I have failed you. I didn’t ask Jacinda Barrett about either Night Man or The Real World. I know, you’re disappointed in me. I promise to do better next time.
Speaking of the real world, Jacinda Barrett is quite tall in it. And getting quite sick, which is ironic as she was one of the few Poseidon cast members to avoid illness on the shoot. In the film she plays Maggie James, a single mom whose alimony is obviously enough to get her and her son Connor (played by Jimmy Bennett) on a megahuge cruise ship for New Year’s Eve. When the boat is capsized a rogue wave (not a rouge wave – that would be found in the Red Sea only), Maggie and Connor join the ragtag group of people who attempt to escape before Poseidon sinks to its watery grave.
By the way, here’s something we noticed at the Poseidon junket – almost none of the cast had next pictures scheduled, except Barrett. Josh Lucas has gone on to get attached to the Daniel Pearl film, but it’s interesting that people are taking so much time off between films.
Q: How did you get the part?
Barrett: I didn’t audition. I was doing The Namesake in Montreal. And I flew back to meet Wolfgang and I had a 45 minute sit down meeting with him, and got cast. That was it.
Q: Was it your first time playing a mom?
Barrett: I played a mom in Ladder 49. By the end the kids were the same age. But yeah, other than that I haven’t done it so far.
Q: Did you know what you were getting into when you took on this role, the water and the danger?
Barrett: I definitely had the feeling that it was going to be tough. I actually remember Kate Winslet wrote a diary when she was doing Titanic and I read some of that, how she got pneumonia and was so ill, and everyone peeing in the water and all that stuff. I was really…yeah, I had a good feeling that there were going to be some hard parts about it, and then there was a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t foresee that was also really hard about it.
Q: Like the peeing for example
Barrett: Peeing! Jimmy, I just know peed on me so many times. He told me he did other things too. He’s 8 years old!
You wear your shoes so you’re walking around the lot which is obviously dirty, there’s a road out there, and you walk straight in so the crap on everyone’s shoes would go in all the water. So when you’re in a small space it would get dirty really quickly. And ‘cause it’s heated if someone would get sick, everyone gets sick.
Q: Did you?
Barrett: You know what’s so weird, I didn’t get sick ‘cause I’d just gone onto Chinese herbs and I think it actuallly helped me. But everyone got sick, and people were hurting themselves, and falling down stairs, and Josh popped his eye on the dive.
Q: The scene where you’re trying to rescue your child under water…
Barrett: That’s when everyone got sick.
Q: That must have been a really tough sequence to film
Barrett: Ten days, that sequence took. That’s the one thing I was blown away by, because I’d never done anything like this movie before. [Indicates tiny amount with fingers] That much on the page will be five days. It might say ‘A fire erupts and they run down the hallway’ and you go, ‘That will be nothing’ and then it will be so much to film.
Yeah, that sequence was hard and there were all these little things going on in there, like when you go under water, my hair would go [over my face] so they had to have a gust of water shooting at me to make my hair go back so that you could see my face. And then because there was so much bubbling they had to have all the debris tied with fishing wire to the trellis thing, a little hatch, so that it would stay there. But when you pull it away, your skin becomes so soft in the water, the fishing wire would slice your skin. There were so many little things, you know? And that was where everyone got sick so there were boogers on the lens…
Q: Why would someone subject themselves, to put themselves through this kind of thing. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Barrett: There are parts of it that are fun. The gimbal stuff was fun. And sometimes going to work and seeing this massive heated swimming pool in the middle of the desert in Burbank was, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m making a movie like this,’ and you’re part of Hollywood history when you’re making a movie on those lots. It’s so incredible. And you know, the parts that are a bit painful, well, you suck up and deal because the rest of it is worth it.
Q: Did you have any close calls at all? Experience any true panic?
