Coming March 6 to cinemas everywhere is "Watchmen," the new Zack Snyder film based on the classic DC Comics graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. Starring in "Watchmen" as the portly Dan "Nite Owl" Dreiberg is Patrick Wilson, who gained twenty pounds for the role. Wilson is perhaps best known for his hugely acclaimed HBO miniseries "Angels in America," for which he received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor. He also appeared alongside Samuel L. Jackson in "Lakeview Terrace," and with "Watchmen" co-star Jackie Earle Haley in Todd Field's "Little Children."
During CBR's visit to the "Watchmen" set in Vancouver in December of 2007, we had a chance to sit down with Patrick Wilson to discuss Dan Dreiberg, his enthusiasm for Moore & Gibbons' work, and why he decided to take the part in the first place.
What did you know about "Watchmen" and the character of Nite Owl before being offered the part?
I had heard of the graphic novel, but I didn't grow up a comic book guy. As with any script that's based on a comic book or a graphic novel that's come my way in the past, I called my buddy, who is one of my best friends, and since I've known him, which is about 20 years, every Wednesday he goes and gets comics. So he's the authority. So I called him, and I said, "All right, 'Watchmen,' what do you got?" He just goes, "Oh, God." And he actually directly said, "If you are ever to do a comic book movie, this is the one to do."
So I read the script first, prior to the graphic novel, and was just like, "What is this?" I loved it, I was fascinated by it. It was just different from anything else I had read. And then I got the graphic novel and read all that. I just loved it. I think, like all of us, we all sort of gravitate towards [the characters we ended up playing]. I didn't read 'Watchmen' and think Rorschach, I read it and thought of Dan. All of us sort of have that, which is great to see. I think Jeffrey [Dean Moran] was talking about that too, the Comedian. All the characters that we play are our favorite characters. It's good, that way you don't want the other guy's job. Anyway, I was blown away by [the graphic novel].
Among other reasons, Dan Dreiberg is the superhero known for being a bit out of shape. Was it fun getting to eat whatever you wanted in preparation for the role?
It's pretty awesome. It was a different experience for me. I'm a big guy naturally, but I've always been an athlete, a runner. And so, as soon as I knew I could keep my shirt on in another movie [I was filming], and I was sure the [shirtless] scenes were done, I was like, "Alright!" and I just stopped all the running.
What can you tell us about your Nite Owl costume? It's a bit different than Dave Gibbons' version from the graphic novel.
Yeah. It's kept the spirit, certainly, of the graphic novel. Well, when I say that, I think of the design. I mean, the cowl is a little different, it doesn't sort of come around the face and just have the goggles, it's much more. It's okay to say it's Batman-esque, that's sort of the point. The color scheme has stayed the same, we're still in browns and yellows. It's a pretty great look. We played with a lot of goggles for a long time trying to figure that out.
Do you have a lot of action in the film?
Yeah, quite a bit. It's totally different than anything I've ever done. Combat-wise, you want to make Dan very power-based. Everyone has a different fighting style. We all have to work for it. And our stunt guys are great, they really are just great, so it's been really exciting to do all that martial arts.
Tell us about playing a guy who knows what he's doing but is so out of shape, and hasn't been at it for a while?
Yeah, I know. I mean, I guess you just work as hard as you can. And I think there's an element of, "Well, the kicks may not be as high..." I always think of that first scene, the first time you saw Matt Damon fight in "Bourne Identity," and I don't think it's surprise as much as, "That's right, this is what I do." I mean, that's the whole thing with Dan; it's his identity, who he is, struggling to find that. And of course, as soon as he gets the suit on, that's him.
We walked around in Dan's apartment, which is hugely detailed with the character's possessions and mementos. It must help you as an actor to be so immersed in Dan's world. And it's quite a contrast from Snyder's last film, the largely green screen "300."
I knew from reading it, "Watchmen" wasn't going to be like "300." It's more "Taxi Driver" than it is "300." I knew from the script, I knew from the first moment we sat down, and this was only a year ago now, I knew it was going to be very actor-friendly. This view of New York is New York in '85, there's no way around that. How can you not do that [physically]? You have to have the porn and the seediness of it.
It's quite a different look from most superhero movies.
It's funny, because when the graphic novel came out, and what that sort of did to the comic book world, it pulled the rug out from under it. You certainly don't want to shoot a movie to take away from all the other comic book movies and superhero movies, because you enjoy those, I love those, I'm a fan of those first. But this is not that, that's what makes this story this story.
You and Jackie Earle Haley appeared together in "Little Children." Was it a happy coincidence that he plays Rorschach in this movie with you?
You know, I got so excited when I knew that he was onboard. It was such a long process, and I remember, we were just doing press for "Little Children" while this was going on, I remember calling him and just being so excited. Like "You got to do it, is it going to happen?" All of that kind of stuff. I love Jackie.