Admit it: when you heard that Jackie Earle Haley was cast as Rorschach in Watchmen you felt a great weight was lifted off your shoulders. It was a serious choice, a choice based on acting and nothing else… well, except maybe for Haley’s uncanny resemblence to one of the great tortured anti-heroes in literature.
Jackie Earle Haley wasn’t fucking around when he got prepared for the role. When we visited the set of Watchmen we saw Zack Snyder and crew shooting scenes set during a prison riot when Rorschach, who put many men into prison, is locked up alongside them. Seeing Haley in short sleeves, working out with huge dumbbells was impressive. Even more impressive was the zeal with which he spoke about the new eating habits that allowed him to get that body.
Q: We saw you in the jail cell lifting those weights. Some of us tried to pick them up and they’re really incredibly heavy.
I have to admit, I saw you all standing there so I got these styrofoam
weights, I was walking past you guys, and then I went around this
thing, dragged these heavy ones out, set them down and then I went and
got a coffee. I’m kidding…
Q: We’ve heard you’ve been training for a while for this.
Once Zack chose me – and I just can’t tell you how thrilled I am about
that – I just realized that I needed to start trying to gain some
weight , lift some weights and stuff like that. So I started out on my
own with my crew. My buddy Jason Clay, I was training with him doing
some isolated stuff. There’s my karate crew, we kinda work out together
and stuff like that. And then when I got here I started working with
Clay who is also our still photographer, and I actually started to
really learn a lot of great stuff about working out. And a lot of it
has to do with diet and eating, which is kind of Zone diet type stuff.
I discovered that I was basically eating wrong, like, way too many
carbs, not enough protein, and the concept of low fat doesn’t work real
well – for us at any rate – and this program that we’ve been working on
is incredible because these guys know how to get a full work out in, in
like, less then thirty minutes. So I really discovered that it’s high
impact, you’re getting cardio and everything, it’s also a core
training, which really amazed me. When I got here I had a feeling these
guys were going to be all about “All right, we’re making a movie, we’ve
got to get those arms really big, it’s all isolated stuff, it’s all
about that.” And they really weren’t too worried about that, they
figured that would take care of itself; it was more core training,
which I love to talk about because I’m kinda obsessed right now. But
what’s interesting about it is a lot of the isolated moves that we do,
like if you’re doing bench press or curl, those aren’t real world
moves. I’ll get a good looking bicep, as long as I’m doing something
like that [flexes] I’m fine, but as soon as I go like this to actually
pick something up and move it, I might rip something or tear something.
I guess a good example of core training is instead of doing isolated
bench press for the chest area you put your feet up on a chair or
something and add a weight or something on your back and do a push up.
And now what’s happening is I’m still getting this area but I’m also
getting abs, legs and everywhere. I feel like ten years younger after
doing this for this long. Now on Saturdays when it’s time to go do
something I feel like I could go hike up a mountain, ride a bike, I’ve
got all this strength, it’s awesome.
Q: But you also have to maintain it after shooting. You have to keep up that diet when the cameras aren’t rolling.
It’s not really a diet, it’s really kinda more a way of eating. It
kinda gets all complex-y, but what happens is our whole society is just
got this whole low fat thing going on, and when that whole thing
started then they just started to increase all the carbs, and what
happens is the carbs burn, like, real quick. That’s why when you eat a
banana in the morning you crash. One of the things that really stuck in
my head – I was playing devil’s advocate for a while and Clay saw me
eating a banana in the morning and he says, “Go get some protein and
some fat with that.” And I looked over at Damon, the stunt guy, and
said “You eat like this?” And he looked at me and says “Yeah! If I
didn’t I would crash in an hour.” Think about it, when you eat that
little carbohydrate thing in the morning, an hour later you’re kinda
going “eeerrngh.” It’s a real simple thing: crabs break down real quick
and they burn for like an hour, proteins take about an hour to break
down and then they start to burn for like two or three hours. I don’t
have these numbers exactly right because this is just a basic idea; but
while that’s breaking down it take that long for that fats to break
down and then they kick in and they start burning. And when you get
that right balance of stuff, you’re fueling up and your kinda keeping
your insulin level at an even keel and then you’re able to burn a lot
longer. I discovered when I started to eat this way, I would do these
work outs and I’d finish and I’d still have energy. And that wasn’t the
case before. You kinda finish you’re work out and you’re like “uuuhhh,
where’s the Gatorade?” and it’s just the worst way to do it. So I guess
what I’m saying here is just I’ve learned a lot about this and it’s
really neat, so I think when this movie is over I will keep eating like
this and continue to work out because I like to work out.
Q: You going to put out an exercise tape? The Rorschach Workout?
Haley: Come on everybody, Get Schachy!
