Brooklyn Decker talks about some of the challenges of making Battleship, including forming snot bubbles on demand for director Peter Berg as well as working with real-life army veterans who have lost limbs in combat. She also discusses her career from model to actress and why she feels like she still has to earn every role.
I enjoyed Battleship. It's a great popcorn movie...
Brooklyn Decker: That's what we were hoping for, so thank you. I think for the movie buffs out there that know how difficult water special effects are, I think it's going to be a really big hit with them. Or at least I hope it is. I hope people understand that it's probably the most difficult medium to work with. So, it's exciting that it's come together so nicely.
Were you glad to be land-based for most of the time?
Brooklyn Decker: Yes and no. I love the land and I think it grounds the movie a little but because you're hearing a lot of the story through land. However, it would have been fun to go out there on the barge and deal with the elements a little bit and try shooting some weapons in the water. I kind of like to get my knees wet a little bit.
You have your own scars from being out in the bush, though, don't you?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, I do. My first injury on-set was during the jeep wreck scene, where there's broken glass everywhere. I cut my arm, kind of badly. It didn't need stitches but it was bleeding everywhere and I was very excited. I took a picture of it and was like: 'Yeah! It's my first battle wound for Battleship!' So, I was very proud of that moment.
I read that initially you were circling Battleship along with a number of other actresses but Pete Berg thought you weren't tough enough. Is that true? And what did you have to do to convince him?
Brooklyn Decker: Yeah, that's true. So, I auditioned for this via tape and through the casting director four times. I was shooting another movie at the time and I wasn't even given the script. I was only given scenes between Sam and Hopper [Taylor Kitsch] because it was so secretive. Finally, on my fifth time, I got to read for Pete and he said: 'The only way you're getting this is by forming snot bubbles. I want to see snot bubbles and tears coming out of your face.' I was like: 'OK, this is my fifth time, so I might as well go for it.' And I did. And that was a Friday and on Monday I got the call that the part was mine. So, I gave him snot bubbles and he gave me Battleship.
Where do you go to summon snot bubbles just like that?
Brooklyn Decker: You know, I think by that point I had just wrapped a movie, I was going back and forth, I had auditioned for this so many times, I still hadn't read a script, so I was kind of like: "Do you know what? Screw it! I'm just going to put it all out there and just freak out and just hope that it's enough.' If it's too much, Pete could tell me but something just came over me that was completely uninhibited and Pete got what he needed out of that. He then put his faith in me.
In many ways, your role is one of the most challenging because you're dealing with the emotional complexity of having to counsel disabled soldiers, who have lost limbs in combat. You also have to work alongside a real ex-soldier. How was the research part of that for you?
Brooklyn Decker: It was interesting. It was eye-opening, it was humbling, it was difficult at times, and very emotional. I play a physical therapist and my character's job is to work with guys who have come back from overseas and have lost limbs. That's her specialty. So, Greg Gadson, who has lost both of his legs, and I went to Tripler Medical Hospital in Hawaii, we went to The Centre for the Intrepid in San Antonio, and we met with these guys. We visited them in the hospital and we talked to them and I learned how to clean a burn wound, how to put in a dislocated shoulder, how to put on a prosthetic leg. It was really good doing that with Greg because he's been there and he was definitely a source of strength for me. And it definitely enabled us to get really tight really fast. He and I still have a very close relationship because I think we went through this very weird kind of bonding experience. But it was really special. It made me want to do those guys justice.
What's it like being around a presence like Greg? Was he inspiring to you?
Brooklyn Decker: Very much so. I mean, he's huge. He's massive. He's 220 with no legs, if you can imagine. He played football at MIT. He's just a big guy and he's an inspirational speaker, so he's very eloquent. He's also just down to earth. I think what I loved most about him was the fact that he was very open with me and I was very open with him. It was only my second movie, so there were obviously a lot of fears going into it and he had a lot of reservations as well just because it was a very daunting task to go into this. The two of us going into it together had a very open and honest relationship with each other. But that's what I loved about him. He's willing to share his story. It shows how far he's come.
How was having Liam Neeson as your dad?
