WonderCon 2012: Brooklyn Decker, From Snot Bubbles to 'Battleship'
The former model talks about taking on a big role in the upcoming blockbuster, working with director Pete Berg, and becoming an actress by "working her butt off."
Set for release on May 18, 2012 and showcasing all sorts of spectacular action in early footage, director Peter Berg’s Battleship promises to offer an abundance of testosterone via an ensemble of characters played by the likes of Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Liam Neeson (The Grey), Alexander Skarsgard (HBO's True Blood) and Tadanobu Asano (Thor). But there are several formidable female characters fighting alongside their male counterparts, including r&b singer Rihanna as a weapons specialist, and Brooklyn Decker as an army brat and physical therapist who finds herself on the front lines when an alien race stages an attack on Earth.
Interestingly, neither actress had much experience before Berg decided to cast them in key roles. Decker, however, is using the scifi epic as a stepping stone to a bigger career in front of the cameras after spending several years as a model. Following a presentation of footage from the upcoming film at the 2012 WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Decker about her character, describing both how the character’s journey mirrored her own, and talking about how Berg helped her acclimate herself to the world of Hollywood spectacle.
The Hollywood Reporter: Just to get started, tell us a little bit about the character you play.
Brooklyn Decker: I play Samantha Shane. She’s a physical therapist and the daughter of the Admiral, played by Liam Neeson. My love interest is played by Taylor Kitsch, and he becomes our hero. And I think it’s interesting, because of the trailer and obviously because of the title of the film, Battleship, you see so much is on water, but there’s actually a really big action component on land. We have this really great character that has yet to be introduced – his name in real life is Greg Gadson – and he’s an active Colonel in the army who lost both of his legs in 2007, and he plays that character in the film. And he and I are sort of left to fight a lot of the action on land. There’s a lot of that that we have yet to see, but it’s exciting – we do a lot of stunt training, fight training, gun training, and so it’s quite physical, and there is a lot that audiences haven’t seen yet that I think will be a nice surprise for them.
THR: How much military training does she actually have, since her father’s an Admiral?
Decker: She’s a physical therapist, and the area of her profession is specifically with amputees that have come back from overseas. So we did a lot of training at Brooks Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, we worked a lot at Tripler in Hawaii, and went to military hospitals and worked with these guys. So the fact that she works in military hospitals is the extent of her military experience, but she’s a military brat, so that’s her influence. So she’s not military at all, but she’s been raised by them, she’s worked with them, she’s intending to marry one, so she’s a bit of a tomboy, a bit of a tough girl.
THR: How much then did the story of making this film echo the experience of making it – being thrown into a set of circumstances you weren’t necessarily that familiar with?
Decker: There were a lot of parallels. It was my second movie and my first one had yet to come out; I was terrified, obviously, going into this, but the biggest driving force for me wanting to do it was the fact that Peter Berg was directing it. I’m a huge fan of his work and I love that if you look at every female in every movie that he makes, they’re always very dynamic; I mean, you look at Charlize [Theron] in Hancock, and she’s strong, she’s angry, she’s witty. They’re always very dynamic. So I wanted to be directed by this guy who is very well-respected and well-liked by actors. But it’s very scary – it’s a huge movie for Universal, for Pete, for all of the actors, and so obviously there’s a very intimidating part of it. Rihanna was new, I was new, Greg Gadson was new, so there were a lot of us kind of coming into this for the first time, so I think what Sam was going though and what I was going through as an actor, there were a lot of similarities – minus the aliens, unless you count Pete (laughs).
THR: How did Pete handle the newcomers differently than the other actors, or did he maybe treating you like everyone else help you feel more comfortable on set?
Decker: I think Pete is one to break barrier very fast. If you look at him in an interview, he’s very personal, and that’s how he works. My first audition with him was very physical – he told me he wanted to see snot bubbles coming out of my nose, quote verbatim from his mouth. That’s what he told me, so I had to make that happen in the audition room. And when you have snot bubbles coming out of your mouth, the barriers drop very quickly. So as far as the process goes, Pete will do anything to get what he wants from an actor, whether that’s hiding in the bushes and firing off a machine gun, which he did, or whether it’s pushing an actor into something so that they physically feel jolted. He will do anything he can to get what he wants from an actor. He was an actor and he is an actor, and he knows how to work with everyone, so I think he was quite physical and intimate with all of us; I mean, Kitsch and he obviously have an existing relationship because of Friday Night Lights, so I’m sure their relationship’s a little different there. But he’s pretty tough with all of us, and open, so there are very few barriers with Pete.
THR: How much is this a different phase of your career from doing modeling, as opposed to maybe a parallel interest you’re pursuing? Do you want to move into acting?
Decker: I’m certainly not doing acting to increase my star power by any means; if that were the case, I would have my own clothing line and be doing everything I could. But I’m not – I’m doing this, and I haven’t done a photo shoot for modeling since November 2010. I haven’t done a photo shoot in forever, but I’m studying and I’m working my butt off and I’ve been fully committed to studying and working for almost two years now. So this is it.