Arnold Schwarzenegger is nothing short of a movie legend. Movies like Predator, The Terminator, Conan The Barbarian, Commando, and True Lies are some of the best examples of the modern action genre and to many he’s nothing short of a big screen icon. But it’s not just his legacy that his The Last Stand co-star Jaimie Alexander wants to emulate as she develops as an actor.
With the brand new action flick in theaters this weekend I recently had the chance to sit down one-on-one with the actress, who plays Deputy Sarah Torrance in the movie, and in addition to talking about her admiration of Schwarzenegger we covered a number of other subjects in our chat, including her aspiration to become action star, playing strong women and adding to her character, and even a little bit about the hotly anticipated Thor: The Dark World. Check it out!
Obviously being a young actress in Hollywood is not an easy career path, but when you’re looking at scripts and looking for projects that you want to do what is it that you’re looking for? And what was it about The Last Stand specifically that made you want to be involved?
This project, I read the script and I was like, “Okay, I like action, action’s my thing,” I love it. I love doing it. When people are like, “What are you really dying to do?” I’m like, “More action!” Why fix it if it ain’t broke? But I look for strong female characters. I look for people that inspire. And I also look for good role models for young women. Those are things that attract me. Even if a character has vulnerabilities and weaknesses and things like that still there’s some sort of strength in that.
Just to overcome those vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
Yeah! And me, as a woman, I have weaknesses that I work with every day that are actually some of my strengths now. So I look for that. And also I love to take characters and make them relatable. So as a small example my character Lady Sif in Thor – she’s a goddess [laughs]. She’s not real, how can you make that relatable? But I try to also make her very much a woman. So I look for those kinds of things in scripts and I also love scripts that really tie together well and get your heart racing and this one did that. And then, of course, I heard Arnold was going to be Ray Owens and I was like, “Oh yeah!” [laughs] I was like, “Count me in!” It took a while for me to get this role, it was a couple months of things. I think they were just trying to figure out the cast as an ensemble – who would fit with who and that sort of thing. I said, “I’m Sarah Torrance, don’t you cast anyone else, alright!” [laughs] So this script was right up my alley.
And with Sarah specifically what was it about the character that you really keyed into when you were first approaching her and figuring out who she was?
I think she has a smartass quality that I really love and I kinda got to do in some of my other things, but I really got to do it in this film. Just a roll of the eyes…it’s how I am with my brothers. So I said, “I like this!” And for me I try to make sure that she wasn’t “the hot chick.” You know what I mean? I can’t stand that shit. They always cast somebody who has these impossibly large boobs and you look at them and you’re like, “You look like you couldn’t even beat up a fly.” So for me I like the fact that she’s a small town deputy. She wears brown slacks. She’s not that va-va-voom, you know? And I enjoy that about her because I told them, “Look: don’t put me in super tight pants, don’t do this, don’t do that…I want to make her realistic!” For me I don’t really care so much about what I look like in the film so long as I look like the character. So we did that with her and I wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a lot of make-up on, very natural – we collectively came up with a look for her and made sure that she was realistic and I had more weight on me at the time and I looked like I could actually hurt somebody. Or at least carry the gun properly and all that stuff [laughs]. So…I totally forgot you question [laughs]
You’re doing great! [laughs] I was asking about your first impressions of the character.
Sometimes I go off on a rant! I keyed into that quality of her being able to hold her own with anybody around her. And the fact that she wants to save people. And the thing about her is that she does it by the book, and then towards the end of the movie she’s like, “Screw the book! I need to do what I can to save these people.” And I like that she sort of breaks out of her shell a bit, you know?
It sounds like you had a lot of input into your character, but I’m also curious about working with Jee-woon Kim on that front because not only is this his first English-language feature it’s not his natural tongue. How did you deal with that language barrier?
