand upon that world until we reach the point where everyone wants to get to, which is Frozen Throne. So we had a hard task there of making this movie into a film that would be critically acclaimed – which it was never going to be critically acclaimed, because it is a video game adaptation. And that’s just the way of the world.
You have to look at how the press received this. It broke records in 19 out of 20 territories on its first release, it broke records in China, it was really well received and well reviewed all the way round the world, apart from North America. And that’s that snobbishness that people have to video game transfers. And that will change, because people will begin to realise that video games have evolved from being Sonic the Hedgehog. They have evolved from a plumber running across a map to save Peach from Kooper every single game. They’ve evolved now to being filmic in their own way. If you look at Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect, these are great stories, they’re great movies.
As these games begin to transition more and more into film and these stories become more and more told, I think that inevitable snobbishness about video game transfers will dissipate into just being good films. They’re just good stories. And people won’t judge them so harshly because of how they were born.
So you think it does kind of come down to people going ‘it’s a video game movie, and therefore it’s terrible’ and just feeling that way before they even go in?
I think that’s a large part of it. I think there’s a responsibility on the filmmakers to make a great movie, and I think it would be trite to write off any failure that anybody has as being a societal fault. But I do think… I’m a very big member of the forums, and before we even started the movie people were prepping it to be terrible, and you go onto any of the forums and people who hadn’t even seen the movie were giving it a 1/10 and crapping on it, and then there were other people giving it a 10/10 who hadn’t seen it, and it just becomes this contentious battleground for opinion. You know, for those people who didn’t like WoW, or for people who just don’t have high expectations.
Like I said before, I don’t think we made a 10/10 movie, but I think we made a great world-building movie and if people could embrace that fact they’d recognize that here’s a good movie that allows us to tell great stories within the next four or five years. Basically, there’s a lot of factors.
You said you’re still playing, have you been playing Legion?
I have been playing Legion, I’ve been trying really hard, but it’s really, really annoying, but I need to get a new computer. I need a gaming rig. I get like seven frames per second at the minute and it makes it really hard to play. I’m trying, I’ve managed to get one character to 110 but I haven’t been able to do a single instance, not one dungeon, not even a scenario, nothing. Which is really, really frustrating, but you know as soon as I get another job and I can get myself a gaming rig, then away I go again. What do you main?
I play a protection warrior, I tank, that’s all I do.
Really, for how long?
Since about Wrath. I played a warrior back in Vanilla, but I didn’t really play ‘properly’, and I didn’t start playing protection until Wrath.
I played Warrior all the way through vanilla and Burning Crusade. I played Warrior through all that, which was just the most frustrating thing that’s ever happened in the history of playing games.
Every patch was a nerf.
Yeah, it was just terrible being a warrior. And then when Wrath came out, Death Knights were warriors that could heal, and that was basically it for me, and I’ve been a Death Knight since 3.1, I mained a Blood DPS DK up until Trial of the Crusader and I’ve been a Frost DK since ICC.
Has it been difficult balancing – like, obviously your job is the kind of job where you might spend 20 hours a day…
Back then I was a very competitive raider, in a top 100 guild, I was ranking top of world of logs all the way through Wrath and some of Cataclysm, I was a very competitive Death Knight.
But the benefits of having a successful career mean you can’t do the things you want to do all the time, like play WoW. And unless I’m grinding my materials and getting my pre-pots and getting everything ready… And if I miss a single raid then I’m letting everybody down, and I just don’t have the ability to dedicate to it anymore. Since halfway through Cataclysm I became an LFR hero.
Warcraft’s out on DVD and Blu-Ray October 10 – pre-order it on Amazon.