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The caption lady said I should say this: Two-time Emmy Award-winning actor James Woods, pictured at the World Premiere in New York City on February 16, is the voice of Owlman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and for Download from Warner Home Video.
When did James Woods win two Emmys?
Wait, no. That's not the point. The point is, JL:COTE, as I call it, was released a damn month ago and I still haven't seen it because Warner Brothers is conspiring against Red Box to keep me unhappy.
Anyway: Far be it from me to mock any of Bruce Timm's direct-to-DVD animated adventures. I think the ones I own or have rented are all terrific, and I really would like to see this one, too. But in the following interview with James Woods, he compares Owlman to a lot of stuff that I just wouldn't normally associate a parallel Earth villain with, maybe because he's James Woods and his sanity ain't rightly screwed down all the way.
I thought, this is like The Remains Of The Day with Anthony Hopkins -- it's that kind of character. He's a character speaking with such a loss of any ability to dream for anything good. It was all about a dark, empty void of the meaningless existence.
....sure. Okay. *nods*
What makes Owlman a great character?
Owlman is a very, very modern character. He's really the doppelganger of Batman who, himself, of course, is a very Dark Knight, torn in his motivations, wanting to avenge the death of his parents. Ultraman is the leader of the Crime Syndicate, but he’s just a tough guy who solves things more with the blunt end of a bat. He’s all brute force. Owlman is the brains of the organization, and he is a thinker, which is ironic in that his greatest strength is really his ultimate undoing.
Owlman is a very calculating, dangerous individual because of his extraordinary brain power. And at the same time, it causes him to have incredibly dark, existential reservations about his acts. He’s very self-destructive and self-loathing. The whole future of the multiverse may be in his hands in our story.
Knowing all of that, how did you choose to implement those characteristics into the vocal performance?
You know, this process of creating a comic brought to life is very interesting, especially a sophisticated comic like this story. I had a thought of his being a very sardonic, almost charmingly sarcastic character. But I started to think that that was a little bit like Heath Ledger's wonderful performance in The Dark Knight as the Joker. And I must say that Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm) were very helpful in helping to interpret the character. We settled on a very existential, depressed man, almost like a Jacobian character, who sort of feels that nothing matters. And there's nothing more dangerous than a man who has his finger on the trigger and believes that nothing matters.
Can you elaborate on the romantic side of Owlman?
In our story, Owlman and Superwoman have this strange, power-hungry kind of, I won't call it love affair, but certainly a strange attraction. And it is the dark side of love, so it involves all kinds of power and domination. Owlman really makes her need him without giving her any kindness. That's the nature of a dark, dark character like this. So they have this really brutal, bitter kind of love. And to get that kind of tone into it was kind of strange, because it's not what love would be about. So you have to do things that are kind of counterintuitive, but it's fun to try it.
Why do you think comics are so popular?
Comics have never really talked down to their audience. The comics have always respected what the audience wants. I have always said that one of the greatest faux pas made by the denizens in the film business is that they tend to want to put their own personal points of view –whether they be political, spiritual, religious, whatever – on their stories and promote their own agenda rather than respect what the audience is looking to hear and see. We should get into their wheelhouse and not be ashamed to sell a hero to people who love the idea of good versus evil. You know good versus evil worked great for Sophocles? It worked great for Shakespeare and it certainly works great for Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern ...and Owlman.
Would you like to be a super hero?
I like the idea of being Owlman. He’s got it made. Think about it. The dark side of all these superpowers is that, as a super hero, you’re always inclined to use them for everybody else. What makes that so great? You're sitting around, the clicker in hand. You're in your nice old pajamas, you’ve got your Uggs on, you just settled in to watch Gladiator for the 58th time. You got some popcorn, the pizza just arrived – it's gonna be terrific. And suddenly it’s “Oh crap, they just blew up the U.S. Mint!” And I’ve got to put on that rubber suit – and don’t forget the talcum powder – and rush into action. Who wants to wear latex all the time? Harvey Fierstein? Not me. I don't want any superpowers. If they offer, I’ll politely decline.
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Was there any particular scene in the script that stood out for you?
There's a wonderful sequence in this story where Owlman and his opposite spiritual twin, Batman, have a confrontation about the future of the multiverse, all the universes, all the earths that were created. And it was a very sophisticated conversation about the existential meaning of life. I'm reading this thing and thinking, “This is a comic book character talking?” I mean, it was very sophisticated, and I found myself wondering how you would do that.
I thought, this is like The Remains Of The Day with Anthony Hopkins -- it's that kind of character. He's a character speaking with such a loss of any ability to dream for anything good. It was all about a dark, empty void of the meaningless existence. When you read something that deep, you find yourself instinctively going to a better level of performance. So it wasn't a challenge so much as an invitation to be unique and maybe better.
What role are you still waiting for?
I would like to do a doofy henchman. I'm always the guy in control. I'm always going to destroy the universe and then I'm gonna go get a sandwich. I’d like to be the guy who says “Hey, I can go and get the sandwich for you while you destroy the universe, and then we can go get some key lime pie.” I'm so tired of being the “A” personality in the villainy department. Give me the goofy henchman. I think that would be fun.
Have you had any reaction from your fans – or the legions of fanboys – to your playing the role of Owlman?
They talk about fanboys and the Comic-Con audience and so on, calling them geeks and such. But I have to tell you – those guys know what they like, and they embrace the hard work that goes into these stories. And it's really fun to give them what they want, because I'm a fanboy at heart. I'm much older than the usual base, but I have to say – I love these characters. And I love being one of them. I would be Owlman forever. I love the concept.
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