Well, we’re kicking off Watchmen week with a one on one exclusive interview with Rorschach himself, Jackie Earle Haley. Anyone who has read the novel knows what a bad-ass character Rorschach is, so it was dire that Zack Snyder find the perfect man for the role. I am so glad that Jackie decided to cpme back to acting after a 15 year break and that Snyder decided to take a chance with him. I couldn’t imagine ANYONE more perfect for the role than Jackie. He and the Comedian were by far the two most entertaining characters to watch (other than Dr. Manhattan’s penis of course).
Jackie himself if completely unlike his character. From his soft voice to his overall peaceful demeanour, there does not seem to be an evil bone in his body. He very kindly offered me a drink as I sat down and he confessed that after a long day of promoting, coffee was the only thing keeping him going. That being said, that coffee must have been strong, because he sure wasn’t short on things to say.
Check out the interview below….
(Are you looking for more interviews on the site? Check out the bottom of the post for more awesome interviews with Terrance Howard, Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, and Ryan Reynolds and more below)
Your character is the one character who really never gives up on the Watchmen and what they stand for. Is that something that you saw in Rorschach from the novel and how did you get translate it to the big screen?
JEH: Well, I definitely admire his sense of absolutism. His sense of right and wrong. His sense of black and white justice. I don’t agree with all of his moral stances, but there’s something really admirable about his unwavering stance. I think what’s admirable about it is, it’s kind of impossible. This is a very complex world. It is a very gray world of opposing viewpoints. In all that complexity, people tend to do a lot of very self-centered things, and then they justify their behavior in this complexity.
We get to see glimpses of Rorschach’s childhood in which he was left to protect himself, do you think that effected the superhero he became?
JEH: When Walter was growing up as a kid he was a victim of what I was talking about. What I mean by that is, his mom could easily say “I did my best. I had to put food on the table for young Walter. That’s why I was a prostitute. I could only deal with being a prostitute by drinking and drugs.” There’s a way for her to hide behind that complexity. I kind of feel and I know that Walter feels its bullshit. If I was truly a priority in your life, you would have made yourself second priority. You would have done what you needed to do to create a nurturing, safe, loving environment for this growing child. I think ultimately she was doing what she wanted to do and justified it in that complexity. I think that scarred this guy to the point that something had to give. He was either going to go totally berserk, or totally berserk with some sort of sense of sanity.
Do you think he’s crazy or just willing to do things that people think are crazy?
JEH: I think he is this berserk guy, he’s definitely insane, but there is a strange resonance about his stance and his perception on the world. There’s something very right about it, even though there’s something very wrong about it too. (laughs) To me that’s kind of cool, cutting through all that gray. It’s something that working on this thing for so long, to me I can only liken it to gazing into the abyss for months upon months. I think Rorschach’s probably affected me more than I’ve affected him. He’s got me kind of looking at the world a bit more cynical. He’s opened up my eyes in a certain way. Not to his crazy point, you know what I mean, but just really looking at this complex world and all of these behaviors in it. It can drive you nuts when you look at it for too long. It really can.
When you put on the mask did that help you get into character, or was it just a pain to have to act with every inch of your body covered?
JEH: Well, I kind of had to work through it, because it’s scary as an actor to cover up your face. That’s what people are looking at to see what’s going on inside. Your eyes are your windows to the soul. I mean we’ve covered those up. But on the other hand there’s something very empowering and very motivating about putting that mask on. You know the further I went along with it too, it’s like I wasn’t even putting on a mask. I was putting on Rorschach’s face.
I loved your physical presence and the way you moved. Was that something you created out of the novel?
JEH: That’s very novel driven.
Did you research the mythology of the novel? It seems as if details were a huge thing for Zack.
Yes, that was contagious. I think we were all looking at the comic book every morning, before every scene. I would go through, I know Patrick did too. I think everybody did. You’d just look at your sides, and then you’d go back and look at the scene in the book. You’d redigest it. Sometimes Zack would let us put back a little bit of dialogue. There were so many visual cues on so many different levels to what’s going on in the moment to follow that back-story.
