Who listens to the Watchmen? We do. For hours. You can’t deny the massive marketing push behind this comic adaptation, but if you think you’ve seen a lot, you ain’t seen nothin yet. In the middle of pirating videos, infiltrating sets, and press screenings, we were tugged aside and slapped into a room that saw a parade of actors, actresses, producers, and production assistants. Anyone who could talk about the film did and we listened for hours and dug through pages of press release so you can get a few minutes worth of reading time.
Rorschach & The Comedian
Also known as Jackie Earl Haley (Rorschach) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian). These two fine chaps were kind enough to sit with us and talk about the experience of making Watchmen. While he had one of the shorter shooting schedules – he joked to his agent that it was a poor choice of role considering he’s dead by page 12 – Morgan spoke with great vigor about the passion Snyder brought to the project. “I’ve never seen someone more passionate about a project in my life. How passionate [Snyder] is about this novel and making this movie true to it was a sight to behold and it invigorated everybody,” the actor said. In regards to his character, Morgan described the comedian as a lone wolf who didn’t have the skills to deal with a life outside of violence and as a man with an “incredible sadness” about him. When it came to discussing the movie itself, Morgan simply had this to say: “It’s hardcore. Zack didn’t pull any punches.”
When making Watchmen, perhaps the character most vital to its success is Rorschach, a character Snyder calls “psychopathic in his uncompromising pursuit of justice.” Haley first became really interested in the role when, around 2006, some chatter on the net started tossing his name into the hat for the role. So this former childhood actor went out and got the graphic novel, became fascinated by it and when he heard the film was progressing he “was very pumped and fought like hell to win the part.” Haley was drawn to the idea of exploring the humanity behind the mask and investigating a what a world would be like if people really did dress up to fight crime or engage in vigilantism, and what would drive them. While many consider this masked vigilante to be a complex character, Haley found him to be completely black and white. There is right and wrong and nothing in between or, as Haley said in the past, “for him, complexity makes no sense. Complexity simply justifies the victimization of himself and everybody who is made to suffer from someone else’s special interest.”
Silk Spectre II & Night Owl II
Or as the lame people might call them in public, Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman. Akerman is probably most well known for being hot and blonde, so her casting was perhaps a bit of a surprise to people who followed the movie. For her, the role had a huge aspect of physicality to it. Her character, Laurie, was forced somewhat reluctantly into the world of superheroics by her mother, Sally Jupiter (Carla Gugino), something that Malin says forced her to fight like a man, though judging how hot she looks doing spin kicks in a jail, I’d say that’s debatable. Her character serves as an important catalyst, both for Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and Dan Dreiberg, in helping their characters evolve into a higher state of self-awareness. As for her thoughts on Laurie, Malin says, “she [is] this strong, powerful woman and, in spite of her reluctance to be a Mask, somewhere inside she loved it.”
In dealing with super heroes, it can be difficult to find a way to relate to someone who can grow to 50 feet tall or a supreme athlete capable of flipping through the air or moving fast enough to evade bullets. If your movie has a theme of “superheroes in the real world,” this phenomena is especially challenging, as a human connection is necessary to ground the film and draw in the audience. That task falls squarely on the shoulders of Dan Dreiberg, the most human and relatable of the films characters, portrayed by Patrick Wilson. Wilson perfectly understood how Dreiberg was written in the novel, describing him as a person who has lost direction and become soft physically, politically, and sexually. It’s only after he reconnects with Laurie that Dan begins to fully realize that there is a clear reason why he is apathetic in his life and that there is one clear solution. “Laurie opens Dan up to putting the suit on again. It’s the thing that he’s most terrified of and the thing he wants more than anything. He just needed somebody to look him in the eye and, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Dr. Manhattan & Ozymandias
The two most super of the super heroes, Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode. As it has been stated many times over, of all the super heroes in the Watchmen universe, only Dr. Manhattan truly has superpowers. Ironically then, this godlike figure began his career believing in the good of his country and following the designs of its leaders, whereas the human heroes were “fundamentalists, in a way” according to Crudup, who lived in a threatening world that they felt a personal need to take matters into their own hands. For Crudup, the challenge comes in playing a character that, rather quickly, disconnects from humanity completely. As director Zack Snyder describes Manhattan, “He can see your subatomic particles; therefore you become an abstraction to him and it’s hard to relate to that abstraction. What would that do to you as a person? What does that do to your relationships with other people, with humanity?” What being blue did for Crudup was make him feel a little silly at first. To accomplish the effect of glowing blue, the actor wore a body suit affixed with hundreds of blue lights to cast a glow around him while the graphics team later built up the body around him, digital blue wang included. At first, Crudup thought he got the short end of the stick with his pajama and battery pack combo, though the extent of his make-up sit down time was putting on the suit which took under 45 minutes, while many of the other actors found themselves seated for hours.
In the comic, Ozymandias is a bit of a Streisand who wears a purple cape. Luckily, Matthew Goode was able to upgrade to an over the top muscle suit, which reflected his characters decision to market himself, and other heroes, and turn a profit. Adrian Veidt, his civilian persona, is the smartest, and one of the richest, men on the planet who takes on an increasingly pivotal role as the film progresses and, in the end, perhaps delivers the most difficult to contemplate message of character development. Goode’s challenge comes in portraying a somewhat hazy character, one who is identified as human but is clearly on the cusp of something greater, mentally and physically. There is a certain aloofness and subtle contempt to the performance that seems at odds with the congenial and always smiling actor, which manages to take a snobby character and transform perhaps the greatest human being into a relatable, flawed character.
For more great Watchmen features, check our Watching the Watchmen homepage.
In case you hadn’t heard, some Watchmen film is coming out on 03/06/09 which is Friday. Talk about it.