Here’s another of our Comic Con interviews. This one with Watchmen actors Jeffrey Dean Morgan who plays The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley who plays Rorschach.
Jackie, you're playing hands-down the most popular character in the book, the disturbed Rorschach. What was that like?
Morgan: I argue that point.
Haley: It was an absolutely awesome experience. Getting to go out there and work with the likes of Jeffrey Dean, Patrick, Billy, Malin, Carla, Matt - it was just a real treat.
Zack Snyder, his vision for this thing, was incredibly exciting for all of us. It's like the whole goal out there was to try and stick as close as we could in tone and theme and meaning and the whole thought-provoking aspect of Watchmen. It's kind of funny, I realized this today talking to press and people, looking over at Zack at the monitor, I saw him more with the comic book in his hand than the script.
Haley: It was an awesome experience to get to delve into this character with Zack and to really get at what makes him tick, who he is. And to work with the make-up department, the wardrobe department, because they're so much a part of the character. They helped me to embody this guy. It was just an amazing experience.
Jeffrey, you have this humongous character arc, but so much of it happens off screen. You keep popping in and these things are happening to you in between the scenes or in the past that aren't being shown. How hard was it to capture that arc without playing those parts or his acts of changing?
Morgan: Well, I had to break down the novel a lot and have a very clear idea every day of what I was doing and where I was in that arc. But the best thing about playing the Comedian is that I span from 1927 to 1984, and the changes that happen to the Comedian in that time, there are a couple of very specific things that happen in this man's life that do alter him. You finally see a mostly human side to the Comedian that you find hard to believe you're seeing this human side because he is such a bastard. Getting to play that was the main reason I wanted to do it so badly. It looks so specific in seeing when you read the comic book.
What I was fascinated most by when reading the comic is how I didn't hate the Comedian. You sure should hate this guy for the actions that he makes happen, but you don't. So, as an actor, trying to bring that so that you guys as an audience understand why he has done what he has done, and why he has become this man, was a real thrill as an actor and that is in the arc of the Comedian. It's just about breaking this stuff down, really paying attention. And like Jackie said, Zack was instrumental for all of us. He knows this book so damn well and we all do at this point, but he was so good at communicating with us and helping us remember where we were at any given moment. In a movie like this you're all over the place - one day we're shooting me falling out the window and the next day it's Rorschach splitting a dog in two. Nothing's in order so you're always constantly having to refer and check with Zack, who is so good at working with us and keeping us on track.
And we all care so much about this friggin' piece of work. The passion that's involved in this by the cast and the crew and the studio is so intense - it's like doing a little independent movie that you have no budget on but you get it done because you care so much about it. That's what this was like, only on a huge friggin' scale. But we all came at it like this is it, and we care so much about the original piece of work. And there you go. I'm totally babbling, so...
Jackie, can you talk about Rorschach? He's at once, a guy who wants to get to the bottom of what is happening out there, but he also has a kind of psychosis of his own. Being behind a veiled mask, how was it to do the nuances of conveying his sense of wanting to get to the end of what he wants to get to the end to, but also conveying that sense that this guy's not all there?
Haley: The short answer is that regardless of the mask, I've got to do all the work of an actor to fully understand my character, so that I can try to embody that internally. Try to find his emotional state, try to find where he's been, what his experiences were, what makes him tick. That's the first part of almost any approach. After getting to that place I would also have start to perform in the mask and the outfit, which I found to be very empowering to make me feel like Rorschach. But at the same time, I'd find that looking at the monitor that some of what I was feeling and emoting wasn't coming through. As an actor I had to live and breathe and feel to let it be this natural Rorschach, but at the same time perhaps throw in some external layers so that it's also coming through. Some days I felt like I was animating the suit. And that's what needed to be done.
You made an audition tape for this. Any chance of us seeing that?
Morgan: I want to see it!
Haley: I sure hope not.
Morgan: It had to be awesome. It got you the job!
What's your favorite scene for your characters?
Morgan: Oh, God, just watching those clips we just saw… I don't know. I have a soft spot for the Keene riots, myself. Just because the day we shot that, to see these sets and the Owlship above me and the crowd of people and everything on fire - it was so surreal and it came alive for me. At that moment I realized what I was doing. It was overwhelming. I haven't seen one frame of that, by the way, but it was the comic book come to life right before my very eyes. It was something else. I hope the scene turned out good! For me, that was my moment.
Haley: Somebody asked me this earlier today. I can't answer it. Every scene is… the whole process was amazing. Some scenes were disturbing to me, stuck with me. That normally doesn't happen. The role I did before this [in Little Children] - that guy should have stuck with me, bothered me and he didn't, because I could leave him on the set. For some reason, Rorschach, sometimes that guy followed me home, at least in terms of some of the stuff he was doing. The end scene - and I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to spoil it - that was kind of an amazing, emotional day on a lot of different levels. That was a trippy scene to work with everybody on.
Jackie, Alan Moore intended Rorschach as a deconstruction of the vigilante character. He's a Fascist, he's creepy, he's got all these mental problems... He's not supposed to be cool, but he's so cool at the same time. How do you balance that out, and how do you fall on that question, of him as a creepy psychotic versus kind of a cool character?
Haley: I think I've got a foot in both camps. Alan Moore said something to the effect that when they were designing this character in the book that Rorschach was meant to be an example of what could happen in a world where costumed vigilantes exist, and I think by that he meant how it can go wrong. And he was surprised by how everybody could relate to this guy. I know for me that what I love about him is that who he is is kind of impossible. His conviction, his absolutism, his no-compromise standing is a really interesting virtue. His remorseless violence at striking out at those who will victimize the innocent is kind of fascinating to me. There's no discussion about it. Who he is is a direct result of similar treatment to him. He was victimized by his mom, and his mom meant well. She was doing the best she could for little Walter. She was a prostitute. Why? Well, she had to put food on the table. But in his eyes, and in mine, that's a lot of complex excusism. Her behaviors spoke a lot louder than what she said she means. To mean one thing and do another. He saw what she did and that tweaked the heck out of him, and I think every punch, every kick, every bad guy he brings down is in direct relationship to him trying to protect little Walter.
[Thanks all around for the interview]
Morgan: [to Jackie] Good answer, by the way!
8.4.08 Source: WatchmenComicMovie.com
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