Watchmen: Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley interview
In part two our of Watchmen interview, we caught up Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley who play two of the darkest characters in the film, the gun-toting The Comedian and the masked detective Rorschach. We asked Jeffrey and Jackie how they walked the fine line between superhero and psychopath as well as how they coped with the pressure of bringing such well-loved comic book characters to the big screen.
LOVEFiLM: How was it to try and portray realistic…
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Psychopaths?
LF: I was going to say superheroes.
Jackie Earle Haley: I think what’s so cool about this comic book movie is that it’s taken the genre and thrown a heavy dose of reality on top. As an actor you want to play characters that are fully realised. And I know as a movie-goer, I love it when stuff blows up, but when I care about the characters, it’s just such a deeper experience.
JDM: I think my initial response was: “Oh. A superhero movie. It’s going to be ridiculous.” And then you read the novel and you realise the complexities and the layers of not only the material, but the characters. And, in particular, our two characters walk this fine line. We get to explore the fringe – well, not even the fringe! We’re utter loons!
LF: How did you walk that line? Because your characters are the heroes, so you’ve got to get the audience on your side…
JDM: I don’t know how on side you ought to be with The Comedian! What’s most fascinating about this character was, every time I read the novel, I liked him. There was something almost sympathetic about him. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I always thought: “Why don’t I hate this guy?” The actions he’s responsible for are just atrocities. Again, this goes to the complexity of these characters.
LF: Jackie, what about Rorschach? What did you see in him?
JEH: You know, I kind of like what Alan Moore said. I found this quotation: “A character who has lived each and every hour of his life in deep psychological pain, and has a king-size death wish.”
LF: How were you able to connect with him?
JDM: Jackie has a death wish!
JEH: He’s such an extreme guy that I think in some weird way we can all see ourselves in him. Self esteem and self worth is an issue for each and every one of us. Rorschach grew up with such a troubled childhood - a mother who was a prostitute, a father who was an alcoholic - that I think he never had a sense of self. And I think for his own survival he just found this black and white sense of justice – his ‘never compromise!’ stance. When he decided to become a masked avenger, that’s when he became whole. I think that’s why he feels there’s no Walter Kovacs. There’s only Rorschach.
LF: Is it very different playing a character based on a comic book, as opposed to a character based on a more traditional novel or an original screenplay?
JDM: Yeah. Especially this graphic novel, being that it’s the Citizen Kane of graphic novels. They did a great job adapting this book into script form, but the reality is we used the graphic novel far more than we used the script. There was a copy of Watchmen sitting on the monitor where Zack Snyder was the whole time we were filming. And whenever there was a question, it’s right there on the page. Take the scene with Moloch. In the script form, I don’t know necessarily know how I would have played that. Would it have been this huge breakdown? When you see it in the graphic novel, you can see not only where he’s sitting on the bed, but you can see the pain in his face and what he’s going through. That’s a hell of a thing to be able to use as an actor. It’s a great weapon to put in your arsenal.
LF: Do the costumes help or hinder your performance?
JEH: You know, both. But, at the end of the day, I think it helped. Covering your mug while you’re performing you wonder: “Man, are people going to be able to tell what’s going on?” And you work internally and hope for the best. I’d always look back at the monitor to see whether it was coming through. And mostly it was, but every now and then I’d be like: “Aww s***! I’d better animate the suit a bit.”
LF: But you had eye holes?
JEH: Yeah, a lot of times the eyes were cut out. That helped me to not bump into things. It was probably also good for the other actors to be able to look in my eyes. And I think, to some degree, it might have helped the CG guys to tell what was going on emotionally with the character.
LF: Do you feel much pressure on the eve of the film’s release?
JDM: I’m going to throw up right now! [Laughs.]
JEH: That’s a good answer.
JDM: We’re nervous as hell. There’s been so much speculation from fans and the press: “Are we screwing the pooch doing this film? Is Zack the right guy? Are they the right actors?” We felt the pressure from day one and now that this day is upon us, I woke up this morning with butterflies.
LF: How do you cope with the pressure?
JDM: I drink a lot.
JDM: You know, ultimately, having seen the film myself now, I think Zack took this un-filmable novel and just knocked it out of the park. I have a feeling that we did our job. And that’s all we can do.
Click here to read the first part of our interview: Zack and Deborah Snyder.
Click here to read the third part of our interview: Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode.
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