Paula Patton Interview, Déjà Vu

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Movies Online recently sat down with Paula Patton at the Los Angeles Press Day for "Déjà Vu," directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, and Adam Goldberg. To play Claire Kuchever, a woman with such a strong allure that she compels Denzel Washington’s Doug to figure out her mystery, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott wanted a fresh face. They chose rising newcomer Paula Patton who recently starred as the diva who develops a stage show and a love affair with Outkast’s Andre Benjamin in the musical "Idlewild."

For Patton, the chance to work with Washington was a dream come true. It also gave her a sense of déjà vu in its own right. "The relationship between me and Denzel was something that happened so organically, it made me think even more about what that feeling of déjà vu means," she remarks. "That same experience where you meet someone and you immediately feel comfortable and connected to them – that’s what happened between Denzel and me instantly!"

Patton continues, "Working with Denzel is like working with a jazz musician. He’s with the script but it can also go anywhere. He trusts himself and his instincts so deeply. It keeps you on your toes because you never know what direction he is going to turn next."

Washington felt an equal affinity for Patton’s performance, "My character ends up watching every move Claire Kuchever makes through satellite surveillance footage leading up to her death. It is a bit voyeuristic, but it wasn’t hard at all with such a beautiful actress as Paula Patton," he says. "The camera loves her, and everybody in the room falls for her."

Patton especially enjoyed turning Claire into a courageous and indelible female heroine. "Tony Scott is a true lover of women, and if you really look at his movies, all of his female characters are strong, independent and unique," she observes. "They all have a vulnerability and sexiness to them, but they are solid people. Even with a victim, like my character Claire is in this film, she still has a very compelling strength and power."

Here’s what Paula Patton had to tell us about her latest movie and what it was like working with Denzel Washington:

PAULA PATTON: Hello. Hi. Oh, you wore your Idlewild t-shirt. Oh, I love you. I love you. Thank you. Did you just put that on for me? You were wearing the "Inside Man" earlier.

QUESTION: I’ve got a whole box of them

PP: I figured. I figured.

Q: I love the color.

PP: It is a good color, isn’t it?

Q: Yeah.

PP: Yeah. How’s everybody doing today?

Q: Good. And you?

PP: Really good, thanks.

Q: So did you understand any of this or were you like, ‘I’ll just go with the flow.’?

PP: I did understand it. I’ve always had an open mind about what’s possible. It’s funny because I had this whole obsession with that documentary called "What the Blip Do We Know Anyways." I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It deals with quantum physics and parallel universes and it deals with the idea of if we can go forward, why can’t we go back. So I was totally hip to it. I thought it was such a unique way of doing time travel because usually time travel movies, they go back decades and centuries into the past or into the future but this was just four days to solve a crime and I thought that was really unique. Tony, being the sort of realist that he is and I think of him almost like a documentary filmmaker because he wants it to be as honest and real as possible, I thought he made it so credible. You know, he sort of seamlessly put together the most advanced surveillance capabilities we have and just took one step forward to ‘what if we could look back four days in the past.’ And if you remember "Enemy of the State," he was doing surveillance that wasn’t possible at that time. So I kind of think of Tony Scott as maybe a forecaster on this. Maybe in ten years we all be going, ‘Wow, Tony told us. We can look back now.’ (laughter)

Q: If you could go back four days, what would you change?

PP: Four days? You know what, I was nervous four days ago about all this and ‘Oh my God, with the hardball questions and all that gossip.’ And so I probably would have said, ‘Everything is going to be alright. Everybody is going to be nice. Relax. Enjoy yourself.’

Q: Somebody’s expecting me at the door.

PP: Exactly. So they’ll give you a pep talk and they won’t tell you you’re horrible in the movie and they don’t want to talk to you.

Q: You’re not at all. Were you really that nervous?

PP: You know, everybody thinks the worst and then you get sort of anxious about the idea of sitting down in front of cameras or radio or newspapers because they catch every word. I’m a viewer myself so I’m at home. I’ll watch TV and watch interviews and I’ll think, ‘They’re lying. They didn’t like it. I can tell.’ (laughter) You know, you try to read through quotes and I go, ‘They sound so illiterate there.’ You know what I mean? So I’m so harsh that I feel like ‘Oh God, I’m going to be horrible.’ (laughter) That’s why I get nervous. So I’m not going to judge people anymore. No more judging.

Q: So did your cat survive?

PP: Did my cat survive?

Q: Yeah.

PP: Absolutely. (laughter)

Q: Do you see this as a love story?

