The much-anticipated 2023 fantasy action film, Knights of the Zodiac, is finally in theatres, bringing the beloved anime and manga series Saint Seiya to the big screen for the first time. Directed by Tomek Bagiński and based on the manga by Masami Kurumada, the film has generated significant buzz not only for its strong adaptation of the source material but also for the talented ensemble cast.
With names like Mackenyu, Famke Janssen, Madison Iseman, Diego Tinoco, Mark Dacascos, Nick Stahl, and Sean Bean, it is easy to be excited to see how this version of the story will unfold. In a recent interview with CGMagazine, many of the main cast members shared their experiences and insights on bringing the Knights of the Zodiac franchise to life on the big screen.
Interestingly, none of the main cast members we talked to were fans of the Knights of the Zodiac franchise before taking on their respective roles. Famke Janssen, who portrays Guraad in the film, recalls, “None of us were. We didn’t know about it.” Diego Tinoco, who plays Nero the Phoenix Knight, admits to being initially unfamiliar with the franchise but quickly recognized its cultural impact. “Originally, no, but yes, we were aware of anime’s weight and impact on culture. I grew up with Dragon Ball Z, so I was aware of how impactful that was in my life, my brother’s life, and my entire family back home in Ecuador and Mexico.”
“I just want to be attached to inspiring projects, especially for Latinos.”
– Diego Tinoco
Nick Stahl, who plays Cassios, acknowledges the international following of the franchise and the expectations that come with it. “We were told pretty quickly, ‘Hey, this is kind of a big deal in Asia, South America, internationally.’ I think we had a pretty big task to satisfy its huge fan base, and I think the movie accomplishes that.”
Madison Iseman, who plays Sienna/Athena, shares her hopes that the film will introduce the franchise to new fans in the United States. “I don’t think either of us had heard of it until we got it for the first time in our inbox, so we both had a lot of catching up to do and a lot of research. We found out that it never really hit in the United States, and now is such a great time to come out with a live-action movie because maybe we can introduce some new fans to the original.”
With Knights of the Zodiac being a massive franchise worldwide, when asked about stepping into a franchise and bringing it to the big screen for the first time, Famke Janssen compares her experience with her previous role in the X-Men movies. “What’s interesting for me, compared to having been in X-Men movies where I played a character like Jean Grey and the Phoenix, who were very loved by the fans and had a strong following.
In this case, Garat was initially written as a man in the anime and in the manga, so I play a new character. I don’t have that pressure of the fans going, ‘Oh, no, not like that, and how can you cast her, blah, blah, blah.’ I just focused on different aspects of this character and brought her to life more emotionally with an emotional arc, which was a fun collaboration we had.”
“I think we had a pretty big task to satisfy this huge fan base that it has, and I think the movie accomplishes that.”
– Nick Stahl
Diego Tinoco appreciates that they were unfamiliar with the franchise before joining the cast. “That’s the benefit of us not knowing about it beforehand; it was new for us.” Nick Stahl adds that the overall feedback from the fans has been positive. “The fans seem to love it, and they’re really excited for it to come out, and we’re excited to give it to them.”
With such a significant series like Knights of the Zodiac, it can be daunting stepping into the shoes of the franchise and bringing it to life in a new way. With this in mind, and their initial lack of familiarity with the franchise, the cast members had to put in a lot of effort to prepare for their roles. Madison Iseman shares, “I read and watched anything I could get my hands on, anything that was accessible. I think we had about a month to prepare. I don’t know how early you signed on, but we didn’t have too much time, but we did it.”
She also mentions the invaluable help from their producers, who are well-versed in the Saint Seiya universe. “We had some of our producers on set who are very much Saint Seiya experts. They were at our beck and call throughout the filming process, and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what does this mean? Like, what does this mean for my character? Where do we go from here?’.”
Mark Dacascos, who plays Mylock in Knights of the Zodiac, explains his preparation process for portraying a peripheral character. “Mylock is a periphery character, and he’s a mortal. The producers did me a huge favour by sending me the material they did have on him, some of the original manga and anime. So, I tried to get his essence and feel and physicality. As Madison said, talking with our producers and from our script, and the character’s interaction with the other characters.”
Famke Janssen, who has played various villainous roles throughout her career, discusses the appeal of portraying antagonists. “I’ve done 70 films now, so I’ve definitely done my share of villains and villainesses, not regular people. I think there’s something fun about a villain because there are no limitations on what you can do. It gives you a certain freedom that I think sometimes you’re not allowed to have in other characters. I then always think, how can you humanize a villain or a villainess? What can you do to make people love a person you’re meant to hate? Now that’s a fun challenge.”
“What can you do to make people love a person you’re meant to hate? Now that’s a fun challenge.”
– Famke Janssen
When asked about the genres they feel most comfortable with, Diego Tinoco emphasizes the importance of choosing inspiring projects, especially for the Latino community. “For myself, this is my first time working with a green screen and in a big action-packed movie. The projects that I gravitate towards are projects that inspire. I just want to be attached to inspiring projects, especially for Latinos, because we don’t see too many of them on the big screen.
So, I’m trying to be attached to projects that are inspiring for the culture and especially for kids out there. I want to guide them toward a better path. Hopefully, I do that with my work, and that puts me on the calibre that I need to do other projects for them that uplift them.”
Similarly, Famke Janssen discusses her responsibility as a woman in creating more three-dimensional characters. “As a woman, I feel a certain responsibility for my characters. How can I fight or help collaborate or do whatever I can to create a more three-dimensional character than what sometimes is originally on the page? That remains a challenge throughout. It has been a challenge throughout my career. It’s remained something that I focus very strongly on because when those parts come to me, those parts are not always perfect, to begin with. What can I do to help make them more interesting to watch and play?”
Nick Stahl plays against type in Knights of the Zodiac, but it works, giving him a menacing vibe throughout the movie. He even touches on this, sharing his background in family dramas and appreciating the depth of the characters in Knights of the Zodiac. “I’m a family drama guy, but what’s cool about this is that the characters in this movie are very rich and very developed, so I feel like I’m doing a family drama, but it just happens to be in this fantasy world. So, I feel very comfortable and very much in my element.”
“I would love that. I think there’s so much room to explore, and I think we’ve only scratched the surface [of Knights of the Zodiac].”
– Madison Iseman
With such a major franchise, there is always talk about what is next, especially if this film does well. With that in mind, and given the excitement surrounding Knights of the Zodiac, the cast members were asked about the possibility of sequels or spin-offs. Madison Iseman expresses her enthusiasm for continuing the journey with her character. “I would love that. There’s so much room to explore, and we’ve only scratched the surface. There’s so much more to the story, and we’re all excited to dive in even deeper.”
Diego Tinoco adds that he would be on board for a sequel to Knights of the Zodiac if the audience enjoys the first film. “As actors, our job is to be the mirror of the audience. We’re the ones that are the storytellers, right? If the audience wants a sequel, they have to love this first one, right? And we hope they do. We put our hearts and souls into this.”
Knights of the Zodiac brings Saint Seiya, an iconic anime and manga series, to the big screen with a talented ensemble cast that is eager to introduce the franchise to new fans while staying true to the original material. The cast members are poised to deliver a truly unforgettable cinematic experience through their dedication to their roles and passion for creating meaningful, inspiring projects.
With Knights of the Zodiac now out in theatres everywhere, fans of the franchise and newcomers alike can look forward to visiting the world of Saint Seiya and its timeless story of heroism, friendship, and destiny in a new, unique way.