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Watchmen - Jackie Earle Haley interview

Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JACKIE Earle Haley, the child star of the original Bad News Bears, who recently made a memorable comeback in Kate Winslet film Little Children, talks to us about his involvement Watchmen and finding the masked character of Rorschach…

Q. Some of the characters in Watchmen have to wear some pretty dodgy costumes. But you’re all required to do some serious acting as well… So how was getting the chance to add some depth?
Jackie Earle Haley: I think that’s what’s so cool about this comic book movie. It’s taken that genre and thrown a heavy dose of reality on top of it. As an actor, you want to play characters that are fully realised. I know as a movie-goer, I love it when stuff blows up and when all this kind of stuff happens, but when I care about the characters it’s just such a deeper experience.

Q. What did you see in Rorschach? And in the final scene was your character begging to be put down?
Jackie Earle Haley: I kind of liked what Alan Moore said in a quote somewhere. He said: “Here’s a character who has lived each and every hour of his life in deep, psychological pain and has a king-size death wish.” And in some strange way, he needed out… but he needed out with honour.

Q. How did you connect with him?
Jackie Earle Haley: He’s such an extreme guy but I think in some weird kind of way we can all see ourselves in. I don’t know if it’s something that’s obvious to us. But self-esteem and self-worth is an issue for each and every one of us. For Rorschach, at that extreme, he grew up with such a troubled childhood – a mother who was a prostitute, who was a drug addict and an alcoholic, who would neglect him and beat him. She placed him on such a low priority that I think he kind of lost, or never had any sense of self. And I think he kind of lost any sense of his own identity.

Just for his own survival, he kind of found this… being such a victim of that grey, he found himself in this black and white sense of justice in his absolutism and his no compromise kind of stance. I think that when he decided to become a masked avenger and decided to don the outfit and get out there, I think that’s when he became whole. That’s when he found his true identity and that’s why he thinks there’s no Walter [Kovacs], there’s only Rorschach. To me, that’s why that mask is his face.

Q. Did the costume help or hinder your performance? Because it must have felt weird to act with something covering your face?
Jackie Earle Haley: You know, both. But I think at the end of the day it helped. Covering your mouth while you’re performing, you do wonder whether people are going to be able to read this and tell what’s going on. You work internally and hope for the best. But every now and again I’d look at the monitor to see what’s coming through, and usually it was. But every now and again, it wasn’t and I’d be like: “Oh shit, I’d better animate the suit!”

Q. Could you see much?
Jackie Earle Haley: A lot of the time my eyes were cut out and I think that helped me not to bump into things, and it was useful for the other actors to be able to look into my eyes. It may even have helped the CG guys in terms of knowing what was going on emotionally with the character.

Q. Have any of the fans, or any of the three guys that were involved in the book, seen it?
Jackie Earle Haley: We were all just giddy as could be when Dave Gibbons [the illustrator of the original graphic novels] showed up on the set. He was giddy as well… just standing there in the Crime-busters meeting and seeing his world becoming completely 3D’d – everything from the props and the costumes… that was a big giggle-fest.

Read our review of Watchmen

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