If you're fee-fi-fo-foaming at the mouth for a film about fearsome giants, this is the revisionist fairy tale for you. Directed by Bryan Singer (Superman Returns, X-Men), Jack the Giant Slayer is loosely based on age-old stories like Jack and the Beanstalk and the darker Jack the Giant Killer, which grew up around the legends of King Arthur. The big-budget 3-D extravaganza stars Nicholas Hoult as the titular farmhand who sells his horse for a few magic beans. He's warned not to get them wet—like gremlins—but guess what? Wet happens. The resulting beanstalk provides a gateway between our world and a race of warrior giants who were banished from Earth centuries ago. Ready for a massive battle? Gear up with these fun-sized facts:
1. Hoult Is Hot: Nicholas Hoult has been on fire since he was named one of Variety's "Top 10 Actors to Watch" in 2010. The following year, he appeared as Hank McCoy in X-Men: First Class, which marked his first time working with Singer, who produced. He'll reprise the role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, slated for July 2014. Hoult just wrapped production on the Mad Max sequel Fury Road and most recently starred as love-struck zombie R in Warm Bodies. As Jack, he's very much alive and pining for Princess Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson (Alice in Wonderland).
2. Building the Perfect Beasts: When designing the not-so-gentle giants, the filmmakers experimented with height differences between giant and human before selecting a four-to-one ratio. Sizing the man-eating ogres at approximately 25 feet made them appropriately intimidating but also allowed the desired level of interactivity—chomp! Director Singer wanted the CGI giants to be real characters with personality and emotion, so he cast strong actors and employed motion- and facial-capture technology. The CG images and live-action scenes were then integrated using technology developed for Avatar.
3. Hissable Baddies: Stanley Tucci wears creepy fake teeth and long hair to play sinister Roderick, who makes a power-grab by trying to rule over the giants. (And you thought Tucci was dwarfed by Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia!) Bill Nighy costars as General Fallon, leader of the giants, and the actor trades a tentacle beard (Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean sequels) for a second head. To achieve Fallon's raspy voice, Nighy screamed for 20 minutes in his car every morning before shooting. Ouch.
4. A Towering Achievement: The stratosphere-stretching beanstalk is an amazing showcase piece, a mix of physical and digital elements. The huge vine the actors climb was constructed from plywood, foam, plaster, and rubber. Additional leaves and tendrils were added later with CGI. For the thrilling sequence of a stalk bursting through Jack's house, effects crews built a hydraulic house set and rocked it with shaker motors and pneumatics under the floor. They joined these stunts with a digital stalk, which is why SFX wizards make the big bucks—and not beans.
5. Once Upon a Time and Place: Singer wanted to create the stylized look of a fairytale mixed with reality, so the production filmed at lush estates in the U.K. and enhanced certain locations with CGI. The film's approximately 2,000 costumes, many fashioned by hand, also reflect a fantastical theme. Designers took creative license by combining traditional medieval shapes with art and fashion influences from later centuries. The result is a world that's more colorful and ornate than it historically would have been—back in those old, untrendy days.