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INTERVIEW: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein Explore the Power of ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’

Chris Pine and Chloe Coleman in D&D

The shock of 2023 so far in the movie world has been the brilliance that is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. A movie that is genuinely a fun time and something that I think fans have just gravitated towards because of how light and exciting it is, the movie was written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Michael Gilio also wrote the script with them). You know, the masterminds who have given us classics like Game Night?

And their work has yet again given us a movie that you’ll want to watch over and over again. In preparation for the film’s release, we spoke with Daley and Goldstein about the movie and what it took to bring Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves to life. And for them, it was about the emotional journey that the characters (and the audience) were going on together.

“I think one of the things that’s important to us is using heart to fuse the comedic components and the action moments together in a way that it doesn’t feel too jarring when you’re kind of swinging back and forth between those feelings,” Daley said.

Which then led to Goldstein talking about how they use characters in their work. “It all starts with the characters,” Goldstein said. “For us, whatever we write, we’re thinking about who are these people you’re following? Why are you gonna invest in them? Why do you care what happens to them? And so the humor just comes naturally out of those characters that we create. And the heart does too, because if you’re invested, then you’re gonna cry if something bad happens to ’em.”

Writing with characters in mind

While the archetypes of a Dungeons & Dragons character is what inspires each individual player to create their own character and story, with a movie adaptation it is a bit different. So I asked Goldstein and Daley about whether or not they crafted the script with actors in mind or did the casting process just naturally find perfect versions of Edgin, Holga, Simon, and Doric.

“I think we had a general sense of what we wanted each character to represent, but it wasn’t until we cast it that we knew exactly how to solidify that character’s personality and what makes each of them tick,” Daley said. “And it was also very important to us that each of them be very different from one another. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez could not be more disparate in their personalities and who they are generally, but they have this fondness for each other on and off camera. And that I think is what makes it shine.”

A story about a father and his daughter

The heart of Honor Among Thieves comes from Edgin’s (Chris Pine) relationship with his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). While not perfect, Edgin is trying to be a better father for his daughter and we see that struggle throughout the movie and so I asked them about focusing the story on this relationship in particular.

“I think that was the tonal needle we were trying to thread through much of the film, which was that it never stops being fun and funny, but that the funny parts don’t undermine the serious meaningful stakes parts of the film,” Goldstein said. “Because if it goes too far, it becomes a spoof. And then I think the audience checks out in terms of caring about the danger. And so it was always important to us to keep the feeling alive that they’re facing things that could kill them. But you know, I think when you do it right, the laugh is a great tension release and it doesn’t hurt the investment the audience has.”

Which then led Daley to talk about their characters and the arc they were going on. “It was also our intention to keep each of our characters’ stories relatively simple in the narrative sense,” he said. “Which I think allows you to work within that canvas and be able to deviate from the norm without completely disrupting, I think, the baseline of what the story is.”

Future D&D stories?

I asked about exploring Simon and Doric’s dynamic in another movie and, for Daley, he said that he is a bit superstitious about talking about sequels or the future of this franchise but that they did focus on building these characters to be strong entries into the world. Even if I do want to see more adventures with this team.

“I mean, we’re very superstitious when it comes to sequel talk,” Daley said. “That said, I think what we’ve established is the groundwork for each of our characters, storylines that can open the door to a number of possibilities of where they can go. It’s kind of why we kept it simple from the start because we have so many of these characters that we want to fulfill their arcs throughout the movie. But it also provides a really good jumping off point if we were to tackle another movie.

And so I ended our interview asking them both what they hoped audiences took away from the movie and, for Goldstein, it’s about the feeling of movies they both loved growing up. “Our biggest hope is that this movie falls into sort of the pantheon of the movies that inspired us when we were making it,” he said. “Spielberg movies like Jurassic Park and ET and Indiana Jones. And just fun, Monty Python and Princess Bride. The kinds of comedies that you don’t see too often that combine kind of the silly with the smart. And we set out to make a movie that would appeal to both fans and non-fans of the game that is just an adventure with some great laughs and some heart and a great way to just take two hours and forget your problems and lose yourself in a fantasy adventure.” Yeah.”

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is in theaters now!

(Featured image: Paramount Pictures & eOne Entertainment)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.