Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Interview: Malin Akerman (Watchmen)

Until recently Swedish born Canadian model turned actress Malin Akerman would probably have done well to be recognised as that crazy blonde psycho from Ben Stiller’s The Heartbreak Kid. Not so much anymore: Malin it seems is destined to become the next Hollywood household name if Watchmen hits a home run, and probably even if it doesn’t.

When I caught up with Malin I found her to be quite a genuine, unassuming and fun-loving character with honest, smiling eyes, and one who has come a long way to find this role. As Silk Spectre II/Laurie Jupiter, Malin puts in a solid performance that at times is very good. Her dialogue might not always hit the mark, but I was impressed by the sense of wonder she brought to the character. Here she tells me how she became involved in Watchmen, her thoughts on Laurie and about singing karaoke with Patrick Wilson and Billy Crudup…

How are you doing?

I’m alright.

Feeling pretty excited yet?

Oh my God, you know what’s really cool has been getting all of people’s reactions to the film today. This is our first view into what people are thinking and feeling about it.

Is this the first press you guys have done since finishing the film?

We haven’t done anything yet, you guys are the first. You’re popping our cherries! We’re still excited at this point – I can’t say what we’ll be like by the end of the month… we’ve got a long way ahead.

So, the inevitable question you'll be asked a hundred more time: had you read the novel before casting?

Not before casting, I read the script and after reading the script I went out and bought the book right away. I read the script, did the initial audition just off the script then bought the novel and started reading it and was amazed at how allegiant it was apart from few scenes cut out because of length issues. I read it and fell in love with it like any fan and I get the craze for it, it’s so well written and such a thought-provoking novel. Yeah, that was my first time and I got to read it before I went in for my second audition.

What was your impression when you read the script; was it something that surprised you?

Yes, I didn’t understand what had just happened to me. I mean I did understand, but it was one of those things where you just could never have expected, at all. When I was told it was based on a graphic novel I was expecting Superman, Batman, but it’s nothing like that at all. It’s very disconcerting and it turns your stomach at certain times and makes you happy at others. It really is an emotional rollercoaster you go through that leaves you thinking at the end going, ‘shit, so who is the bad guy’?

What was that casting process like and talking through those themes with Zack Snyder?

The casting process was quite quick, just two times. One was I sent in a tape and he responded to it and I went and met with him and we just connected just as people. You know Zack has so much energy and he’s so enthralling and gets you excited. We talked about Laurie a bit and it’s easy to relate to her aside from the fact that she’s a crime-fighter, which I’ve never been. She is a girl who has a complicated relationship with one of her parents, her mother, and she’s going through a crisis figuring out who she is as an individual and what she wants to with her life. You know we all go through that soul-searching coming of age. So we were just talking about making her a real person who happens to be a crime-fighter. I mean that’s basically what it is, we’re not superhuman, we don’t have powers, it’s a real story and the struggles are more within us than it is bad versus good in the real world.

Laurie is an interesting character and has a lot more to her beneath that surface level, a sense of pent up anger and frustration with her life and also these other scenes in the film where she has a total sense of wonder about the world around her…

Absolutely, for me it was almost as if she had grown up in a family where she had a stage mom who pushed her into something she didn’t necessarily have a choice in and I think there’s a lot of resentment in her toward that. That’s where her anger comes from fighting crime and doing her thing. She’s go that fire within her but at the same time she’s feels very innocent because I think she’s been very sheltered at the same time. She’s has lived with Dr Manhattan for 15 years, she doesn’t really know the real world, it’s such an alternate world for her compared to everyone else living around her. I think that’s why the range of emotions is such, because she gets out into the real world and finds a real man that she falls in love with and she gets to take out her anger and reconcile with her mother. It’s very real for her, almost like a child coming into age when she leaves Dr Manhattan.

All the characters have some kind of arc but Laurie’s does feel like one of the largest and most tangible…

It’s a nice sort of journey that most people take over a matter of years, finding out who they want to be and what they want to do.

How hands-on is Zack as a director?