Was there a day during the making of this, that you realized you were a part of something absolutely massive?
JEH: I think it occurred prior to being cast. Just knowing it’s such an amazing piece of work in and of itself. Then you start to learn like “Oh my God, this is among the top five graphic novels in terms of fandom.” I’m not a comic book fan myself, but I started to learn what this book meant in ‘86 when it came out. How it changed the comic book world. When I did get onto the set. I mean you start walking onto massive set, after massive set. It was all the design departments. From the production design, to the costume design, to hair and makeup design. Man, you could tell Zack just was pulling no punches. It was all just so amazingly cool and motivating.
What were the sets like to be on? I heard Zack tried to use CGI as little as possible.
You know even though all of the CG isn’t there when your doing it, but every single shot still looked amazingly cool. No matter what Zack was shooting I’d go look behind the monitor. It could be a close up, or this or that. It just seemed like everything was so bitchin.’ Then when they started putting in the effects on top of that, it was like “Oh my God.” It was kind of like immersion acting. There were green screens here and there, but it still felt way more like immersion. You walk on the New York set it was blocks upon blocks. Dan Dreiberg’s underground lair, the Owl Chamber, I mean it was “whoo.” I mean even Moloch’s nasty little kitchen. It’s a small set, but it was just like your walking into the book. At one point in time we were at the cemetery, but right before Zack called action. There’s rain coming down and I’m getting ready to walk up to the tombstone. I look down and I see this total silhouette of myself and it just felt like I was in the comic book. I was the character, if I moved the shadow moved. It was a trip.
In the ending of the film proposes a very interesting question. Do you have to destroy life in order to have peace? What’s your opinion on that theory?
JEH: I love Rorschach’s no compromise stance. I love his integrity. What’s so amazing about the movie is the ending deals with very complex issues. What makes those issues complex is that if you take five people and you pose this moral dilemma to them. All five are going to have different answers, or potential answers. That’s why it’s such a wonderful examination on this complex world. Hopefully it will be cause for thought for everybody who watches it and reads it. How do you feel about it? You know what I mean?
Rorschach has opened up my eyes. It’s not like they were blind before, but just in being with this guy for so long. And also seeing everything that’s going on right now. It’s really opened my eyes to the complexity in this world. It’s made me much more cynical than I was before. I think at the end of the day what makes it so interesting is there is no easy answer. For those who think they have it, there’s somebody standing right next to them, who’s got the opposite answer, and they’re sure that they’ve got it.
I think that’s a perfect example of society right there.
JEH: Yeah. Yeah, it’s messed up. It’s a heck of a moral dilemma.
You’ve had an interesting career. You were everywhere when you were younger, then you seemed to drop out for a while and now you seem like you’re back with vengeance. What was the story behind that?
JEH: Yeah, well I was a child actor. I was like really successful. As I was making that transition to an adult actor, things just kind of drifted like this. I hung in there for a long time, as things kind of went downhill. I kind of reached this point where I was like “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to bail this. I’ve just got to bail this.” I did for about 15 years. I was super fortunate that Steve Zaillian who directed All the Kings Men, remembered me. Literally opened this door back up and had me come and play Sugar Boy in his All the Kings Men. That led to Todd Field, just giving me the break of a lifetime to play Ronnie McGorvey in his Little Children. I’ve only been back at this for like three and a half, four years.
Glad to be back?
JEH: I’m thrilled. I can’t even put it into words. You know what I mean? It really seems like this should be impossible. Because of these few guys Steve, Todd, and Zack. All I can say is wow! It’s still unbelievable to me it really is. It’s so cool. I can’t describe it.
Thank you so much for your time. It was great meeting you.
JEH: Thank you so much.
Watchmen comes out this Friday, March 6th.
For further reading:
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- Ryan Reynolds Talks Wolverine
- Interview: Seth Rogen and Anna Faris for Observe and Report
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- Terrence Howard Interview: He Talks Iron Man, Don Cheadle, and More
- Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, Algenis Soto Interview for Sugar