There is a line were Rorschach is talking to the prison psychiatrist
and he says that before that kidnapping case it was Kovacs pretending
to be Rorschach, and after that it is just Rorschach. How do you sort
of do that, divide the character like that?
Haley: Pretty much
like what you see in the book. I don’t know how to answer that except
for I feel that the character is Rorschach and there is no Walter
Kovacs. And I think that everything conspired to make him that way.
This guy never had a chance, he is just one messed up individual. I
think every bit of vigilante work that he does is protecting that inner
child, is striking out and smacking his mom in the face every time. I
think some kids can kinda grow up in an environment like that, somehow
survive it, become a normal adjusted person – to a degree – and
function in society. And I think some people just get a little bit more
twisted by it, and I think little Walter Kovacs just didn’t really
stand much of a chance. I think as he started to grow older, those
examples of grey, complexity, justification started to mount to the
point where it’s all just a bunch of bullshit. There’s right and
there’s wrong. Mom needed to raise her kid, she needed to do certain
things so that she could make money, so that she could feed this child
and bring him up. But in so doing, she was resentful of him, forcing
her to have to have this responsibility,. I would imagine that Mom’s
justification is that “Life is complex, Walter. Sure I did some things
that weren’t wonderful but I had to do this and this and this, and this
justifies what I was like.” And that justification basically has fucked
his life up totally, and I think somewhere in his life he has
absolutely recognized that, that that justification is… The
justification, the reason to justify the behavior is the grey. You can
have the reasons, and it’s usually fueled somehow by – even if it’s not
self-centered, it’s still her choices in that “Justification,
complexity, life isn’t simple you know.” I believe that; life is very
grey, I think we all kind of want to make life black and white. I mean,
watch the news. Look at the left, look at the right, look at any class
in augmenting, let’s all fit it here. Really it is all a world of
greys. We have a lot of complex behaviors, and they are explained and
justified through complexity, though ambivalence, through uncertainty.
I think that for adjusted people, we can kinda look at that and
recognize it and accept it as the way life is, but I think for
Rorschach – who is completely victimized, irreversibly messed up
mentality from that, a victim of that grain of complexity that has
always surrounded him – he just, you know, “fuck this, this is the way
it is. It’s either this or this, you can dream up all your excuses, you
can do anything you want but it’s all bullshit.” And in a weird kinda
way that’s me recognizing complexity, sometimes the guy’s right,
sometimes there’s just… the guy’s right.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you went about finding and exploring Rorschach’s voice?
Haley: Yeah… in about a year.
Q: Not giving it to us but sorta the process you went though trying to figure out how it should sound, where it’s coming from?
[long pause] Sorry, this is me being kinda hedgy, trying to figure out
what to say. At this point and time I’m not sure what to say about it,
Q: Can you talk about the mask? We talked to some FX guys and they said that the mask has eyes for you to work with.
Haley: We’re doing a little bit of everything. It kind of depends
on how far away from the camera, what’s going on; sometimes I’m wearing
a mask that has little tracking dots and then my eyes are exposed.
Sometimes I’m actually wearing a full Rorschach that’s kind of fixed.
It’s very dark; I could still see all you guys but it’s kind of like
throwing a neutral density filter up. But it is really an interesting
aspect of the character because as an actor there’s a vast majority of
my role in this movie I’m wearing a sock on my head, so that’s kinda
different. There’s also Jackie looking back at this character and how
it will look in the movie and Ive got a sock on my head. But when I look
at it from the character’s standpoint, it’s kind of this cool,
empowering, and character discovering process. In a weird kinda way
this relates to your earlier question as well, but talking from this
side it’s like I do find that I’m with the make-up people and hair
people and wardrobe design, when you’re going through that process,
it’s an incredible process of discovering and finding things out about
the character. I was telling this story yesterday, but it was really
neat watching Rorschach get built. The thing we did wasn’t the first
try; at one point in time I kinda had a whole helmet on my head and it
looked like a whole helmet on my head, so that wasn’t working out. But
when all of this was said and done, \we kept tweaking and dialing it
in. One night I was doing the cemetery scene and it was one of my first
Rorschach nights and it’s cold out there, even though we’re here and
it’s raining in Vancouver and it was like this light drizzle, they’ve
got rain machines out there to make big drops and it’s just coming
down. There’s this shot where I’m getting ready to walk up to the grave
and I’m kinda standing up… you know the camera’s way over there and
I’m standing back like this, and there’s this huge light behind me and
it wasn’t defused or anything and I was casting this perfect shadow on
the ground and I was getting ready to go and I kind of… “Oh wow, oh
god jeez, look at…” It was like I was in the cartoon, I was in the
comic book, and the lines were just so perfect. And I ran over to
Michael and I was like “Look!” And then they started climbing around
and put a light behind me and a wall here and shot the silhouette with
still cameras and stuff, but that’s pretty empowering when that starts
to come together. My mind is able to get a little deeper into the guy
because it’s just happening. It’s also like walking onto a set. It’d be
one thing doing it all against a green screen, which you can do, it’s
great, but when you walk into a set like this the world starts to come
around you, it starts to become more of a reality. The reality starts
to surround you a bit more, dive into it. That was a pretty cool
process. And then this whole redhead thing is a cool transformation.
