Sarah J. Edwards has an inspiring conversation with Malin Åkerman. The self-professed 'girl you want to goof off with' offers tips for girls and women struggling with confidence.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 1 print edition in 2009, this is an edited version.
Interview by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
Photography by Amanda Marsalis
Styling by Jenny Ricker
Hair & Make-up by Maranda
Shot on location at The Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles
Malin Akerman is probably the bubbliest person I've spoken to in ages. She's upbeat, positive and passionate. She's a boys' girl and a girls' girl... everyone is about to love this woman. Malin plays Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II in Zack Snyder's Watchmen and before that starred opposite Ben Stiller in The Heartbreak Kid. Born in Sweden, raised in Toronto, she now lives in LA. Malin is really open, honest and just loves goofing off.
I wanted to chat with you about Watchmen. First of all, can you tell us the story of how you got the role?
“Sure! I was in Rhode Island filming 27 Dresses and I sent in a tape to the casting over in LA. A few days later I took off to Italy to get married and while I was at my wedding, my agent came up to me – he’s one of my friends who was there and said – ‘So, Zack Snyder loved your tape and would like you to come and have a meeting with him and do an audition for him. The only problem is, he wants you there in two days.’”
“And! I was not really willing to leave my whole wedding experience. I just said, ‘You know? I really can’t, it’s just so hard to say no. But I really can’t leave. If he can just hold off two more days, I’ll be there.’ So, I kind of threw it away at first and chose my wedding over the audition and luckily, it was still available, he hadn’t cast it. So, I went in when I got back and did the reading for Zack and we kind of hit it off initially as people. We both kind of liked each other quite a bit and it felt good and I think it was two days later they called and said I had got the part! It was so unexpected. That was really a shocker, I mean, I must say, I was shocked. I was shocked just because it’s such a big project and there was so much pressure on it. I was so excited, I couldn’t have been happier. That role is just incredible.”
I wondered if you could tell me what it was like when you first started working with the cast. You know how you normally meet people and sometimes you maybe make your mind up about them and then you spend more time together and think, ‘Wow, I never realised I’d be able to be so laid back with you or have this kind of fun with you.’ Was there any experience like that?
“[Laughing] Oh many! Let me just tell you first of all, that every single cast member, every single crew member was above and beyond what I’d even imagined. In all honestly, they were so great. We had so much fun together; it was such a great cast. But the funny thing is that Billy Crudup is a man who I watched in the movie Almost Famous. Me and probably a million other girls fell in love with him in that film, because he’s a really cool rock star. I was so excited that he was going to be in the film and it was the first night that we arrived at the hotel, I had arrived the night before and we were all going to go out to dinner and I got the task of calling him. I had sweaty palms, I was so nervous.”
“You know, calling Billy Crudup! He’s this rock star and he’s so cool! Argh! Anyway, so I called him and I left a really stupid message on his phone. I hung up and I thought, ‘Why did I say those things?’ You know, when you’re nervous everything just goes wrong. Anyway, so he came out to dinner and [Laughs] he wasn’t the rock star that I thought he was going to be. He’s far beyond cool. He’s such a sweetheart. But it was all those nerves, so it was one of those things where you imagine someone, because you’ve seen them in a film and then they’re a different person. He’s still a gorgeous guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a more goofy kind of guy. Very fun. He’ll joke around and he’s your best buddy kind of person and we ended up having such a great time.”
“That was definitely a fun experience, to have those nerves for someone that you’ve sort of been in love with in a movie type of way since seeing [them onscreen] and now you get to work with them.”
Yes! It’s actually really brilliant when you’ve got this anticipation of a person and they really are great instead of intimidating.
“Yeah. Oh I know, that is amazing. He was beyond what I had imagined. He was really a nice, nice guy. I really enjoy all of them, they were so great.”
Can you tell us a little about your character? And you know what else I’m going to ask, don’t you? [Laughing] About the outfit.
“[Laughing] Yes, of course! Everybody does.”
“The character you know, she’s a second generation Superhero, if you want to put it that way. I hate calling it Superhero, just because they’re people who have chosen a career in crime fighting. The only thing with my character is that she didn’t choose her career; her mother chose it for her. So, she’s kind of been pushed into this career in crime fighting.
