Exclusive Interview : Michelle Monaghan


Talks about her role in “Mission : Impossible 3”

Her name mightn’t ring a bell yet – though her face might, you’ll have seen her in several high-profile films including “North Country”, “Mr and Mrs Smith”, and last year’s cool-as-ice actioner “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” – but thanks to the third instalment of the blockbuster “Mission: Impossible” franchise, that’s all about to change. CLINT MORRIS Meets Michelle Monaghan – the spunky, genial star of “MI:3”.

How are you enjoying your time in Australia?
Great. We’re going to the football on the weekend. My husband is from Melbourne, and though I’ve really wanted to go to a game for a very long time, he’s not a big footy fan, so have never got to go to a game. I told him he has to join me, or it’ll be just me and the VB. Nobody wants that! [Laughs]

Wow. You’re up with your Aussie beer!
Hell yeah. Nothing like a VB, mate!

Anything else you like about Australia, other than VB?
It’s great. I love Australia. It’s good to be back. I have been over for a few times in the past six months – so it’s almost like coming home. We see the relatives, our friends. It’s a much slower pace here…. and I love the food here! It is so good here. Aussies make their food with love. Everything’s really fresh. We’ll be at a restaurant eating, and then we’ll start talking about the next place we want to go to eat dinner at. We’re eating one meal, and we’re already talking about the next!

How do you handle those gruelling plane trips over? Stare at the little monitor that tells you how far you are from your destination?
Isn’t that monitor the worst! You just keep looking at it! You’re like, what’s going on?! 574000 kms to go! It just doesn’t move! It’s a good time to catch up on movies though.

Have you ever been on a flight and seen one of your films?
Yeah! I had an experience recently actually. About three weeks ago I was flying to L.A from New York, and there were three men, all with their own DVD players, watching “North Country” – if that’s not amusing enough in itself! (Laughs). They didn’t recognize me, but I could see all their TVs, so I was watching all of my scenes simultaneously. Really odd experience.

Now, I’ve only seen 8 minutes of “Mission : Impossible 3”, so…
It’s only a ten-minute film – you know that right? [Laughs]

Well, who the heck are you in this movie and what the heck are you doing in it? (Laughs)
My character’s name is Julia, and she’s the fiancée of Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, and, well, inadvertently, throughout the cause of the film, she gets caught up in the mission.

OK, tell us something we don’t know
She’s not aware of his real job – she thinks he studies traffic patterns! What’s great about this is that it really examines the private life of Ethan Hunt – which the films haven’t explored much of before.

It sounds like J.J Abrams has written something similar to “Alias”?
Exactly. Like “Alias” and “Lost”, everything is really character driven, and you’re so invested in these characters. Admit it – unless you care about them, you don’t really care about all the blowing up and all those special effects, right?

Do I take it that your character is going to be somewhat of a damsel-in-distress?
Well…. there is a point in which she is threatened, Yes, but this is the thing, J.J really likes strong female characters. So I’m not entirely the damsel in distress, no. As a woman in Hollywood, you don’t always want to be that damsel in distress or that victim, and thankfully he writes really strong, independent, women.

Sort of the same type of character you played in “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang”, then?
Yeah, I really liked that character, which Shane Black wrote – she was smart, funny, sassy and vulnerable. And she got to do action! My first time out of the gate, I got to explore all those personalities and characteristics – and so often in Hollywood, such a role would be one-dimensional. And I so want to take this opportunity to thank Aussies for going to the film. I think more Aussies saw it, than Americans did. I noticed it’s even out on DVD here, and it’s not out there till like June 13 – I’m willing to believe that it won’t even get released there! (Laughs) It was just so well received here. It meant a lot to me, because it was my best experience ever working on a film, and I’ll forever cherish everything about that film.

What kind of films do you like watching? A favourite DVD, perhaps?
My favourite movie? Um, “Steel Magnolias”. I love that film! I love all the actresses in that film! It’s just such a chick flick to me. I just absolutely love it. Shirley MacLaine is like, my idol, and I love Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts…. I’m a sucker for it. I love that film. I always watch it. I’m a total cheeseball!

