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  • Feature: Watchmen

    Wed, 04 Mar 2009 17:34:22

    Feature: Watchmen - We spoke to the actors behind the masked superheroes about the highly-anticipated film

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    Being a superhero isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just ask Jackie Earle Haley, who phenomenally portrays Watchmen's darkest hero, Rorschach. "Playing this guy was literally like gazing into the abyss," says Haley. "He's such a tweaked individual. He's been absolutely guided by his upbringing. His mom was incredibly neglectful as a prostitute, an alcoholic, and a drug addict. All of her behavior seemed to stem from her self-centered needs. Everywhere in this world, Rorschach would see that self-centered behavior continually justified and excused by society's complexities. He absolutely needed this black and white sense of morality so that he could survive. I don't know if I agree with all of his morals, but there is something oddly admirable about his absolutism and his no-compromise standpoint."

    There's also something admirable about how deeply the actors of Watchmen delved into their characters. That complete immersion is what makes Watchmen such a compelling graphic novel adaptation.

    Jeffrey Dean Morgan also danced with the devil as The Comedian. "The Comedian was the abyss," he sighs somberly. "He doesn't get it until it's way too late. Given the subject matter, there were days that were going to be hard to film no matter what—like the rape."

    As hard as it may have been, it was completely worth it, because Alan Moore's allegedly "unfilmable" masterpiece is now an enthralling cinematic epic. The film follows retired masked crime fighters who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives in the aftermath of The Comedian's murder. However, Rorschach can't let it go, and he unfolds a web of intrigue that he and all of his old cohorts get entangled in.

    'Watchmen is an indictment of pop culture and the idea of superhero mythology,' says Billy Crudup.

    Even though he didn't have any superpowers, per se, Morgan feels like he stepped up his personal dramatic game. "I've played bad guys before, but The Comedian was a little bit rougher. Maybe if I'd been shooting a guy and not my pregnant girlfriend, I would've reacted much differently to that murder scene. However, I could easily get into The Comedian's head and do the job. I didn't need to act like a jackass or an asshole all day to do that."

    The film deeply affected Haley, as he had to burrow into the recesses of one of the darkest characters imaginable. "I found myself isolating a lot," he explains. "I continually tried to put up that filter of how Rorschach sees the world. We always try to find the beauty in humanity and human condition. After staring at it so long through Rorschach's prism, the more I see that the human condition is selfishness and greed."

    Billy Crudup, who plays Dr. Manhattan, explains how the film subverts traditional imaginings of the superhero genre. "Watchmen is an indictment of pop culture and the idea of superhero mythology. We're after something by creating superhero mythology. I really want to encounter someone dressed as an owl looking for burglars on San Vicente Boulevard [laughs]. I want to play that guy."

    The idiosyncratic nature of the Watchmen wasn't lost on Malin Akerman, who plays the film's primary female hero, Laurie Jupiter (a.k.a. The Silk Spectre II). "Laurie's a regular woman. She has a career that's very unusual, and she hangs out with some crazy characters. She's tangible, though. Who hasn't had a tumultuous relationship with one or both parents? Laurie has a beautiful arc in this film. In my life, I've been through that process of soul searching and figuring out who I am. I also got to live vicariously through her and be a femme fatale. The whole combination was perfect!"

    Patrick Wilson's tepid and nervous Dan Dreiberg (a.k.a. "Nite Owl") becomes her object of affection, and, like Akerman, had an affinity for his character. "I love Dan. I feel like I got him. I loved his earnestness with trying to do the right thing and feeling a real struggle in trying to recapture his manhood."

    "Really, his hard-on," adds Akerman with a laugh.

    These heroes aren't that different from us after all.

    —Rick Florino

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    Tags: Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson

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