WonderCon Interview: Maggie Grace on ‘Lockout,’ Working With Green Screen and ‘Taken 2’

Maggie on training and research: "That’s one of my favorite things about my job actually"

Lockout was one of the featured films at this years WonderCon and from the clips and previews they showed, it’s going to be a big, fun, crazy action romp.

The film, set in the near future, stars Maggie Grace (Taken, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) and Guy Pearce (Memento, Prometheus) and follows a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Pearce), whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in a dangerous mission. He’s got to rescue the President’s daughter (Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum-security prison.

Maggie Grace, who is riding high from her roles in Taken and the Twilight films, left Ohio when she was 16 and headed for Los Angeles. She quickly got an agent and started working soon after (FOX’s Septuplets and Oliver Beene), but it was her breakout role as Shannon on Lost that put her on the map. From there, she moved to features including the The Fog, The Jane Austen Book Club and, finally, Taken. After Lockout, she’ll be seen in the last Twilight film and Taken 2: Taken Again. Ok, I made that title up. But Taken 2 is actually coming out soon.

I talked to Maggie at WonderCon about Lockout, working with green screen and her favorite moment on the set and Taken 2.

This film is set in the near future?

Maggie Grace:  It’s not really a specified year, but it’s definitely a return to like sci-fi in space.  It’s not a dystopian ruined planet or anything like that.

You seem to be attracted to the sort of fantasy realm. I mean even Lost was like that.

Maggie Grace:  Yeah, it absolutely was.

Is that the kind of script that gets you excited or is it just by coincidence that you’ve been doing this?

Maggie Grace:  A little bit of both. I think what drew me most to the script was the humor.  Like it’s really a throwback kind of thing, in a good way, a return to action movies more like they were in like late 80s and early 90s where they didn’t take themselves too seriously.  It’s a fun romp, and it’s definitely, you know, an action sci-fi movie, but for me more than anything it was about like this really fun, sexually charged adversarial relationship between my character and Guy Pearce’s character.  He’s just this chain-smoking, rye, dry acerbic action hero and nobody could do it better than Guy Pearce.  He’s a wildly intelligent guy and has a certain carriage and gravitas that really brought so much to our movie and it’s a lot of fun.

What is the most challenging part of the action for you?

Maggie Grace: That part was fun, I wanted to do extra prep like just in case I got some extra combat in there, you know?  We had an amazing team, this French team.  They were great and have done some great movies, so we did some training and put together a reel of things like just to have around, you know?  But it was good, and it was good to learn more than how to sell a punch, you know?  But, there was a lot of work up on the wires with the green screen stuff and space, which was a lot of fun.  A little trippy at first, it’s probably the closest I’ll get to being a trapeze artist, doing the flips and everything.  That was really fun.

Do you have a favorite moment or a scene that you can talk about?

Maggie Grace:  The one we thought was going to be our favorite, it’s kind of like far away, it’s that smooth puree of you know future events that seem like they’re going to be really fun, and then there’s always an up close texture.  So for us, the up close texture was the space suits.  It’s more like being a giant action figure, like they’re quite hard and very heavy.  It’s like, you know, your body weight practically, these huge space suits and Guy and I were so excited to put them on.  You know, it’s like, “This scene is going to be awesome” and it’s really going to be that movie magic kind of fantasy moment where you’re playing this fun action character. 

So, we did the tests, and you have to be put into them with a drill and it takes about 45 minutes to put them on.  So, we were goofing around and I was doing my “you have five seconds to comply”, you know our impressions of what it would be like.  Then when it came time to shoot the scene, not only does it take 45 minutes to get them on, but 45 minutes to get them off, so like don’t drink water.  [laughter] And then if you have to rest, because they’re really heavy, they would just kind of tilt you over and you would hang there like an action figure. 

So, the scene, it was kind of this big moment in the movie where we are supposed to run off this precipice and jump off the ship and it’s this crazy momentous moment and so they’re like, “Okay on action, you run, here’s your line, the ship, leap off the ship, it’s going to be great. Action!”  And Guy and I were like “eek eek eek eek”, clumping along like the Tin Man.  It was so anti-climactic, you know? Like, “Oh we’re going to have to trouble shoot this one.” I think what they ended up doing was like CG-ing our legs underneath us so we weren’t clumping along.  But we look so bad running, and people make fun of my running anyway, I’m told.  I am told that there is a You Tube clip called “Maggie Grace running.”  It’s like, I cried after gym class people, I don’t need this.  But, Guy was just as burdened as I was in the scene, so I felt okay about it.

