“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” stole the hearts of the audience at its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on March 10, no matter whether or not they’d played the 50-year-old role playing game that shares its title.
The action comedy stars Chris Pine as a rakish bard named Edgin and Michelle Rodriguez as his platonic life-partner, the tough-as-nails warrior, Holga. The two set off on a quest to reunite Edgin with his estranged daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), and they wind up working with Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a valorous paladin; Simon (Justice Smith), a sorcerer with an inferiority complex; and Doric (Sophia Lillis), a no-nonsense shapeshifting druid. Rounding out the cast are Hugh Grant as Forge Fitzwilliam, Edgin and Holga’s untrustworthy former compatriot; and Daisy Head as Sofina, a powerful wizard who is more than she initially seems.
Along with Pine, Page, Rodriguez, Smith, Lillis and Head, writer-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (“Game Night”) and producer Jeremy Latcham (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), attended the premiere at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin.
In her introduction, Claudette Godfrey, director of the film festival, said she loved the movie because it was accessible to people like her who had never played the game. Then Goldstein asked how many in the audience had played D&D before, and the room erupted in cheers.
The love for the game continued throughout the film, with easter eggs and references drawing laughs and applause, and especially in the Q&A following the screening.
“We wanted to show another side of the fantasy world,” Goldstein said of the lighthearted approach to the material. “We love our ‘Game of Thrones’ and our ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but there’s not a lot of laughs.”
When asked who among the cast had the most D&D experience, Page and Lillis kept pointing at each other, until Rodriguez broke in.
“I mean I played for three years as a kid in Jersey City, does that count?” Rodriguez said. “We broke all the rules.”
Pine said he had no experience at all with D&D before signing onto the film, but he played a game with his family before shooting.
An audience member asked what kind of character the cast and filmmakers would want to play as in an actual D&D game, or if they’d rather be the Dungeon Master (or DM), who designs and runs the game.
“I got to see my dad play as a warrior,” Pine said. “He’s 82. It’s like improv. It’s a game for actors.”
“Even if I wanted to be a DM, I wouldn’t admit it, because I’d seem like an egomaniacal creature,” Rodriguez joked.
“I love being a bard so much,” Pine said, referencing his character. “No preparation. Lots of smiling.”
Page said he would want to play Smith’s role as a sorcerer using “wild magic,” prompting Smith to quip, “I would also be myself.”
Lillis added, “I would probably be a cleric, because that is one thing that this group lacked.”
The high point of the Q&A came when Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture for the city of Detroit, asked the filmmakers if their decision to cast “gorgeous men” in the film was a “revenge of the nerds kind of thing.” After the audience laughter died down, Goldstein deadpanned, “On the contrary, we saw them as extensions of ourselves.”
Riley then asked for something “every woman in the room wants”: a photo with Page. The actor gamely obliged, jumping into the audience and posing for several pics with Riley, who promptly fainted to the floor.
“It was a fantastic movie — I’ve never played the game and I probably won’t still,” she said breathlessly when she stood back up. “But when I get back to Detroit, I’ll tell everyone to go see it.”
When she made it back to her seat, Variety asked Riley if she was OK.
“No!” she replied. “I’ll never be the same!”