Tuesday, July 13, 2004
CATWOMAN'S BENJAMIN BRATT
LOS ANGELES -- Today The Continuum begins a series of roundtable interviews from the Catwoman movie press junket, with Benjamin Bratt, who plays detective Tom Lone.
Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Question: Was there a conscious effort on your part to be sexy in this film?
Bratt: Funny thing is, in hindsight, I was just giving what I was getting. And when you're working opposite Halle Berry, you're going to get a lot. So you've got to give a lot.
That said, what I've found striking in the past few days is that people have said they're aware of a good chemistry between the two of us on screen. To that, I would say that if that's so, then it probably has to do with the fact that she and I have a real liking for each other in real life, and a real, mutual respect. That goes a long way, I think, when you're working in an intimate scenario with someone else.
Question: Most cops are stoic and just-the-facts. This isn't a traditional cop role.
Bratt: You know, you've got a point there. One point that we were very conscientious about was, upon reading the script initially, Tom Lone, as a detective, was a fairly straight-forward, one-dimensional character. And that was something, before deciding to do it, that the producers, the director, Halle and myself said really needed improvement. So we worked really hard to make him someone more a little bit more formidble, not physically but emotionally, so that when Patience does become embued with these super-powers, she can potentially get together with somebody who won't be a pushover. No one wants to be with a pushover, after all. That gets kind of boring. While she can probably whip his ass in a second, he's going to get his licks in, too.
Question: Can you talk about that one-on-one scene on the basketball court. Do either of you have any game?
Bratt: You know what? It's funny. Because when I showed up on the set for the first rehearsal for the basketball sequence, thinking I had some game. And the stunt coordinator promptly pulled me aside and said, "You know, we need to working on your dribbling." Apparently I had no game, no shot whatsoever. (laughs).
But again, that scene is really kind of a metaphor for foreplay, the beginning stages of the wooing process between these two characters, so it's effective in that sense more than anything. But if you were to ask me if I could beat Halle in real life at the hoop game, I would say hands down, absolutely, yes.
Question: Were there any scenes were you weren't really acting with Halle, but CGI?
Bratt: No, it was always opposite Halle. There certainly were effects, the ferris wheel sequence especially, which were a lot more complicated and no actors were involved, simply a cutaway reaction shot of Lone, for example, and I'm looking at nothing but the top of a warehouse. That happens often.
The other thing was that Halle's one of the most dedicated, focused actors I've ever worked with. She's arguably one of the biggest superstars in the world. She's gotten a lot of admiration, she's an Oscar winner, she's got great skills. And if she wanted to, she could behave really badly and get away with it. But I have to give her full credit because even in the most ridiculous or seemingly insignifcant off-camera moment, she would be there. She would come out of her trailer to service whatever actor she was working with. I just gained more respect for her, much more than I already had when I started the picture. And I think her work ethic really shows too, in the result.
Question: What drew you to this role?
Bratt: Well, to be really honest, there wasn't much about the role that appealed in the bgeinning to me at all because it was horrifyingly familiar territory for me. I've made a career in the past 17 years of playing men in uniform, especially cops. The one thing for an actor that's death is if you're bored because the boredom will show in your work. There was an inherent challenge in trying to keep it fresh because it's something I'm familiar with.
The real draw for me was the opportunity, at long last, to work with Halle. She and I had come close to working on two other films together prior to this one that unfortunately had fallen apart due to various reasons. So three was the charm. Even though it was familiar territory, I felt we could do something fun with this one.
Bratt:And in hindsight, I'm glad I did because I saw it a couple of nights ago. I had no idea.
Question: What were the thoughts that were going through your head the first time Halle showed up on set wearing the catsuit?
Bratt: I probably had the same thoughts that every other red-blooded male had that day. What's funny is that for the first two months of filming I was playing opposite her and she was in her character Patience Phillips, demure, kind of vulnerable and a little bit shy. And you can't help it, if you're spending most of your time with another actor as their character, you begin to believe they have those qualities as well. Halle actually does have, in spite of all the success and things she's acquired, there's a genuine vulnerablitiy and shyness to her.
But when she showed up that first day in that leather outfit, there was, indeed, a collective gasp. And this is no joke, no lie whatsoever: There were more men on that set who were "part of the crew" that I had seen before. The electrician team and the grip team seemed to have doubled. And there were twice as many caterers. That seemed to happen every time she was on set as Catwoman.
She cuts a pretty striking figure in that outfit and there are not many women alive who could pull it off the way she can.
Question: How intense was the choreography and body work that you had to do for the rafters fight scene?
Bratt: For me, the real excitement for doing physical things in film -- whether you're talking about a fight scene or a stunt sequence or even a love scene for that matter -- is that by necessity it has to be choreographed, very much like a dance. That being said, you have to rehease it over and over again with mathematical precision. Otherwise someone's going to get hurt or someone at least in the sex sequences is going to get bit. (laughs)
For me, in a film like this where the dramatic challenge is not necessarily the thing you look for every day. The fun is really going to be these physical sequences.
Again, it goes back to what I has said earlier about giving is as good as you get. Halle is always game. She's always up for making it the best that it can be. She loves to rehearse, like I do. So we rehearsed it countless times to make sure it worked. And we did it over and over and over again, because Pitof, as you can see in the film, he loves coverage. He's got so many different angles working all the time.
So, yeah, that's where most of the fun was had.
Question: Were you a fan of the comics?
Bratt: I wasn't terribly aware of Catwoman. She was a DC Comics character. And as a kid, I wasn't terribly fond of the DC Comics character. I was a Marvel boy. Spider-Man! My brother and I used to collect comic books in San Francisco.
I was aware of Catwoman from the Adam West Batman show, the Eartha Kitt and the Julie Newmar character particularly. So I wasn't troubled at all. I heard that there was a little bit of grumbling at the beginning of our filming process that the die-hard fans of the comic were going to be concered about the direction the film's going to take and possibly not be true to the origin or legacy of the comic book.
I've got news for them. They're going to be pleased with what they see. The mythological descension of where the character comes from is still accurate, it holds true, but it's taking it in a much different direction. There's kind of a subcurrent of a hip-hop element there's more edge to it, it's a more urbanized version of Catwoman. And with Halle playing it, of course, it's done to a T.
And you don't even have to be a fan, really, of the comic or this character to come to this movie and enjoy it because it is quintessential summer fare. It's kind of like an amusement park ride. It's nonstop action. It's visually stunning, to a much greater degree than I ever imagined.
Question: If you could play a comics hero, which one would it be?
Bratt: All the good ones are already taken. (laughs) That being said, I think all actors are really in touch with the child inside themselves. After all, what we do as a profession is play. So, there is a part of me -- although I am drawn more toward the dramatic roles -- there is a great part of me that would love to do an action film. Because I am a physical person. I also maintain myself in a state of readiness. If you know any producers who want do an action film, let me know.
E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com
Copyright © 2003, The Comics Continuum