We've laughed at every other film with dragons in it. How did you create dragons that are so scary and realistic?
Years ago, when I was asked about this movie, I said I would do it if we set the new bar and had the money to make realistic dragons. We were dead set on coming up with a dragon that would look more realistic than anything you'd ever seen and give some nod to science fantasy readers and what they were familiar with. I wanted the movie to have a sense of reality that you hadn't seen before.
Did your time on The X Files help in creating something that doesn't really exist?
What I learned on The X Files is that you are given one exceptional character, an alien or whatever, so in order for it to feel realistic, the rest of the story has to be grounded in things that we understand in daily life. Instead of opening up the movie with a sky full of dragons, you open up the movie with ordinary stuff... a kid doesn't get accepted into school, his mum is disappointed, there is a disgruntled employee. Then you bring in the dragon and it's easier to accept it.
Was it a challenge to create a burning Westminster? Was that CG (computer generated)?
There are no CG sets in the movie. The only CG stuff were the dragons and the sky divers going past the camera at 200mph. So we built Westminster in Ireland and then burned it. For the set, Big Ben was about seven feet tall and the whole thing was about 40ft across. The miniatures were great.
What was the toughest part of filming?
We got to the end of the movie and, because of foot and mouth disease, they almost wouldn't let me build the castle. We were halfway through building it when we were told to stop. June 30 had to be my final day of filming, so we got to the end of the movie and only had eight days to film the castle scene. They wouldn't let the construction crew on to the site because they were concerned if a sheep or deer on the land got foot and mouth, they would have to kill all of them. So a wire which you could not go beyond was put around the castle. Quinn riding the horse up the hill was a huge deal because that was outside our border. To have worked for a year on the movie and realise at that point the end of the movie was in jepordy was a bit of a hair-raiser.