A couple of weeks back, I was fortunate enough to interview actors Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who were in Sydney to promote their new film, the ambitious comic book adaptation, Watchmen.
Regardless of my being the last interviewee of a 12 hour day filled with countless interviews and media appearances, both Akerman and Morgan were a courteous and extremely down to earth pair, who were more than happy to chat about the themes and controversies surrounding their new film.
Thanks to Network PR and Paramount Pictures Australia for organising a fun sit down. Enjoy!
Matthew Pejkovic: Were you familiar with the comic book previously?
Malin Akerman: Jeff saw it for the first time, what, a couple of years back?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Yeah, the graphic novel.
MA: He saw the graphic novel before he saw the script, and I was vice-versa, I saw the script and got the graphic novel. And I think we were both hooked, you know?
JDM: I don’t think any one of else in the movie, except for maybe (Patrick) Wilson... and did Jackie Earl?... Jackie Earl knew it...
MA: Yeah, and Patrick Wilson. But most of us were newbies, we were kind of virgins to these novels.
MP: And both of you guys are hooked on to it now?
MA: Yeah, we’re huge fans!
JDM: I don’t know how many times I’ve read that book, man. Rough estimate I would say 40 times. And I find something new in it every time I read the book, and still do, and that says something since I studied every fucking panel in that thing numerous times. It’s a very tricky, odd book in that way, I don’t know how (Watchmen creator) Alan Moore did that. It’s so dense, it’s such a dense piece of work.
MA: It really is. There is just so much information. That was our sort of our reference through the whole film. We will always be carrying our books around, and checking out our scene we are about to film, and it was really cool to do that. I personally never had anything where there was a source material where you could visually see what you are about to do, and it was a really amazing experience.
MP: The film ends on a very morally ambiguous tone. Could either of you envision the average cinema goer, who is used to Superman saving the day and getting the girl, leaving the cinema in a kind of perplexed state?
MA: Oh yeah!
JDM: But I think that is what we were hoping. I think that the greatest thing about this movie, is that it takes these sort of pre-conceived notions, and says “fuck you” to them. Even in knowing this material as well as I did, when I first saw the movie, I walked out of the theatre and was kind of speechless.
JDM: And I was a part of making the damn thing! And I was dumbstruck...or awe struck...
MA: (Laughs) Dumbstruck is cool... Yeah, but it was definitely impactful. It’s its own genre of film. It’s gonna be like a knock out, you know? I wanna walk out and see something like Vanilla Sky when you go... (odd look from Jeffrey dean Morgan) ... I mean it’s not even comparable, and you go...
MA: ...is this a dream, or is it real? You are gonna be analysing, and asking yourself questions for many days.
JDM: That has to be the most obscure thing I have heard in my whole life.
MA: (Laughs) Well, it makes you think when you walk out....
JDM: Vanilla Sky!?
MP: So, with a film like Watchmen - or the book itself - are we in agreement that comic books and the films that are based on them have gone beyond the spandex and the capes, and onto bigger issues? This film in particular..politics, religion...we as a species, it just examines the whole thing, doesn’t it?
MA: Yeah, it really examines the human realm from, you know, the worst we can be...
JDM: I think we made it more grittier and more real. The Dark Knight, I think, in a way has opened the door for fans to be open to... you, know, it’s not these bright colours and happy endings. I think – and again, this is my opinion – that Watchmen takes what The Dark Knight did, and amps it up another two million, you know, watts. It takes darkness to a whole other level. To me... I don’t know, I keep saying Taxi Driver. It kind of reminds me of the grit of it, the dirty sort of fell to it, which is amazing. It is amazing how it is carried in that way.
MP: Watchmen also had quite a physical punch to it as well. It seemed to be a very physically demanding film. How did you both prepare yourselves for it?
MA: Well, there was a lot of prep work. And then we had moths before, the actual shooting, we started to be trained by former Navy seals, to just kind of bulk up and gain some muscle mass.
JDM: And the best fighters in the world, you know?
MA: Yeah, we had, amazing stunt men and stunt co-ordinators, who just put the pieces together like art work. It was amazing working with them ,and frustrating at times, because to actually look like you have been fighting for 15 years, is not an easy task in two months. But it was constant. There was constant fight training, and new choreographies, and it was tough and was physically draining. But at the same time it was super cool, and amazing to learn these new...
JDM: Now that it is done, and we have seen it, it’s like all has paid off.
JDM: There were days when none of us wanted to be in fight training. You know, it was horrible...
MA: Especially on the days off!
JDM: Yeah. We were there for so long...
MA: Six months.
JDM: We were in Vancouver for... and I love Vancouver, and the people are really nice. But my God! If I ever go back there again it will be too soon! (Laughs) There were long and trying days. I was hurt all the time! All I had to do was walk down the street, and I will be pulling something! I was sore the entire time I was there. But now that we have seen this, we are so happy that it is going to be seen by people... there was a chance that no one was going to see this movie with all the stuff that had been happening lately.
MP: Were you very nervous when the lawsuit popped up...?
JDM: I was scared!
MA: I was very scared. All of that hard work...
JDM: I was like, “The Alan Moore curse is true!” There has always been something with this freaking thing.
MA: Twenty years in the making!
MP: These are some conflicted characters. The Comedian especially is one nasty piece of work. How did you...some of those scenes! How do you get yourself in that mindset?
JDM: Well, I knew going in what I was getting myself into, because again, we had the source material. But I never thought myself as a method actor, or anything else. You know, I go do my job, and I go home and I’m fine, I’m back to being my jackass self. But there was a couple of days on this, in particular the rape scene... it was hard. And look, I love playing the bad guy! Playing the bad guy is the most fun you will ever have. It’s so fun! Its cowboys and Indians. I love it! I kind of really dug my teeth into it. The Comedian had such undeniably nihilistic qualities, and I was just so fucking excited playing him. And then it hit me one day when I was beating the crap out of Carla (Gugino): “Fuck!” And I saw, not even a two second playback of me punching her in the face. And I was like; “This might be a fucking mistake! What am I doing beating the crap out of this girl in a film?” And then I put it behind me, and went back and punched her some more, (laughs) but there was a moment where I was like “What have I gotten myself into?” And I beat myself up a couple of days from that scene. It was a hard scene to film, and I get that. I get it. I love it. It’s make believe, and I get into it. But beating the crap out of a woman...yeah, that affected me. I took that home.
Watchmen will be released in Australia on the 5th of March, through Paramount Pictures Australia.