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I Am Number Four - Teresa Palmer interview

I Am Number Four

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TERESA Palmer talks to us about making I Am Number Four and coping with the physical challenge of playing the mysterious Number Six (she trained for two months and broke a toe while filming).

She also talks about her career to date and making the transition from journalism to acting and getting from Adelaide to Hollywood.

Q. Did you enjoy being the unknown equation in I Am Number Four? When we first see you we’re not sure whether you’re good or bad?
Teresa Palmer: Exactly. Six is very mysterious. You don’t know if she’s one of the Mogadorians or if she’s on his side. So, it’s very cool to play a character like that. She’s such an enigma. She’s dark, she’s feisty, and sassy. There are so many fun elements about her character that I could play with.

Q. You underwent two months of training before you did the role to learn the techniques. How was that?
Teresa Palmer: I was really trying to commit to them [the fighting techniques] because I didn’t have the technique down. I’d been training with a trainer for months before I started doing the film, just doing body conditioning and regular weight training. So, I thought I had a good base to build on before I started the training. But it’s so different… you have to be very specific in your technique. Your posture is different and the way you move… I had to learn everything again. It felt like learning to walk or something. It was a very difficult thing to have to wrap my head around and I found it incredibly challenging both mentally and physically because you have to change the way you speak as well, and how you present yourself. My own energy is so different from Number Six’s. I’m very bubbly and bouncy and Six is not – she’s a total contrast to that.

Q. So, is she the furthest from yourself that you’ve ever been asked to portray?
Teresa Palmer: Well, I think you’re always playing a version of yourself. But this is the first time in my career that I have really steered totally different from who I am and I loved that challenge. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be – it was gruelling at times and I had black and blue legs and broke my toe!

Q. How?
Teresa Palmer: I was doing a scene with Alex’s stunt double and I had to fly at him and we had to fall off something 6ft high in the air and land on a mat. But as we land on the mat, they pull it really fast so we’re sliding on the ground. But we missed our count. I flew and they pulled the mat too early and I wasn’t wearing shoes for some reason. So, he landed on my toe and there was a crunch and it broke. But it was a pinkie toe – so what do you use your pinkie toe for anyway? It hurt and I wondered what was wrong. But I kept going. The next day it was all purple and stiff and I couldn’t move it. But it was great because I was then training on the Ducati motorbike for the rest of the week, so I didn’t have to use my foot too much.

I Am Number Four

Q. How was getting to ride the Ducati?
Teresa Palmer: Amazing! It’s such a powerful machine and quite liberating being on a bike like that, cruising around and being in charge of it. It’s scary at the same time because you know that if you make a mistake you could actually die! I’m not wearing a helmet in the movie – so I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. But I would never buy a motorbike. I’ve been tempted, especially now I have my bike licence and I’m quite competent on the bike. I trained with Jimmy Roberts, who is the best in the stunt world at training people onscreen to ride a bike. He always works with Tom Cruise whenever he is cruising around on a bike. So, I’ve learned from the best and I felt confident but not enough that I’d go out and buy my own Ducati.

Q. You mention you’re fortunate to have worked with the best and your career seems to be going really well at the moment. You starred with Nicolas Cage in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice last year, for instance, so how was that experience for you?
Teresa Palmer: Oh that was wonderful. Nic’s such an eccentric man but a really good person. He was lovely to everyone on set. He knew everyone’s name and he took time out to talk to people. There are so many visitors who would come on set and be star-struck by him, but he always made time for them. I thought that was lovely to watch. But I do feel incredibly blessed in my life. I’ve been given amazing opportunities in my life and even when I’m tired, like right now, I try not to lose sight of all the blessings in my life. I’m enjoying it. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point in my life where I feel like ‘I’ve made it’. But right now I’m happy with where things are at and hopefully it will continue to grow.

Q. Do you still get star-struck at all?
Teresa Palmer: I would get star-struck with Angelina Jolie I think. But I don’t really. When I’ve seen people be star-struck about my friends, I think seeing that gives you a different perspective and so I don’t really get star-struck now because they’re just normal people and they’re doing their jobs and living their life. Maybe if I saw someone that I really admired. Back in the day, if I had met Michael Jackson then yes unbelievably so, I’m sure. But someone like Angelina Jolie… she’s quite unique and beautiful and I probably wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off her. I think she’s so captivating. I actually used her as a reference for my character.

I An Number Four, Alex Pettyfer

Q. When did you know you wanted to become an actress?
Teresa Palmer: I always dreamt of being an actress as I think all little girls do. For me, it was never a reality because I lived in Adelaide and we don’t have access to the opportunities that most people do in other parts of Australia even. Adelaide doesn’t have a very big film industry, so I pursued something else and started doing teaching and journalism. I wanted to be a TV presenter. And then when I did my first film I kind of fell into it. I got cast in this movie called 2:37… the director, Murali K Thalluri, basically saw me and said: “I’m going to put you in this movie.” And that week I felt like a void had been filled. I was so in my element. I was thrown in at the deep end. I had to play a rape victim who was pregnant with my brother’s baby. So, it was a very intense, dark role. But I just fell in love with the craft of it and that was that. That was in 2005.

Q. So, to date has that been the hardest role you’ve played?
Teresa Palmer: No. I would say that I Am Number Four was probably one of the hardest roles just because I had to transform every part of myself. And I did not want to do the disservice to Number Six of not being able to fight, and not looking like a warrior. She’s such a flashy character and she needed to be so cool, which meant there was no slacking off. But in 2:37 I didn’t really know what I was doing. The director would just say things at me to make me cry. So, I would just cry. I wasn’t really doing the craft the way I do now. It wasn’t that hard because I’d just go to the set and cry a bit [laughs].

Q. How hard was it to get from Adelaide to Hollywood?
Teresa Palmer: Well, not that hard for me to be honest. I was very lucky. I did 2:37 and we door knocked to get money for that movie. I did my own hair and make-up! It was such a small film. The director was 18-years-old… it was really a student film. But we ended up having a premiere at Cannes, which was so surreal and incredible. Even now I think back on that time and I just cannot believe that was the reality of my life. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time and now I look back and that was when everything in my life changed and I was on this path. It’s been a snowball since then. I didn’t choose to come out to Hollywood, it just happened. I just got discovered, I guess, at Cannes… agents were there and plucked me and brought me over to America. I went for two weeks initially but ended up staying because I booked a couple of films and that was it. Here’s my life.

Q. Do you live in LA now?
Teresa Palmer: I do.

Q. Do you miss Adelaide?
Teresa Palmer: Of course, I miss the energy of Adelaide and the people and the laidback lifestyle. I also miss the beaches. They’re the best in Australia.

Q. Will you try and go back to Australia to make films?
Teresa Palmer: I just wrapped one about a month ago in Australia. It’s called Say Nothing. It’s a drama-thriller and it’s about two couples who go to Cambodia and one of us goes missing and this crazy story unravels. It’s very dark. It’s also an exploration on family life and affairs and turbulence and what happens when something very tragic affects the group. You see people falling apart and the dynamic of that. It’s a very interesting film – very well written. It’s from the same people who did Animal Kingdom.

Q. That’s an amazing film…
Teresa Palmer: Amazing, yes. David Michod is a friend of mine and he’s involved in this group called Blue-Tongue Films and they did The Square as well. This film is a Blue-Tongues Film, so I’m really excited about that.

Read our interview with Alex Pettyfer