Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been â€œfloating around this business for about twenty yearsâ€ but it was a guest role on TV drama â€œGreyâ€™s Anatomyâ€ that would see his then-immobile star soar.
â€œWithout a doubt I would not be here [talking to you in Australia about my new movie] without Greyâ€™sâ€, says the amiable 42-year-old actor, who set hearts-a-racing when he played bed-ridden charmer â€˜Dennyâ€™ on the hit series. â€œNo doubt about itâ€.
Thereâ€™s more to Morgan, who also had recurring roles on TVs â€œWeedsâ€ and â€œSupernaturalâ€ before playing Seattle Graceâ€™s favourite patient, than cute one-liners and a killer smile â€“ and heâ€™s prepared to prove it. In his latest film, a film adaptation of the DC comicâ€™s series â€œWatchmenâ€, the Washington-born actor plays a disreputable and chauvinistic ex-superhero.
â€œKudos to Zack [Snyder, the filmâ€™s director] for seeing past the role [in â€œGreyâ€™sâ€] and believing I could play this roleâ€, Morgan says of â€˜The Comedianâ€™, one of several screwed-up supermen that feature in the film. â€œI love playing Denny, and these romantic types that Iâ€™ve played in a couple of movies since, and I know Iâ€™ve made a couple of fans unlike the way, but as an actor I want to show audiences what else Iâ€™ve got. I might lose some fans after they see me in this â€“ but I might gain some tooâ€.
â€œWatchmenâ€, based on comics by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, tells of a masked vigilante named Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) who begins an investigation into the murder of a former colleague (Morgan), which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion.
â€œI wasnâ€™t really familiar with the comic booksâ€, says the actor. â€œNot until I was contacted about the role. What happened was, my agent called and said â€˜Zack Snyder, that did 300, called and heâ€™s interested in you for this movie Watchmenâ€™. I asked him to send across the script, but instead of that, they sent over a Xeroxed copy of the graphic novel. I got to page 3 of it, of course, called my agent â€˜I just got thrown out of the window!? What the hell am I reading this for!?â€™ â€“ he told me to keep reading. I read it and loved it.
â€œSo I went and had a meeting with Zack â€“ I donâ€™t think I got a word in during the meeting â€“ and he showed me the conceptual drawings, and some storyboards, as well as what the costume would look like that Iâ€™d be wearingâ€.
The Comedianâ€™s costume consists is essentially top-to-toe leather.
â€œI thought it was the coolest-looking costume â€“ but man, it was the most uncomfortable thing Iâ€™ve ever worn. I remember I was sitting in a chair at one stage, reading the paper before my next scene, and when I had to get up I couldnâ€™t â€¦ I couldnâ€™t get out of the chair!â€
It took a couple of fights with the wardrobe department before the costume started to feel a little more comfortable.
â€œI was popping buckles and stuff â€“ so something had to giveâ€, says the actor. â€œWe stretched it out a bit more. But Iâ€™m not lying when I say it wasnâ€™t easy to wearâ€.
And the suit didnâ€™t need to be stretched because Morgan was a bit corpulent â€“ it was quite the opposite actually, heâ€™d just done two months of fight choreography, was undertaken a rigorous daily fitness routine, and on a very strict diet.
â€œI worked out when I was young â€“ I was an athlete â€“ but Iâ€™m 40 years old now, so itâ€™d been quite a while. I hated it. I literally started working out the day after that meeting with Zack. I was working out with these ex-marine guys who treated you like crap and really made you break a sweat. I donâ€™t know that there wasnâ€™t a day on that movie that I wasnâ€™t physically hurting. I was incredibly sore.
â€œI did enjoy the fight training though. And I got to go to a shooting range and try out different guns â€“ and a flame thrower, which was pretty cool!â€™â€™
Most of the actors were forced to stay away from Pizza and Beer for the duration of the shoot.
â€œWith the exception of Billy [Crudup, who plays Dr. Manhattan] and Patrick [Wilson, who plays Night Owl II], most of us had to stick to a very strict diet. Patrick had a lot of fight training but he got to eat like Pizzaâ€™s for dinner! While we were eating Lettuce, heâ€™d be ordering big bowls of Pasta!
â€œHeâ€™d rub it in, the asshole!â€ laughs Morgan. â€œConsidering I was a guy who was used to acting from a bed, it was pretty heavy-going the whole diet and training thing. Once Iâ€™d finished the majority of my fight scenes I finally started eating carbs againâ€.
