Emmanuel Itier: What is your relation with comics? Were you a fan growing up?
Carla Gugino: Oh, very briefly. I was not a huge fan of comic books as a kid. I was a fan of many things that were turned into movies and television shows, based on comic books. But when I did Sin City, which was a Frank Miller graphic novel -- back then I worked with him as well -- I started to become more introduced to that world and have a great appreciation for it. I hadn’t read Watchmen until this. I knew of it and I was completely blown away and sort of became an obsessive fan of it as well.
EI: It took almost six months to shoot this movie. Did you get breaks, or was it done in one piece?
Patrick Wilson: We lived there, with the exception of Carla, because we all lived there from August until February, I think, or something like that.
Malin Akerman: And there wasn’t really a rhyme or reasoning to the scheduling; it was more just what set we were on.
PW: No, it was all about the sets being built.
MA: Because when you’re on that one set, you do all the scenes that you have on that set, then you move to the next. So it really depended. Some weeks you’d work all week long, and the next you’d work maybe two days. So it just depended.
EI: Malin, this is your first kick-ass role. Tell us about it.
MA: It was fantastic. The one thing that was great about this role is that you got to learn how to fight. I mean, I can’t actually go out and fight on the streets...
PW: You should.
CG: Or maybe you can.
MA: We’ll see what happens. But that element to it was, at first, really painful because they started two months before the movie and did some training with a former Navy SEAL. And so it was pretty much boot camp for a month straight because I was, of course, the only dumb-ass who had to be in a latex suit. Everyone else got muscles built into their suits, and mine had no room for mistakes. So I did have to train for a month, and then we all got shipped over to Vancouver and started our fight training, which was amazing and frustrating at once because you see these stunt doubles do all the moves and they’re showing you how to do it and, God, that looks so cool, and you try to do it and look in the mirror, and I felt like a ballerina trying to do fight moves. It was like, "I’m never going to get this." But it was a challenge and it was nice to overcome it, and once you were in that scene doing all the moves with 15 guys coming at you, it was a pretty phenomenal feeling.
EI: Malin, you’re playing a second generation superhero, because they kind of push her into that. I heard you say, in another interview, that girls could see themselves in that, being pushed by their parents into stuff. Did you get pushed by your parents in any way to become an actor?
MA: No, they were trying to push me to go to a university. But you grow up with it and, especially in this business, you see a lot of stage mothers who are pushing their kids into doing this job, or anywhere really. A lot of times, parents want you to follow in their footsteps and they are proud. I think that’s something that we see pretty much every day in any kind of business or family.
EI: Carla, the prosthetics and everything -- how long did it take you to get into that stuff every day?
CG: It was four hours. If there was a 9:00 a.m. call, I was in at 5:00, which makes you feel old. [Laughs] It was really wild, though. Obviously, we had the best people on the movie, and they were so extraordinary and such lovely people. They did Benjamin Button as well, and they’re there with you for hours in a very small space, and I’m sure Jeffrey could talk to you about it as well. But they have to see you go through every human emotion. I think I dealt with it slightly better. He had a little longer makeup time, to his credit.
MA: Six hours.
CG: Yeah, but it was incredibly helpful and really informative for what I wanted to do with her at that age, and as soon as that came on, it was final. Oftentimes, as an actor, it will be something like you find the right shoe or the right hat or the accent or something and, for me, definitely as the older Sally because that was the more challenging part for me. The younger one was just fun. It was really good and really helpful.
EI: How long is that -- four hours a day for how long were you on the set?
CG: It was four hours and then you’re on the set for 12 or whatever -- 10 or 12.
EI: How many days?
CG: That was the thing -- there’s one scene that’s not in the movie that we shot as old Sally with Hollis Mason and myself on the phone. But really, what you see in the movie, plus that scene, I think it was probably only five days or so that I was in that, so I really got off easily in that regard. I got to enjoy it, appreciate it, and then be done with it.
EI: You play the older Sally Jupiter just great, but there are so many old actors in Hollywood. Why did they give this role to a 30-something actress?