You know, for me I think it worked better because sometimes words get in the way. When somebody’s like, “Now I’d like you to do a little bit more of this, and then a little bit more of that” and it’s not simple when somebody tells you nine things to do. Just put it into one or two words! And for him it was more of a visual thing. Like Arnold, he’s super animated and that was his way of communicating a lot. You could just look at him and go, “Okay, yeah. I know exactly what you want me to do.” You just make eye contact, a few little things here or there. He would actually literally – especially for me because I spent most of my time jumping out of the car on the roof or rolling around in the dirt or whatever – he would get down and say, “This is how I want you to be” and lay down on the ground, one arm up…because for him on camera he can see if your head was above this car it’s going to get shot. So you need to make sure that you’re down low. So those were the types of things.
And when it came to emotional scenes I could just look at him and he would have almost the exact emotion on his face that my character would maybe experience in that scene, and it just made sense right away. Honestly, he’s so fantastic.
Were you familiar with his work before working with him?
Yes, and the thing about that…his shots…He has a couple shots in the movie that are continuous, that don’t cut, and nobody does that anymore. I mean, I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that may be the last time I saw it. He’s not cutting to close-ups all the time! Let’s keep it going and show the realism of it!
You mentioned that you love doing action films and while I’m not quite sure of the timeline when you filmed the movies, but this one is coming out right in between Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Obviously they are two very different characters, but did prepping for one help with prepping for the other, just in terms of the training process?
It was really funny. I was really sick before I got this role and I hadn’t been able to really physically train in a couple of months, so when they said, “Yeah, you have nine days,” I was like, “Ha! That’s not going to happen!” But my thing is more about being healthy, not aesthetics wise, unless the character calls for that. But it’s more about I want to make sure that my back is strong so that I can do these things and do them realistically – not hunch over…So for me it was more about this woman is a deputy, there’s a certain way and a protocol that you follow when you’re handling weapon. And I can’t just raise my arm and shoot the gun. [miming what it’s like to fire a weapon] Whatever side my gun is on, my hand touches that and the other hand touches the middle of your stomach. You draw the gun up into your stomach and out forward – there’s a certain way of doing things. I trained with an LAPD officer who was one of the stunt coordinators on the film. That was most of the training I did, it was like a formality to make sure I did everything right. To make sure that I look like a cop!
And I can see why you wouldn’t want to overdo it also, as she is just a small-town cop.
Right! And for Sarah she would make sure that she did it right. That’s the thing. And it’s so funny because the main difference between me and that character is that in a way she’s very straight-laced and does things by the book, and I’m not. I don’t take a conventional approach [laughs]. So it was fun to play somebody who was a little uptight with those things and eventually lets her hair down…literally. That’s another reason the hair was down – figuratively she lets it go.
I do have to ask because this is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first starring role in such a long time and he’s such a legend in the genre. When you first met him or when you first saw him step out on set what was the first thing that ran through your mind?
I’m looking at the guy thinking, “Oh geez, I won’t say anything stupid, I’ll shake his hand. Is he a hugger? Because I’m a hugger!’ [laughs] And he walked right up to me and said that he was happy to meet me and that he’s excited and he was honest about it! That was the thing, he’s a very genuine guy from one spectrum to the next. If he doesn’t like something you know about it, if he likes it you know about it. Everything he does and says comes from his heart – and he almost has a childlike innocence sometimes that I really enjoy and when you see people who were your idols growing up and you see that they’re good people, but they’re also human…that means a lot to me because it shows me that people who have done this for a very long time are still very respectful, still very much an equal with everyone else, not above them, and the way he is just made me go, “That’s the way I’m going to be.”
Just because I'm a huge nerd, I know that you guys have wrapped on Thor: The Dark World, so I’m curious what we’re going to see from Lady Sif this next time around. How has she evolved?
Physically she has a more feminine look in this film. You get to see her in a few different, new costumes. And you also get to see her be a bit more vulnerable. And you get to see her be a little bit more of a woman too! We do explore the Thor-Sif relationship a little bit.
In the romantic sense
On her side, mostly. But it’s neat. It’s more like an admiration and love for somebody that she’s grown up with and wants to protect, and that’s her thing. Sif cares about the people she loves and she’d do anything for them. And you see her do that in this movie.
Did you get a chance to work with Christopher Eccleston as Malekith at all?
I can’t answer that! I will get shot.
Aw, man! I almost just did, and I was like, “I can’t answer that.” I will get in so much trouble. But yeah, we have a lot of good people in this movie. It was a lot of fun.