Q: Do you like your costume, with the trench coats and masks, do you like the way Rorschach looks?
Haley: Yeah I love it. They nailed it, absolutely nailed it.
Q: And the fighting’s okay in the costume?
Haley: It’s working out.
Q: How familiar were you with the original graphic novel? Where you a fan?
Actually, no, I’ve never been a huge comic book fan. When I was growing
up a lot of my friends were just really into comics and for some reason
I discovered reading a lot later. I was around more like 15. But I do
kind of recall always seeing the characters. So I had heard about it,
because I do recall about three or four years ago, somewhere I read a
thread, I think it was before I even started back acting, people were
suggesting me for this role, on the internet and stuff. This was a
while back, and I guess nothing was really going on, I saw it and then
I went and looked at it and recalled “Oh yeah I’ve seen these guys
before.” I think I kinda flipped through a comic book as opposed to the
graphic novel… not sure. So I looked into it then, and then of course
when it started to become a reality I really dove into it and fell in
love with it. Now I want to read more graphic novels because reading it
was really cool. The first pass is like, “Wow, this is really good, now
let’s read it again.” And then it’s like, “Wow, now this is really
good!” And I started to get the depth. At a certain point I kinda had
to let it go so I could then just focus on the Rorschach stuff, because
the book is just so full of amazing depth and symbolism. On that second
read, all that stuff that you see ties together with characters that
mean something later that on first pass I didn’t see it, there was all
sorts of stuff I didn’t see on the first pass.
Q: So Rorschach
is, without a doubt, the most popular character in Watchmen, and it is
also interesting cause he’s kinda also this psychotic murderer, this
fallen lifestyle, and he’s kind of a lunatic, but he’s the most popular
character. Do you think that’s because, as you said before, he kind of
gets rid of the complexity? What is it you think that people react to
so much in him?
Haley: Oh, I don’t know… I think maybe it
kinda gets back to what I was talking to you before, y. We all know we
live in this complex world, but it’d be neat if it were a bit more
simple. Because I think a lot of times too the complexity is kind of in
the eye of the beholder, meaning the people who are experiencing it.
And so often other people who have a third party perspective that’s not
attached to whatever’s going on, it’s a lot more simple.”No you should
do this, it’s clear for us over here.” Maybe’s it’s that. I don’t know.
Q: How’s it been working with Patrick Wilson again?
Awesome. Awesome. As a matter of fact we were doing our first seen
together and it was in Veidt’s place where we get there and we’re
looking around, and that was our first scene together. And you know,
there I am in my sock and there he is in his goggles, and we’re
standing there and I go “Who would have guessed this shit about two
years ago?” And he started laughing ‘cause, think about it, there would
have been no way to guess that one. “Hey in two years from now we’re
going to be standing in these outfits looking at each other.”
After not acting for a while what’s it feel like being in this hundred
and something million dollar movie, just this epic film?
This has been going on for three years since I start going back into
acting. The things that have happened to me since then, it just seems
kinda like just an unbelievable, crazy luck. It’s gotten a lot more
real in the last three years – meaning like, when I’m doing the work
it’s very real, you know, I’m a part of the work, and I get it and all
that. It is weird to me that still after three years I will find myself
in my apartment or my trailer or wherever, with just these total
flashes of “Oh my god, I’m really doing this again.” And it’s a cool
feeling, but it’s still hitting me like, “God dang.” Three years ago
this seemed impossible for me to even get back into acting, and it’s
sgetting more real but it’s still blowing me away. And since Little
Children I’ve done some work and it’s been great,but winning this part
you know, when Zack chose me for this it, it felt like when Steve
Zaillian called and that was just this who break, “Oh my god I get to
do this again.” This is really special; the size of it, the parameters,
what going on in to it, how Zach’s doing it, how he’s putting it
together, the production design, just all of the design departments.
And it’s just huge, it just feels overwhelmingly cool.
There’s been a lot of internet talk about this movie, and your casting
has been probably the only casting that has been viewed, universally,
as a home run. How does that feel?
Haley: Wow, I didn’t know that!
Q: Everybody thinks it’s great.
Haley: Let’s just put it this way: I sure hope they feel that way with the movie comes out.
Q: What does it say about you that they think you make such a good psychopathic murder?
Haley: I’m short, runty, ugly looking…