CG: I agree with you, obviously, that there are so many older actresses who don’t get many opportunities to do great roles and are amazing at what they do, and I hope that switches around. In this particular case, I actually was curious when they asked me about this role because I was also surprised that they weren’t going to go with somebody older. The reason that Zack [Snyder], I believe, and you can ask him this, but certainly from our conversations, is that he felt like one of the most vital things of making that character work and, more importantly, making it work in the context of the story for Laurie’s storyline, for the whole circle of events, and with Comedian as well, is that we needed to see her in her prime. I think they can do that digitally now and get an older actress and make her look younger early on, but I think it needed to feel actually real, like you were living with her in this highlight movement of her life, where she was the star. So then, when you see it taken away, you understand the resonance of that, hopefully, and you understand why she tries to force her into doing it. So he added the whole title sequence with Zack’s invention to bring everyone into the movie, so I think that made more of young Sally important. I think that was why he did it, and it was a very conscious choice. Again, that’s why I felt a great responsibility to doing the latter part of the role well because there are people that age who could actually do it really well.
EI: While Malin was doing the training, you were eating, obviously.
PW: I was training too. [Laughs]
MA: Training and eating!
PW: We were up there, I guess, about a month before, doing all the fight training and being real specific in the style that we wanted. Definitely my character is coming at it from a much different place in his life, so I certainly wanted to. It wasn’t any grand mystery or nobody asked me to, but I wanted to gain the weight for it, and I had never done anything like that. But the problem is, honestly, all joking aside, I couldn’t just sit around and eat hamburgers or anything and not work out because then, as soon as you put on the suit and try to do anything, you’re dead in the water. So I had to find a balance of doing a very specific actual workout with the trainer to have it not burn as many calories as everybody else, so I wasn’t being counterproductive and losing the weight. I actually would do a lot of heavy lifting, whether it was fat or not, to gain muscle mass so that I didn’t have to burn it all off doing cardio. It was actually a weird dynamic to gain weight and to still play a super hero.
EI: Patrick, how much did you know about Malin before?
PW: I didn’t know a lot about Malin.
EI: How was it working with her?
MA: Be nice. [Laughs]
CG: She’s got a reputation to uphold.
PW: No, it was fantastic. I didn’t know Malin at all. I met with them and we all sat down. Part of the joy of doing this kind of thing anyway is the backgrounds that people come from and all the different sides of the business, whether it’s Malin or whether it’s Jackie or Billy... We’re such an oddball group of people, in a way, and I love that. We got along great, which was super important for us, just as people, because of the journey these two characters go through. That would not have been as easy if we didn’t have that trust and, luckily, we just hit it off right away. It was very comforting.
EI: Were you nervous for the sex scene? Usually they say, “Oh, we wanted to get rid of that at the beginning..." or whatever. How was filming that and when did it come about?
MA: We waited until...well, we didn’t. I mean it was… [Laughs]
CG: They were in a long relationship before they finally decided to have sex.
MA: We did actually get to wait until the end of the shooting. It was towards the end, which was really nice because, again, that allowed us to create just a relationship between the two of us as people and getting to know each other and being more comfortable around each other. Of course, it is one of those things where it’s never comfortable. You’re not walking around going, "Please let me take my clothes off." [Laughs] But it’s so pertinent to the novel and to the film, it’s an amazing moment that we all kind of wait for, and so I would say, as long as it’s not gratuitous and it’s beautifully done and it was classy and it was respectful...and everyone on the set was so respectful.
PW: It was a very small, closed set, so none of the people were allowed in there.
MA: Yeah, it was a small space.
EI: Is it changing somehow in Hollywood, or is it my imagination? I mean, in the ‘70s in Hollywood, yes, there was nudity or half-nudity. Are we going back to that?
MA: I hope so. This country has really had a very strange situation recently with that, where the violence has escalated so incredibly and the actual human interaction...
CG: It’s human nature.
MA: Yeah, we all have sex. It’s such a strange thing, where it’s become like Basic Instinct -- it’s a fetish-ized thing, so I really do love the fact that, in this, and certainly in the graphic novel, the violence is innate in the material, but you also see the flip side of that, which is human beings relating to each other, and I think it’s important for the world that we start representing that aspect. Reality TV and a lot of foreign films, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but it seems that people are just...there’s a little bit of a wave...it’s like a new generation. Every time I turn on the TV, it’s really just pretty raw these days.
CG: I’m also really intrigued, as a woman. I don’t know if you find this too, and both of us actually have a more European aesthetic about nudity or whatever, so there have been certainly films and things I’ve done where the question is always like, so you took your clothes off, da-da-da-da. So if you were in any other country in the world, as you know, there would not be an issue -- I mean, Juliette Binoche, Charlotte Rampling...