Barrett: I went under the propeller blade when we were doing that one when we came out, because you’re on an angle – that sliced up my leg a bit. That hurt. Other than that I think…Oh, you know what, I did, one day – to make you sink a bit in the water they would put weight belts on us. They put an added weight belt on me because I wasn’t getting low enough and they put extra on Jimmy and I didn’t know they put extra on Jimmy. And once you go underwater you have no sense of how far you are going, you just have an assumption based on your own body weight if you push yourself under, how far you’ll go. They wanted me to sink under—it was the scene in the ballast tanks, where they’re filming us all watching and waiting for the hole to open—and they said ‘Go deeper, go deeper’ and I kept going down, and you have to equalize otherwise your eardrums will screw up, burst down there. I didn’t equalize because I’m on camera and they didn’t want me to equalize on camera, and I just felt… my ears just started going. I’m screaming. And I’ve got a kid in my arms and I can’t drop the child underwater, and then the water safety people rushed in and got him off me. But those things are scary because all your normal senses of judging things are out the window once you’re underwater. You can’t see anything, you can’t hear anything and they’re asking you to do things whilst you’re acting underwater. I would always get worried if I was acting panicked, and they’d think, ‘Oh, she’s great in the scene! Keep going! Keep going!’ So yeah it’s a bit scary doing that stuff underwater.
Q: How do you balance acting and delivering a performance with dealing with all the elements?
Barrett: You just do the best you can. I mean, you try and believe what’s going on and ignore all the physical stuff that you’re dealing with, because ultimately you’ve just got to get in there and deal with it the same way the characters are dealing with it.
Q: When you’re on a shoot like this that’s so long and difficult and you’re in a heightened state of panic, how do you have the energy to come in every day?
Barrett: You get really fried being in the water a lot. And one of the amazing things about working with Wolfgang is that he has these somewhat easy days. We were in at 7, soup at 11 every single day, lunch at 1. And we were almost every day done by 7 again. They weren’t really long days so we got to rest. And I live 15 minutes from the lot so it was nice. I think maybe if we didn’t work with a director like Wolfgang the shoot would have been torturous, because working the normal 16 hour days that a film takes and doing that kind of stuff, I don’t know how people did it, because we would all be so exhausted by the end of the day.
Q: Was there anything that you wanted to do but they said no as far as stunts?
Barrett: No, they didn’t really say no to us, they were OK with us doing most of it. The only thing they’d say no to is doing things without a harness, stuff like that. No, Wolfgang wanted us to do as much of it as we could. I didn’t see much in the movie where there was a stunt person. The only moments where I saw it wasn’t me it was a CGI person, like in the ballast tanks when they were coming through the waterfall, I could see CGI bodies in there.
Q: When this was over, the kind of roles you were looking for, was it something totally glamorous and different?
Barrett: I did a comedy right afterwards, straight away. School for Scoundrels. I did The Last Kiss before it. But Last Kiss, although it says romantic comedy, it’s actually very dramatic for me. I don’t know that romantic comedy is the right way to describe it. So I’d done that and Poseidon and I ‘d wanted to just laugh.
Q: In the scope of things do you prefer comedy or drama?
Barrett: I prefer drama. I think character-driven drama is my favorite kind of stuff to go watch and I like being challenged by that kind of stuff in that way. But this was such a whole new world for me that it was a constant learning experience doing Poseidon, I loved being challenged in that way. I never worked with five cameras before or so much CGI stuff and the stunts. In every scene you’re dealing with so much more than just what you’ve got to do as an actor. If you’ve got five cameras you’re making sure that you’re in the right position for each one of the cameras. You’ve got a stunt guy telling you how far you can move on your harness. You’re watching out for the propane blast of fire that’s coming near. You’ve got wind coming from somewhere. There are so many things that it really gave you a perspective of the small part you have as an actor, you know? You’re just one tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle.
Q: Did you bond with Jimmy? Was it big sister-little brother or was it a mom-son relationship?
Barrett: Sometimes it was mom and son but sometimes it was big sister, like when he would pee in the water. He wrote me this cute goodbye thank you card at the end, ‘Goodbye, I loved working with you. And PS, I farted on you so many times.’ That’s more like a sister kind of thing. He’s such a cute kid though and he’s such a normal kid. He’s totally grounded even though he’s doing movies. It was so nice to see. His parents do an awesome job with him.
Q: What’s next for you?
Barrett: Next is, I have those three movies coming out this year. I just finished School for Scoundrels not that long ago. I just decided to take a break and focus on doing this and I’ll see after that.