While moviegoers have seen a lot of Teresa Palmer over the past few years in films such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Bedtime Stories, for her upcoming sci-fi action thriller I Am Number Four, we’re going to see a new side: action star. That’s because in director D.J. Caruso’s upcoming movie (produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay), Palmer plays a mysterious outsider who eventually kicks some serious ass on screen.
A few months ago I got to visit the set of I Am Number Four while the production was shooting in Pittsburgh (read about it here). On set I was able to do a roundtable interview with Palmer (click here to read) where she talked about the challenges of getting ready to film all the action and she also revealed who she plays in the movie and why it’s a cool part. But with the new trailer getting released, DreamWorks recently held a long lead press day and I got to sit down with Palmer again to talk about the film. While she covered some of the same subjects in the recent interview, she also talked about seeing some finished footage and her thoughts, the training, some of the cool stuff she got to do and how challenging it was to perform, and she gave some updates on Take Me Home Tonight (her film with Topher Grace, Anna Faris, and Dan Fogler) and revealed she’s about to start filming a movie for director Kieran Darcy-Smith called Say Nothing - which will also star Joel Edgerton. More after the jump:
Regarding Say Nothing, Palmer says:
“It’s a drama-thriller and it focuses on a holiday that we take in Cambodia. And there are four of us: my sister, my sister’s husband, and my boyfriend. And my boyfriend mysteriously goes missing on this trip. And this sort of really scary thing happens to him and this mystery unravels…”
She went onto say the film is being made by “the Blue-Tongue film group and they were responsible for The Square by Nash Edgerton and David Michod’s Animal Kingdom.” Both of those are great, so I’d like to think this is going to be a solid project.
Like I always do, you can either read the transcript of the interview below or click here to listen to the audio. I always recommend the audio if you have the time to listen.
Finally, I got to see about 20 minutes of I Am Number Four yesterday at DreamWorks and later tonight you can expect a full report of what I saw with some quotes from director D.J. Caruso. They showed us the opening 5 or 10 minutes and then a bunch of the action from the 3rd act. It looked really cool. More tonight.
Question: You are the kick-butt lady in this movie. You get to do way more than in Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Teresa Palmer: Oh, way more. Yeah, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I was more the damsel in distress (laughs).
So how was the training for this?
Palmer: I was in extensive training for about maybe 3 months before we started the actual filming process. It was very intense, but in the most wonderful way. It’s definitely the most physically challenging role I’ve ever taken on. We started slowly. I didn’t want to do a disservice to Number Six by not knowing how to fight and having a body double or stunt double do all that work. So I decided that I would learn to fight, to use a sword, to shoot a gun, to flip around and do as much of the action as I could. But it was long and I had a ton of battle scars and bruises and…just hours of training, but I definitely got in the best shape of my life on that movie. Unfortunately, that hasn’t kept, but that’s ok (laughs).
How long did it take to make the movie?
Palmer: It took three months. We shot in Pittsburgh, which is a beautiful city and, yeah, it was really lovely. Most of it was night shooting, actually, which is difficult. Your body clock sort of gets very messed up.
They showed us the trailer upstairs. Was that your first time seeing it?
Palmer: It was, yeah.
Collider: Obviously, you’re character is in the end of the trailer. Have you seen final footage, have you done ADR (additional dialogue recording) work, or was that your first time seeing footage?
Palmer: I have done ADR work. In fact, that’s why I have such a croaky throat at the moment. I ADR’ed a ton of my action sequences. One of the pieces you saw in the trailer is showing my “legacy,” which is a power that Number Six has; she has the power of being fireproof. So the shot of her holding back a massive fireball, I had to ADR that entire scene because I wasn’t mic’d, which meant just screaming for like four hours. So I have seen a lot of the footage and it looks really great so far. It’s very action-packed and the special effects seem just so new and refreshing and stuff that I haven’t seen before. It’s really exciting.
Can you tell us, if you come in to help Alex (Pettyfer)’s character? Or does he send for you? How do you get there?
Palmer: I have been fighting the Mogadorians, who are the enemy alien, for a long time now and I was sick of being hunted by them, so I make the hunters become the hunted. And I decide that, if I can meet up with Number Four (Pettyfer), with our powers combined, we’ll become the perfect weapon to fight against the enemy alien. So I search for him and track him down.
You mentioned Pittsburgh. You were there for three months. What’s the thing you miss about the city, if anything?