MA: We have boobs on TV in Sweden and Norway too.
CG: So it’s strange. It’s interesting.
EI: The violence in this film is pretty explicit and it’s very R-rating. How do you feel about that?
PW: Well, that’s just this medium. That’s the material. I don’t know how you do this movie and make it PG-13. Then you’re just not doing the book. It just happened to be violence, whether it’s Tom and Jerry or Batman or whatever; violence has always been prevalent and prone to this medium -- to comics and to cartoons. It’s just that you never see the blood when the anvil falls on the coyote. It’s not even reality -- it’s sort of a surreality that is sort of heightened. Yes, that’s blood and that’s a lot of blood, and it’s an adult movie. As a parent, I would like there not to be as many violent films, but it’s okay when it fits the purpose, and this is a movie about extremes and about an alternate reality, so everything has got to be pushed to the limit. Yeah, you’ve seen violence in other comic book movies, but have you seen it like this? No. Yeah, you’ve seen maybe a random love scene -- a very sweet, innocent, sexy...and yes, have you seen it like this with a fetish aspect? No. But that’s what the comic is. So you cannot do the comic and not do the violence, I think, just like any other side of it, or not make it political or not make it relevant in the ‘80s. It’s all part of the same tableau. It just happens to be a very hot topic because of Hollywood’s influence of violence and their position on it.
EI: Carla, do you anticipate any controversy about that whole scene smashing the pool table?
CG: Certainly I know that the people that are huge Watchmen fans of the graphic novel -- that rape scene is such an iconic and specific and notable scene in the graphic novel because of all that comes from it. Ultimately, what you realize is there were a couple of incidents probably between the Comedian and Sally in terms of when she actually got pregnant, but yeah, and it should be controversial. I think the point is it’s one of the things I was the most fascinated about playing it is that, how can it be, but it is, and we know life is like this -- how can it be that this man really tries to brutally rape her and, ultimately, at the end of the day, if there is anyone in the world that they are soul mates with, it’s the two of them. They are somehow innately connected, and just because of their inability to be able to express love in a healthy way, it’s all screwed up. But at the end of the day, she protects him and, at the end of the day, there are probably no two better parents for her than them, like in terms of when she starts to come into her own. So yeah, it’s a complicated thing that I don’t think has a simple answer, and that’s what I love about it.
EI: I don’t know if it’s really expressed so much in the movie, but why does she then go with him after that scene? She’s not raped in that scene -- it’s an attempt.
CG: Right, exactly. And then later she has sex and gets pregnant.
EI: Why, from a woman’s standpoint?
CG: From a woman’s standpoint? The funny thing is, I just finished doing a play where I’m all bruised up and I went and did a photo shoot, and one of the photographer’s assistants actually said to me, “Um, I just noticed…do you do a lot of karate or do you just like it...?” And I was like, “Rough?” He was like, “Yeah.” I was like, “No, actually, it came from my job.” That’s what I’m saying, though, is, in all honesty, I think you can’t choose who you love, and I think the truth, at the end of the day, is that she seems to oddly have a constant ability to forgive that man and to see where his intentions are probably coming from, and I think Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] could tell you more about his character’s history, but I would say his character has probably dealt with a lot of violence in his life and therefore that’s how he shows any kind of emotion -- that’s how it comes out. And I think she’s damaged, so she’s coming from a place of, “Oh, I feel this sense of love underneath this and I’m willing to deal with this other stuff.”
EI: Is it a weird bonding thing or, as we all know, women who are abused sometimes are attracted to their abusers...?
CG: I think it’s a combination of those elements.
EI: Patrick, you’ve done Broadway, you’ve done TV, you've been successful. How hard is this role for you?
PW: I don’t think any more or less than any other role. I guess one way of looking at this is I never really felt like I was playing anything differently, being this genre or this big of a movie. The complexities of the character and his journey [were] as developed as any play that I’ve done, so I thought it was such a well-rounded, great... I mean, there’s really nothing more primal than a man who is impotent, searching for his manhood and cannot perform. It cannot get more basic and primal than that. So dealing with those extremes, it was really exciting to sink my teeth into and actually gave me a real confidence because I felt like I could go as far as I wanted with it.
'The Watchmen' is in theaters now from Warner Bros. Pictures