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Battleship - Brooklyn Decker interview

Battleship

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BROOKLYN Decker talks about some of the challenges of making Battleship, including forming snot bubbles on demand for director Peter Berg as well as working with real-life army veterans who have lost limbs in combat.

She also talks about her career from model to actress, her next role in What To Expect When You’re Expecting and why she feels like she still has to earn every role.

Q. Were you glad to more land-based for most of the time while shooting Battleship?
Brooklyn Decker: Yes and no. I love the land and I think it grounds the movie a little but because you’re hearing a lot of the story through land. However, it would have been fun to go out there on the barge and deal with the elements a little bit and try shooting some weapons in the water. I kind of like to get my knees wet a little bit.

Q. You have your own scars from being out in the bush, though, don’t you?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, I do. My first injury on-set was during the jeep wreck scene, where there’s broken glass everywhere. I cut my arm, kind of badly. It didn’t need stitches but it was bleeding everywhere and I was very excited. I took a picture of it and was like: “Yeah! It’s my first battle wound for Battleship!” So, I was very proud of that moment.

Q. I read that initially you were circling Battleship along with a number of other actresses but Pete Berg thought you weren’t tough enough. Is that true? And what did you have to do to convince him?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, that’s true. So, I auditioned for this via tape and through the casting director four times. I was shooting another movie at the time and I wasn’t even given the script. I was only given scenes between Sam and Hopper [Taylor Kitsch] because it was so secretive. Finally, on my fifth time, I got to read for Pete and he said: “The only way you’re getting this is by forming snot bubbles. I want to see snot bubbles and tears coming out of your face.” I was like: “OK, this is my fifth time, so I might as well go for it.” And I did. And that was a Friday and on Monday I got the call that the part was mine. So, I gave him snot bubbles and he gave me Battleship.

Q. Where do you go to summon snot bubbles just like that?
Brooklyn Decker: You know, I think by that point I had just wrapped a movie, I was going back and forth, I had auditioned for this so many times, I still hadn’t read a script, so I was kind of like: “Do you know what? Screw it! I’m just going to put it all out there and just freak out and just hope that it’s enough.” If it’s too much, Pete could tell me so, but something just came over me that was completely uninhibited and Pete got what he needed out of that. He then put his faith in me.

Q. In many ways, your role is one of the most challenging because you’re dealing with the emotional complexity of having to counsel disabled soldiers, who have lost limbs in combat. You also have to work alongside a real ex-soldier. How was the research part of that for you?
Brooklyn Decker: It was interesting. It was eye-opening, it was humbling, it was difficult at times, and very emotional. I play a physical therapist and my character’s job is to work with guys who have come back from overseas and have lost limbs. That’s her specialty. So, Greg Gadson, who has lost both of his legs, and I went to Tripler Medical Hospital in Hawaii, we went to The Centre for the Intrepid in San Antonio, and we met with these guys. We visited them in the hospital and we talked to them and I learned how to clean a burn wound, how to put in a dislocated shoulder, how to put on a prosthetic leg. It was really good doing that with Greg because he’s been there and he was definitely a source of strength for me. And it definitely enabled us to get really tight really fast. He and I still have a very close relationship because I think we went through this very weird kind of bonding experience. But it was really special. It made me want to do those guys justice.

Q. I would imagine that once you’ve been confronted with that kind of courage and bravery you can’t really complain about anything on the set. You just had to get on with something like your cut…
Brooklyn Decker: For sure… there were mud slides when we were shooting, Greg fell down a couple of times and he brought me down with him a few times, but it was like: “OK, get up, wipe your hands, we’re fine, let’s keep going.” He’s so resilient and he’s such a fighter in every sense of the word, so being around him meant that I wasn’t going to complain. I was just going to get on with it, work my butt off and have some fun. And that kind of energy was felt throughout the set. And I think a lot of that was Greg.

Q. What’s it like being around a presence like Greg? Was he inspiring to you?
Brooklyn Decker: Very much so. I mean, he’s huge. He’s massive. He’s 2, 20 with no legs, if you can imagine. He played football at MIT. He’s just a big guy and he’s an inspirational speaker, so he’s very eloquent. He’s also just down to earth. I think what I loved most about him was the fact that he was very open with me and I was very open with him. It was only my second movie, so there were obviously a lot of fears going into it and he had a lot of reservations as well just because it was a very daunting task to go into this. The two of us going into it together had a very open and honest relationship with each other. But that’s what I loved about him. He’s willing to share his story. It shows how far he’s come.

Q. This has been a bit of a dream start in the movie industry for you, hasn’t it – following Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It with Battleship?
Brooklyn Decker: Well, yeah… the thing that people don’t see are all the failed auditions that I haven’t been getting for five years! But since then I’ve been very, very lucky and I have three movies in two years, so for a first timer I certainly don’t deserve it and I don’t feel like I deserve it and I’m pinching myself every day because I’m like: “This can’t be real!” But now I’m just really studying and pay my dues a little bit because I feel like it’s time to pay my dues.

Battleship

Q. What made you decide you wanted to make the switch from modelling into acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Brooklyn Decker: No, I never wanted to be an actor or a model. I wanted to be a veterinarian and I decided to start modelling so that I could pay for school. But then I didn’t go to university and I really missed that education, so I started studying acting because it was the only thing that I could take with me on the road. So, I started reading scripts and reading plays and having discussions with an acting coach in New York and that’s how it started. I really enjoyed it, so I started auditioning, and so for years nothing happened! I did a few horrible TV bits – not the shows, my performances were awful! And yeah I just kept studying and learning and Adam Sandler gave me my first big break and then Peter Berg after him. So, I’ve been pretty lucky.

