Netflix enters the blockbuster arena this year with Bright, a film that pairs eternally beloved star Will Smith with his Suicide Squad director David Ayer. The first trailer for Bright debuted during the Oscars, giving viewers a peek at the film’s unique blend of modern-day reality and high fantasy.
“I love how bizarre it is,” Smith tells EW. “I’ve been saying it’s Training Day — a gritty LA cop drama, the darkness and handheld grittiness — meets Lord of the Rings. There’s orcs and fairies and elves, mean-ass elves.”
Joel Edgerton plays an orc named Jakoby, the partner to Will Smith’s character. “I am the first orc, under a diversity program, to be allowed into the police force,” Edgerton explains. His fellow officers do not welcome him with open arms. “I’m under investigation already for an incident that involved an orc who should have been apprehended but managed to escape. The feeling is that I looked after my own kind first and neglected to do my job as a result.”
“He’s like the Jackie Robinson of orcs,” Smith says. “He has to make it go right, or other orcs won’t have a shot. So he’s taking on the social responsibility of being a good cop, with the weight of his people on his shoulders.”
Getting into character is an intriguing challenge for Edgerton, who spends up to three hours in the makeup chair becoming an orc. “Orcs are very lumber-y and slow,” he explains, “but they’re also incredibly strong.”
Smith plays Ward, who isn’t too happy about his new partner. “I’m getting ridiculed by other members of the police force,” he explains. “In their interpretation, I’m giving him a fair shot, and I should really just be trying to get him off of the force.” The script by Max Landis had a social subtext that intrigued Smith. “There’s a great scene where we’re sitting in the car, and the other police officers are beating up an orc. My character asks [Edgerton’s] the question, ‘Are you a cop first or an orc first? You need to decide.’ Juxtaposed against the imagery of him watching this orc being beaten by the police, I thought it was really cool.”
The central odd-couple dynamic, familiar from the buddy-cop genre, plays out against the backdrop of a Los Angeles that is simultaneously familiar and fantastical. “In one of the early scenes, my character has an argument with his girlfriend, and she says, ‘You haven’t killed that fairy in the bird feeder, either! Stop being a punk and go kill that fairy!’ It’s an 8-inch tall fairy, but fairies blow blue flames, so a fairy could actually really hurt you,” Smith laughs. “It’s this bizarre blending of worlds that I hope will be beautiful.”
Ayer wrote the script for Training Day and directed the neo-classic LAPD thriller End of Watch. To a certain extent, Bright follows that storytelling tradition, as Ward and Jakoby find themselves on a call that spirals out of control. “The use of magic in this world is illegal, like a high-tech weapon should be,” Smith explains. The officers receive a call to what appears to be a simple disturbance in a house near downtown Los Angeles. It leads them, Smith explains, to “a discovery of a magical relic, an artifact of the Dark Lord’s war against humanity.”
What ensues pushes the officers to their limit, but Edgerton stresses that it’s an emotional journey. “It’s the forming of a trust relationship between us,” says Edgerton. “I think we are hopefully on our way to becoming friends.”
Bright is slated for a December release.