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Watchmen - Malin Akerman and Carla Gugino interview

Malin Akerman in Watchmen

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MALIN Akerman and Carla Gugino talk about appearing in Watchmen, getting to grips with latex costumes and getting to balance kick-ass fight scenes with high emotion.

Gugino, a veteran of Sin City, also sheds a little light on what it felt like to be part of that experience, while Akerman – who is best known for comedies such as 27 Dresses and The Heartbreak Kid – talks about making the switch to more dramatic fare.

Q. How did you find playing properly developed characters but at the same time wearing some outrageous costumes?
Malin Akerman: It was actually a pleasure to play characters that were fully fleshed out and to have all the details that are in the novel, and then the have fun of living vicariously and learning how to do all these amazing fight sequences. So, it really was like killing two birds with one stone because you get to do it all. I thought they were all very relatable. It was real subjects and exploring humanity and its worst and at its best. It was phenomenal and will be hard to beat as an actor.

Q. Have you kept the costume for fancy dress parties?
Malin Akerman: You know, my husband asked me to do the same thing but I decided to just leave that one alone! I had enough of latex after that. It’s not so comfortable.

Q. Did you get a sense of empowerment whenever you put on the suit and switched between your real world character and superhero alter-ego?
Malin Akerman: Well, in any case with women, when you put on heels and when you put on flats, you present yourself in different ways. So, certainly just putting on the costumes you do feel that you’re doing something different. So, I absolutely feel that whether it’s putting on latex or a suit, it’s going to affect you in some sort of way.

Q. How aware of the graphic novel were you before being cast? When did you discover it was so different for the genre?
Malin Akerman: It’s a crazy thing to admit but I had heard of it, but hadn’t read it. And now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Q. Zack Snyder seems like a really enthusiastic director. Can you explain what it was like to work with him?
Carla Gugino: I think if you’re a director you do have to have a lot of enthusiasm, because you’re the one who is the leader and you have to keep everyone in sync and on point. But maybe what people have been talking about that’s exceptional with Zack is that he is incredibly focused, has an amazing vision, but is a really amazing combination of a kid in a candy store, who is just so happy about everything.

He loves the nuances of the gadgets and everything, but he also has the skills and the ability where he can really back that up on a technical level, on an acting level, and on a communication level. It’s rare that you find a director that has a really strong vision but is also collaborative. Oftentimes, those two are mutually exclusive in the sense that somebody will say “give me ideas” and you’ll know they’re kind of lost. Or, they know exactly what they want but there is no room for interpretation. Zack loves actors and he loves the material, and his crew will do anything for him.

Q. Did you find that he worked on the physical scenes with you as much as he worked on the emotional scenes?
Malin Akerman: Well, we had a fight choreographer who, I believe, was with Zack on 300. So, we had more of the discussions on the fight sequences with him, and then Zack would come in. But Zack has a very clear vision of what he wants to see and it’s all written there for you. It was just a combination of everybody coming together and getting it on track.

Q. How did you find the emotional sequences? Some of them have nothing to do with superheroes?
Carla Gugino: That’s what’s so beautiful about this piece is that there are so many genuine emotional journies that they go on, and that they’re really beautifully paid off. There is to be an even more extended cut but I think that’s why it’s such a vast piece of material because there are these little nuances. Certainly, in the last scene, I love that there’s a little bit of healing and a little bit of light in the midst of all this darkness. You realise that my character and the people she’s with actually have a shot at finding some happiness.

Q. What did you find hardest about shooting?
Malin Akerman: There were many little challenges along the way. One was learning how to fight and make it look real, as if we’d been doing it our whole lives. I’m more versed in comedy than I am in drama, so there were certain scenes that required a little bit more of an emotional reaction that represented a huge challenge for me. It was good figuring out for myself how to do it. But that’s what makes it such an exciting business to be in – you’re constantly exploring yourself and pushing yourself to your own limits. But I think this whole film was a challenge for so many reasons.

Firstly, you have the source material, which we wanted to make as faithful and true as possible. You have all the history there already, so you have to make up the psychology of your character. It was amazing. It’s almost like you’re a thrill-seeker.

Carla Gugino: Playing an older woman was obviously challenging for me [laughs]. But again, it’s so great to be asked to do something that you’ve never gotten to do before. The make-up was really helpful, but really challenging in terms of what was coming across just physically. You know, how much did I have to move to get through it, or not? I had to discover that along the way. But I don’t think there’s a single character in Watchmen that isn’t challenging.

Even the movie… you can just go in and be entertained, or you can sort of be challenged and question things. You might not be given answers. Aside from maybe The Dark Knight recently, there’s very few movies in what people think this genre is where you walk out and then the next morning you wake up and find you’re still thinking about something.

Q. Do you think The Dark Knight and Watchmen have now upped the ante for the genre as a whole?
Carla Gugino: I think it’s upped the ante in terms of the faithfulness to the source material and the technology and the visuals. So, if it’s a lighter source material, then it should be a lighter vision. I don’t think it’s necessarily upped the ante in terms of being dark, but in terms of being good and faithful and also in a medium of its own. As a film, it can stand alone.

Q. You were also in Sin City, which is another landmark film in the genre…
Carla Gugino: I loved being part of Sin City. It was my fourth movie with Robert Rodriguez. I’m a big Frank Miller fan. We had four monitors at all times with that. We had a green screen monitor, a monitor that had Frank’s frame from his graphic novel, a black and white frame of us, and then the animatronics one where they were going to do whatever they needed to do. So, we’d always go over and watch the monitor afterwards and say: “Oops, I leaned on my left elbow instead of my right…” It was incredibly precise. That was my entry into the world of graphic novels and even my knowledge of them in any kind of intimate way. So, I feel blessed to have been able to collaborate on two that I feel really proud of.

Read our review of Watchmen

Read our interview with Patrick Wilson