Q. And both times in Hawaii? Is that now home from home as a movie set?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, I’m like: “I don’t shoot anywhere but Hawaii now. Sorry, it’s in my contract!” [Laughs] It was incredible! That year, I think I spent seven months in Hawaii, which was pretty special – and different islands as well, so I got to see so much of it and really live it. It has a special place in my heart now. It was my first movie and then Battleship’s probably the most meaningful movie I’ve ever done, so it’s a very special place to me.

Q. How was having Liam Neeson as your dad?
Brooklyn Decker: He’s so great. He wasn’t with us for a long time but when he was on set, I remember it was my first week and I was so intimidated. We were staying at the same hotel and he was like: “Let’s go and have a drink. I feel like you’re very nervous. You need someone to talk to, so let’s go and have a drink.” So, we went and had a drink and he was just the nicest guy. He told me great stories about his good memories, about how to just relax and have fun and how, at the end of the day, we’re all just playing. His wisdom and encouragement… I think he did the same with Taylor and he was just very generous with his advice, which I think when you’re in his position is the most valuable thing you can give. I still can’t believe I’m in this.

Q. Is that a great leveller when somebody of his stature does that because it immediately puts them on a level playing field with you?
Brooklyn Decker: It does and it was very paternal, which was perfect for our characters. He’s playing my father and you only see one scene between Sam and her father but you can tell that while he’s a very tough, stern character, she has him wrapped around her finger. So, you get to kind of get a glimpse of that in the film. I was surprised because somebody like him doesn’t have to take the time but he does and that says a lot about his character.

Q. How was working with Taylor?
Brooklyn Decker: He’s so great. I think he’s such a star. He has such a big future ahead of him. This was a huge movie for him. He has the romantic, rebellious, Naval brat kind of thing going on and then he has to man up and become this hero. So, he’s filming almost a few movies in one with his character changes. He’s just a fun, enthusiastic kind of guy and great to be around – outdoorsy, cool and fun to hang out with.

Q. You’ve since made What To Expect When You’re Expecting, so how was that?
Brooklyn Decker: Completely different, oh my gosh, so different. On that movie I was just an idiot. It was Dennis Quaid and I and we play these characters who are so not grounded and live in this completely ridiculous, heightened, exaggerated reality and it was so much fun. We got to play the entire time and completely joke around. That was just a good, fun, silly time for me. I’m playing this southern, redneck, annoyingly perfect woman and it was very different from Battleship and a nice departure. It was a really fun experience because it was so different.

Q. You’re expecting twins in that?
Brooklyn Decker: I’m expecting twins, yeah. I had the fake baby bump, everything…

Battleship

Q. Was that a weird thing for you, seeing how your body might look if you become pregnant?
Brooklyn Decker: It did. I was like: “I hope I look like this when I’m pregnant!” Because it was just me with a belly, so I’m setting a really unrealistic standard for myself, basically, by strapping on that belly. But it was really fun. We had to work with real babies and Elizabeth Banks plays sort of my daughter-in-law, which is crazy, and she’s hysterical. She’s such a star and I love her, so we had a few scenes together. The comedic actors they put in that movie are fantastic.

Q. Given your background as a model, is it fun doing things to your body that no longer require it to be in pristine condition, such as strapping on a baby belly or getting muddy for Battleship?
Brooklyn Decker: Oh yeah. I mean Sam in Battleship is beat up. There were some scenes where she didn’t have any make-up on and all they did was rub dirt on me. There are plenty of scenes where my hair is in a mess and the make-up is literally dirt all over my clothes and body. And that’s fun for me because that’s honestly who I feel like in real life so to kind of get back down to myself was very fun. This glamorous thing is a nice facade. But that’s the cool thing about acting. You’re taking on a different character. The lifestyles between modelling and acting are similar but the jobs are entirely different. A model is incredibly posed and contrived and an actor has to be incredibly spontaneous. So, it’s challenging but really fun to kind of discover the differences between the two.

Q. Have you noticed a difference between Peter Berg’s style of directing, which allows for improvisation and not much rehearsal, and other directors you’ve worked with to this point?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, with Kirk Jones on What To Expect there was a lot of improv as well but it was more comedy. So, it was a very different style of improvisation. With Peter, it was entirely different because he would do things to try and throw you for a loop and try to get an authentic reaction from you. So, while a lot of the dialogue is on-script, he would hide in the bushes and fire off a machine gun just to get a reaction from me. He would do these things because he wanted to surprise you and see what you can kind of pull out naturally. So, to have a director who is willing to go there for his actors meant we were very lucky… especially Rihanna and I, who were all these new kids on the block. For me, he’s one of the best.

Q. With the exposure you’re getting from Just Go With It and Battleship has it got easier to get roles? Have you noticed more offers coming in?
Brooklyn Decker: I still have to earn them. It’s interesting, too, because I’m lucky enough to be getting a few offers and they’re all very… they’re the sexy woman. But I really want to do something that’s a little bit more character-driven. I’m not sitting here saying: “Oh, I need to take everything so seriously.” At the end of the day, we’re all just playing. But I definitely want to do something that doesn’t depend on one trait. So, I’m definitely having to earn everything and I’m still auditioning and I’m still studying. I hope this opens a few more doors and I hope I can keep working, knock on wood. But yeah, I still definitely have to work with it.

Q. What was the fondest memory you took away from this experience? Did you get to meet the World War II veterans?
Brooklyn Decker: I did! I think probably the veterans and, for me, working with the troops because I was able to have so many intimate conversations with them and they were so open about the process of healing and being injured and their first memory when it happened. It was just fascinating and emotional and sad and great to talk to those guys. So, that was probably the most significant memory I took away from Battleship – how real this was. Pete wanted us to have a real connection to the military and I’m really grateful for that because I think it took all of us to a different level while we were filming.

Read our review of Battleship

Read our interview with Peter Berg