Sucker Punch – Carla Gugino interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
CARLA Gugino talks about reuniting with her Watchmen director Zack Snyder on Sucker Punch and finding the right look, tone and background for her character, Madame Gorski.
She also talks about working with Jim Carrey and penguins on Mr Popper’s Penguins and why she’s happy to mix up the mainstream material with the more indie focused films.
Q. How was it seeing the finished film for the first time? Is a film like this visually surprising even to those who are in it? Or does Zack Snyder give you plenty of information along the way?
Carla Gugino: Absolutely, Zack [Snyder] is actually a director who is really amazing – and this is not always the case – in regards to setting a picture for you and setting a stage for you, even in the green screen stuff. So, we had ideas of imagery that he wanted to use and he does all of his storyboarding himself, and that’s really an incredible way to get a sense of things. But saying that, we actually saw a screening in Los Angeles at the IMAX and that really is sensory saturation. The sound, the image, everything is pretty crazy!
Q. Did Zack ask you to take the part during the shooting of Watchmen?
Carla Gugino: You know what, we were done with Watchmen, I don’t know by how long. We’d spoken about the movie during Watchmen, because he’s really been thinking about this movie for a long time. But it was afterwards that he called me and said there was a role.
Q. How would you describe him as a director?
Carla Gugino: Zack is an incredibly inspired person. I think he’s one of those people who has a lot he wants to do and a lot he wants to say, and yet there’s this really playful quality in the way that it manifests itself. It’s funny, yesterday someone was describing him as an eight-year-old and as a 12-year-old, so what did I think. And I said that I thought the point was there’s a really boyish, playful spirit but he is also a really skilled filmmaker and so obviously the duo is a great combination because certainly for a movie like this you have to have a lot of imagination. He creates an environment on set that’s just really fun and leaves room for a lot of discoveries.
Q. Was it tough to transfer the words on the page to how they would be seen and heard on screen? You often speak in a heightened style…
Carla Gugino: Yeah, definitely. What was interesting, there was a scene that’s not in there now, where Madame Gorski said something like: “You have to release the Goddess that life has crushed.” I could tell [from that] that she was a theatrical woman in that world, more so than in the asylum. For me the language… it’s always the things that are unusual that you take note of, or that you realise over time are the keys into something. So, with this one we played it very honestly, but she’s not naturalistic in her delivery or in her demeanour and so definitely for me, we found the accent for her, where she was from, that she was from Eastern Europe. I realised that this is a woman for whom English is her second language and there were a lot of discoveries that came from that.
Q. How long had you been working on your Polish accent?
Carla Gugino: I heard many, many Polish accents. There’s a gentleman who runs the Polish consulate in Los Angeles and I sat down with him several times. You know, why did I choose that? There were many conversations about a multitude of different accents or lack thereof, and my voice just didn’t feel right for it. I actually thought it would be interesting as I was doing research, how hard it would be for a woman from Poland to get over there in the 1960s, what kind of mentor she might have had and what she would have had to do to do that. So, for me it just felt like an organic choice, and Zack was excited by that idea.
Q. Which of your outfits did you like most?
Carla Gugino: Our costume designer, Michael Wilkinson is a really exceptionally talented man and he works very intimately in regards to character. Sometimes, he sketches in an incredibly detailed way, but then when you come in things radically change. Mine, you know, I had so many costumes I loved. They were hand-made for me so that’s something you don’t get very often these days. Those were pretty exceptional, the one with buckles and things which were pretty amazing.
Q. Did you like the dark eye make-up you had on?
Carla Gugino: I really felt it was very appropriate for her. I don’t know that it’s the most aesthetically flattering for me so watching it I was like: “Wow, she is an intense woman…” But as an actor it’s very much about what you do that actually brings you into that character. People talked about it very often. I think Morgan Freeman always talks about his shoes or his hat, there’s always something that brings you in, and that kind of drama was interesting to me.
Q. How was dueting with Oscar Isaac on Love Is The Drug?
Carla Gugino: It was amazing! We had such a good time. It was an interesting experience also because it informed a lot about our characters for us, just in terms of what their history might have been and how they present themselves to their world, because we have so much behind the curtain.
Q. Were you a big fan of Bryan Ferry?
Carla Gugino: Yeah, it was so exciting. That was in the script, and it’s interesting to me too because it seems to me that all of these people are searching for love and yet it’s this sort of delirious state that the movie lives in that I thought was really interesting when I first read the script and Zack had put Love Is The Drug in there. It just seemed really appropriate.
Q. You’re working with Jim Carrey next, aren’t you, on Mr Popper’s Penguins? How was that?
Carla Gugino: Yeah. It’s a family movie based on a 1938 children’s book. Angela Lansbury is in it as well, as is a really wonderful British actress named Ophelia Lovibond. She was fantastic. But penguins are not the brightest creatures… they’re not really trainable, as I now know… but you cannot not smile when you have a penguin in the room! I think all of the kids in my life, my god-children, are so excited to see it. It’s nice to do. I really do love doing something like Sucker Punch, which has such a darker turn, and then being able to do something like Mr Popper’s Penguins that’s really family friendly.
Q. Is Jim Carrey as crazy as we assume him to be?
Carla Gugino: He’s pretty crazy and pretty funny. It’s interesting when you’ve grown up watching somebody on the screen. He’s also a serious guy and cares a lot about his work, but there’s no doubt that there were many times off-camera where the crew was laughing and we had to re-do the take. It was really funny.
Q. Is he more disciplined than the penguins though?
Carla Gugino: [Laughs aloud] Yes, he is more trainable than a penguin.
Q. Having worked with Zack in Watchmen and this, is there a role for you in Superman?
Carla Gugino: [Smiles] I don’t think so, but you never know. I would always love to go play with Zack. I have no idea, is the answer.
Q. How do you find the contrast between this large scale studio movie and some of the more indie projects you’ve been associated with?
Carla Gugino: Actually, it’s a really closely knit crew that has worked with Zack for a long time, so there was definitely a feeling of a family getting together to do something. But I love going back and forth from small movies to big movies, mostly because generally when you’re making a decision you’re basing it on a character or a director or a piece of material. Having the luxury of time and money is always nice, but then there’s also something that comes from ‘we’re going to have two takes of this, hit it now’. There’s great adrenaline and an interesting thing that comes from that as well.
Q. You must be very happy with the way your career is shaping up right now?
Carla Gugino: Yeah, you know it’s a journey, I feel so thankful to get to do what I love. I hope I get to do it for a lot longer.
Q. Do you know where your family name comes from?
Carla Gugino: You know, it’s always been an interesting thing because there aren’t a lot of Guginos in Italy. My father has always thought that on the boat one letter got changed. People always think it’s with a ‘c’ but it’s with a ‘g’. I wish I knew more, but I actually don’t, though it is Italian. My father is fully Italian, Sicilian and Roman.
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