As you might have already read, in late October of 2007 I got to visit the set of “Watchmen” when the film was about half way through production. I left thinking director Zack Snyder had done the impossible and was actually going to make a kick ass movie from Alan Moore’s “unfilmable” graphic novel. Because as a lot of you already know, many had tried and failed to bring “Watchmen” to the big screen.
But that’s another story…let’s get to the reason you’re here.
While I was on the set with a few other online journalists, we all got to interview the stars of the movie and the one you’re about to read is with Patrick Wilson who plays Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II.
During our interview, Patrick talked about having to put on 20 pounds to play Dan, working withJackie again, was he a fan of the comic and a ton more.
But more than anything, the best part of any on set interview is the fact that you’re asking questions about things that are happening that day, and the person answering is not trying to remember months after production wrapped. If you’re into the movie, these are usually the best kinds of interviews to read.
As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. And if you missed my set report, I definitely suggest reading it for a lot more on what I saw and did on the set of “Watchmen”.
Question: So how does it work out, like, how to translate that? Are you doing, like, De Niro type stuff?
Patrick Wilson: You know, I probably gained, like, twenty pounds I think, so…I mean, the first thing I said to Zack when we got together in, I guess, March or something, was how much weight do you want to put on. ‘Cause what’s interesting is in the first couple chapters, at least in his clothes and in his plain clothes, and even sort of the way the Owl Suit in the graphic novel looks, he’s pretty big, but then by the time he takes his shirt off, and the stuff where he’s naked actually not a fat guy. I think there’s this perception that, “Oh he’s huge, he’s overweight” and one of the first things that Zack said, I said “You know that’s obviously a metaphor for what’s going on in his life, and just being this more, you know, slumpy and lost and all those adjectives, much more then gaining all the weight.” Plus when you’re doing a movie like this and you have to keep going, and you do the early stuff, which their isn’t a lot, but at least to be able to fit in the suit, you wanna….basically what I’m saying is I didn’t want to go overboard. But I wanted to have, I mean nobody told me to, but I wanted to anyway, ‘cause I’m a pretty lean guy to begin with, I just wanted to get a little fuller, so at least I could have a little bit of a gut.
Q: Well when they design the suit there is always the thing where you have to maintain, sorta of form fitting to the body a little. Do you have to maintain a certain level of. . .
Patrick Wilson: I talked about that with the guys designing the suit, because by the time I did my first fitting, in mid July I guess, I was doing another movie where I was 185 or whatever, which is about what my weight is normally. So when we were making the suit I said I’m gonna be about 15, 20 pounds more then this by the time we start going. And it wasn’t anything that drastic, I mean I didn’t want them to show up and be who are you? But that takes a lot of work. The weird thing has been trying to find this balance physically between all the physical stuff we do and the look of the character. What’s right, what fits, what fits in comparison to other characters, you know. So I think we’re doing a good job here.
Q: Can you talk about working with Jackie again? Especially because is so interesting; you guys didn’t have a lot of scenes together in the frame of “Little Children,” but this time you’re playing the old partners. Is there some kinda dynamic you can bring from having known each other?
Patrick Wilson: Well we get a long great. I mean, the first stuff we shot together was us breaking into Adrian’s office. And it was the first time we were, I was in the suit, so nobody have really seen me in the suit. And so we sat there for the first take and I’m in the suit and he’s put his mask on and we are like, “what are we doing?” It’s Brad Adamson and Ronnie J. McGorvey gone terribly wrong. Or the sequel, really, to “Little Children.” But it was great, it actually, especially when you’re playing guys who have known each other for a long time, it really helped to be able to go, “Yeah, this is great.” ‘Cause he’s so great, and he’s such a warm person anyway that we just. . .You know what I found on this movie is that not just me and Jackie but everybody, I don’t know if you’ve found this just walking around here, but everybody has just got the same focus. Everybody is in love with this material, the script, the graphic novel. And so when that’s your common link, it’s like everything else just doesn’t even matter. So that helps.
Q: I just want to mention, Dan is, in a lot of ways, sort of the hero of the piece, but also looks sort of the least flashy of all the characters. I mean, everybody else has all these great gimmicks and these interesting things, Dan is sort of the most normal at the end of the day. How do you keep yourself standing with these, sort of, eccentric characters and such?
Patrick Wilson: You know, I read it from his perspective all along so it’s hard for me to even look at everybody else’s character arc or whatever. To me he’s such a complex guy that he is very real, he is the . . . I think the Batman similarities are on purpose. And really Dr. Manhattan is the only one of them with any sort of super power, you know, obviously, so. . . You know I found him. . . He’s got such heart, he’s like, you see Dan and his glasses and he’s just a great guy. So all the problems and all the things that are interesting as an actor, the sort of sexual issues, the no knowing who you are, the almost Vietnam syndrome of not. . . without the suit, without the gear, “who am I? Now that I’m not fighting that battle, who am I?” So there’s a lot to sorta latch on to with this guy, and we’ve really just begun, I mean, that’s the stuff that I’m looking forward to shooting, to really getting dirty with it cause he just goes from such a wide range of being introverted and lost and trying to adjust to society, and he really doesn’t relate to, like, feeling alive, feeling like a man, feeling empowered, so it’s a great journey. I don’t feel any sort of loss between flashiness; I think he’s pretty cool.