PP: Do I? Yeah. Absolutely.

Q: How?

PP: Well I see it… The movie is many things. It is an action movie, it is a thriller, and it is a love story. And the love story is a unique love story. It’s a tender one. I kind of think of it like being stuck on the elevator with someone for six hours and then times that times a hundred and put them through life threatening circumstances and it’s quite possible you could leave that elevator if not in love, enamored with that person because you’ve shared a really unique experience. The two of you are trying to save yourselves and I kind of see that in the movie. That’s how Claire, my character, falls in love with Denzel’s character or at least is enamored with him. And he, being sort of a lonely ATF agent that only gets to solve crimes, never gets to stop them from happening, he sees another lonely soul in Claire. She’s often times alone. He sees her in the most intimate ways and it’s not by chance that he finds himself falling for someone who at times seems unattainable. I think that that’s very possible.

Q: But it’s actually the other parallel guy who’s falling for her because he just needs to get to know her?

PP: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Q: Because he’s the guy from the other…

PP: You know what, that’s the thing about the movie. It’s a circle. The end feels like it could be the beginning and the beginning feels like it could be the end. And that’s what’s unique about it. I think of it sort of like the film "Memento." It’s one of those movies you have to go back and watch again because you can’t quite catch all of the little details in one viewing and you sort of want to go back and fact check it. ‘Did they really…? Were they accurate? Does it hold up?’ And I think it does.

Q: What was your experience like shooting in New Orleans?

PP: It’s two fold. One is that I came in there feeling so happy and so blessed to be in this movie and then you go to New Orleans and you’re with people who are so unlucky and devastated by what’s happened to them and so it really changed my outlook on life and what’s important. It’s not the jobs that you get or your success or your failures or your house and your car and all that. It’s so temporary. You can lose it like that (snaps fingers) in a moment and in the end all you have left is your heart, your soul and your spirit and that’s what you always need to work on because so many people… I can’t tell you how many people in New Orleans would say, ‘Yeah, I lost it all but you know what, I got my life and I’m going to get it back and we’re just going to go back and do it.’ So many of us…I’m sure you’ve all felt this way… ‘If that happened to me, I could never do it. I could never survive that.’ But I think the human spirit is a lot stronger than that and people from New Orleans really inspired me and made me realize that we’re much stronger than we give ourselves credit for and we need to take that in our daily lives and really appreciate this moment – not what’s going to happen or what if and all that – but just enjoy what is happening to you right now. Try to. It’s hard, but I try. Sometimes. (laughs) You see I worried about the interview. I wish I had taken that advice then. (laughter) But I know how to talk it. I know how to talk. I just have to try and apply it to my own life.

Q: How has your life changed since "Idlewild?"

PP: Not much. (laughs) It really hasn’t changed much. I guess you have a few more people aware of your work which is nice, but in terms of recognition or anything like that, none of that. You sort of stay in a room and you go, ‘Hey, no, nobody recognized me.’ And they go, ‘No, I don’t know who you are. Can you get out of my way please?’ (laughter) So there hasn’t been any feeling of any difference really to be honest with you.

Q: Was it disappointing that it didn’t do better for you personally?

PP: You know what, I didn’t expect it to do anything for me in that way. That movie was supposed to be an HBO film, "Idlewild."

Q: Oh, was it?

PP: Yeah, it was. And so it still is for me…hey, I was in a movie that came in number nine the first weekend. That’s pretty good in my book. (laughter) Now that doesn’t mean that the studio maybe might not have been happy and maybe the director wasn’t but for me, I got what I wanted out of it which was I got to be in a great film and act in it and people got to see it and anything beyond that would have been, of course, icing on the cake and it would have been wonderful and I think it’s always sad to see how hard someone works in a movie. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to make a good movie and how hard it is to just make a movie period and how many people it takes. It takes an army just to make a movie. And when you don’t get those numbers, it can be a bit disappointing. But I hope that the way the DVD sales are now it maybe has sort of a rebirth on DVD and TV hopefully.

Q: Are you still nice to PA’s?

PP: Absolutely. Absolutely. Are you kidding? That’s where I got my start. I remember people were mean to me when I was a PA -- very, very nasty -- so I try to be…you know, everybody on a movie set has a really hard job to do and you can’t make a movie without a PA and you can’t make one without an electrician or a grip or this or that. It all takes that many people to make a good film so you have to respect them all.

Q: You’ve been a documentary filmmaker as well?

PP: Yes.

Q: Is that something you’re still planning on?

