Playback: Guy Ritchie on His ‘King Arthur’ Vision and Tackling Disney’s ‘Aladdin’

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

The show is back after a post-Oscars hiatus with director Guy Ritchie in the studio. The BAFTA-nominated filmmaker discusses his latest project, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” another entry in a long lineage of film and television projects focused on the folk figure.

“It didn’t occur to me that it was a dusty or unexciting title,” Ritchie says. “To me I fancy the challenge of — a bit like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ — I thought, ‘Oh, I’m familiar with that. I think I can do something with that.'”

The result is very much a Ritchie film, with a bit of a bloke mobster spin on the well-worn material. Applying that kind of a trademark aesthetic in this case was daunting for the director, who managed to pull it off in the world of Sherlock Holmes. There’s a lot of money riding on an epic project like this, however, and so Ritchie concedes trepidation at the outset.

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“It was a challenge,” Ritchie says. “[Could] I go into the epic fantasy genre and create something that feels different and fresh? My principal concern was, ‘Would it translate — my vision, if  you will — or would it congest the experience?'”

In a time of ever expanding movie franchise universes, Ritchie’s “King Arthur” certainly sets itself up for another visit. The director says he’s never made a film that he didn’t want to circle back to again, so he leaves that on the table.

In the meantime, his hands are full with a live-action adaptation of Disney’s “Aladdin.” That could be a bit of a tightrope, however, for a property that was criticized even in its day for derogatory Arab stereotypes. Is that something Ritchie has his eye on at all, particularly with heightened contemporary sensitivity to these issues?

“Decency is decency. Humanity is humanity. I think the film will dictate exactly what the tone is supposed to be and who’s supposed to be in it,” Ritchie says. “You just don’t want to feel like you’re muscled into it, because you’re bullied into it. It will be what it will be, because it should be what it should be. It will have its own authentic voice, and you don’t want that voice contaminated by a PC army.”

For more on navigating the superhero status quo (he’d love to get his hands on the “Suicide Squad” franchise), “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” nearly 20 years on and more, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” via iTunes.

Guy Ritchie photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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