“When the movie begins, we come into her life when she’s been together with – Billy Crudup’s character – Dr. Manhattan who’s the only one of us who had some sort of special super powers. It’s a fading relationship, it begins with her kind of questioning who she is and what she wants in life. If this career of crime fighting is for her or what she’s going to do with her life, basically. We all are just fallible humans, regular human beings, who are going through everyday situations. Things that we deal with as well as what our career brings us – which is the crime fighting and trying to figure out what’s right and wrong. We’ve been banned from fighting crime so we’re just figuring out what to do with our lives; I speak for all of the characters in that sense. She is more or less this wonderful woman, a human being who’s just very much a woman with feelings and is vulnerable at times and then she’s super strong and can kick your butt if she needs to.”
I know that you’ve spoken about the outfit a lot, I just think it’s interesting that it looks so glamorous, yet I know for you it was pretty unbearable wasn’t it?
“[Laughs] It was quite unbearable, I mean I’m sure people have had worse, but I’ve got to say, [laughing] if you ever get the chance to try latex... don’t! Just don’t do it.”
“[Laughing] You know, I love the way it looks, it looks brilliant and magnificent. But for me anyway, it felt like a wet sort of rubber suit that’s just so tight, you know. It’s like pulling elastic bands over your ankles and then putting a corset on top of that, cinching in the waist and so it was very constricting. [Laughing] Not very comfortable, the opposite of the pajamas you put on at night. But again, it looked absolutely fabulous. That was the whole point.”
We hear that Hollywood are on the hunt for female role models. I wanted to chat with you about why you think the ratio has been down for quite a long time, when it comes to tougher, sexier, smarter women. How do you think that might be able to change? I just don’t think there have been as many recently.
“No! There’s hasn’t! Well there’s the Bond films of course, which have a few. But no, it’s sort of a male dominated business as far as films go, you know? A lot of these films are male driven in the cast and then you have maybe one or two females. I don’t know the reason for why it is this way, or why it has been this way for as long as I can remember really. I think really, women have to get their asses together and write some films essentially that will make some tough women come together on screen. Yeah, I wish there were more, absolutely. But really, I should just sit down and write something [laughs]. It’s like a double-edged sword. You complain, but at the same time you have to do something about it. I guess it’s mostly what sells is what people keep writing and I guess what sells is this male dominated type of film, right now. Just because we haven’t seen a lot of female driven ones.”
What kind of women do you think would fill those boots?
“Oh, Cate Blanchett can fill any boots.”
Yes, she can.
“I think she can do anything, Angelina Jolie is a pretty kick ass woman, she’s pretty much your all time Femme Fatale. I think I could fill those boots too!”
“[Laughs]: I think I can work myself up to that!”
It’s nice though isn’t it, to have that kind of challenge. To think, well actually, there is a gap and it is something that men and women love, it’s not like it’s too niche or anything.
“No, absolutely, it’s wonderful.”
I first saw you in the Heartbreak Kid, which is obviously funny and then I was told about Watchmen and it’s so radically different. Which character do you relate to more?
“It’s interesting because obviously both characters have certain elements that do occupy my body, but I would say that Watchmen is a little bit more similar. Only because the character of my mother in the movie the Watchmen is similar to some point with my own mother. I obviously wasn’t pushed into crime fighting or pushed into anything, but just as far as growing up with a mother who is very much like the mother in the Watchmen. It was an interesting development and easier to relate to what Laurie Jupiter would feel. I also love the fact that she could kick ass and that was sort of me living my dream through her, which is you know, feeling really tough. But the thing about Heartbreak Kid was, I also ultimately am a big time goofball. I really love making fun of myself and being a dork. I wouldn’t be the whiney sort of wife that’s so crazy and out there, but definitely if you want someone to goof off with and play some good pranks, then I will be your lady!”
I love that! Being able to laugh at yourself is so important, isn’t it?
“Oh, are you kidding me! Why take life so seriously?”
I’m definitely a big fan of making fun of yourself.
“Absolutely! Otherwise it’s embarrassing if you don’t. You know those people who take themselves way too seriously, you know that people are making fun of them without them wanting them to. You know what I mean?”
“Because it becomes so silly, that they’re riding on their high horse. When people have fun and make fun then everyone else feels comfortable and you’re just enjoying.”
Definitely. I wanted to chat with you about what you really love about LA, that you can’t find anywhere else.
“The one thing is the weather, [laughing] you really can’t beat the weather here. I mean, I’m in a tank top and jeans today.”
Alright, show off!
