Billy Crudup never does any press. In all the years I’ve been doing this I’ve never heard of him sitting down with a working journalist (I’m not talking about the folks who write for the really big magazines, like Vanity Fair). And he definitely doesn’t do roundtables. So when I was told he was coming to San Diego Comic Con to talk about playing Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, I was skeptical. And there he was on the panel. When I was told that he would head upstairs and do roundtables, I was just dismissive. And there he was in a room thronged with reporters, going from table to table, answering questions. And he was actually open and nice and funny. So much so that I felt empowered to ask him the final question – I never imagined I would be quizzing Billy Crudup about his junk.

It was sort of Matthew Goode’s bad luck that he was paired with Crudup, since everybody wanted to talk to the the man who would one day be big and blue. Goode, who plays Ozymandias (aka Adrian Veidt), is actually a terrific interview in his own right, very funny, very quick-witted and very thoughtful. I look forward to having another chance to sit down with him closer to the film’s release.

Take note that the Matthew Goode interview section is riddled with spoilers. If you don’t want to hear discussion of the movie’s finale, skip to the Billy Crudup section.

MATTHEW GOODE

Matthew, the decision your character makes is the moral crux of the
story, and we could sit here all day and debate the decision he makes
at the end of the story. What’s your take on Adrian – is he doing the
right thing?




We’ve talked about those grey areas, and that’s the thing – ultimately,
at the end, as Laurie says, ‘All we did was try to stop him from saving
the world.’ There’s no other plan, there’s no one else doing anything.
It’s intensely male, practical reason. It’s as cold as Dr. M in the
end, in many respects. It’s the age old equation, the anti-Saving
Private Ryan kind of thing. It’s millions against billions… fuck
that. You absolutely have to make that decision quite cold and quite
quickly, even though it’s a decision he had to begin making years and
years before.




In a post-9/11 world, how we look at his plan might be different. On
9/12 you loved everybody and it seemed like the world was coming
together, but on 9/15 you were already getting sick of your neighbor
again…




Yeah, but in reverse there’s nothing about 9/11 that’s about saving the
world. There’s no arguing that, I hope. It leads us to a wonderful
discussion about fundamentalist religion…




But in terms of the impact of Adrian’s plan itself, the weeks and
months after 9/11 showed us how easily that peace and goodwill can fall
apart.




Right at the end of the book we’re left with Rorschach’s journal about
to be discovered, and we’re left with the question of ‘Will he be taken
seriously or won’t he?’ One can easily imagine they could look at the
journal and say [Brooklyn accent] ‘This guy’s a fuckin’ sociopath,
throw that out.’ There’s a comment made by the newspaperman who is not
all-embracing of the Russkies, so one is left to think whether humanity
will fall back into it over again. Which is pretty fucking likely, to
be honest.


BILLY CRUDUP

Everyone keeps asking you how you play a god, but I’m more interested
in how you make that god identifiable? He’s so detached from humanity
but we have to connect to him. How do you make that work?


To
be honest I’m not entirely sure I have yet. That remains to be seen. I
tried to do it in a way that the graphic novel and the script asked me
to, in a stumbling, complicated, awkward way. It’s somebody with
incredible gifts trying to make his way in a world that is ultimately
while overpowered by them is unconcerned with them. He’s uninterested
in how they relate to each other and he’s increasingly incapable of
that as his mind becomes more interested in the inner workings of the
universe. If we all had the capacity to see the kinds of things he’s
seeing with comprehension and vividness with which he sees them, we’d
be distracted too.


One of the things that’s interesting about Dr. Manhattan is the fact that he has this very black and white view of the world that’s informed by how he is able to see the universe.

The
thing is that he’s equally confounded by how his reality fits in the
real world. The perfect scene for it is where he’s having a kind of
banal argument with his girlfriend about how she needs more attention
while he’s solving the energy crisis in the world… in his mind!
That’s one of the things that’s really beautiful and thoroughly
enjoyable about the comic book, is that it exploits those questions in
a very entertaining way. I left it to the screenplay to fulfill those
obligations, and I think Zack did a great job.




How do you play through the CG?



I don’t know. I constantly referenced a picture they had fabricated for
me to basically keep it in my mind. I tried to stay away from any
reflective surfaces so I didn’t have to see what I looked like.


What you do is take it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. For
me it was an exotic experience – I had never gotten to wear a motion
capture suit, I had never been a lighting instrument for other actors,
which basically is what I was. Which was kind of cool. It required a
more forceful, imaginative leap than I had ever been asked to exhibit.
That was spectacular, to have that opportunity. I got it in every
scene, in a myriad of ways. You know that scene where I’m walking
through the rice paddies in Vietnam, blowing up [Vietcong]? That’s not
what it felt like while doing it. To try and carry those images with a
level of detail and power that they possess, the vividness of the
colors, is a monumental challenge. And I see that my mind was not
totally up to the task when I see what Zack was capable of doing. What
he’s able to do is pretty staggering.




After Almost Famous you had this opportunity to become a more
traditional leading man, but that might have limited the more
interesting roles you could have taken. Now you’re in a position where
you might have that chance again do you feel more comfortable taking
that leap?




I’ll tell you the short answer: I would never have gotten Watchmen if I
had ever done anything else. Zack was interested in me because the
parts that I take are strange and complicated and exist in a grey area.
I like those parts, I’ll probably keep doing them. I’m happy that a
part like this turned up in a movie like this, so I get this
experience.




So your career has you doing the best of both worlds – weird and experimental stuff but also big blockbusters.




This movie is weird and experimental and cost a lot of money. It’s hilarious.




Did you have any input into the size of Dr. Manhattan’s genitals? Did you ever ask for them to be bigger?



When you see it, you’ll know that they took what they had.