Three distinctive actors from Watchmen sat together for interviews at the 2009 Wondercon at San Francisco's Moscone Center: Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman), Patrick Wilson (Dan Dreiberg/Nite-Owl II) and Malin Akerman (Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II). Though he has remained staunchly committed to stage work (winning a 2007 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia), Billy Crudup has made his mark in films like Tim Burton's Big Fish, Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd, Barry Levinson's Sleepers, Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, Robert Towne's Without Limits, and Stephen Frears' The Hi-Lo Country, as well as undeservedly underseen indies like Jesus' Son and Waking the Dead. Some of his "bigger" movies include Mission: Impossible III and this year's Public Enemies, in which he plays J. Edgar Hoover. A bit newer on the scene is Malin Akerman, whose credits include Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, The Brothers Solomon, The Heartbreak Kid and 27 Dresses. Other 2009 films include The Proposal and Couples Retreat.
Two-time Tony nominee Patrick Wilson also proves loyal to the stage, despite an increasingly successful film career including roles in Little Children, Lakeview Terrace, Phantom of the Opera, Hard Candy, The Alamo, and Running with Scissors. In my brief discussion with the trio backstage at WonderCon, the happy trio kept the mood light.
Groucho: So, if you don't mind, I'd like to start with a superficial question first, and then we'll get deeper as we go along.
Malin Akerman: Okay. We don't have to get deeper!
Billy Crudup: It's better if we don't.
Malin Akerman: (Laughs.)
Groucho: Can you talk about what it took to be "made over" into your character? I gather there were some special effects involved for Billy—
Billy Crudup: Yes!
Groucho: As well as the costumes.
Billy Crudup: Sure! I can talk about it. So Dr. Manhattan—everything you see of Dr. Manhattan is a creation of the brilliant minds behind the computer in the visual effects team. And the way they accomplished it was by a pretty complicated system of motion-capture markers on me. They had over a hundred and forty dots that had to be perfectly calibrated and recognizable for the two high-definition cameras that captured all of my movements. And eventually what they did was they erased any part of me, while keeping the dots, and the dots corresponded to an exact replica of my face that was blue, and, uh, uhhhmm, then that was all.
Patrick Wilson: Wah-wah.
Patrick Wilson: We just got carried away by the laughter.
BC: I don't—
PW: Losing your train of thought.
BC: Zack is over there charmin' em! (Laughs.) So anyway, Malin?
MA: Um, well, mine was not as complicated. Or maybe it was even more complicated. But it was basically—I mean, we did several, several fittings just to get—you know, it's quite revealing, and there's not much room for mistakes in that costume. So it was a lot of fittings, and, uh—
Groucho: What was it like when you first put it on?
MA: It was—you know, when I first put it on, I loved it. I thought it looked phenomenal, fantastic. You know, and then they put the heels on and the corset. (Breathes in.) And you just kind of go "Oh wow, I wonder how this is going to feel after a couple weeks of wearing a corset and high heels." And literally, after about the first week, I was already done and only had about—what?—five months to go with it?
MA: (Laughs.) But of course it always helps when you put a costume on. Or, for women, when you put on a pair of heels. You just—you change. Your persona changes. And that's what it did for all of us.
PW: Uhhmm, yeah, I mean, I think—there were two sort of separate sides, I guess—Nite-Owl and Dan. So speaking of costumes, pretty early on we were—you know, Michael Wilkinson, our designer, he showed us all these different images of what he sort of wanted. And then I remember going in there with him and going through different kinds of gloves that I wanted. And they were actually sort of souped-up, like, BMX gloves that they added stuff onto, for grip and for armor. Because the leaps that they had made, or the changes that they made, rather, from the graphic novel sort of left room for a minor bit of input, at least, from our side. And I remember going through different boots, and what kind of boots I thought we should wear and what sort of fit. And they would take them and change them around and stuff. And for Dan, it was actually a similar thing of trying to get the right look and the right color palette that Dave [Gibbons] had drawn. And then just the way certain things fit to keep it a little schlubbier and heavier. And then finding the right glasses that they made—they made those—and what would sort of look right on my face but sort of go with the theme in the book, the two little lines over there. It's a very sort of—looks like he picked 'em up at a drugstore, y'know. But actually they're really expensive (laughs) and handmade.
G: Did you have to gain weight, or is it partly how you carried yourself?
PW: I think that's a little of both. I mean, I did gain—yeah, it wasn't in any sort of grand plan with Zack. It was sort of my own accord of what I wanted to look like and [how] I sort of saw Dan. Y'know, so I gained about twenty pounds. Just keeping it on was actually more the difficult problem, 'cause I don't usually live north of 200, so to be well over that was sort of strange. And then matching that with the fight training that we were doing, to be able to not just be—to not burn it all off was (laughs) actually sort of a trick. 'Cause I hadn't really—it was sort of a weird thing. I don't imagine that's been done a lot, really, in this genre. To like—"I'm going to gain weight and then learn to fight." I mean, it's usually quite the opposite...You know what I did is I got those really huge tubs at, like GNC, that are just super, super-high-calorie stuff. It wasn't about eating the fat. It was really calorie content. And then mixing that with ice cream.
BC: How is that not about the fat?
PW: Well, because it wasn't—you know—I mean, I just knew that it was really the calorie content.
BC: I getcha.
PW: It really needed to just triple. You get your whole—you get, like, a day and a half worth of calories in about eight ounces. And then I'd get as much as I could. It does make you feel really heavy.
PW: It was very strange.