Twentieth Century Fox were originally planning to a â€˜â€™Watchmenâ€™â€™ movie a few years back. The difference between the version Warner Bros ended up making, and that earlier discarded incarnation, is that Fox wanted to use A-list stars in the film â€“ for instance, Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise were briefly mentioned for main parts.
â€œWarner Bros are a great studio â€“ they really trusted Zack from the get-goâ€, says Morgan, â€œHe wanted reasonably unknown actors â€“ but good actors â€“ for the roles because he knew it would be a physically demanding, and mentally demanding shoot. There wasnâ€™t going to be room for egos. And you donâ€™t wanna be distracted by watching say, Tom Cruise â€“ then it just becomes a Tom Cruise vehicle, and thatâ€™s not what Watchmen is. Kudos to the studio for understanding that and going with [Zackâ€™s] visionâ€.
Morgan personally hopes nobody at the studio wants to do a sequel though. He believes, and believes audience will too, that the film should be a â€œone-offerâ€.
â€œWe are all signed for sequels, but, ya know, thereâ€™d be no Rorschach, thereâ€™d be no Comedian – – itâ€™d be sorta uselessâ€, he says. â€œItâ€™d have to be a prequel. But Iâ€™d say unless Alan Moore says heâ€™s gonna write something, weâ€™ll never see Watchmen 2.
â€œThere may be someone sitting in a room somewhere at Warner Bros waiting to see if this does OK â€“ but I doubt Zack would do another, and without him, I wouldnâ€™t go back, and I canâ€™t imagine any of the other actors would want to either. Itâ€™s like the 300 sequel theyâ€™re talking about â€“ how do you do that? I guess they can do a prequel â€“ but it makes no sense.
â€œIâ€™d love to be a fly-on-the-wall in the meeting in which someone brings up a Watchmen sequel â€“ especially if it happens with Zack around, because he wonâ€™t want any part of it â€“ because I think this is it; what you see, is what you get. It was always a oner for meâ€.
Morgan would love to work with his visionary â€˜â€™Watchmenâ€™â€™ director Zack Snyder on something else though, and hopes to god Warner Bros lets Snyder direct a film adaptation of Frank Millerâ€™s Batman novel, â€˜â€™The Dark Knight Returnsâ€™â€™ down the line.
â€œIâ€™ve heard Zack mention heâ€™d like to do it in the media a few times recentlyâ€, says Morgan of a novel that features an ageing Batman coming out of retirement to battle his old foes.
â€œIâ€™d love to see myself in that role myselfâ€, he cheekily adds.
Having said that, Morgan doubts Warner will want to do an â€˜old Batmanâ€™ movie any time soon â€“ not while Christopher Nolanâ€™s Batman series is eating the box-office whole.
â€œThe studio loves Zack though, and if Watchmen does as well as we hope it does, you never know, he might get a crack at this thingâ€.
Since â€œWatchmenâ€, Morganâ€™s finished up a return stint on â€œGreyâ€™s Anatomyâ€, reprising the beloved Denny â€“ now, obviously, a ghost.
â€œI have a certain allegiance and loyalty to Shonda [Rhimes, the showâ€™s creator] for obvious reasons, and she asked me if Iâ€™d come back for a couple of episodes â€“ only telling me it was for an important storyline â€“ and of course I agreedâ€.
Why is Denny back? Not even the actor playing him knows the answer to that.
â€œI still donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going onâ€, says Morgan. â€œI donâ€™t doubt that the only person that knows is Shondra.â€™â€™
Dennyâ€™s on-screen love interest (in life and death), Izzie, played by Katherine Heigl, is rumoured to be leaving the series at the end of the current season. If she does indeed exit, thereâ€™ll be no reason for Denny to make another appearance.
â€œBut thatâ€™s OKâ€, says Morgan, â€œIâ€™ve enough going onâ€.
He has indeed â€“ heâ€™s got four films (â€˜â€™The Untitled Beatle Boyin Projectâ€™â€™,â€™â€™ All Good Thingsâ€™â€™, â€˜â€™Woodstockâ€™â€™ and â€˜â€™Shanghaiâ€™â€™) due for release this year, is about to sign for another big Warner Bros pic (â€œIf I do that, youâ€™ll hear about it real soonâ€), and in May re-teams with his â€˜â€™P.S, I Love Youâ€™â€™ co-star Hilary Swank for the thriller â€˜â€™The Residentâ€™â€™.
â€œIâ€™m like the bad guy in it. Itâ€™s a psychosocial thriller. Itâ€™s going to be a lot of fun. Thereâ€™s basically no other actors in it but Hilary and I â€“ itâ€™s essentially just us. Itâ€™s a real character driven pieceâ€.