Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Alexandra Daddario DVD interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
ALEXANDRA Daddario talks about making the adventure sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and getting back into physical shape for the role, as well as working with green screen and reuniting with co-star Logan Lerman.
She also reflects on his career to date, why Percy Jackson has opened doors for her, why playing the bad girl can be fun and why she’s really looking forward to people seeing True Detective, in which she stars alongside Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey for HBO. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on December 9, 2013 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Q. Had you read the books before the film?
Alexandra Daddario: I had not. I think because they’re geared towards a younger audience. They would not give me the script for my screen test – it was top secret, so I read the book before my screen test and then before I did the second movie, I read the book and they’re really, really wonderful books and I see why so many people respond to them and respond to the characters and it’s cool to play a character that so many people love.
Q. How did you approach your character in this second film?
Alexandra Daddario: For the first film, I think the character was written with walls up. In addition to being my first big movie and being worried I’d get fired and that they’d made a big mistake, I think I’m more confident this time around. I also think there are more levels to her, more layers to her in this movie – you see her sensitivity and vulnerability, you see what makes her who she is – there’s more of a back story and I think the character has grown up a little, like I have, and she’s more willing to be vulnerable and let people in in this film. It was really fun to play a more human side to her.
Q. There is a featurette on the DVD on Brotherly Bonding about the boys of Percy. How is it to work with the boys? What was your favourite part of making this film?
Alexandra Daddario: There was a lot. I think making a film like this is so grand and so big and you’re part of this new technology and it’s so cool to be an actor doing this sort of thing. I love the people I work with. When I first moved to LA, they were the only people I knew in LA – Jake Abel, Logan Lerman and Brandon T Jackson, so they became my closest friends in LA so I think we get to travel together and do these really cool things together and shoot in really cool locations together and it’s little moments like that. Shooting in JAZZLAND, in the abandoned amusement park in New Orleans was really cool. It was really creepy but really cinematic and they still have the sign up that says ‘Closed for Hurricane’ with some of the letters missing, because it was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina and that was a really interesting location to shoot at, so I really enjoyed that.
Q. It’s going to be three years, between each Percy Jackson?
Alexandra Daddario: [Laughs] Yeah we’ll all be 40 with kids by the time we’re done. My kids will watch me doing Percy Jackson. I was surprised – I thought there’d been too much time gone by, I was surprised we made the next one – pleasantly surprised – and I think the fans are really excited about it.
Q. How did you prepare yourself for the incredible action scenes?
Alexandra Daddario: Physicality is a huge part of it. For example, on Percy Jackson, there’s a lot of sword fighting, and I’ll just do the sword fight a bunch of times before we actually roll, you know so you get that empowered, bad ass feeling going, and then you can just go into it.
Q. And was there any specific training?
Alexandra Daddario: For the first Percy, I’d never done any stunt work or anything like that, so we had months of training and they record you fighting and then play it back for you and show you what you’re doing wrong. Sometimes you’d fight and your hand would be like this and you wouldn’t know it – you’d think it was awesome – so these little tweaks so you actually look like you’re an actual warrior and besides learning the choreography, just trying to stay in shape and all of that stuff.
Q. How did you handle acting with monsters that aren’t there? How did you find working with a green screen?
Alexandra Daddario: Well, it’s interesting because I took acting lessons in New York and I took Meisner and that kind of thing and the thing that they don’t teach you is how to act with a green screen – it’s not something they teach you – they teach you how to communicate with another person and how to act off of them and all that stuff so it’s an interesting test for an actor and I knew what to expect more this time around than the first one. It’s an interesting thing – you have to use your imagination and imagine it as big and scary as you want it to be or small or whatever the case may be.
Q. Do you see drawings of what you’re up against so you all have the same image of what you’re acting with?
Alexandra Daddario: They have pre-visual animation that they show you on a computer screen, so you can see the outline of what it’s going to end up looking like and then sometimes, like with the scene with the bull breaking through the barrier, they will have a huge life-sized cardboard cutout of where the bull will be and they walk it down the field so you can see the path of it, but it’s always way cooler when you see it in the movie. That’s what’s really cool as an actress watching myself in a movie like this, there are so many surprises even though I’m in the movie and I know what to expect, because I don’t know what the special effects are going to look like exactly when you’ve just been in a room with all this green screen around you.