Well, when you finish a movie like this, where there is so much training, do you come away with new skills that you didn’t expect to?

Maggie Grace:  One would hope.  You know, that’s one of my favorite things about my job actually, honestly. And so often too, you learn so much more for the movie than they actually use.  You know, I remember I had to learn a song in French for Lost so I learned every verse in French and started learning some French and then in Taken, we had a scene with a horse, and we were training for proper English dressage and maybe building up to a canter and then maybe even working up to a jump or something.  So, I got amazing training with horses out of that, and then of course, in the film, it’s like we are walking around a yard because locations hadn’t told the horse wrangler that we had like, you know, a yard, to work with.  So, yeah, I think with Lockout it was really fun to learn more stunt work and combat.  And especially, the stuff on the wires was really, really fun to shoot.

What role in the following Taken 2 will your character be playing?  I mean, how does it intertwine with the story?

Maggie Grace:  Oh, it’s kind of an inversion in a way.  Liam [Neeson] and Famke [Jackson]’s characters are taken.  The plot’s driven more by a private vendetta, it’s not a coincidence, which I think people balked at first when they’re like “Taken 2? How can it happen twice? We just can’t go on vacation. Damn it, I thought Figi would be safe.” [laughter]  But no, it’s a really cool, cool idea and they really kept the elements that worked about the first one.  This one is set in Istanbul mainly, which was great as well, it really lends itself.  It’s a very cinematic city.

Were you surprised by how incredibly successful the first Taken was?

Maggie Grace:  Yeah.  I mean, that sounds bad, but no, we had a great time making it and obviously you hope it finds an audience.  I think the timing of the release and lots of changing of the guard in a way.  Liam has been very honest too.  We were both hoping it was properly released, you know, fingers crossed, that it just doesn’t end up shelved somewhere.  It was so amazing that it was supported by an incredible trailer.  It was really tight.  I remember that it was Super Bowl weekend, and I don’t know anything about these things, so I’m like “doesn’t’ that mean everyone’s watching the Super Bowl?  Are we okay?  I’m so nervous.”  I mean, it was amazing, you really can’t predict that kind of thing and you know, it’s pretty crazy.  Now every time I’m in an airport, somebody comes up to me and thinks that they are saying this for the first time, like “don’t get in a taxi cab with a stranger now.” [laughter]

How much in Lockout, with the green screen, and using your imagination as an actor, how much did you have to literally flex that out in this film, as opposed to some of the stuff you’ve done before?

Maggie Grace: Well, you know, it’s pretty crazy to have that much trust for the communication with your directing team and the world they’re going to create so that you can match performance to what you’re seeing, so that you don’t look like an idiot.  But luckily, there was an incredible group of people to work with and they just created such a wonderful world.  It’s been amazing to see each cut as it changes and see it all together.

Do you find that kind of experience helps you in other roles, where you’re not necessarily working on so much green screen?

Maggie Grace: Yeah, it’s very much a different animal, I’d say?  So it’s nice to have more experience in that.  It is its own creature.  You just kind of have to suspend the voice in your head that you feel so silly reacting to nothing there, you know? Having whole conversations with people that aren’t there sometimes.  You feel a little crazy the first time around.

Do they show you pictures and the backgrounds?

Maggie Grace: Yeah, they had some beautiful art and story boards and they were incredibly well prepared.  They have been working together a long time and have this amazing kind of bat cave back in Dublin where they created everything, so they were able to show us what would be there eventually.  And also we had a great set built in Belgrade, so that was a few months out there, yeah.

Does a return to TV seem alluring to you? Or are you more or less looking for more feature films?

Maggie Grace:  You know, I like the lifestyle of features, that kind of gypsy lifestyle and I love to travel.  I think that in this point in my life, it’s something I want to do a lot of.  But the flip side of it is, I mean look here at Wondercon, you’ve got Game of Thrones.  I think David Beniof is a genius and I think sometimes in TV, creators are given a lot of creative latitude.  So, you know, I certainly wouldn’t mind television.  But, I’m also a little commitment phobic, so that 7 year thing kind of freaks me out. 

Hawaii wasn’t that bad.

Maggie Grace:  Oh, no, not at all.  But you know, Lost doesn’t come along every day, it was pretty original and a pretty incredible experience.

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