This November sees the release of the feature film adaptation of Alan Moore & David Lloyd’s seminal graphic novel “V for Vendetta,” which tells the story of a dystopian future London with one being who rises above it all to fight against the government and return control of their world back to the people. The film stars Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond, our protagonist who’s taken on a journey of self-exploration guided by V, played by Hugo Weaving, who is effectively a terrorist fighting back against the threats of an overly aggressive government. Frankly, that description alone doesn’t capture the complexities of the graphic novel, but it gives you an idea where the story is going.
The film finished shooting last month in London, wrapping up a number of exterior shots outside the Houses of Parliament, the seat of British government. As is true with most comics-to-film productions, the fan base has cried out a bit regarding the changes that have been made with the film script written by “The Matrix” creators Larry and Andy Wachowski. It didn’t help when Alan Moore very publicly slammed the script and the various changes made, nor have early script reviews from those who’ve read the graphic novel been all that favorable, but at the same time it must be remembered that the Wachowski’s and director James McTeigue are making a movie, not a graphic novel, so changes should and have been expected.
Thus far video and images from “V for Vendetta” have been very sparse, but today fans got their first look at the trailer to the film when it was released on the official Web site. With that in mind we thought we’d share CBR’s own one-on-one interview with star Natalie Portman, conducted last week on a terrace outside the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Con International.
Ultimately, what was it that attracted you to the role of Evey Hammond in “V for Vendetta?”
Well, I liked that the story wasn’t preachy. It didn’t tell you what to think. It has a hero that’s not completely good and has a political situation with many facets. So, the story, as a whole, I felt was really respectful of a thinking audience. Also, I thought the character was interesting because she’s someone who’s apolitical and tries to keep her hands clean in this society. She tries to stay out of trouble and conform, but then she develops a political consciousness and I found that transformation fascinating.
You brought up the politics of the film. “V for Vendetta” is a rather incendiary story and the current worldwide political climate sees governments and ideologies battling with each other and shares some similarities to the story in the movie. Do you think the current political climate makes this a better or worse time for “V” to hit theaters?
What the movie does is it makes you question how you justify violence or if violence can ever be justified. I think that’s really important for us to consider because we have so many labels we place on things and such lingo and categorizations of violence that exist within our legal systems and they’re debatable– is a hate crime worse than a crime of intent? Is state sanctioned violence worse than individual violence? All those things are worth examining especially in an environment where we use violence as a way to solve problems. That’s how the world works right now and if we can’t find distinctions between these, maybe it legitimizes all violence.
How do the recent bombings in London affect your feelings on the themes explored in this film? Suddenly there are some eerie comparisons.
It depends. The way I think about it is that we each have some sort of threshold for violence. Some people say there’s no excuse in the world for violence and would rather risk their own life than commit violence against someone else. However, I think most people would agree that even if they wouldn’t commit violence against someone else, they probably would to save their child. They would risk bloodying their hands under those circumstances. Now, if you extend that to the leader of a country, maybe he or she feels that their people are their children and you’d be willing to commit violence to save or protect them. Then we have all these perceived dangers and threats in our world. I think you think violence is justified if you agree with the reasons behind it, if you agree there’s a threat to someone. So, it’s all really a matter of perspective and when you come to that conclusion you really can’t judge any violence unless you say all violence is bad. So, especially following these recent events, the story in “V For Vendetta” asks us to reevaluate our perceptions that are often culturally formed of what is and isn’t acceptable violence.
Talk about the challenges of working against the mask worn by your co-star Hugo Weaving. When he has it on, you have little to no visual feedback from him and he’s wearing that mask throughout most of the film.
It wasn’t that bad. There’s a lot of feedback in the physical and vocal portrayal of the role and because my character’s also wondering what’s going on behind that mask– is he smiling, sad, hurt, angry, etc.– it helps because you imagine him a lot of different ways.
Did Hugo end up giving a more “theatrical” style performance as a result?
I don’t think theatrical in terms of overdoing it, but yes in terms of exploring more how to use physicality and vocal performance and expressions because, like is true for audience members in the back row watching a stage play, you can’t see the facial details on stage and can’t rely on those for your primary cues, but there are many other cues an actor can pick up on when working together and that helped a lot.
You’ve played in the realm of genre film a couple of times now, twice this year with “Star Wars” and now “V for Vendetta.” Is that an area you’re comfortable with and are you looking to explore it further?
It just happened that way. I’ve certainly done a number of films recently that aren’t genre films like “Cold Mountain” and “Closer.” I think it’s interesting to do different things all the time and it’s exciting to see people be so passionate about these types of films. Really, people get passionate about good films and if there’s a genre film that’s not good, they tend to not care. They get excited because they feel an attachment to the material.
Is playing in the world of genre films something you’d like to do more of?
It doesn’t matter to me. As long as it’s interesting and can be good entertainment, I’ll do it.
Have you read the graphic novel? What did you think?
I loved it. I read it after the script and I felt the script is very faithful to the graphic novel. Mainly, the script excised some subplots that would have made the film overly long. They [Larry & Andy] made it a bit more condensed and quick paced. It is very similar to the graphic novel and it’s amazing to see how much you can fuse history, visual art, literature, politics and imagination. Moore and Lloyd really did some amazing stuff with this and the graphic novel is clearly a modern form of literary expression.
Have you read any other graphic novels?
No, it’s something I’ve just been introduced to with “V,” but it’s definitely something I’m interested in finding more about because I think it’s an amazing medium worth exploring.
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