Chris Pine, Rege-Jean Page – Variety

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” stole the hearts of audiences when it world premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 10, whether or not they’ve played the 50-year-old role-playing game that shares its title.

The action-comedy stars Chris Pine as a debauched bard named Edgin and Michelle Rodriguez as his platonic life partner, tough warrior Holga. The two embark on a quest to reunite Edgin with his estranged daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), and they end up working with Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a valiant paladin; Simon (Justice Smith), a wizard with an inferiority complex; and Doric (Sophia Lillis), a no-frills shapeshifting druid. Rounding out the cast, Hugh Grant portrays Forge Fitzwilliam, Edgin and Holga’s untrustworthy former compatriot; and Daisy Head as Sofina, a powerful witch who is more than she initially appears.

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, film festival director Claudette Godfrey said she liked the film because it was accessible to people like her who had never played the game. Next, Goldstein asked how many people in the audience had already played D&D, and the room erupted in cheers.

The love for the game continued throughout the film, with Easter eggs and references eliciting laughs and applause, and especially in the post-screening Q&As.

“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 aren’t many laughs.”

When asked which of the cast had the most D&D experience, Page and Lillis continued to point fingers at each other, until Rodriguez burst in.

“I mean I played for three years as a kid in Jersey City, does that count?” Rodríguez said. “We broke all the rules.”

Pine said he had no experience with D&D before signing on for the film, but played a game with his family before filming.

An audience member asked what kind of character the actors and filmmakers would want to play in a real D&D game, or if they’d rather be the Dungeon Master (or DM), who designs and directs the game.

“I got to see my dad play as a warrior,” Pine said. “He is 82 years old. It’s like improvisation. It’s an actor’s game.

“Even if I wanted to be a DM, I wouldn’t admit it, because I would look like a self-centered creature,” Rodriguez joked.

“I love being a bard so much,” Pine said, referring to her character. “No prep. Lots of smiles.”

Page said he would like to play Smith as a wizard using “wild magic”, prompting Smith to joke, “I’d be myself too.”

Lillis added, “I’d probably be a cleric, because that’s one thing this group lacked.”

The culmination of the Q&A came when Rochelle Riley, the City of Detroit’s director of arts and culture, asked the filmmakers if their decision to cast ‘beautiful men’ in the film was ‘nerd revenge’ . After the audience laughter died down, Goldstein said, “Rather, we saw them as extensions of ourselves.”

Riley then asked for something “every woman in the room wants”: a photo with Page. The actor bravely agreed, jumping into the audience and posing for several photos with Riley, who quickly passed out on the floor.

“It was a fantastic movie – I’ve never played the game and probably won’t again,” she said breathlessly as she stood up. “But when I get back to Detroit, I’ll tell everyone to go see it.”

When she returned to her seat, Variety asked Riley if she was okay.

“No!” she replied. “I will never be the same again!”

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