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 all about it). On set I was able to do a roundtable interview with Palmer and 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 such a cool part. Hit the jump to read or listen to what she had to say:
As usual, you can either read a transcript of the on set roundtable interview, or you can click here to listen to the audio.
Finally, if you missed the teaser trailer for I Am Number Four, I’d watch it before reading the interview.
Question: Is it true you’re using your real accent in this?
Teresa Palmer: We thought, there were nine of us, nine aliens from planet Lorien, and we didn’t think that all nine of them would be dropped in America coincidentally. So basically we’ve been hidden out in different parts of the world and Number 6 just so happen to be hidden out in Australia…Adelaide, South Australia where I happen to be from. So I get to use my own accent which is refreshing because in the last few films I’ve done I’ve been American and British, so it’s kinda cool.
Tell us a little about #6. Do you have a real name or is it just #6?
Palmer: She’s just #6. It’s been really a very physically demanding role because I’ve been training for the last 8 weeks doing like stunt work. I’m on the wires doing backflips. Right now I’m all padded up because I have to do a fast frontwards roll on the concrete. And obviously I’ve been training on pads, so it’s just funny when you arrive on set and you realize it’s not rehearsal anymore. You actually have to do it. You don’t get to wear a helmet There aren’t any pads on the floor. You just have to commit to it. It’s been really exciting. It’s a very cool character.
Have you read the book?
Palmer: I’ve just started. And I sort of skipped to the last part where my character comes in. It’s interesting because there’s some differences in the book to the film and it’s really exciting to see, I think I’m getting a better look at who #6 really is. It’s nice to read exactly what the writer wanted her to be like. I think in the film she’s a tougher version than #6 in the book. She’s definitely a lot more of an open character in the book and in the film she’s just all about kicking butt and she’s bad ass and she’s very intimidating.
You’re more about revenge for this one right?
Palmer: Yeah, she’s sick of being hunted by the Mogs (Mogadorians). She wants to make the hunters become the hunted. She wants to step up to the plate and stop running.
So in the book you come into play at the end. Have they beefed up your part for the movie then?
Palmer: I’m still more heavily in the film towards the end but you do see her popping in and out of the film. She’s very mysterious at first you don’t really know who she is or what side she’s on. You can’t tell if she’s one of the good guys or the bad guys. Obviously its 3/4 through the film, it’s the scene we’re filming tonight, where it’s all revealed that she’s one of them. She’s an alien. You know she’s #6 and she’s here to kick butt.
Aside from your training is this your first intense day on set?
Palmer: Yeah, today is the big one for me. I’m feeling very nervous and I’m excited to get into the action. This is what I’ve been training for so I’m ready to do it. I feel like we’re as prepared as we can be. I just held the gun for the first time and it’s very heavy. A lot heavier than the plastic ones we’ve been using in rehearsals.
Is it an alien gun?
Palmer: I have a couple of alien type weapons but the very first gun you see me shoot is basically a bazooka. It’s a rocket launcher and it’s like a real rocket launcher that they had me using and practicing on. They said the whole crew gets to wear ear plugs and they’ll be out of the way but I have to be the one without the earplugs because I’m the one actually shooting the gun. I’m worried that I’m going to be all wincing and flinching.
You haven’t shot it yet?
Palmer: I haven’t shot it yet. We’re shooting that tonight. I’m nervous but it’s all really exciting. I never thought I’d be cast in a role like this but it’s been amazing so far.
How’s the action here as opposed to what you saw on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
Palmer: In Sorcerer’s Apprentice all the guys get the action. All the guys are involved in the magic and I play Becky Barnes, whose the love interest, she’s a DJ and she gets caught up in the world of sorcery and magic but she’s not really hands on. She’s the damsel in distress. So this is the total polar opposite of that because I’m the one heavily involved in all the action and doing all the martial arts and sword work and shooting the guns. So I get to have all the action fun in this film.
Is this part of your character here (referencing a tattoo she has)?
Palmer: Yeah, it’s a Lorien tattoo. It’s a tattoo that basically all of us have, that all the aliens have from our planet. It’s in our own language. I have on here and I have one on the side… (She reveals a somewhat hidden tattoo)
So you’re wearing outfits revealing all these tattoos in the movie?
Palmer: Well I only have three outfits in the film. Basically it’s this jacket and then I have my cape on the Ducati. No bikinis in this film, that’s a nice change. So we had the reveal of the tattoo, the first time you see her, she’s at a satellite farm and she’s sort of tapping into various information of where these enemy aliens are, and they had a good shot of the neck so you can see the tattoo. I think for the audiences that pick it up, you see that Alex [Pettyfer's] character has one as well.
Do your characters know what number they are?
Palmer: Yeah, we all know what numbers we are. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are dead and we can only be killed in our numbered order.
Are you allowed to leave set with the tattoo on?
Palmer: I do. In fact I kept this tattoo all week. I felt really bad ass. I thought this is a really amazing tattoo, I’m gonna keep it and pretend its my own.
Because I’ve talked to actors who keep their character’s tattoos and go out and interact with people while they have them on to see how people react…
Palmer: Well, I was walking my dog two days ago and still had the neck tattoo on. All the hotel staff was like “Weird, we didn’t realize…” And I was like, yeah I’m actually really bad-ass. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about doing, getting a tattoo, but I like tattoos, I think they’re sexy and you definitely go into a different character when you’re sporting these visible tattoos and you can tell people look at you a little differently and they’re a little more intimidated.
Is #6 more developed than #4? Does she have more Legacies?