Brooklyn Decker: He's so great. He wasn't with us for a long time but when he was on set, I remember it was my first week and I was so intimidated. We were staying at the same hotel and he was like: 'Let's go and have a drink. I feel like you're very nervous. You need someone to talk to, so let's go and have a drink.' So, we went and had a drink and he was just the nicest guy. He told me great stories about his good memories, about how to just relax and have fun and how, at the end of the day, we're all just playing. His wisdom and encouragement... I think he did the same with Taylor and he was just very generous with his advice, which I think when you're in his position is the most valuable thing you can give. I still can't believe I'm in this.
This has been a bit of a dream start in the movie industry for you, hasn't it - following Adam Sandler's Just Go With It with Battleship?
Brooklyn Decker: Well, yeah... the thing that people don't see are all the failed auditions [for roles] that I haven't been getting for five years! But since then I've been very, very lucky and I have three movies in two years, so for a first-timer I certainly don't deserve it and I don't feel like I deserve it and I'm pinching myself every day because I'm like: 'This can't be real!' But now I'm just really studying and paying my dues a little bit because I feel like it's time to.
What made you decide you wanted to make the switch from modelling into acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Brooklyn Decker: No, I never wanted to be an actor or a model. I wanted to be a veterinarian and I decided to start modelling so that I could pay for school. But then I didn't go to university and I really missed that education, so I started studying acting because it was the only thing that I could take with me on the road. So, I started reading scripts and reading plays and having discussions with an acting coach in New York and that's how it started. I really enjoyed it, so I started auditioning, and so for years nothing happened! I did a few horrible TV bits - not the shows, my performances were awful! And yeah I just kept studying and learning and Adam Sandler gave me my first big break and then Peter Berg after him. So, I've been pretty lucky.
You've since made What To Expect When You're Expecting, so how was that?
Brooklyn Decker: Oh my gosh, so different. On that movie I was just an idiot. It was Dennis Quaid and I and we play these characters who are so not grounded and live in this completely ridiculous, heightened, exaggerated reality and it was so much fun. We got to play the entire time and completely joke around. That was just a good, fun, silly time for me. I'm playing this southern, redneck, annoyingly perfect woman and it was very different from Battleship and a nice departure. It was a really fun experience because it was so different.
You're expecting twins in that?
Brooklyn Decker: I'm expecting twins, yeah. I had the fake baby bump, everything...
Was that a weird thing for you, seeing how your body might look if you become pregnant?
Brooklyn Decker: It did. I was like: 'I hope I look like this when I'm pregnant!' Because it was just me with a belly, so I'm setting a really unrealistic standard for myself, basically, by strapping on that belly. But it was really fun. We had to work with real babies and Elizabeth Banks plays sort of my daughter-in-law, which is crazy, and she's hysterical. She's such a star and I love her.
Given your background as a model, is it fun doing things to your body that no longer require it to be in pristine condition, such as strapping on a baby belly or getting muddy for Battleship?
Brooklyn Decker: Oh yeah. I mean Sam in Battleship is beat up. There were some scenes where she didn't have any make-up on and all they did was rub dirt on me. There are plenty of scenes where my hair is in a mess and the make-up is literally dirt all over my clothes and body. And that's fun for me because that's honestly who I feel like in real life, so to kind of get back down to myself was very fun. This glamorous thing is a nice facade. But that's the cool thing about acting. You're taking on a different character. The lifestyles between modelling and acting are similar but the jobs are entirely different. A model is incredibly posed and contrived and an actor has to be incredibly spontaneous. So, it's challenging but really fun to kind of discover the differences between the two.
With the exposure you're getting from Just Go With It and Battleship has it got easier to get roles? Have you noticed more offers coming in?
Brooklyn Decker: I still have to earn them. It's interesting, too, because I'm lucky enough to be getting a few offers and they're all very... they're the sexy woman. But I really want to do something that's a little bit more character-driven. I'm not sitting here saying: 'Oh, I need to take everything so seriously.' At the end of the day, we're all just playing. But I definitely want to do something that doesn't depend on one trait. So, I'm definitely having to earn everything and I'm still auditioning and I'm still studying. I hope this opens a few more doors and I hope I can keep working, knock on wood. But yeah, I still definitely have to work with it.
Interview: Rob Carnevale Photo: Universal