M. Night Shyamalan wrapped production on the Philadelphia set of “The Last Airbender” in June. What’s the plot twist-loving director been up to since then?
According to one of the film’s stars, Shyamalan is stressing the hell out as he pieces together scenes from a four-month production that is two-and-a half-times bigger than anything he’s ever worked on before.
“I’m sure he’s pulling his hair out somewhere in an edit room, but that’s the process,” laughed Aasif Mandvi, who plays Zhao, a nefarious member of the Fire nation and the rival to Dev Patel’s Prince Zuko.
In the fantastical world of “Airbender,” there are four tribes—Air, Water, Earth and Fire—each of which can control one of the four elements. The Fire folks have been waging an incessant war against the other nations, when a young child named Aang (12-year-old newcomer Noah Ringer) discovers he’s the only person on the planet who has the ability to manipulate all four elements and, perhaps, bring lasting peace to the land.
“There’s a lot of martial arts, there’s a lot of really cool special effects and CGI and action,” explained Mandvi, who stopped by to chat with MTV News during the red carpet premiere of the Jude Law-starring “Hamlet” production on Broadway.
We’d chatted with Mandvi back in June on the “Airbender” set, when the actor and comedian seemed much more willing to talk about the production. This time around, when it came to talk of the set design, all he’d say was, “It’s going to look really cool and I know exactly what it’s going to look like and I’m not telling you!”
Oh, Aasif! But we know, too! The capital of the Water nation is an extravagant ice palace, with ornate chandeliers and large balconies—everything dusted with a fine white snow. There’s a breathtaking ice cave with a meticulously painted cherry blossom tree. The Fire nation has enormous steel battleships outfitted with some serious weaponry. The temple where detailed statues of past heroes stand is seriously impressive in a “How’d they make something so new look so old?” kind of way. The scale of the entire production is nothing short of staggering.
So Mandvi was being a little more tight-lipped this time around, but he did share some of his experiences working alongside Patel, of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame.
“He’s a black belt,” said Mandvi, who’s best known for his work on “The Daily Show.” “That kid knows his martial arts, so they needed to help me. I was the old guy on set who was like, ’I don’t know what I’m doing here.'”
Did Dev share any butt-kicking tips? “He taught me how to cheat at ’Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,'” he said in a sly reference to “Slumdog.” “That’s really all he taught me.”
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