THE PRINCESS Interview: Director Le-Van Kiet On THE MATRIX Inspiration, Joey King, Marvel, & More (Exclusive)

The Princess director Le-Van Kiet opens up on his approach to telling this story ahead of its release on Hulu on Friday, breaking down his approach to action and sharing some unexpected influences...

An action-packed fight to the death set in a fairy tale world, The Princess is directed by Le-Van Kiet (Furie) and stars Emmy Award nominee Joey King (The Kissing Booth) as a beautiful, strong-willed princess who refuses to wed the cruel sociopath to whom she is betrothed, and is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle. With her scorned suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, she must protect her family and save the kingdom.

A couple of weeks ago, we sat down for a conversation with Le-Van to discuss the work that went into bringing this thrilling fantasy movie to life. Explaining how he subverted expectations with King's Princess, the filmmaker - who also released The Requin earlier this year - breaks down his approach to action and reveals some of his biggest influences.

Le-Van goes on to shed some light on his approach to The Princess, and some of the main challenges it presented along the way. That includes some very elaborate fight scenes, many of which saw the movie's lead decked out in a very elaborate princess dress! 

Finally, we also hear from the director on whether he has any interest in potentially telling stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or if he's looking to focus on smaller projects. 

Check out our interview with Le-Van in the player below:

I just spoke to Joey [King] and she said how much fun she had making this movie, so for you as a filmmaker, it must have been a blast to work on a project like this? 

It was. It started out fun, it became fun, and was even more fun watching it now. I think it comes across on the screen. I’m very proud of it and very happy for Joey too. This is such a formidable role for her and shows the world she can do anything. 

The movie opens like a lot of classic fairy tales and, before we know it, this Princess is kicking a lot of ass. How much fun was it as a filmmaker to play with the expectations some might have from a story like this? 

I’m an audience member myself, so I come into a movie just like everyone else wanting to be surprising and wanting to be challenged. That’s how I approached it. ‘What can I do to make things consistently interesting and find the right kind of pacing?’ I think with this film, we’ve always approached it [by asking], ‘What would the fans say? What would they be thinking at this one particular moment and where will it go?’ All those elements of surprise were built in because I’m just one of those fickle audience members [Laughs].

I enjoyed how the movie throws you into the thick of the action right away, giving some backstory as we go; what made you want to tell the story that way? 

I think it was the instinct to get into it and give it to the audience right away. It took a beat to get in and we were already getting this lull moment of, ‘Oh, she’s pretty and beautiful,’ but the first feeling I had was that it needed to open like The Matrix. You know, the Trinity kick? The first time you saw that movie twenty years ago, you were like, ‘What did she just do?’ So it was the feeling that I had that I wanted to be in this movie that was just the same way I felt when I saw The Matrix. 

I watched this movie and was reminded of the likes of The Raid and John Wick, but what were some of your biggest influences? 

I like the movies that don’t go over our heads with the fantasy world because we really wanted to be grounded first. To be grounded gave us the room to take certain messages or themes seriously. For example, there’s a sense of strength in needing to save yourself and your family and real danger. We didn’t take it too far into the fantasy world, and with the action, we kept it hard-boiled enough to everyone would believe she was in danger. It also had to be fun in this contemporary time of action movies that demand a little bit more. We always had that in our mind to make sure everyone would be pulled into the character-driven emotion of the film, but also experience the real action with them. 

There’s a lot of badass action in this movie, but what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in putting together these often very choreographed and lengthy fights between The Princess and the soldiers she comes across?

For me, it always starts out with the story within the fight. For example, the Tin Man and Horned Merc that’s half-naked. We right the story first and want to craft the fights with story and beats, really getting into the details of style and design with our choreographer and stunt team. It started with my influence from seeing Enter The Dragon and Bruce Lee’s stuff. Drunken Master…all of my great influences in the martial arts and action world. We really wanted to feel genre, but also not just going into a room, action with punches, kicks, clings, and clangs, and then we just move on. We wanted to experience it as a separate piece in itself. 

Was it a deliberate decision to have Joey battle a lot of bigger opponents to better explore the Princess as a character?

Yeah, it was right at the beginning of our discussions. Joey is Joey. She’s not a 6’5” muscle woman or MMA fighter. We get that. But what if she’s against a giant? [Laughs] It was thinking about that image and what we could do, creatively, to make it work. That was a fun challenge for me. Let’s create a story within that image because she’s probably going to be smarter than this beefcake. She’s faster and can see their weak points quicker. There are all these things that go through my mind when I have that image and the challenge to make that work.

The film starts with Joey wearing a very elaborate princess dress, and as the film goes on, she’s getting more beaten up and ends things in almost a “superhero costume.” As a director, is it hard to keep track of that damage progressing? 

It’s definitely a challenge continuity-wise. To the grace of our costume designer, Verity, and her team, they worked hard to make it work. I was a constant burden to them because I said, ‘Look, it has to be this dress ripped apart from scene to scene.’ As everyone knows when we shoot, we’re all over the place on any given day. We could be shooting the dress already broken down, but a few days afterwards, it has to be back to scene one [Laughs]. I realised it was a burden, but it was such an important image to have and get across because one, The Princess is not aware of the dress as much as everyone thinks because she just wants to save her family. For us, it’s iconic because she’s breaking down the barriers of this patriarchal society, but also feels like she doesn’t need to wear the pants and move like them or be slow like them. Maybe she is better because of this ballerina kind of image. The audience will take it for what they will. I think they’re all correct, but I find this discussion wonderful to have in a movie like this. 

This is perhaps the biggest movie you’ve made yet, but looking to the future, how interested are you in taking on a big established franchise like Marvel or Star Wars, for example, or would you prefer to tell smaller stories with big action?

I think I would be attracted to anything that has a story that can be a character piece, have messages, and an overall endearment of its character. I just love that. I loved creating this from scratch. If a Marvel character needs an edge to it, I’m all for that too. I just think that movies tell us something about ourselves at the moment, and when it does hit a nerve, it’s just all the better and the reason to do it. Whether it’s a Marvel or an original is not particular for me, but when you feel some originality in the character themselves, that’s when I feel it’s a good movie. 

The Princess also stars Dominic Cooper (Preacher), Olga Kurylenko (Black Widow), and Veronica Ngo (The Old Guard). The Princess was written by Ben Lustig & Jake Thornton (Final Fantasy), and produced by Neal H. Moritz (Fast and Furious), Toby Jaffe (Total Recall) and Derek Kolstad (John Wick), with Joey King and Guy Riedel (Spectral) serving as executive producers.

The Princess premieres on Hulu on July 1.

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