Julie Benz can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a fan-boy. And that’s exactly how she likes it. With roles in Joss Whedon’s “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” franchise movies like “Saw V,” “Rambo,” “Punisher: Warzone” and now “The Boondock Saints 2,” plus her continuing role on Showtime’s acclaimed “Dexter,” the hard-working actress enjoys working in a storyline with built-in expectations. In a round-table interview, she talked about filling the shoes of Willem Dafoe, working in male-dominated movies and why she loves the “Comic-Con” community.
How was it coming into the “Boondock” family?
Julie Benz: You know, for me, I actually had never heard of “The Boondock Saints,” until after I got the part and I was talking to my trainer and I said, I’m doing this movie, and it’s a sequel to “The Boondock Saints” and he freaked out. But when they sent me the script, they sent it to me as “All Saints Day.” Nobody told me it was a sequel, nobody told me anything, and I read the script and to me it existed on its own. It made perfect sense. It was a great character, and I went in and met with Troy numerous times. And I didn’t know, and I think that was probably a good thing. I was just going off of the character on the page and working with Troy through the audition process, and I was like, “Wow I really want this role, I really want to play this character.” So, it wasn’t until afterward. And then the more I started telling people, the more (they) started foaming at the mouth and freaking out. I thought, “Oh my God, it’s bigger than I thought.” I mean if I had known, I probably would’ve been too nervous to audition.
So did you have an “Oh no!” moment after you saw the first movie and saw the great work Willem Dafoe had done in it? Those are big shoes to fill.
JB: Well, yes, and you know they are big shoes He’s like a 10 ½ and I’m a 7. So, they’re definitely huge shoes to fill. But you know, I tried not to focus on that, and just tried to focus on playing Eunice as separate and trusting in Troy to make it believable that she was a protégé of his. You know? I mean, I can’t focus on that. You can’t.
Or how good Willem Dafoe looked in that dress.
JB: I know! That was the other thing, I mean it’s Willem Dafoe! There’s some, like, message board where they think that I’m Willem Dafoe after surgery, which I was a little, like… I was kinda flattered, because he does look so good in the dress, but I was also a little like, “They think I look like a man.”
You’re very well-known for playing the girlfriend of (TV’s) “Dexter.”
JB: Well, wife now.
Yes, I’m sorry, you’re his wife. But, you look gorgeous in this film. Is that kind of liberating that you didn’t have to look like a housewife?
JB: (laughing) Well, I would say it’s kinda liberating to look like a housewife! No, it is. You know, when I first met Troy, he stopped me halfway through our audition, and he said, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to stop … You’re HOT!” And I said, “Oh, well, thank you.” And he said, “No. You’re hot. And on ‘Dexter’ you’re not. And I can’t get over it!”
So, there definitely is that mix. You know, I would say, I love playing Eunice, because she is kindof like the “fantasy me.” I think she’s the fantasy woman that we all would like to think we are. Just total badasses and still sexy and feminine. I mean, who wears six-inch heels to a crime-scene? Eunice does.
Does the fantasy include the accent (from the film)?
JB: The accent was very difficult for me to do. I had to, I skyped every night with my dialect coach, I typed out all my dialogue phonetically for the next day. And it’s a very specific accent that Troy wanted. And Troy, unfortunately, has a great ear for accents and oh-my-goodness. He would stop me in the middle and say, “Nope, you didn’t say that right.” So it was tough, the accent was tough. I had to live in (it) for the whole time we were filming. I would always get people asking where I was from and when I said Pittsburgh they would look at me funny, like “Why the Southern accent?”
Coming into the movie where so many of the cast and crew have been friends for a long time, were you welcomed with open arms or were you nervous?
JB: I wasn’t nervous at all. I’ve had a lot of experience being the only female in a male-dominated movie. I mean, with “Rambo” and (with “The Punisher: Warzone), and the “Saw V” — well, “Saw” had some women in it, but. I mean, there’s nothing that compares to “Rambo” where they drop you in the middle of the jungle and you’re with all guys and you do your own stunts and you’re covered in pig-sh*t everyday. This was kind of nice and easy to walk into. They’re a nice group. I mean, yeah, there’s inside jokes that I don’t get, and sometimes it can turn into a locker-room frat-boy situation. And that’s when you just turn around and walk away (laughs). But it was really easy to walk into, I didn’t feel excluded in any way … I will say when you’re the only female in the movie they do take extra-special care of you. They get up and make sure you have your seat. I got treated like a princess! And that’s a nice thing to have happen.
