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:: Spotlight :: Surrogates DVD - Interview with Radha Mitchell

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The DVD of ‘Surrogates’ has just been released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. It is a science fiction thriller that stars Bruce Willis and Australian actor Radha Mitchell.

Here is a Q & A conducted with Radha.

Australian-born actress Radha Mitchell stars as Jennifer Peters in the action thriller Surrogates. The futuristic adventure is set in a world where people live their lives remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic surrogates: sexy, physically perfect mechanical representations of themselves. It’s an ideal world where crime, pain, fear and consequences don’t exist. However, the utopia is about to be questioned when a murder occurs. The movie is based on Robert Venditti’s hugely successful comic book series.

Q. Were you familiar with the Surrogates comic book series before you started shooting the movie?

A. I was given the graphic novel to read while we shot the movie and I found it enhanced the experience of shooting. The graphics are quite simple in the comic book, but the way this movie has been put together puts the whole thing on steroids. I also found it interesting because my character doesn’t really exist in the graphic novel. Well, she does – but as a man.

Q. Can you tell us more about the movie?

A. I play Jennifer Peters, who is a woman who probably has some kind of personality disorder. She never wants to leave the enclosed reality that she lives in, so she experiences her whole life through a surrogate who is an F.B.I. agent. Peters is pretty by the book. She does things in a very standard way and she annoys the Greer character [played by Bruce Willis] at times because she’s so black and white in her point of view.

Q. Do you like the appearance of your surrogate character?

A. Do I like the look of her? Yes, I do. It was open to discussion as to what she would look like – and everybody had something to say about it. You know what? It was an interesting process to be dissected on that level. Should the teeth be whiter? Should the hair be straighter? It was weird to go through the process of creating a more perfect-looking version of oneself. I guess I’d never experienced that before.

Q. What was it like to work in this surrogate world?

A. It was certainly a challenge for all of the actors in the movie. We had to create a whole environment where it feels like you’re watching robots and not humans, but they’ve got to be engaging enough as characters that you care about what they say. So we manicured our behaviour a bit. When it comes to the surrogates, nobody sneezes or nobody farts. Nobody’s got a croaky voice or anything like that. We got rid of certain human traits, which is something we would work out during filming on the day. The director, Jonathan Mostow, would often say, “close your mouth.’ You don’t realise you’re doing certain human things – and you have to edit them out of your performance. It’s a little confusing, fascinating and tricky playing a robot with the same voice and the same movement as your human character, even though the intent and motivation of that robot changes the characterization.

Q. What is the message of the movie?

A. I think what the movie describes is something that we see in culture anyway: that we’re becoming depersonalised and less connected to ourselves. And I think what the movie celebrates is our vulnerability. I like the way that when you see Greer and his wife come together, he loves her because of whom she is. He doesn’t care what she looks like. He loves her frailty. He loves everything about her; everything that robots try to disguise. He loves all the imperfections – and I think it’s the imperfections in us that expose some of our most beautiful qualities and make us individual. I think that’s very much the message of the movie in many ways.

Q. Surrogates is set in a technologically-advanced world… Are you good with technology?

A. I'm not phobic of technology. I think it can certainly deliver us, give us more time and shift our sense of identity in a positive way. I think what the story directs our attention towards is the notion that we are physical entities as much as we are emotional entities, as much as we are intellectual entities – and we can't lose that because that’s our basic human trait. We need to engage in the physical world. That's really essential to who we are.

Q. Are you a fan of the sci-fi genre?

A. I’m a fan of Bladerunner and classic sci-fi films – and I’m in tune with sci-fi, but I wouldn’t say I was the hugest fan of the sci-fi genre. I find many sci-fi films very interesting, though.

Q. Is there much of an Australian community in Hollywood?

A. I guess there is. Do I participate in it? Sometimes I’m involved heavily and sometimes I’m on the periphery. Los Angeles is a huge city and if there’s a network of people who have a similar experience and similar objectives, then it makes sense to be part of that. Embrace it.

Q. The surrogates in the movie are perfected robotic versions of the human form… Did you like your surrogate in the movie?

A. The surrogates are an enhanced version of your own personal image and I thought mine looked fine, although I might’ve preferred her with slightly longer hair. We had an interesting time preparing for the role because each of the actors was physically dissected and told things like, “You need whiter teeth.” It’s an interesting process because people do that to themselves every day in front of the mirror. They haven’t got studio executives telling them what they should look like, but it was definitely eye-opening for me to realize what people consider to be beauty in modern culture.

Q. Do you enjoy wearing far-out experimental clothes?

A. I do because I like a bit of drama in fashion. I can be very low key, but if I’m going out to an event, it’s fun to have a fabulous outfit. How would I describe my sense of style? I would say it’s eclectic. If you can have something classic and simple with a modern edge, that always makes a nice outfit. I guess my style depends on what mood I’m in. I’m an actress, so I can be in any kind of mood.

Q. Your mother was a model… Have you ever considered that occupation?

A. Well, I was a model for about five minutes when I was a little kid. I modelled for a clothing catalogue and for a toy company – and it was fun. I think it inspired my desire to be an actress. I prefer to be an actress, though.

Q. What’s it like to see your face on a billboard?

A. It’s strangely exciting and there’s something surreal about it. It’s fun.

Q. You’re from Melbourne, which is often described as the fashion capital of Australia… Do you agree?

A. Well, Sydney is a bikini city because it’s warm there. Melbourne is cold, so people have to wear clothes and I guess they have evolved some culture of style. It’s not like New York, but it’s good for Australia.

Q. Are you a fan of shopping or do you prefer clothes to be brought in for you?

A. If someone can bring me clothes, I prefer that. I don’t know why. Ultimately, do you really want to spend a lot of your life deciding what to wear? I don’t.

Q. Who is your fashion icon?

A. I really like the style of the French actress Catherine Deneuve. I think she has a classic chic that transcends time. I also like the attitude of Angelina Jolie and I like the way you get to see that reflected in her fashion sense.

Q. Are you confident with your body?

A. I’m fairly confident. When I’m acting, I just get into the role and I don’t focus on myself or my body. When you sit back and think about love scenes, they become really awkward – but when you’re in the midst of them, you just have to live in the scene, so you don’t dwell on it.

Q. What do you miss the most from Australia when you’re away?

A. I miss home in general. I guess I particularly miss the Melbourne home I grew up in, too. There’s a great sense of history in the place where you grew up. I also miss the pace of Melbourne. It’s a very slow-moving city and a very calm city.

Q. What do you miss about LA when you’re away?

A. LA is a very dynamic city and the people there are great. The weather is constantly amazing and it’s very easy to live there. I guess I miss that if I’m not there. It never rains in LA, so when it does, it’s magical.

Q. Where in the world is your favorite place to work?

A. At the moment, my favorite place to work would be LA because it would be lovely to be able to go home at the end of the day. Where else in the world would I like to work? In terms of a great place to work, I would say that Mexico City is a pretty wild place to be. China is another great place. I made a film in India recently and I found Calcutta a really interesting place to explore. When you go to places like that, there is so much to learn after you finish work that it makes it fascinating. There are so many new and exciting things to see.

Q. Where in the world would you most like to work that you haven’t visited before?

A. If I could set up a movie, that would be nice. Or just Los Angeles will be cool. I would also like to work in Melbourne or New York.

Q. How does it feel to work internationally?

A. It’s a great experience to be able to travel and work like that. I’m very lucky. I feel like I’ve worked everywhere, so I would also just love to travel to places like Italy as a tourist to get a real feel for countries. I’ve never been to Africa and there’s an island called Lamu that I’d love to visit. It’s off the coast of Kenya and a few people have mentioned this place, so I’d really like to see what it’s all about. I was in Tasmania recently and some guy I met lived in Lamu on a boat with a parrot and a monkey for a couple of months 10 years ago, so it sounded like an interesting place. The whole world is interesting and I hope to be able to see it all over the years.

'Surrogates' is now out on DVD.