By Jeffrey Ressner, USA Weekend, April 20th 2008; Scans by lessy37
Torrential rains pound the streets of Manhattan. Meanwhile, inside a lofty warehouse studio high above the city's flooded sidewalks, 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.
Although none are diehard comics fans in their off-screen lives, the leading ladies nevertheless seemed eager here to unleash their inner geek. The following are excerpts from our interview.
Was it lonely being the only woman in a comic book movie?
Liv: I'm used to that world from "The Lord of the Rings," even though it wasn't really a comic book.
Maggie: Everybody on my set was a guy! I have two lovers in the movie, and they're both these gorgeous men. Come to think of it, there were a lot of powerful, manly men around, and I didn't mind that particularly. [Laughs.]
Gwyneth: Mine was definitely a testosterone-fest. I was the only girl for miles, except for the women working in the wardrobe, hair and makeup departments. I would have time off when the guys would go blow things up in the desert, and every time I went back to work, they were happy to have a girl there. They had kind of forgotten that there were women in the world.
Liv: But you got to be so sexy. Pepper Potts is so sexy and amazing ...
Gwyneth: That's sweet, but I don't know about sexy. Pepper wears Dolce & Gabbana suits ...
Liv: And, meanwhile, I was wet ... in the rain ... wearing jeans and a T-shirt ... while hanging off the back of a helicopter!
Gwyneth: That's cool! I didn't get to do anything like that.
Are there any superpowers you wish you had in real life?
Gwyneth: Hmm, flying would be good. I was going to say invisibility, but it's a little bit dishonest ...
Maggie: Yeah, because then you could just sneak around --
Gwyneth: -- and X-ray vision is definitely dishonest.
Maggie: It seems a little dirty.
Liv: I definitely wouldn't want to read people's minds.
Maggie: That could get you into real trouble.
Liv: I'd like to be Aquaman and breathe underwater.
Maggie: I might get claustrophobic if I did that. I'd probably choose flying. I'd get into too much trouble if I could read minds or become invisible or see through people's clothes.
Gwyneth: There is an ethical line you don't want to cross.
Are there any people you admire in real life who seem like superheroes?
Gwyneth: I look up to [academic and economist] Jeffrey Sachs, people like that who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place.
Maggie: Anyone who puts the good of the world before their own personal well-being, like Nelson Mandela. He risked everything and ended up having a major effect on the world and really shifting things. Just like a superhero.
What do friends and family members say about you doing this kind of film?
Gwyneth: A lot of people were really confused when they heard I was doing "Iron Man." They thought I was doing an Ironman triathlon.
Maggie: My friends and my family know I don't ever want to do stupid and meaningless things, so they trusted me not to do that with Batman.
But let's face it: Aren't these movies, by their very nature, a little silly and hokey?
Maggie: Ours is not like that. We had a good script.
Gwyneth: Ours, too! It wasn't embarrassing in any way. Although there were lines that were a little bit like (screams dramatically), "No, no, press the button! Press the button!!!" Sometimes I'd go, "This line belongs in the book called 'What You Cannot Say in a Movie.'" But I suppose if you're going to blow somebody up, there's a limited number of responses you can have for that.
How do you think women have changedin these kind of films over the years?
Gwyneth: There's a reason why they're hiring actresses like us. We're all women, we're all mothers, and we all normally do different films. There's a certain understanding of who we are and what we bring and a certain respect for that.
Maggie: Twenty or 30 years ago, the women in these films were vapid and just appeared for extra silliness.
Liv: In all these films, our characters have real jobs and really fall in love and have real dilemmas. When you look at the history of the comic books, the women also have changed.
So you're telling us it was more than just a big payday that made you want to do this film?
Gwyneth: Well, Robert Downey Jr. (who plays the starring role in "Iron Man") called me and said, "You have to do it," and I said, "Yes, it sounds like great fun." And then he said, "And, by the way, don't you want to be in a movie that people actually see?" I wondered, "Hmm, what would that be like?" [Laughs].