Q: Were you a fan of the comic?
Patrick Wilson: I didn’t know it, you know. I knew of it, but I hadn’t read it before and like with all comic book scripts that I’ve seen or been up for or whatever, the nonsense, I called one of my best friends Chris Borrel who is a die hard fan and ever since I’ve known him has been a huge comic book fan, I call him and go “okay, what do got on. . . whatever, Fantastic 4, Daredevil, all that” and he’d sort of give me his run down. I said, “all right, I just got the “Watchmen” script,” and he just paused and he goes “oh god.” And I’m like “what, it seems pretty cool, I mean I’m like half way through, but this is unbelievable,” and he’s like, “If you are ever to do a comic book movie, this is the one to do.” So then I knew I had the stamp of approval, at least from the fan, I know I was getting into some pretty revered work. And then once I . . . so I had read the script first, and once I read the graphic novel and became immersed in it, there’s stuff we were talking about a few minutes ago, ‘cause there’s some of the stunt guys just now getting through it and like, “it’s pretty dense.” You’re not reading back on any other comics, but you know, there’s a reason to some people this is the holy grail of graphic novels. You just keep finding stuff in that script and the great thing about Zach is he has such an appreciation for that, so we’ll come in with ideas of. . . ‘cause naturally it’s not going to be an eight hour movie, so in trimming and finding the focus of the film, how do you adjust, what are you leaving out of the graphic novel, and I think they’ve done an unbelievable job of adapting it, but within that you’ll sort of see something and go “man, I love that line that’s in the graphic novel . . .” and you go in with that and he’s like “great, awesome, it works, I love that line too.” So it’s an evolving process.
Q: So I have to ask though, is he thrilled now that you’re a fan?
Patrick Wilson: I just talked to him today, he’s trying to get off work so he can come out here and play, and he’s just “what are you shooting, what are you shooting?” “We’re breaking Rorschach out of prison.” “Oh my god!” And I’ve never seen this sort of excitement, usually it’s like, “Yeah, that’s a cool character, it’s a fun comic, I don’t really know it well.” But I knew I was treading on some pretty, I don’t know, good stuff. We get that, I think everybody a part of this feels like, you know, you don’t run from it, you embrace it, you don’t sorta tread around it go “I’m scared to touch it,” you dive in. Everybody loves it.
Q: You looking forward to piloting the ship?
Patrick Wilson: Oh yeah, have you seen the ship?
Patrick Wilson: It’s pretty great isn’t it?
Q: It was good times.
Patrick Wilson: Yeah, it is good times. That’s the thing, every new set you work in to, you’re just sort of blown away by.
Q: How was the action in the suit? I mean, you’re doing some fights today, right?
Patrick Wilson: Yeah, soon as I leave you.
Q: So how is that, very supple or is it tough to move around?
Patrick Wilson: Nice use of supple by the way. I haven’t heard that today, I like that.
Q: Well I’m a writer, busting out supple.
Patrick Wilson: You know, it’s like. . . high class problems as I like to say. What am I going to do, complain about being in the suit? It’s unbelievable. Mobility wise, it’s okay, the tension is hard, it’s like a scuba suit gone haywire. I mean it’s really, you have the elasticity, but it’s just like anything, just get used to it. Yeah, I’m not going to complain about the suit, it’s unbelievable. It’s pretty cool.
Q: The graphic novel is sorta elliptical for some of their histories. Did you and Jackie sort of work out a little bit of the history with each other so you have. . .
Patrick Wilson: I mean, we each had, Zack sorta did one on ones, or two on ones with all of us to go through relationships and how people sorta started and “what do you see” and what’s in there, what we may have missed. So yeah, we definitely went through that, because it’s funny, you sorta have to establish how long these guys were really together, and how often did they really fight together, because that’s the stuff. Here you’re talking about a whole history, what makes it so interesting is like, well when did they really fight together, and when they did how many of them fought at the same time? So that was all the fun stuff, was going through that, and especially with me and Jackie ‘cause it’s such a history with those two. It’s just such a great relationship for these two complete opposite types of people to work together and to really have an understanding about each other and so by the end it’s tragic, I think.
Q: Are you looking forward to being a toy?
Patrick Wilson: A toy, yeah I know the first scene that we shot was looking at all the figurines, that was pretty fun to see that. I don’t know, this is at the beginning of this whole thing, so we’re fortunate the work that we have, it’s a ton of fun, but it is, you know, nobody glosses over any of the work, so you can’t help but be concentrated on exactly what you’re doing. Plus when the movie doesn’t come out for however many years, it’s sort of tough to imagine what it’s going to be like. Just hope people like it.
Want more “Watchmen” coverage: