Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt are the most detached characters in "Watchmen." Both possess gifts unlike the rest of their generation of crime fighters. In the timeframe of the story, both are above the world; Manhattan in his sub-atomic pursuits, Veidt in his glass tower and Media Empire. For actors Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode, who play Manhattan and Veidt respectively, the detached states offered technical and acting challenges. Both men talked to CBR News about their roles in "Watchmen," the new Zack Snyder film based on the classic DC Comics graphic novel.
Crudup likens his performance as Doctor Manhattan to holding the strings. "I was just moving the puppet version of me," he explained. In a suit he described as "a kind of elaborate pajamas," Crudup controlled a computer simulation featuring a laser-scanned replica of his face and the ripped physique of the character. "They were attempting to capture all the nuance of the performance, too. Not that there was really anything to capture," he joked. "But they were going to try to capture it if it was there. They shot it with high definition camera and sent it to ... leprechauns somewhere."
The actor's high-tech suit also featured a lighting rig. "There were two things they were trying to accomplish: motion capture and to light the other characters with the blue light that Doctor Manhattan is supposed to emanate," Crudup explained. "So, I had a suit that a bunch of blue lights on it, a battery pack that was pretty hot, and dots on my face."
Asked about bulking up for the rest of Dr. Manhattan's appearance, Crudup quipped, "As you can see, the six-foot-four, two hundred and forty-pound ripped version was not me. I think that guy had like forty-eight shoulders or something."
Matthew Goode quickly shot back, "You looked good!"
Similarly, Goode also kept a slimmer build than usually associated with superhero films. "Zack [Snyder] was all about, 'If [Veidt] is a perfect specimen, then he should be all about [being thin].' That's why I was thin, rather than bulky -- you wouldn't have that speed."
Both actors affected special voices for their characters. Crudup explained the philosophy behind Manhattan's unusual voice. "Zack had some great ideas about how someone with that kind of ability would try to calm the people around him with not too intimidating a voice," he said. Manhattan's voice operates in contrast to his dramatic appearance, which suggests a lower register. "We tried to find a placement that was not too Greek-god like." Another consideration was the nature of the character. Crudup described Manhattan as "someone who was just distracted. He was not too interested in the conversations going on. He was more interested in watching particles interact. It was a strange thing to try and find." The voice evolved through the shoot and into post-production, when Crudup re-recorded some of his dialogue. "I felt we need to tweak it a bit," he recalled.
As Veidt, Goode adopted a faint German accent. "Will [the audience] see this slightly Germanic character as the baddie?" he wondered. In movies, a German accent often works as aural shorthand for "the bad guy." Goode says the voice came from the suggestions throughout the "Watchmen" graphic novel, readingVeidt as coming from a Nazi family. "He gives away all his money," Goode said. "Suggesting the motivation was guilt."
Similar to Manhattan is an amount of calm the character of Veidt exudes. "He's the smartest man in the world. If you are that intelligent and can make these sorts of decisions, you are quite calm. I suppose that's one of the reasons he and Doctor M. get on and can work together," Goode explained.
Veidt offers a great acting challenge because of his limited screentime. "There's so much to get in to so few scenes," Goode said. "Everything about Adrian is so black and white. He's got legal operations. He's got illegal operations. He might be gay. He's trying to save the world, but if you take it as it looks on paper, it looks horrific."
Asked where he got the suggestion Veidt might be gay, Goode said, "It's suggested by Rorschach. 'Possibly homosexual. Must investigate further.'" Goode also said there is a more direct implication in the movie version of "Watchmen." "It's suggested in our film on [Veidt's] computer, when they break into it. The computer [contains files that say] 'Operations' and another that says 'Boys.' I found that hilarious."
Though Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode are not comic book fans, both actors appreciate the material presented in "Watchmen." As Goode puts it, "If [I] can look back on [my career] and [if I only] did one project, I'm glad it was 'Watchmen.'"
Having immersed themselves in the world of "Watchmen," both actors look forward to the extended material that will arrive on home video. "I'm looking forward to watching 'the Black Freighter,'" Crudup said of the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray tie-in "Tales of the Black Freighter." Goode looks forward to a version of the film which incorporates that material plus some additional scenes. "We're missing all this stuff, like Hollis Mason. There's another forty-five minutes to the film, plus 'the Black Freighter,' I'm excited to see it all put together." However, he also thinks the theatrical presentation is "an honest film of the book."