He’s very hands on in the sense that he is super supportive and he knows what he needs to get out of us. But you know he was very collaborative, a lot of times we’d all come in and be like ‘this line in the book is really cool, can’t we incorporate it into the scene’, and he’d be like ‘yeah sure, let’s give it a shot’. He was always excited and his energy level was always a 100 per cent, he never lost his cool. He was phenomenal to work with, I put all my trust in him working on this.

It sounds from what you’re saying, and some of the other impressions I get from the film and the people I’ve spoken to, that what everyone has brought to this project. Everyone brought 110 per cent and really gone for it… it must have been an amazing cast and crew to work with…

Yeah it was incredible and I think that anyone what reads Watchmen automatically becomes a fan – it’s just too good. So when we had all read the novel and started working on this film we knew what we were getting ourselves into and we all wanted to make it the best it could be because we were all now fans. It was a fabulous experience, the actors were great, I’m so happy Zack choose the people he did, every single one of them was perfectly cast. It just felt like everyone just fell into their characters and it was an amazing thing to watch. The crew were amazing, it was just such a supportive environment and we needed that because it was six months of work.

How difficult was it for you as an actress to work opposite Billy Crudup covering in blue LED lights?

It was crazy, the first week it took a bit of getting used too. Poor Billy, everyone just laughed in his face. It was just such a silly costume and he’s supposed to be this larger than life type of character and here he is looking like a human Christmas tree. We poked a lot of fun at him. There was a lot of imagination that you had to use in scenes with Billy, but you got used to it after a while of course and it wasn’t hard because he is such a wonderful actor as well. Once you start to get into it you forget about all of the dots on his face and the light. But yeah, it wasn’t easy at first, it was a little challenge to overcome.

Always with these big ensemble casts that strike up a repartee there are some great stories, anything you could share?

There are stories that I can’t really talk about… no I’m just kidding. We all hung out a lot together. I can’t remember anything on set…

Off-set is good too!

Off set, well you know I had one really fun night with Patrick (Wilson) and Billy and all the rest of the boys out of town…

It must have been a bit of boys club…

It was a bit of a boys club going on and I love it, you guys are so cool. We were walking down the streets after dinner in an area where there were a bunch of Korean stores and we said, let’s go do some Karaoke. And so we walked upstairs into this very random Korean shopping mall and at the very back there was these tiny little karaoke booths and so there I was singing karaoke with Billy Crudup and Patick Wilson. Billy was singing Sinaad O’Conner and it was just a surreal amazing moment and we had so much fun. It was so random. Patrick Wilson is an amazing singer, he was Phantom of the Opera at some point, yeah, he did the show as the Phantom.

You didn’t get some cast and crew karaoke going in later then?

We wanted to, we never got around to it…

Obviously you wouldn’t let Patrick Wilson play.

Yeah, he’s not allowed. Well he had to add a lot of foul words to the songs to make it kinda fun you know cos otherwise it’s not fair.

What your take on the ending? Would you rather live in the peaceful world with the lie or continue on in this honest violent world we live in today?

I would prefer the first, because there’s this old saying what you don’t know won’t hurt you. And there’s some truth to that. If the end result is what matters, then however you’re going to get there – actually let’s not put it that way because I don’t know how I feel about the people who have to die to get there. It’s a really tough question. I’d prefer the little white lie, just a little white lie you know.

Has working on Watchmen opened doors for you? Are you already finding that to be the case you think?

Absolutely, I feel like it’s opened doors to not only comedies now and this was exactly what I was hoping. I wasn’t specifically looking for Watchmen and I’m so glad that’s what it became, but I was looking for something that wasn’t comedy and when I read the script it was phenomenal and a great opportunity and I still can’t believe I got it, it’s just crazy. But definitely it has opened more doors to non-comedic roles, so now I can do both.

Interview by Scott Henderson (Feb 12, 2009)
Watchmen is released in Australia March 6, 2009
Check back on Dark Habits for interviews with Zack Snyder, Debbie Snyder and the Comedian himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.