USA WEEKEND has summoned Gwyneth Paltrow, 35, Maggie Gyllenhaal, 30, and Liv Tyler, 30, for a rare round-table chat. All three actresses appear in big summer movies based on classic comic books, with Paltrow as Iron Man's trusted assistant Pepper Potts, Gyllenhaal as Bruce Wayne's lawyer pal Rachel Dawes in the Batman sequel The Dark Knight, and Tyler as The Incredible Hulk heroine Betty Ross.
Are there any superheroes you'd like to play?
Maggie (to Liv): You'd be good as Wonder Woman.
Liv: No, you look more like her, especially in the face. Maybe we should both be her for Halloween this year and wear matching outfits. I've always really liked Catwoman for some reason: Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Gwyneth: Yeah, Michelle Pfeiffer was great.
Liv: If there was ever a fantasy I had, I related to the nerdy person she was at home -- that was so me. And then there was this other part of her personality where she showed her sexuality and power. Soooo sexy. That scene where she licks her paw: Ohhhh!
How about you, Gwyneth? You were in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and now you're in Iron Man. Any thoughts of putting on a colorful suit yourself and flying around?
Gwyneth: No. I think after this, it's time to go do some Chekhov in Williamstown or something.
Do you remember the first comic books you ever read?
Maggie: I didn't read comic books. And my brother [actor Jake Gyllenhaal] read Mad Magazine, which wasn't the same. I'm not really a major comic book reader. [Laughs.]
Liv: I went through a major Archie and Veronica phase, that's for sure. I remember being kind of obsessed with them. I loved the Hulk TV show and the really camp Batman, and then He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which had a lot of comic books associated with it, too. I remember he went, "I am He-Man! I have the power!" There was She-Ra, Skeletor ...
Maggie: I was never allowed to watch that. It was considered like sugar syrup. If we had a sleepover party, we could maybe watch a little He-Man, but that was it.
Liv: I remember living with my grandparents when I was 6 and being really hyper. They sat me down and said I could only watch 30 minutes of TV a day. I started crying, "But, but, how am I going to watch 'He-Man' and 'The Dukes of Hazzard'?"
Are you ready for the onslaught of dolls and video games?
Maggie: I don't think they have a Rachel Dawes doll.
Liv: I did do The Incredible Hulk video game, which was so weird and bizarre. They send you into a studio to say these lines, and they're like the super-camp versions of what you say in the movie. There was a moment when I just completely surrendered to the silliness, and then it became fun. With these kinds of movies, all these other things come with it, so you have to be willing not to be embarrassed.
Gwyneth: I just got a picture of what I look like in the video game. [Scowls.]
You don't look too happy, Gwyneth.
Gwyneth: No, because it looks like some weird hybrid of me and Lucy Lawless.
Are you ready for sequels? I imagine you signed on to do more than one of these.
Gwyneth: I'd be so happy to do Iron Man every couple of years and then a couple of little movies and plays in between. I feel so lucky I got this job. I had such a good time, and if we're lucky enough to have sequels, the pressure's off in a way. I know I'm going to have a paycheck; I won't have to rent out my house and move in with my mother in five years.
Liv: I always find it's the last week on a movie that I really "get" it, so I always want to go back and redo the part. With a sequel, you get a chance to reflect on the character and play her again.
Gwyneth: That's true. For example, I love Sex and the City. But the first episode was so different from the last couple of years, where the girls knew their characters so well, and it feels so playful and alive. It's something you don't get to do in films -- usually, you play a part for one time and that's it.
Yet for all your positive experiences, it doesn't sound like you all will be running to a comic book store anytime soon to load up on the latest issues.
Gwyneth: We're actresses. It's not like after we play lawyers, we go run out and actually try to pass the bar exam. Playing a character doesn't change who you are or what you're interested in. Listen, if I have time to read anything, it's going to be a parenting or a body-training book. Comic books are still for boys.
Bonus pictures (click to enralge);photos by E.J. Camp