Laurie Jupiter and Dan Dreiberg are the most human characters in "Watchmen." Caught up in the machinations and plans of severe characters, they encompass the street. Not the dingy, defeated streets Rorschach sees, nor the idealized streamlined avenues Adrian Veidt plans in his corporate castle. Laurie and Dan both stand in the average world where a retired costumed hero still buys groceries.
Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson, who play the former Silk Spectre and Night Owl, respectively, talked with CBR News about their roles, their costumes, and the spirit on set of "Watchmen," the new Zack Snyder film based on the classic DC Comics graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gobbons.
According to Patrick Wilson, fans at a recent preview screening had kind words about Laurie as she appears on screen. "The fans were saying [Malin] brought the character forward and made her a little more relevant," he reported. "A lot of the fans complain about Laurie [in the book.] 'Y'know, she's just an incessant whiner.'"
Malin Akerman was unaware her character had that reputations amongst readers of the novel. "I hadn't heard that. I'm so happy that the fans are pleased with it," she said. "I did know that while it was being written, she was sort of an afterthought. Just to add a female character into it and she wasn't one of the main roles at first. In the Absolute [edition of the book], you see all these vivid explanations of the characters and Laurie's character is just kind of a half-page."
As realized on screen, Laurie is an important part of the film's dynamic. "She's this sort of vulnerable woman who's coming of age and finding her independence and finding love and [she brings] a softness to the whole film," Akerman explained.
"It's also one of the benefits of the medium," added Wilson. "There's a real difference in reading a female's portrayal--especially if you're a man reading her conflict with Dr. Manhattan and Dan--you feel like you get it. But when you see [Malin] do it and there's such a humanity and groundedness to it, that's when I think film can really round out a character. There it's a real person that you're watching and so much can be said with so little. I think that's a real benefit of film in general."
Playing a very human part in the hyper-real world of "Watchmen" did not affect the performances. For the actors, "Watchmen" is very much a human drama. "[Dan] is as much as a detailed character with a big arc as of any other character I've played," Wilson said. "I never really got caught up in the genre aspect of the film because so much of it is very organic."
Even when playing against Dr. Manhattan, realized through a number of on-set and computer techniques, the performances came first. "It was still Billy Crudup [playing Manhattan], who's a fantastic actor. So, I never felt like I was in some crazy CGI movie because for most of it, at least with our characters, you didn't get that feeling of sacrificing acting because of effects," Wilson explained. "I think these characters are so real and it's such a human struggle. Certainly with [Laurie], a woman who's caught between a man who's not there for her emotionally and choosing [to leave him], that's as human as it gets.
"These are extremely human aspects, it just so happens they used to be costumed avengers. The struggle is so well written and the arc of all these characters, that you never felt like you were just saying, 'Oh, it's just a superhero movie.'"
However, the film does feature one major aspect of superhero movies: costumes. "The costumes were definitely a big challenge in their own sense," Akerman said. "[Latex] is definitely not the most comfortable thing to wear for eighteen hours straight. It's very constricting. And then you add heels to that, and the corset and this long wig and they go, 'Fight!' You're like, 'really?' It also takes on the temperature of whatever room you're in, so if it's really hot, you're burning up and if it's really cold, you're freezing."
According to Ackerman, the Night Owl costume presented different challenges for Wilson. "It's all foam and it was heavy and it was hot. For [him], it was harder to do the kicks and such."
Spending time in such a costume gave Wilson a new empathy for those that have worn cowls before him. "I can go back and watch the Michael Keaton 'Batman' and understand. 'Wow, he can't turn his head, I know what that's like!'" he joked. While Wilson said he had trouble moving his arms, he credits the design team as being "really great and receptive." Recalling scenes from the book, he said, "I remember I wanted a couple where I wanted to take the cowl off and have it down. So [they] made it from the right material."
There was one aspect of the costume Wilson refused. "I put the kibosh on the corse. I worked too hard for that gut," he said, referring to Dreiberg's famously out-of-shape superhero physique.
Laurie and Dan also spend time out of any costume. Akerman contrasted the differences in shooting the love scenes. "There were two guys in bed with me for the [Dr. Manhattan threesome] scene. They're in these white sort of pajamas with the blue LED lights, so really I was more nervous about getting shocked," she said. "It was almost like Raki massage, where you're not really touching, but going through the motions."
The love scene with Dan in the Owlship was more human. "There was definitely a difference between trying to act with yourself and opposite someone," she explained.
"In an Owlship. On the dashboard," added Wilson.
"I got huge bruises on my legs from that because it was a tight chair. Try explaining that to your husband," laughed Ackerman.
Both actors credit director Zack Snyder with inspiring everyone involved to treat the material with a great deal of respect. "I think we all have a tremendous amount of pride in what we set out to do," Wilson said. "There's such passion from the actors and designers and from Zack; a real sense of wanting to tell this story as faithful as you can. When you have a director like Zack who has the energy of a teenager ... everybody wants to be like that. That's your captain. When you have a captain of the team, everybody is moving forward. He's got the hardest job and he's the happiest one around."