I think it’s more difficult to walk into a group of women, that have been together and tight, than it is to walk into a group of men. I just think it’s, I don’t know, men are a little more open. I don’t know, maybe because I’m not a man I didn’t have to prove myself to them in that way. It’s a better dynamic. I think you walk into a movie and it’s a group of women, I mean you really have to … it’s tough.
Has that happened to you before?
JB: I just think in general. I mean, women, we’re tough on each other. You know, we’re tough, and I don’t know why. I mean I think — I hope — I’ve evolved out of that and I’m not so tough on other women. I think as women we need to stick together more and be more supportive. But especially in Hollywood, women are very competitive, and in many ways we have to be. But at the same time, we need to support each other through it. So, I would think that walking into a film with a group of women would be more difficult. I haven’t really had much experience, I have done predominantly male-dominated movies. (laughs) But I’ll let you know, if I ever do one, I’ll let you know the difference!
You’ve done a lot of sequels, haven’t you?
JB: (laughing) I only choose to do sequels. I want to see how it does first. I don’t care to be “ground-breaking.” When you do a sequel, you get a bigger budget. They’ve got things figured out! I’m totally joking, I don’t do that.
So has it just happened out that way?
JB: I pretty much take whatever job is offered. (laughs) there’s no science here. No, I mean with “Saw,” it’s the largest horror franchise ever, so why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that fiction? It’s going to go down in history as the largest horror franchise ever! With “Rambo,” it’s the same thing. It’s an iconic character! I mean it’s Sylvester Stallone. Who wouldn’t want to do it? “Punisher: War Zone,” once again. It’s … it didn’t do as well. (laughs) But once again, to me, it’s another kind of character that people know. For me, it was being in a comic book. And it felt like being in a comic book while we were filming. It was a really cool project to be a part of.
What were your expectations of this fan-base, in terms of their reaction to you?
JB: Well, I kind of have a career based on a cult-following. I mean “Buffy” and “Angel” and just everything we’ve talked about, “Dexter” included. That’s my fan-base. I love those guys and girls. It’s everybody that was at “Comic-Con.” What I love about being a part of these genre movies and television shows is the fans are just as passionate about the product as we are making it. And that’s where it becomes this really special community, this back-and-forth that goes on between us on the creative side and then the audience, the fans. And you don’t have that, with, say “90210.” You know, you don’t have that kind of community created. I have attended a lot of conventions over the years and I have seen this amazing community arise out of the love of one television show. And it’s brought people together from all different parts of the world and creates friendships and they all live for this one weekend, once a year, to come together. And it’s a really beautiful community that’s created. And for me to be in that world and a part of that is, um, is bigger than anything I ever expected. Is bigger than just being an actor. And this movie has that same thing. The fans are wanting it so bad, and they want it to be good. And it’s the same thing with us on this side. So, it’s that same kind of synergy and energy. It’s really cool, that’s all I can say.
What was your impression of Troy Duffy as a director? His reputation certainly precedes him.
JB: I never watched the documentary (2003’s “Overnight”) and I still haven’t watched it. And I chose not to watch it because I wanted to form my own experience of Troy. You know, Troy’s just unfiltered. He says what he thinks, and he says it, and he’s full of life, and he’s fun. You know, not everything he says is pretty … His direction is like, “All right, just go out there and f***in’ do it, man! And f***in’ do it! Just f***in…!” And I’m like (faux-scared) “Oooooh-Kaaaayyy!” But his energy is so infectious. I mean, you just can’t help but want to go out there and just f***ing do it! And when you’ve only got one take to do a stunt, that’s what you have to do: just go out there and f***ing do it!
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You can see Julie Benz and the rest of the cast of “The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day” going out and just f***in’ doing it, in theaters this Friday.
Jason Eaken is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EAKEN.