Q. What were the differences, working with Thor (Freudenthal) and Chris (Columbus)?
Alexandra Daddario: They’re two very different directors. I love Chris and he gave me my big break and I think he’s been around for so long and he’s amazing, he’s such a nice guy and that was such a magical experience making that first movie. It completely changed my life. They both share a lot of characteristics. They’re both very enthusiastic. They’re both very – they have a wondrous quality to them, which is why they make films like this – family films – and they both have different styles, but Thor brought a great enthusiasm and I think creatively he wanted to stick closer to the books in these films, hence why I’m blonde, which is great, and I think they stuck closer and put more of the books into this one which is great for the fans.
Q. And your relationship to Logan? Is he like a younger brother to you? He’s 4 or 5 years younger?
Alexandra Daddario: I think we were all on very equal footing as we started in the first movie. We’re friends and we all just feel like friends and we don’t feel like anyone is older or – there isn’t really that kind of difference in our relationship. We all started doing Percy Jackson together in the same places in our lives and careers a little bit so it’s been interesting over the last four years, to watch everyone get older and watch their careers take off more and more. It’s been amazing and I’m really proud of everyone and I think we have really great relationships that hopefully will last for a long time.
Q. Was it fun being a blonde? Did people act differently towards you?
Alexandra Daddario: You know I thought people’s heads would turn more and look at me more, but no. I don’t know if it’s because I look better as a brunette, I don’t know, you hear about it for so long and I’ve wanted to be a blonde for so long. I think I was working too much to have enough fun to really see what the difference was, but mostly I just hated sitting there for hours getting my hair colored. But it was cool to be a blonde for a little bit.
Q. Did you have to go on any specific diet for this role?
Alexandra Daddario: No, I mean I do try to eat healthy and since I’ve moved to LA – I’m from New York originally – I moved to LA four years ago, I’ve become a little more hippie with the green juice and the yoga and that sort of thing so I’m becoming very clichéd ‘actress’ out there – but I don’t have any specific diet I follow before a movie in particular. I try just to eat healthy all the time. I try.
Q. So you have been in Texas Chainsaw and now Annabeth – did surviving these horrors give you any gifts?
Alexandra Daddario: It definitely helped with my screaming and running. I like doing horror films. I think it’s helped me as an actress because you have to run and scream and cry for so long and do ridiculous things in front of strangers, you sort of break down any barriers, you can’t be embarrassed. You have to be able to do these crazy things in front of people, so that helped me as an actress and especially the action sequences in Percy Jackson, it’s helped with my screaming and my scared face and knowing how to work yourself up to get scared and that sort of thing, so it’s definitely helped with that.
Q. How do you work yourself up to get scared?
Alexandra Daddario: For something like a horror film, like Texas Chainsaw, I definitely think of something that makes me freak out. Sometimes it’s like a personal thing, my own personal fears, somebody I love, dying or something like that, that can make you very upset and then the more you believe it, the more upset you get and then sometimes I’ll run around. I look like a lunatic when I’m doing a horror film. I’ll run into the woods and back and hyperventilate and it sort of helps you work yourself up into this sense of hysteria which hopefully is the equivalent of somebody being chased by someone with a chainsaw for example, and keeping up the momentum and continuing to be that upset throughout the day.
Q. Is that more exhausting than doing something really sad or doing a really emotional scene?
Alexandra Daddario: It’s more physically exhausting; it’s equally emotionally exhausting. It’s very interesting because when you’re thinking about these emotional things and making yourself so upset, you know that everything’s okay but your body is tricked into thinking there’s something terribly wrong because you’re crying and you have hormones or whatever is going on, you sort of go home at the end of the day and you feel really weird because your body thinks there’s something terribly wrong so you can get a little depressed, but it’s cathartic in a way.
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not acting?
Alexandra Daddario: I like to see movies. I play the piano. I find that’s the best way to relax and de-stress. I just got a dog. So now my life, it’s like I have a baby – it’s my life and I’m with the dog all the time and I teach him tricks and all that stuff and go to yoga and see friends. I live a pretty low-key life right now. I lived in NY for so long and I think I got all of the going out to bars and stuff out of my system when I lived here and now I’m really boring.