“And it’s February. I mean, it’s kind of insane – I love that about it. I love that you walk out and you see palm trees and the sun is always shining. I love the Canyons, it’s beautiful to go for a walk up in the Canyons and have a beautiful view of the city. I love that the business is booming here – as far as the business that I’m in. This is a great place to be for that. You know, there are a lot of ups and there are a lot of downs with any city really. I’ve gotten a great group of friends here now. I’ve really made it a home and it feels good to be here. It’s starting to feel like home. It took a while to get into the groove, because LA does have a different beat that it drums to. It is sort of like a big city but it’s a beach town. It moves slowly, there’s a lot of traffic, so there are a few down sides to it, but ultimately, I am loving the LA experience. I don’t know if this will be the place that I stay for the rest of my life, I do miss Europe and I love the European way of living, but for now, I’m really enjoying it and taking it all in.”
What would you bring to LA from Sweden and Toronto... it can be anything at all.
“From Sweden, I’d bring the Crayfish, they have the best Crayfish. We have a sad version of it at Ikea every August, it doesn’t do the trick. We have Crayfish season in Sweden, which I can’t live without so I make sure I’m home for that. Canada, I’d bring all my friends over.”
You studied psychology didn’t you?
“Yeah, I did for a year, that was where I thought my life was going.”
I don’t want to ask you a really huge question, but how did you wind up doing what you’re doing? It was just really interesting for me that you studied it and went on to do modelling and acting.
“Well, I was always doing modelling and acting throughout my life. I kept going in and out, with modeling and TV commercials and such. It was just a part of my life and a great way to make extra cash on the side and I was still doing it when I started university. The acting, all the commercials they started sending me out on guest star roles and small parts in movies. It just started picking up and I was really enjoying it. In it’s own way, it’s a form of psychology. You try to get background and get into different characters and why they act certain ways and why they do what they do. So, it’s a selfish, lazy way to say it had something to do with psychology. For me, at that moment, I was really enjoying it and I said I can wait, school can wait, it’s going to be there and if this ultimately isn’t what I want to do, then I’ll go back and finish off my psychology degree. But to be honest with you, the sound of going to school for seven years was killing me. I just burnt out, school was burning me out and I just felt like acting was refreshing, it was exciting, so I took a chance.”
That’s brilliant, I can empathise with dropping out, but the life experience you get and the things you’d never learn in a classroom are brilliant.
“Yeah, it’s great.”
Have you got one standout story from you modelling days?
“Well, I had stopped modelling and I was walking in the mall and some guy approached me and asked if I wanted to be part of Ford Models in this competition that they were doing. I was living in a small town outside of Toronto at the time and I was 16 and I was really sick of being in a small town and I wanted to get back to Toronto, so I said, ‘Sure, why not? Let’s do this competition.’ So, I ended up going and doing that and the title of it was Ford Super Model of Canada and [laughing] I went in and I ended up winning the whole competition.”
“[Laughing] Which is really kinda crazy and exciting, it’s one of those things when life takes you in a certain direction for a reason. So, it got me back into Toronto and I got my life started in the right direction.”
There’s been quite a lot of news lately about women and girls struggling with confidence. I wondered if you could dish out any tips on how they can lift their spirits?
“You know, I’ve got to say, first up, stop buying tabloid magazines and stuff that has tonnes of bullshit in it. That’s one thing that I avoid at all costs. Personally, when I was younger, I was really shy and I was really insecure, I didn’t even speak until I was 18. I was really, really shy but one day, I just thought, what’s the point? I mean, do I listen to and judge every word that people say? No, not really, so why would they be doing that to me? Why am I thinking that everyone’s judging me and that everyone’s looking at everything I do? I went, ‘Ok, I’ve just got to stop doing that and just start talking and enjoying myself.’ It’s kind of that cliché saying of, ‘You only have one life to live, who are you going to live it for?’ and I said, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to live it for me.’ Once you open yourself up to that, it really is just reiterating that phrase everyday and making sure you’re doing things for you that feel good.
“Give yourself an hour everyday to do something that you love doing, which makes you feel good. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what other people think of what you want to do, what you want to be. It doesn’t matter. When I said I want to be an actress a lot of my family in Sweden, sort of went, ‘Oh God! An actress? Really? Well, good luck.’ And I just thought, well that’s what I want to do and that’s what I’m going to do. You know, you have a lot of struggles in life, but if you believe in yourself and you truly believe in yourself you can do it. It’s just one of those things that you just have to start talking to yourself and being strong and realising that you only have one life to live and so, it’s time to live it for yourself.”