Suddenly, you don’t seem like that whole ‘tough chick’ anymore. (Laughs). So had you seen all of J.J’s shows?
I haven’t seen “Lost”, but I’ve watched “Alias”. I don’t know what I was doing [when the pilot aired], but people were saying that if you miss one episode, you’d be, ah, Lost. So I just never got into it. I told J.J, to send me the DVDs!

I understand J.J cast you in “Mission: Impossible 3”, because he saw your audition tape for “Constantine”. Thing is, weren’t you cut out of that movie?
Yeah! Ironic, huh? But yeah, he saw my audition tape, and called up out of the blue and asked to have a meeting. He wanted me to audition with Tom.

That must have been daunting
Yeah. I met Tom on the set of “War of the Worlds”, so not only was I meeting Tom, I was meeting Steven Spielberg! I just thought ‘What am I doing here?!’

But you obviously impressed!
Yep. A year ago, this Easter Sunday, I was told I got the job. I started crying. J.J was like ‘what? Is there a scheduling conflict?!’. I was like ‘No, I just got the job’. He was like ‘Don’t cry about it, my god!’ (Laughs)

Your cut scene from “Constantine”, which is on the DVD, is great!
Yeah. We did some reshoots, tried to make some stuff work, but Francis [Lawrence, the director] was confident we couldn’t work it in. If I had been cut for my performance, on the other hand, I’d be devastated, I wouldn’t even be able to sit and talk to you about it right now.

You were also cut from “Syriana” too?
You are up with it! True, yes. There were so many storylines and I knew that they weren’t going to cut Matt Damon’s storyline, or George Clooney’s storyline….I was like, alright, here I go again! (Laughs). But George and Steven [producer, Soderbergh] wrote me a nice letter saying they’ll pass my name around town. All I said, since I’d already gotten paid for it, was ‘don’t take the cheque back!!’ (Laughs)

Tell them you’re owed a role in “Ocean’s Thirteen” now! That starts filming in July.
Well, exactly….Steven was like ‘Yeah, don’t worry, we’ll pass your name around Hollywood’. And he has actually, so that was good of him.

Having worked so closely with Tom Cruise, we thought you’d be the best person to ask – what’s he really like? A total jerk like “Scary Movie 4” makes him out to be?
I already had my own perception of what Tom was going to be like. I thought, he probably won’t talk to me that much, and he’ll probably spend all his time in his trailer. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I almost wanted to call him another name – like Harry, for instance (Laughs) – because it’s as if there’s Tom Cruise, the entity, and then this other guy. I’d say to him ‘But you’re not Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise is this’. He is the hardest working actor I’ve ever known…oh…. I’m so embarrassed, I actually meant to say that on ‘Rove’ [the TV show] the other night, and I said ‘He’s the hardest actor I’ve ever worked with’ instead.

If this were for a porn magazine, then it would be a great quote!
Yeah! Exactly, that would be perfect…but yeah, he’s so good to be around because he’s so good to cast and crewmembers.

Your next film is the directorial debut of Ben Affleck. Is it any good?
Yes. It’s called “Gone Baby Gone”, is directed by Ben, and is based on a book by Dennis Lehane. It’s going to be set in Boston and will star Casey Affleck and Ed Harris. I play a private investigator….kinda like a low-rate private investigator and something really serious happens in South Boston. There are four books in the series, I think. I don’t know where “Gone, Baby, Gone” comes into that series [though]. I’ve got them all, but I don’t know that it’s the first or the second.

Have you had to sign on for potential sequels, then?
No, nothing like that. If it all goes really well, then hell no, I’d have no problem with it…but it all comes down to this one, ya’ know?

“MI:3” sounds like it’s a bit more human than the other films in the series. Is that a fair assumption?
Yes. I don’t think you knew anything about Ethan Hunt other than his parents were killed. What’s appealing about this film is that you do care about him. J.J was amazing…did he tell you he came in under budget and under schedule? I just thought he was terrific.

So tell us more about your character in “Mission : Impossible 3”?
Well, um, they’re actually cutting me out of this one. (Laughs)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 is in cinemas May 4