Q. Did you come from a modeling background? How did you get into acting?
Alexandra Daddario: I tried to model but they would not have me. I was a nerdy looking teenager to be honest. I never really broke into modeling. I was an actor, I did commercials as a kid and then I was on a soap when I was 16, and that was when I decided that I could be an actress and get paid for it and actually have a career and it was a hard few years after I got fired from said soap. Then I did a lot of small parts in films and episodics and things like that, and I did a lot of screen tests and then I booked Percy.
Q. Did you have a plan B if this career didn’t work out for you?
Alexandra Daddario: I tried a plan B. I went to college, but I kept switching majors because I had no idea what I wanted to do. My heart wasn’t in it – I really wanted to be an actor – I knew that I should have a plan B but I really did not. So I’m glad that it’s working out so far. I think it’s good – if I’d put too much energy into something else, it would have distracted me from being an actress and I think I would have regretted not giving it 100% so that was the way I thought about it at the time
Q. Was there a master plan after doing a lot of TV and horror movies?
Alexandra Daddario: I thought, ‘I would love to be in an HBO series’ and I booked a HBO series! It comes out in January with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. I loved doing what I’ve done so far and I loved Percy Jackson, but as I get older it’s nice to be able to do more adult roles and different kinds of roles and Percy Jackson has opened the door for me to get some of these parts and you know audition for these roles. I’d love to do all kinds of roles, but I think I’ve found something interesting in each role I’ve done.
Q. What’s your part in the HBO series, True Detective?
Alexandra Daddario: I play a girl who is in a relationship with Woody Harrelson’s character and sort of a very flawed character and – they’re all flawed – but she ends up causing some problems for him in his marriage. It’s eight episodes, all directed by the same director [Cary Fukunaga, Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre]. He’s an excellent director. The writing is incredible and I think it’s going to be a great show.
Q. Some of your roles like Parenthood and True Detective, you play the bad girl, is it more fun being bad?
Alexandra Daddario: Well on Parenthood, I tried to find her redeeming qualities and I think on Parenthood she is naïve and young and I think it’s interesting playing characters who are flawed like that and make mistakes because we all have – no one’s just one thing – no one is just bad or just good – so I like finding these flawed characters and playing with their redeeming qualities, whether you play it outwardly or not. I think that one of the reasons I’m an actor is that I love people and I love finding out who they are and why they do the things they do, so it is fun to play those kinds of characters.
Q. Who is your role model? Whose career path would you like to follow?
Alexandra Daddario: Well, my mother is a role model to me, for a number of reasons. I love Charlize Theron. I would love to have a career like Charlize Theron. I like Charlize Theron. I’ve never met her or worked with her but she strikes me as being very down to earth, very cool, in addition to being extremely talented, and I think that’s awesome. I love Steve Martin. I think he’s had a really interesting career. He’s a comedian, but he also has made some films and written some films that have great depth and emotionality to them and I think he finds humor in the right places and deals with difficult things in life in a humorous way and I really respond to his work.
Q. When you decided to be an actress, were your parents horrified?
Alexandra Daddario: My parents are lawyers, but they have themselves to blame. They put me in acting class when I was very young. I think they just want to see me happy. I think there was only ever push back when they saw how stressed out being an actress was making me when I wasn’t working. But they were never horrified or said ‘you have to stop this and go to college immediately’ but you know they just want to see me happy and as long as I’m happy they’re happy. They’re thrilled that I’m an actress. I think they’re amazed and it’s great. They’re very proud. And my brother and sister are now actors too, so my parents have three actors for children.
Q. Are you interested in directing?
Alexandra Daddario: I love the idea of directing, I’m not confident enough, but I’m more confident in, well, I’d love to write. I’ve sort of written my whole life and I think I have a knack for it, so I’d like to write something and see what people think and that would be my first step to directing. The way I’ve written, I mostly write stories, I mostly write not in script format, but that is my ultimate goal. I keep starting things, but then I get scared and I’m trying to get over that fear.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is released on DigitalHD on December 2, 2013, and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on December 9, 2013 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.