Palmer: We all have our own legacies. It’s just that #4 is just learning about them. He’s finding his way and they’ve only started to appear for him. He’s researching what those things are and he’s getting better and better. You can see in the film he really goes on a journey with those legacies and by the end of the film he’s basically a warrior. And the first time you see #6 she’s a total professional, she knows exactly what her legacies are…
She’s been on Earth longer?
Palmer: She’s older than him. They all arrived at the same time but she’s about three years older than him. She’s been hunting these guys for a lot longer than he had obviously, so she’s just used to all her Legacies.
So these powers can just develop at anytime even from when you’re a kid up to an adult?
Palmer: Yeah, they just keep developing. And I think, I’m not for sure because I don’t know how many of the books have been written, I think one’s been written and another one is in development. I believe that more and more Legacies are coming. So by the end of the book series I don’t know how many we’ll have, but I think we’ll all be pretty crazy and magical.
How much did you train for everything that you’re shooting tonight?
Palmer: I’ve done about a week’s worth of training for tonight’s specific scene. Tonight’s not as sword work, it’s just her reveal and you see her shooting a couple guns, and this is the first time you see her invisibility, the Legacy that she has. So I’ve been doing wire work for that basically. I’ll be on the ground and in a harness and attached to a wire and have to fly up and shoot the gun and it takes a little while to get used to that and make sure you’re in the right body positions. Even now I’m still learning on set. For the last half an hour they’ve been trying to teach me to roll on the hard ground. Because I have a tendency to really commit to it and get into it and I’ll throw myself into the roll, and they said, “You know there are no pads here. You really have to lower yourself into it otherwise you’re going to get concussed.” So we’ll see how it goes.
Are you nervous about facing off with Kevin Durand?
Palmer: I can’t wait for that fight sequence. That’s the most in-depth fight sequence we have in the film. We haven’t started working together in rehearsals, I feel like we’re going to get together later on and figure out the choreography for that particular scene. But that’s some amazing sword work and I’ve been working on the sword work for a majority of the rehearsals. I’d say I spent six weeks worth of sword work. We have so many different cool moves and I’m doing flips and chopping people’s heads off. It’s all fun.
Now that you’ve had a taste of action, do you want to do more?
Palmer: Yeah, I feel like I have the training now so it would be sort of an organic transition into another action film, but I would love to do all types of different genres and I’m definitely open to doing more action. I’m enjoying riding around on a Ducati motorbike. I can’t complain about that. I’d also love to find a little dramatic role. In my first film I played a rape victim who’s pregnant with my brother’s baby so that was a pretty challenging and dark piece, but I would love to find another character piece like that.
Have they told you that there’s certain shots that they want the stunt team to do instead of you?
Palmer: Yeah, actually there’s one tonight. You’ll see Jah-Jah. He’s so sweet. He’s this guy from Japan and he’s like 25, and he’s doubling me. He has a really long wig exactly like mine, they’ve colored his eyebrows in blonde. Basically he’s not even attached to a wire. He’s incredible talented, he’s going to be running up the wall and doing a flip on the side of the wall, landing, springing on a trampoline and landing on top of the lockers and shooting someone. I tried, I attempted, but it wasn’t gonna happen.
Is that the only shot you know you can’t do or…
Palmer: There are other things. I have to do a one handed back flip, which I also tried doing. I can do two-handed backflips, which I never could do before I started training for this. So I have a body double, who was actually Zoe Saldana’s body double in Avatar, she’s going to be doing that sort of stuff. She’s a gymnast so she’s flipping onto the one hand without a wire and there’s very few things like that. But pretty much everything else, I want to do. I want D.J. to have the flexibility of being able to film my face while we’re doing these stunts. But I’m really excited about one particular stunt that I just found out yesterday I’m doing. It’s basically a sprint, I sprint up and do a massive knee slide and as I’m sliding I chop one of the enemy aliens legs off and then just keep sliding past camera.
With this action experience do you feel like you want to go tackle one of the roles like when you were supposed to be Talia Al Ghul in Justice League of America?
Palmer: I’d love to, especially with George Miller. Working on a film like that would be incredible. He’s a pioneer in what he does and he’s just a really wonderful person so I would love to get involved if that project ever came around again, I’d definitely put my hand up to play that role.
Even if it’s not that are your agents keeping an eye out for the kinds of roles that you’re now qualified to take because of this stunt training?
Palmer: Yeah, I think so. I love doing action, and especially now that I have the training I think I would feel great about going on to do another action film. I certainly find it more enjoyable than some of the other genres.
So you’ve been in the Pittsburgh area for awhile, can you talk to us about what you’ve been able to do outside of filming that you would recommend to other people?
Palmer: There was actually something really weird going on this weekend. It was called the Furry Convention. They have really different and amazing festivals and conventions here in Pittsburgh. I did go to this amazing art festival, it was on for a couple weeks in early June. It was great. There were lots of little arts and crafts stores and it was one of the biggest art conventions around and people flew from all over the country to come here. There’s a lot of music and food. It’s just celebrating the art world, so I would go everyday and take my dog, buy something like a trinket and basically people-watch. So I was doing a lot of that. I would sit under the trees and write in my journal and watch everyone mingle around and there’s all sorts of families. And then obviously the baseball, I’m not actually a baseball fan, but I’m always wearing a NY Yankees cap. I actually couldn’t even name one player from the Yankees, but I would love to go and watch the baseball games because my hotel, the window overlooks the stadium and I hear the fireworks and the roar of the crowd and it sounds so exciting and thrilling, I’d love to check that out.
I Am Number Four gets released February 18, 2011. For more coverage from our set visit: