It’s a good thing Anna Paquin is only 20 years old, because the promotional pace for “X2″ might crush an older, less resilient actor.
The New Zealander-turned-New Yorker started the publicity circuit in Los Angeles with a week of interviews, stopped home for a day, flew to Madrid, London, New York and L.A. again. This week, before crossing the country one more time, she acknowledged, “My body’s about 10 time zones behind me. But I think my brain might be with us this morning, so you’re in luck.”
By her count, the media marathon included 75 interviews of four to five minutes each, designed to accommodate TV reporters hungry for sound bites and one-on-one face time.
“I wake up in the night thinking, what language will they be speaking?”
Paquin, an Oscar winner for more than half of her life courtesy of “The Piano,” returns in “X2″ as Rogue, a mutant who has the ability to absorb the powers and memories of anyone she touches.
Unlike some child actors who never make the transition to adulthood, Paquin has consistently made good choices, including “X-Men” and its sequel.
“The last time, I was the damsel in distress for all one hour and 45 minutes of it, and I was going to scream if I had more handcuffs and torture this time,” while everyone else kicked butt.
“This time, I got to do more action-y running around, and I was totally psyched about that and I got, like, a stunt, I got to train for. That was all I was hoping for — to not be in handcuffs, not have to cry in every scene and to get to be more active. And the X-suit. I wanted the X-suit.”
She also got far less time in the makeup chair than some co-stars, especially Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as blue-skinned metamorph Mystique and newcomer Alan Cumming as blue mutant Nightcrawler.
The actors who play Iceman and Pyro won the makeup sweepstakes with the least amount of chair time, followed by Paquin who typically spent 90 minutes preparing for shooting. “I didn’t have a wig of any sort, nor did I have a Wolverine hairdo to be constructed,” she says.
Rather than wear a hairpiece, she bleached a whitish blond streak into her brunette tresses — which didn’t take kindly to the process. That hair later “snapped and broke off. I don’t mind. I have bangs. Bangs are cute. I didn’t quite intend to have them.”
Although Paquin is not signed for a third movie (she’s waiting to see how “X2″ performs and if the same team returns), she would like to see Rogue get a juicy fight scene. “I think that would be really fun, for them to have to teach me some kind of martial arts. … Plus, it would probably make me feel a lot more confident about taking the subway at night.”
“X2″ continues its examination of the topics of tolerance and fear of the unknown, part of the X-Men universe since Stan Lee created the comics 40 years ago.
“I think tolerance is always a relevant message,” as is not being afraid or passing judgment on people you don’t know or understand. “People have a hard time accepting people that they don’t get.”
All of this isn’t to imply that the movie is humorless, because it’s not. And watching the film with an audience is one of Paquin’s pleasures and pains. “It always surprises me when people get the humor of the movie. … It’s kind of great, not to be sitting there with just the people who worked on the film, everyone sitting there kind of being self-critical.” Including her.
“I will probably never get used to it. That’s why I really like the theater because you never have to.”
Paquin made her professional stage debut in late 2001 in New York in Rebecca Gilman’s “Glory of Living” as a homicidal Alabama teen. She later appeared with Jake Gyllenhaal and Hayden Christensen in Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth” in London.
She loves the “immediacy and the danger factor of if you screw up, it’s your fault … Plus, it gives you the chance to do it over and over and over again from start to finish, which you never get in films.”
Paquin did her best despite an unplanned blackout, which forced her and Gyllenhaal to ad lib and the audience to be none the wiser, and a male patron urinating in the corner of the first dress circle on opening night (something she learned later).
“X2″ gave Paquin the opportunity to work alongside stage veterans Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
“It’s just really great to watch people that have had such long careers and can still bounce back and forth between TV or film or theater and just watch how much they still enjoy what they do and how playful they are and how happy their job seems to make them.”
In fact, choosing her coworkers wisely has helped Paquin make all the right moves. “I always try to work with people I personally am really, really in awe of, and am respectful of and think I can learn something from. That’s kind of the only way you can never feel like you made a mistake. … You learn so much from watching, basically, the elders of your profession doing their work” and if Stewart can recite his lines about super powers and make it sound like Shakespeare, why can’t she?
Paquin is both a typical and untypical 20-year-old. She’s an undeclared major at Columbia University who has a year under her belt and a New York apartment with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in the closet.
“I think it would make my friends a little bit uncomfortable if they came over and it was kind of sitting there, being all ostentatious and shiny and gold. Until my boyfriend made me do the laundry three weeks ago, it was sitting under four months’ worth of laundry,” in a seldom opened closet.
“It’s out of the way, so people don’t stare at it and feel kind of weirded out by it. … If any of my friends ever wanted to see it, they’d ask. No one ever has, so we kind of stick with the keep-it-out-of-sight” strategy.