Billy Crudup does not at all look like the towering, muscular, blue being he plays in the upcoming Watchmen movie. Out of all of the Watchmen characters, his is arguably the hardest role for an actor to pull off.
However, because Crudup’s filmography includes several off-center roles, director Zack Snyder tapped him to play Dr. Osterman — the physicist who, after a lab accident, is transformed into the god-like Dr. Manhattan.
Zack was interested in me because of the parts that I take are strange, and complicated, and exist in a gray area, so, I like those parts - I’ll probably keep doing them - and I’m happy that a part like [Dr. Manhattan] turned up in a movie like this so I can get this experience too.
In fact, as Crudup said during the big Watchmen panel at San Diego’s Comic Con this past Friday, “How do you pretend to be a six foot four, buffed out, master of matter when you’re a five foot nine, forty year old jack ass.”
So, now that shooting is complete, and the finishing touches are being put on the film, does Crudup feel that he succeeded in capturing the essence of the near-omnipotent super hero on screen? Crudup admitted,
Well to be honest, I am not entirely sure that I have yet, so that remains to be seen. I tried to do it in the way that the graphic novel and the screenplay asked me to, which is in a stumbling complicated awkward way.
Crudup had some great challenges to overcome as a performer. Since his character was going to be completely rendered in CGI, he had to wear a white motion capture suit that had dozens of little blue lights on it that would mimic the character's ambient glow. How do you get in character when you look like a Christmas tree?
I constantly referenced a picture that they had fabricated for me to basically keep [the character] in my mind, and I tried to stay away from any reflective surfaces so I didn’t have to see what I actually looked like...I have never gotten to wear a motion capture suit, and never been a lighting instrument for other actors — which is basically what I was which was kinda cool, but it required a more forceful imaginative leap than I’ve ever had to really exhibit.
Not only did Crudup have to overcome not looking like his character on set, but in a film that has been unconventionally “build heavy” with lots of traditional sets, Crudup was one of the few Watchmen actors that had to perform many of his scenes in front of a green-screen.
You know that scene when I’m walking through the rice paddys in Vietnam and I’m blowing up… that’s not what it felt like doing, so to try and carry those images with the level of detail and power that they possess and the vividness of the colors is a really monumental challenge, and I can see my mind was not totally up to the task when I see what Zack was actually capable of doing, because what he was able to do was pretty staggering… You know what you do, is you take it day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour, and for me it was an exotic experience.
And if that wasn’t enough, Crudup was faced with portraying the one Watchmen character who is almost completely detached from human society and almost devoid of compassion. Somehow Crudup needs to make the audience care about his character and get us to identify with him. Dr. Manhattan is not unlike Superman — all powerful, virtually indestructible. But unlike Superman, who wears his heart on his sleeve, Dr. Manhattan is virtually emotionless and struggling to identify with his humanity.
…he is increasingly less and less capable of that as his mind becomes more interested in the inner workings of the universe. And if we all had the capacity, I’m sure, to see the kinds of things that he was seeing with the comprehension and vividness with which he sees them, you might be distracted by it too.
And speaking of distractions, let’s talk about his character’s “you know what” which will appear on screen in its full frontal CGI glory. Did the graphics department embellish that area as much as they did Crudup’s pectoral region?
When you see them you’ll know that it’s just… they took what they had… you know what I’m saying?
7.30.08 Source: WatchmenComicMovie.com
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