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Edited by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
January 28, 2006

In the techie crime thriller Firewall, a computer security expert (Harrison Ford) is forced to hack into his own system to steal $100 million by a criminal (Paul Bettany) who kidnaps his wife (Virginia Madsen) and children. In this interview, Virginia Madsen talks about shooting the movie and working with Harrison Ford.

The Interview

MEDIA: How much of yourself did you put into your character Beth?

VIRGINIA: I really wanted Beth to be me under the given circumstances. That's how I approach a role unless it's dramatically different from myself. I try to bring as much of my own life energy to a character because I think it makes it more real. And of course, Beth was a lot like me. I mean, she's an architect, I'm an actress, but we're both artistic. And I think she had many of the same mothering instincts that I do...I'm really at ease with children in the way that I communicate with them, and physically, the way that I can play with them and be on their level, or be the disciplinarian. It flows very easily with me. So I think children are very comfortable around me because of that. And I got to use all of that in the film.

Harrison Ford seems less talkative than most actors. What was your impression of him, and what was it like working with him?

He's just not that guy that tells stories. He's like a blue collar guy--those guys don't come in and talk about what it's like to fix the plumbing or to drive the fire truck. They'd be like that, too. So he reminds me a lot of the men that I grew up with. He's a man of few words. He doesn't really talk about his work. But he has to, as an actor. But you know, I'll tell you one thing about him: on the set, he's never rude, he's never mean-spirited. The crew loved working with him. Once they got kind of used to being around him...Because everyone freaks out. I mean, he's like that huge movie star. It's either like, "Oh my god, when I was little, Star Wars..." or "Oh my god, when I was little, Indiana Jones..." It's pretty big when you see him for the first time. And he's real quiet. You know, everyone's kind of trying to figure out, "What does it mean?" And it actually doesn't mean anything. He's just really focused on his job. And I liked the fact that he was very professional and very focused. [It] wasn't uncomfortable for me.

Is it true you sort of improvised your kissing scene with him?

Yeah. I kind of snuck that in there. He didn't know I was going to do it. [laughs] And plus it was my first day, and that was the scene, so I just thought, "Well, I'll go for it." And I did!

Did you "demand extra takes"?

I did. And I demanded deeper kissing as well, but he wouldn't go for that, so... [laughs]

Ad-libbing something like that seems like a pretty gutsy move...

I didn't plan it, but I just thought, "Well, we don't have any opportunity to embrace in this movie." And I wanted to see a marriage. I didn't want to just be the screen wife in the background. And he didn't want me to be that way, either. He really fought for every human moment that I had in this movie so that I wasn't reduced to that. And my hat's off to him, because he gave that to me. This was my first time in many, many years being in a studio picture. And it was my first time being on a movie this big. So I didn't want to make waves, I guess. I didn't feel intimidated, I just wanted to observe, and I don't know that I would have been as demonstrative as I usually can be on a set with moments that I want as an actor. I think I would have just been like, "That's cool..." But he stepped up for me.

Why do you think Harrison's character didn't show more affection towards his family before the conflict starts?

When you're married for that long, you don't always do that, you know what I mean? That's a regret that people have in life that's very true. One of the reasons why he chose to do it that way [is] because when all hell breaks loose--and it was a point he made, actually--how many times do you hear someone say, "I never told her I loved her"? "I forgot to kiss her goodbye"? "I didn't hug my children"? Because we take those moments for granted. Lots of people leave for work that way.

As someone who has done voiceover work for animated shows, what kind of characters do you find yourself voicing?

[sultries up her voice] "Because I can have the very deep voice," I play a lot of villainess characters. I did a Justice League, and I was like this evil doctor. And the first time [my son saw it], it totally blew his mind. He's so over me doing movies. So he doesn't want to watch my movies. But when it comes to doing Scooby Doo, "that's the coolest, mom!" That's what he brags about at school.

In terms of the performance, how different is voiceover acting from live acting?

Oh, it's much different. I first started doing voiceover when I was pregnant, because I thought it would be good [to] still work. [laughs] But it's a skill that you have to learn. It was actually part of my acting school, though, when I was still in Chicago. He focused a lot on training your voice not only for theatre, but so that eventually when you don't work, you can do voiceover. And a lot of actors are into it because they all think they can do it. But you can't use your arms because everything makes noise. And you have to know how to work on a microphone, and not to pop your letters. I mean, it's very technical. And you can't blow your voice out if you've got to be screaming or growling. And so it's definitely a certain skill...And you'll see, sometimes, a guest actor come in, and they won't be able to do it, and they become very frustrated because they can't use their body. And it's not about your face, and the voice has to be very exaggerated in tone. So you have to have a wide vocal range. And so it's interesting.

What is an aspect of doing animated shows that is fun for you?

The cartoons are fun because a lot of times, you record it all in one group, so it's like an old radio show. You're all standing or sitting at podiums around the room, and you see like the guy who does the voice of Batman, and Wonder Woman's over there. And everyone's acting and doing all these crazy things.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you.

Related Material

Firewall interview with Harrison Ford
Movie Coverage: Firewall


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