Crudup Set for ‘Watchmen’ Phenomenon
by Paul Fischer
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The usually publicity shy Billy Crudup may have gotten more than he bargained for when he signed up for the long-awaited big screen adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen, a crime/conspiracy story based on the influential comic by Alan Moore. The film focuses on the every day life of out of work superheroes. In the mid-1980s, costumed super-heroism has been outlawed, and most groups have been abandoned. But as a new threat presents itself, the paranoid masked detective/vigilante Rorschach uncovers a conspiracy to destroy all masked heroes. Billy Crudup costars in the dual roles of Jon Osterman and Dr. Manhattan, and talked to Paul Fischer at Comic Con about the trials and tribulations of starring in this effects-laden extravaganza.
Paul Fischer: Is this your first time in Comic Con? How has it been for you?
Billy Crudup: It’s basically been this. How has it been for you? Hopefully I will get a chance to go on the floor a little bit. I’m really interested in experiencing this really passionate subculture.
PF: For you, this movie—at least, a lot of talk is about your physical characterization in this picture. What were the challenges for you in doing that transformation? When you saw the footage, what went through your mind?
BC: The CGI guys were really good about keeping me up-to-date with what I would look like because I had to hold that in my imagination while I was playing the scenes. I had to hope that whatever I was doing would marry their image of what it would eventually become. Basically I was just counting on them to make whatever I screwed up look cool. If it doesn’t I’m going to blame them.
PF: Was it tough going through that? Was it physically challenging for you?
BC: Oh no, not physically challenging at all. I was basically in pajamas. There was the occasional fear that I was going to catch on fire, but big deal. These guys were in rubber suits, they had to work out, blah blah, blah. I was eating donuts ready to be sculpted.
PF: What were the scenes from the graphic novel that you were excited to play?
BC: I liked being 100 feet tall.
PF: What is your experience when your 100 feet tall?
BC: It’s not nearly as exciting as I somehow thought it would be 100 feet tall. Instead, I was just standing on a platform about 60 feet tall and having people mock me. I hope you are happy.
PF: Do you find a take on your character?
BC: Essentially, he’s somebody who is preoccupied by something that is incomprehensible to people. He no longer has any of the practical needs that make up our entire days, like eating, sleeping, using the bathroom. He is not in the world in a social way. I spent a lot of my times in scenes trying to imagine what sort of problems he would be trying to solve. A lot of this. Right now I’m just listening to the wind in my head.
PF: Was this a tough sell to you?
BC: Not at all. As soon as I read the script I was in it. I have superficial expectations of what is going to happen in any kind of comic book movie, or superhero movie. The genre does a very good job of setting up expectations and fulfilling them. That is what is gratifying about them but at the same time it’s often what is tedious about reading them. The characters themselves go through the same sort of birth, deconstruction, and then rebirth. To read something that was aware of that typical ambition subverted at every chance it got was just fascinating to me. That was all I needed.
PF: After you got this did it open up your minds to the literary potential of comic books?
BC: Oh my God, yes. You read one chapter of Watchmen and if you are interested in pop culture at all, it’s just so obvious that it approaches it with a different interest and a different level of sophistication than almost anything else out there. Immediately you begin to imagine that there are other things to cultivate as well. I was thrilled by it. It’s one of those discoveries you have as an adult where you go, “I get to feel like a kid again and I learned something.”
PF: Does doing a movie like this remind you of why you became an actor in the first place?
BC: It definitely reminds me of what it feels like to be 14 and humiliated at a Halloween party. I thought it was a cool suit. Usually I end up feeling a little snappier on set. You get to pretend you are cool because a lot of people dress you up to be very cool. Sometimes you think it’s you. To not have any of that and just look like a guy who is trying to make a living dressing up, that was a pretty humbling experience. It was good.
PF: Do you ever have nightmares that you are completely naked painted blue on stage somewhere?
BC: It’s what I call life.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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