Palmer: I miss a lot about the city. We stayed at the Hyatt there; it was right across from the big oval and so I went to one of the baseball games. And I’d never been to a baseball game before, so it was my first American baseball experience. It was really interesting. I didn’t realize how long it goes for, though; I thought I’d be there for an hour, I’d be in and out. And I’m like there four hours later; I was like, “Come on, what’s going on?” (Laughs) But I just love that, and the buzz of the city, there’s always a lot going on. But then it’s really quiet, I feel like the city kind of shuts down at 5 pm.
And it’s really suburban.
Palmer: Yeah, it is. And everyone just goes back to their beautiful homes, and it’s very green and lush there. And you don’t really have a lot of greenery out here in LA, so that was quite nice and I definitely miss that.
You mentioned on set how much you trained and you mentioned it here. The one thing you mentioned was how you’d been rehearsing on so many mats and doing all that stuff. Then you finally get on set and you have no safety net.
Palmer: You don’t have that.
So, this was your first film where you were kind of doing these crazy stunts. Could you talk about what that experience was like?
Palmer: It was very intimidating. Especially when I had been training for months using these big, soft mats and I was very confident. I was like, “Ohhh, this’ll be a piece of cake,” and then I get to set, and obviously you can’t have these big blue mats on the ground. And they said, “Look, we can pad you up,” but you can’t put too much padding underneath the tight leather that I’m wearing, so I really had a tiny soft-gel pad. And in one of the scenes, I had to throw myself onto the ground [and do a] front roll and slam up against this wall. And literally like ten minutes before we started shooting it, the stunt team were trying to teach me to just roll on concrete and it was so painful. But I didn’t want my stunt double to do it because I wanted them to have the option of using my face during the roll. So, we did it twice and it was extremely painful and I was all bruised the next week (laughs). But it was worth it and I really felt like I had accomplished something.
Did you get along great with Alex? What did you guys talk about on set?
Palmer: Alex was hilarious. We did a lot of sitting around on set, as you do on most movies. I would be in my trailer and I would kind of be waiting to go on set. And it’d be like 4 am in the morning, and you’d hear this knock at the trailer door and then you’d hear “You’re wrapped.” And I’m like “Oh my gosh, cool!” So I’d get out of my outfit and I’d go to leave and I’d find out that Alex had pranked me (laughs). And literally, he got me once per week. I was like “I’m wrapped again!” And I just kept forgetting that it was always Alex pranking me.
You had the outfit off and everything?
Palmer: Yeah, I’d like strip it off, I’d start taking off the tattoo on my neck. And then one of the ADs comes up and they’re like “What are you doing!?! Why are you out of costume?!?” So, he’s a prankster.
Palmer: Oh, maybe (laughs).Maybe he was jealous of that accent, yeah.
How hard is that, to lose your accent?
Palmer: I find that relatively easy, because on a film set they usually give you the tool of having a dialect coach. They’re usually on set and it’s their job to listen to that so you don’t become too self-aware. You’re just in your character and if you slip up on the accent, you have someone specifically listening out for that. So I find it easy to lose it. I actually found it harder to use my natural dialect in this movie, because I have a very thick South Australian accent. And I had to be more pronounced and make my words more refined because a lot of people were having trouble understanding me. So I would have to be this really tough, kick-butt character, but then speak with a very sort of posh Australian accent, which I was finding very bizarre.
Did you keep anything from the set…for a keepsake?
Palmer: I didn’t. Usually you don’t get to keep the stuff from set, just in case you have to do reshoots, and now that they’ve already done the reshoots, I think that I may be able to keep my black leather jacket, which is the coolest jacket I’ve ever worn. So I’m very excited about that.
After doing this role, being so physical, overcoming some challenges you’ve never done, how does that impact what you’re looking for in future projects?
Palmer: I think it really opened the doors for me in terms of pursuing a career being an “action woman.” I definitely enjoyed my experiences. I think that I like to mix things up. This film was an action; the next film, which I start shooting next month, it’s a little independent Australian film called Say Nothing, and that’s a drama. I just love to switch it up all the time and now that I’ve had the training, I feel like the base is there and I can continue to work on it. You know, fingers crossed, if there’s a sequel to the movie, I can use the work that I’ve done on this film to help me on the next movie and any other action films that come up.
Aren’t you in Mad Max?
Palmer: Well, I have been rumored to be a part of that movie for a while. I was in talks with George Miller on that film. I think the movie’s taking a break. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with it. But for right now, I’m not doing it. I had scheduling conflicts when the movie was gonna go. And I have no idea when it’s going to be shooting now.
It’s not like the Australian Harry Potter, where every Australian actor gets a role of some kind?
