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Deja Vu - Paula Patton interview

Paula Patton in Deja Vu

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PAULA Patton talks about the experience of making Deja Vu, as well as what it was like to see herself “dead” and performing underwater stunts…

Q. When we first see you in the movie you’re dead. What kind of weird experience was that lying on a slab in the morgue?
Paula Patton: You know, it’s a funny thing because it’s not as weird for me as it was for my family. I was sitting next to my mom watching the movie and she said: “Oh no, you’re dead!” I said: “I’m sitting right here next to you, what are you talking about?” [Laughs]

Q. You also spend a fair bit of the film being tied up and beaten. Is that OK or is that something you have to get over psychologically?
Paula Patton: Well, all the physical parts in the movie were really fun for me because I’m a tomboy at heart – I really like to get physical. But you do have to get yourself into an emotional state when you are being kidnapped and tied up. But that’s really where make-up helps. The make-up artist works so long on you and then you look in the mirror and see the bruises and the blood and the burns and it actually makes you have an emotional feeling, seeing yourself like that. It all helps the performance.

Q. How did you cope with the scene with the car being submerged?
Paula Patton: I had about 45 minutes of training on scuba gear in the shallow end of the Hilton pool in New Orleans about a month before I had to do that underwater sequence. But I’m the kind of swimmer who likes to lay on a floatie. I’m not an athletic swimmer but we had to do this underwater sequence in one of the largest tanks in the US. It’s 50 feet deep by 50 feet wide and it’s like being put on the ocean – it’s massive.

I had to be attached to this steering wheel and go down and be submerged. I didn’t realise they also put weights on your body so you can stay down there. I remember being on the regulator, the device to keep breathing, and taking my last breath of air. I took off my mask and I did the work. Then Tony yelled “cut” under the water and I went to put the regulator back in my mouth because I hadn’t had a lot of training, but I breathed through my nose and gasped. At that moment I felt like I was going to die. Then I saw the black figures of these Navy SEAL guys come to me and get me to the surface. But in those moments, as I was being brought to the surface, I remember thinking: “This is it. It’s going to be in memory of Paula Patton this movie.”

When I got to the surface, Tony asked if I wanted to get out. But I said: “No, if I get out I’m not getting back in so let’s just stay here.” So we did and I did as much as I could. But that’s probably the part that I let Tony down the most. I wasn’t able to do a lot of those stunts under the water.

Q. You’ve spent time on the other side of the camera as a runner and as a producer. Is being in front of it better?
Paula Patton: Yes, because it’s what I have a passion for. It was producing in a different way – it was documentary producing where it’s just you and the sound person and the camera person. It’s not as lofty as it sounds. It was video and it was very small. But this is better. I liked making documentary films and I liked that work but I love acting. The best feeling is to find a shoe that fits. So absolutely I adore being in front of the camera.

Q. Being a relatively new face in Hollywood, how hard did you have to work to get the role? Did you have to audition?
Paula Patton: Yeah definitely. I auditioned multiple times, all ending in an American Idol-style final round. Luckily I got it. Honestly when I got the call that I’d got the role I couldn’t believe it. I screamed and I cried and I wasn’t even really sure that I’d got it. I felt like they could still take it away. The day that Tony sent me the script and it said “Deja Vu” on it and my name on it, I was with my dad and my mom, so it was a big day. I was like: “Oh my God, it’s real!” My dad was a lawyer and he was going: “That’s not real.” So until I arrived on the set it didn’t feel real.

Read our review of Deja Vu