By far, the two performances I think people will speak about most frequently when they discuss “John Carter” are given by Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins.
When I joined the cast at the Boulders resort in Carefree, Arizona, I started my day with an interview with Willem Dafoe. He was the first person from the film that I spoke to after our screening the night before, and he turned out to be a real pleasure. I’ve been watching and admiring his work since “To Live And Die In LA,” and I think he’s only gotten better with age. He is one of those actors who brings such a unique and intense presence to everything he does that it’s a thrill to sit down with him finally. I only wish it could have been longer.
With Lynn Collins, I’ll confess to being one of the people that was skeptical about the casting of her as Dejah Thoris when it was first announced. I only really knew her from “Wolverine,” and that’s a hard film for anyone to use as a calling card. In “John Carter,” though, I think Collins proves herself to be a strong, sexy, and smart lead actress. She infuses the role with qualities that I’m not sure existed on the page, even in the Burroughs version, but that feel absolutely right.
In both cases, these people struck me as genuinely proud of what they’ve done and excited about audiences getting a chance to see it. Dafoe was working in a whole new way for him on this movie, performing on stilts and giving life to a motion-capture character, while Collins was playing the biggest role of her career, one that required her to feel absolutely confident at every moment, no matter what nerves she might have been feeling personally. Yet looking at the finished product, you’d never know that either of them was out of their comfort zone.
I’ll be seeing the film for a second time tonight, and I’m excited. It’s been a while since I’ve been this curious about a second viewing of a film, but in this case, I have a feeling a second trip to Barsoom will allow me to soak up more of the detail and be less concerned with the sensory overload of a first impression. If you haven’t read my review, check it out.
“John Carter” opens on Friday.