Palmer: No (laughs). Not with George Miller, no. I did do some training with him. And I was actually meant to be in a film with him previously called The Justice League of America, which ended up falling apart.
When Salt came out this year, they talked about the fact that Angeline Jolie, as tough as she is, did not necessarily communicate the physicality of somebody who could do all this stuff. What do you think about the idea of people creating these really empowered female roles and, at the same time, having to make tough decisions about who to cast because a lot of actresses are not physically imposing, at least on screen?
Palmer: Well, I really embrace the idea of having these strong female characters being presented to the world, because we are strong females. And I love seeing that. I think it’s really nerve-wracking as an actor to be sort of thrown in the deep end and told that you’ve got to swim. And it’s just such a challenge and some people, I think, are up for it, and other people like to skew on the safe side, which is fine. I can only speak from my personal experience and I knew that I wanted to embody the character as much as possible and I knew that that meant that I couldn’t slack off; I had to do the work and really truly transform into Number Six.
Do you ride a motorcycle in it, too?
Palmer: I do, I do. Ducati motorbike.
Had you done that before?
Palmer: I grew up on my dad’s farm, riding quad bikes. I used to build jumps and fly over them. And my dad’s like watching in horror. But I’d be like 12, cruising around on my quad bike. So I had that experience, but then getting on a two-wheel bike is a whole different ballgame. There’s the balance thing going on; and a Ducati is incredibly heavy. So I learned to ride the bike myself and I was really confident on the bike at the end of the day, after all the training. I ended up only shooting two days on the bike, but I was such a show-off on set. They were like “Alright, you can hop off and we’ll have someone ride it back to the starting point,” and I was like “I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” So I’d pull the bike around and like rev it myself. I was really excited to be riding it. Yeah, I mean, I would never get a motorbike myself, but it was fun to be riding for the character.
How much riding do you actually get to do versus sitting on the back of a trailer?
Palmer: Well, all the close-up shots—that has to be done in a very specific way, so you’re on a trailer, which was sort of awful for me because I felt like I had done all this work and I wanted to be riding it. But I know that it has to be very controlled. They’ve got to get specific shots and if you’re riding, you’re kind of all over the place. So for one day we shot on the trailer and then the second day I did some wider angle shots, so that’s when I really got to take it up to fourth and fifth gear, which was really exciting. But then, in the stunt training, I never was training on sand. I never learned to ride a motorbike on sand. Then they decided last minute that they wanted me to ride the bike in really thick sand, so that was really challenging. And it was on a hill, as well, and I was really struggling with that, but I ended up doing it. And I like over-revved the bike, but I think they can take that out in post-production.
There’s a movie, I forget the title; I think they’ve changed the title like three times, with Topher Grace.
Palmer: Take Me Home Tonight!
Yeah, what have you been told about this? When is it actually coming out?
Palmer: It is coming out [via] Relativity Media March 4 next year, which is so exciting. Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler. It’s got the most amazing ‘80s soundtrack you could imagine. It’s so exciting; it’s really fast-paced and compelling. We’ve done a bunch of test screenings and everyone has been really excited about the film so far. So I cannot wait for that to come out. It only comes out a couple of weeks after I Am Number Four and it’s a total contrast to this film. They’re such different movies and I play very different characters. And it’s equally as fun a movie, so everyone should go check it out.
What sort of role do you play?
Palmer: I play Tori Frederking. She’s the love interest of Topher Grace’s character in the film. He’s always been obsessed with Tori and they meet back at this Labor Day party. It’s 1988 and she has crazy hair and she’s a fun-loving girl. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do for the rest of her life and she thinks it’s silly that, at her age, people would expect her to know what she wants to do. And I think it’s a very common problem for people my age. Like, how are we supposed to know that? It’s just very, very interesting. She’s a cool, quirky character and I had fun playing her.
You mentioned you’re doing an Australian film, but you didn’t really mention what it’s about, who you play. If you don’t mind talking about it.
Palmer: Yeah, so I play a character called Steff in Say Nothing. It’s directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and it’s in affiliation with the Blue-Tongue film group; they were responsible for The Square by Nash Edgerton and David Michod’s Animal Kingdom, which I’m sure a bunch of you have seen, it’s a really great film. Joel Edgerton stars opposite me. It’s a drama-thriller and it focuses on a holiday that we take in Cambodia. And there are four of us: my sister, my sister’s husband, and my boyfriend. And my boyfriend mysteriously goes missing on this trip. And this sort of really scary thing happens to him and this mystery unravels…