Jackie Earle Haley finds the voice of Rorschach
SNEAKS 2009: "WATCHMEN"
Today is the big 2009 Movie Sneaks issue of the Los Angeles Times Calendar section, and in it I have a story on Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s "Watchmen." I talked to him in Vancouver many months ago during a set visit that will be yielding several more stories before the movie’s release in March.
The fiery prison-riot scene was over and, mopping the sweat from his brow, actor Jackie Earle Haley was heading back to his trailer in search of some lunch. It was a crisp fall day in 2007 on the set of “Watchmen,” the most challenging comic-book movie project ever filmed, and Haley was trying to soak in every heroic moment. “I’m just happy to be here, to be part of something like this,” said Haley, a child star in the 1970s (“The Bad News Bears,” “Breaking Away”) who saw his film dreams fade as he ended up driving a limo, delivering pizzas and doing other odd jobs.
After more than a decade off the Hollywood grid, Haley surged back on the scene with his Oscar-nominated performance as a sex offender in the 2006 film “Little Children,” and with “Watchmen,” may have the opportunity to deliver another memorable character. “This is one of those roles that stays with you a long time, for the actor and the audience,” Haley said of Rorschach, the grim vigilante at the center of the epic movie, which brings to life the landmark 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The actor added muscle and went into dark areas to essay a hero who is more like “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle than Batmobile owner Bruce Wayne.
“The one thing that’s super difficult about this part is to find that place of release,” Haley said. “Actors continually need to push away all inhibitions, and you need to reconcile your mind with where the character is. You need to find the moment and communicate.”
And then there’s the really hard part: “I have to do all of that with a sock over my head.”
More from that story in today’s Sneaks section…
That costume challenge is part and parcel of the modern superhero cinema; the sector’s ambitions are far higher today than in years past, as “The Dark Knight” and “X-Men” proved, but there’s still that nettlesome matter of those capes. Moviegoers of a certain age still think of Adam West when they see a masked man. No superhero film is trying to push further away from that camp than “Watchmen,” an R-rated epic that tells a multi-generational fable about a violent fringe tribe not unlike, say, “GoodFellas.” For the uninitiated, “Watchmen” is a revered masterpiece for comics fans and has frequently been described as “unfilmable,” a word even director Zack Snyder (“300”) has used with a smirk while talking about his film, scheduled to hit theaters in March.
Not only is the source material challenging (there’s the scope of the story and its especially lurid take on heroes), but the property followed a notoriously difficult path to the screen. The story begins in the 1980s. Snyder’s challenge has been not only to present an alternative America that has a rich and complicated history involving two generations of masked-and-caped crime fighters (though there’s only one truly super-powered being, Dr. Manhattan) but also one where Richard Nixon is in his fifth term in the White House.
– Geoff Boucher
This video and the one above are from the KTLA Sneaks show that ties in with the Calendar issue that landed on the doorstep of Hollywood today. It aired Friday night and an encore is on KTLA today at 5 p.m. It will also be airing nationally on the Reelz channel.
Want More? All "Watchmen" coverage at Hero Complex
All "Watchmen" images courtesy of Warner Bros.