Borderlands, the video game franchise that defined the looter-shooter genre, is poised to get its own cinematic universe — and it’s about time. All six base games in the series are well-loved by fans for their fantastical lore and quirky characters, who you better believe will be making their on-screen debut with director Eli Roth’s upcoming film adaptation of the franchise.
There’s still a way to go before the film hits theaters this summer. In the meantime, IGN sat down with Roth and Randy Pitchford, founder of Gearbox Entertainment and an executive producer on the movie, to talk all things Borderlands ahead of tomorrow’s first official trailer release. You can watch an exclusive quick sneak peek at the trailer via the player above or the embed below.
And if that weren’t enough, IGN can also exclusively reveal the new poster for the Borderlands movie, as shown below.
From the way Pitchford and Roth interact, even on a video call, you’d think they were brothers. They both exude the same fun-loving goofiness that makes Borderlands, well, Borderlands. To me, this was best exemplified by the way the two creatives continued to interrupt one another with comedic anecdotes about their time on set.
But jokes aside, the two mesh well on a professional level which bodes well for this video game adaptation. Roth was given extensive creative liberty on the project while Pitchford was on stand-by as a resource to provide deeper insight on the original series.
“Obviously, it’s Randy’s baby, it’s his brainchild, and it’s everybody’s brainchild,” Roth said. “You’re stepping into a world that is so beloved and the fans are so hardcore that you think, ‘Okay, well, I really don’t want to screw this up.’”
Thankfully, Pitchford was open to pretty much everything. Roth recalled how Pitchford was even receptive to the idea of keeping Claptrap alive and entertained the Cabin Fever director’s various suggestions for how the robot might be able to expel bullets: “Is it like a tail goes up and… are they little rabbit pellets?”
In truth, it’s a blessing this adaptation was made, and it speaks highly to Pitchford’s faith in Roth as a director. Since the start of his career in the games industry, Pitchford said he’d been turning down requests to adapt his studio’s work into film. Ari Arad, who is now the producer of the upcoming Borderlands movie, came to Pitchford with several iterations of the script before the deal was sealed.
“Finally, we were playing League of Legends together one day, Ari and I. He was the support and I was the ADC,” Pitchford explained. “We were talking on chat, like on Discord, about the possibility of a movie while we were playing.”
(In an ironic twist, the Gearbox Entertainment founder clarified that he was playing as Caitlyn, who he says “was completely ripped off from Mad Moxxi from Borderlands, by full comfortable admission of the Riot team.”)
From there, the two began to play video games together frequently, which gave Pitchford the confidence to finally sign off on developing a film adaptation of the Borderlands series. (So I guess business deals don’t happen on the golf course anymore.)
As in the game, the upcoming film will take place on the fictional planet of Pandora for an action-packed adventure featuring some of the franchise’s most beloved characters. In this all-new interpretation of the video game series, viewers will see the red-headed outlaw Lilith unite with a team of unlikely heroes to locate a missing girl who could change the fate of the universe.
“At a certain point you just have to pick, these are our characters, this is the story we’re going with, and let’s just make the best one possible,” Roth told me, reflecting on the decision-making process of what characters would appear in the upcoming film.
Because the movie is not canon to the video game series, the creative team behind the Borderlands movie had free reign to select from the unique cast of characters across the franchise — some of whom don’t appear until later games in the original storyline.
The film features a star-studded line-up of performers led by Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett as Lilith alongside Ariana Greenblatt as Tiny Tina, Jack Black as the voice of Claptrap, Jamie Lee Curtis as Tannis, Kevin Hart as Roland, Florian Munteanu as Krieg, and Gina Gershon as Moxxi.
Other additions to the full cast list include Edgar Ramírez, Bobby Lee, Janina Gavankar, Olivier Richters, Cheyenne Jackson, Benjamin Byron Davis, Charles Babalola, Steven Boyer, Ryann Redmond, Paula Andrea Placido, and more.
“I was like, ‘Find me the weirdest, gnarliest people. We’ll put them in the movie.’ And everybody, they loved it,” Roth said.
Roth and Pitchford shed light on what it was like convincing some of these actors to say “yes.” We obviously had to find out what made someone like Blanchett pull the trigger on a project like this, and the answer is, honestly, heartwarming.
In our conversation, Roth likened the Tár actor to one of the three greatest female performers in history. Their working relationship dates back to the director’s 2018 fantasy film, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, in which Blanchett starred alongside Black. So, when it came time to figure out who would be a fitting lead for the Borderlands cast, there was no doubt in Roth’s mind that the Oscar winner was the best pick.
“I think with me, she has permission to go a little bit weird and a little bit insane because it’s like, ‘Well, it’s Eli,’” Roth said. “It’s just like, ‘Let’s go have fun.’ But she’s obviously very serious about her character.”
For Curtis, the decision to join the cast was largely spurred by her gamer daughter, who is a fan of the Borderlands franchise, saying “‘Mom, you have to do this movie,’” as Pitchford recalled.
In Black’s case, the roots run even deeper. Back in 2012, he brought his son to E3 when Borderlands 2 was first being teased. Black asked Pitchford for a demo of the game, and the Gearbox founder told him that he would have to play Claptrap if a film adaptation of the franchise were ever to be made. The Nacho Libre star, of course, readily agreed.
“Whether you’ve played a Borderlands game or not, it’s a fun movie. It’s a really, really fun movie,” Pitchford said.
Borderlands will be released in U.S. theaters by Lionsgate on Aug. 9, 2024.