When the film adaptation of the graphic novel sensation “Watchmen” was first announced, the main concern was whether director Zack Snyder could pull off a successful adaptation of Alan Moore’s iconic word.
Key among those concerns was whether the Minutemen — a group of superheroes founded in 1939 and pivotal to the story of “Watchmen” — would be included in the final product.
Blast got a chance to watch the first 18 minutes of “Watchmen” at New York Comic Con a few weeks ago and saw for ourselves that Snyder did manage to pull of a balance of attention to detail and concrete storytelling. The Minutemen were heavily featured in the opening minutes of the film; heroine Silhouette prominent among them.
We also had the chance to speak with actress Apollonia Vanova about the role of Silhouette and her experience on the set of “Watchmen.”
“There was a lot of attention to detail,” Vanova said of her time on the set. “I was overwhelmed. … Every little prop was perfect. I couldn’t believe how real everything was to different times and different eras. And it was just really excited to be a part of that project to see all the characters dressed in their costumes.”
Silhouette’s screen time is limited, but her presence is big part of the “Watchmen” universe. As one of the Minutemen, Silhouette is a major figure in the spotlight during the 1940s.
Her homosexuality — shown during the film’s opening montage with a brilliantly choreographed reenactment of the V-J Day kiss — leads to her murder.
“I have read on an Internet site that some lesbian women are offended about the V-J Day kiss in the movie, writing that it is a cheap shot and an attention-getter for the men. I don’t agree,” Vanova said. “In my opinion that sequence should be included in the movie. … For Silhouette, this was not only about the war ending, this victory represented her own personal victory as well — she was Jewish and a homosexual.”
The V-J Day kiss — a scene unique to the movie — was the part Vanova was asked to audition with.
Vanova said filming the kiss was “amazing” and her favorite part of the experience.
She said during every practice take, the set had been silent, but when it finally was time for the shot to be filmed, balloons and firecrackers went off to represent the celebration and then she performed the kiss.
In the graphic novel, Silhouette retired from the Minutemen after the fact she was a lesbian became public knowledge. Later on, she was murdered by one of her enemies.
SPOILER WARNING In the film’s opening montage, there is a scene where Silhouette and her lover are shown murdered on their bed with the words “Lesbian Whores” written on the wall behind them. END SPOILER
“When we think of superheroes or of heroes, you always think they are people with great moralities or people who are ideal humans. And I think in (“Watchmen”) I think that all the superheroes are flawed — and not in a bad way — but that they are all human. … Because Sillouette was a lesbian and she had to escape Austria, she had her own personal reasons to join the minutemen and these reasons may not always be for the good of others. These superheros enact justice based on their own interpretation and morals. This is what makes them human and flawed,” Vanova said.
A true thesbian, Vanova adjusts herself and her persona to her role — straight or gay.
“As an actor, I feel very comfortable with both,” she said, “When I do a scene with a man, the feminine apect dominates. When it as with a woman, I instinctually become more masculine. In opera, a lot of the roles for mezzo sopranos are ‘pant’ roles and I find the discovery of the masculine very interesting.”
Vanova has not seen the final cut of “Watchmen” and could not comment on whether homosexuality in superheroes was as present in the film as it was in the novel, but based on the footage shown at New York Comic Con, the character of Silhouette was kept the same.
In the novel, the stories of the Minutemen were reserved for brief essays and excerpts from novels taken from within the Watchmen universe that followed each chapter. The history of the Minutemen illuminates on the present circumstances of the superheroes.
Vanova said the film preserves the stories of the Minutemen during the opening montage using a combination of art references (Character Sally Jupiter’s retirement party is based on Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”) and historic events (Another, The Comedian, is portrayed as being the one who shot Kennedy).
“I think they wanted to show why, for example, my character was ousted for the group,” Vanova said. “I think kiss is just a visual representation of what happened to Silhouette. The snapshot.”
There was an additional scene shot of Silhouette escorting gangsters and “dominating them” with people taking pictures that Vanova said is being held for the DVD.
Vanova said it was the attention to detail that impressed her on the set.
“Every little prop was perfect. I couldn’t believe how real everything was to different times and different eras,” she said. “From what I’ve seen and from when I’ve read the comic book, it was pretty close.”
Her costume, which she enthusiastically expressed her love for, was a glamorized version of the black number Silhouette wore in the comics. The look required that they cinch Vanova’s waist down to a trim 22 inches. “As long as I kept my diet, I was fine,” she said with a laugh.
Vanova, who Stargate fans will recognize from her role in one episode as the Wraith Queen, said she plans on focusing on acting and her opera singing now that “Watchmen” is completed. She is producing her own opera CD, which is slated for release in April.
She certainly has the look for fantastical sci-fi and alternate reality roles like “Watchmen” and “Stargate.” Does she look out for these roles?
“I just happen to fit the roles of unusual characters,” she laughed.
“Watchmen” opens Friday.
Terri Schwartz also reported from New York.