PP: I love documentaries and I don’t want to say never to anything. I see myself in the future producing films, creating television ideas or movie ideas, directing not so much. To be honest with you, when you see a genius like Tony Scott work, it’s intimidating and you go, ‘This man is great.’ And I was always the kind of person that wanted to do something if I could do it to the best of my abilities and I don’t think that that’s what I was meant to do. You know it’s a really hard job. What were you going to ask me?

Q: I wanted to know how you connected with Tony Scott and what it was like to work with him. I know you said it was a little bit intimidating, but he seems like…

PP: Oh no, he’s not intimidating. It’s intimidating trying to be a director after watching him direct but he’s not intimidating at all. Tony, I fell in love with Tony Scott. He is the kindest man. Here he is a genius and yet he’s so humane. He loves people, everybody, and he treats everybody the same, and I think what’s great is he has a lust for life. So he likes the imperfections of people and he’s just a great person and charming. He makes you laugh. He’s the best.

Q: Was it intimidating working with Denzel?

PP: Yes. (laughter) Absolutely. You just don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of Denzel Washington and him be like, ‘Who is this girl? I got something to do.’ (laughter) So you want to make sure you didn’t disappoint Tony or Jerry or Denzel and I just worked really hard not to get fired. That was…Every day was, ‘Just don’t get fired, Paula.’ So half way through the movie I was like, ‘It’s too late. They can’t fire me. I’m going to relax a little.’ (laughs)

Q: How do you play a corpse?

PP: You know you just have to hold your breath and stay focused on one point on the wall and try not to breathe, but occasionally you have to take a breath and you just hope that they cut around it, you know, or else you die. So you’ve got to do it.

Q: You’ve died twice.

PP: What did you say?

Q: Idlewild too.

PP: I know. I don’t know what it is with me and dead people (laughter) -- Idlewild, this movie. It didn’t affect me but your family and friends are like, ‘I don’t like seeing you dead.’ So I guess it’s a mark of a good movie when they actually believe that you’re dead. You know, I’m here, I’m sitting right next to you, and I don’t know what the problem is. So they really believe.

Q: Was there a moment when you were working with Denzel or on this movie that you realized you can relax?

PP: I don’t know…what it is is that you don’t relax. You have to always be on your toes with Denzel because he’s a genius and the way he works is that you prepare, he prepares, and then you come to the scene and you don’t know what he’s going to throw at you because he likes to improvise and he likes to keep it open so you don’t know what emotion might come through you and so I try to mirror that to keep up with him and I figure whatever Denzel’s doing, it’s right. I’m going to copy him. So when you’re there in the moment, you have to be on your P’s and Q’s so that you can react and give him something to react to. So it’s always a challenge and exciting.

Q: Do you remember a specific instance where he really threw you for a loop and did something unexpected?

PP: I guess… You know we had talked about there’s a moment when we kiss and we had talked about maybe, God forbid, this is a love story but nothing ever happens. Maybe we could kiss here but he’s not one to plan something. So we’re doing the scene and then he goes in and he kisses me. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I bite his lip. I was just like… It was the worst and I was like, ‘Oh great! Now Denzel thinks I’m a bad kisser. Great.’ (laughs) So that was sort of a shocker and then I was like, ‘Can I explain myself? I didn’t mean it.’ So I got a chance to do it one more time and I put some lip balm on. (laughter)

Q: What do you get out of acting.

PP: From Denzel?

Q: No. For yourself.

PP: What do I do myself? You know ever since I was a kid, I liked to play make believe. I find my personal life to be a bit dull and I like to pretend to be other people. And it gives me

Q: So you just crave attention?

PP: That too. Oh yeah. This is a dream come true -- people talking to me, wanting to listen to me all day long. Are you kidding? It’s great. That and I do like to pretend to be other people. I found myself even when I was working documentaries and I was trying to think of scripts I would act out the ideas I had but I’d be by myself so that’s when you don’t want the camera on you because you look like a crazy person.

Q: Are you an only child?

PP: No, I have a brother but he was five and a half years older than me and he was a boy and he liked to do sports and he wasn’t playing make believe with me. That was it.

Q: You can’t be that dull.

PP: What’d you say?

Q: You can’t be that dull.

PP: Well, when you’re at that age, you know, brothers aren’t very nice to you. They’re not trying to play with you and play Prince Charming. (laughter)

Q: Thank you.

PP: Thank you so much you guys. Nice meeting everybody. Thanks for the love on Idlewild. Bye guys.

"Déjà Vu" opens in theaters on November 22nd.

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