Monday 20 November 2017

Miller's master of the Superheroes

The cast members of 'Justice League' are just as impressive in real life as they are on screen

Stars Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Henry Cavill
Stars Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Henry Cavill

Anne Marie Scanlon

What do Superheroes and buses have in common? You wait all your life to meet one and then five come along together. The latest DC film Justice League has a very starry line-up with Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot reprising her role of Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa with a very new interpretation of Aquaman and newcomer Ray Fisher debuts Cyborg.

Regular fans of the DC Universe will already know that poor Superman is dead. The world has been plunged into despair, and disarray. There's a 'reactionary' terror group that wants to bomb civilisation back to the Middle Ages (but they're all white English guys so any similarities to any terror groups living or dead is merely a coincidence), and public morale is at an all-time low. So far just like real life then. (There's a nice nod to the passing of David Bowie at the start of the film where he and Superman share the front page of a newspaper with the headline 'Did they go back to their own planets?').

In Justice League the general malaise has left the world vulnerable to attack from a demonic entity which will bring about an era of darkness. (And no, he's not in the White House.)

While bearded and bejumpered Ben Affleck bears little similarity to his dashing on-screen persona; Jason Momoa (Aquaman) looks and sounds pretty much the same as he does in the movie. Fans of Game of Thrones will know the actor as the (now sadly deceased) Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo. He's rocking a Heavy Metal/Biker chic with long curly hair, non-Hipster beard, fitted trousers and a velvet waistcoat complete with fob chain. All the better to show off his muscles and his (rather tasteful) tats. His fingers are a riot of ornate heavy silver rings (skulls feature a lot).

As Momoa sits down beside me he removes his boots. "Are your feet hurting?" I ask him. "No, I just want to get comfortable," he replies in his distinctive deep gravelly voice. Momoa then proceeds to lie back on the banquette and raise one knee, rest his arm on it and throw his head back (like Michelangelo's Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling). If this were anyone else, it would be risible but Momoa is cool enough to carry this pose off. Just.

The actor comes across as a man who has never had a moment of self-doubt in his life but without being an ass about it. "Do you like swimming?" I ask Momoa. The actor has only just met me but he's already got my number. "Yeah," he replies looking at me quizzically. "All that time in the water, you might get a bit pruney?" I inquire. The newly-minted Superhero pauses briefly and then says "Eh no, I'm doing just swell!" before adding that he has "nice thick Hawaiian skin, that doesn't get too pruney". I'll just leave that one there.

Fisher is an incredibly sweet, polite young man, a far cry from the moody angry Victor Stone, aka Cyborg. He tells me that Momoa's children, then seven and eight (their mother is Cosby Show actress Lisa Bonet), were frequent visitors to the set. "They'd call us by our character names, and I said "My name's Ray, I'm playing Cyborg". Then Jason pulls me to one side and he says (Fisher goes into deep gravel-voice mode) "Man these kids still believe in Santa, you're just Cyborg".

We're meeting in London after a week during which the news has been full of allegations of sexual harassment and sexually inappropriate actions in Westminster alongside the ongoing post-Weinstein and Spacey Hollywood stories. The lop-sidedness of Hollywood with regard to women in and on film though is not news (most Superheroes are male too). "There's room for more stories that are female driven, definitely," Gadot tells me, (the actress is even more impressive in real life than she is on screen). "In the world it's 50/50 between sexes, there is not enough representation for women on film, it's better on TV but still... I think that gradually we're moving forward but in a very slow way." Glacial, I volunteer, and Gadot agrees.

What about sexually inappropriate behaviour, has she experienced that in her career? "I would like to give you an honest answer," she says seriously. "I never experienced any physical sexual harassment." She goes on to give me an example of the 'attitude' she experiences. "Yesterday I had a conversation with a German journalist," Gadot tells me. "I said you guys are doing great with a woman Prime Minister - Angela Merkel. And he said 'yes, but she's tough'. I said 'what do you mean she's tough?'" The journalist responded that Wonder Woman was tough but you could see her heart. (Ezra Miller, who is sitting beside the Israeli actress and I look at each other in disbelief.) Gadot informed the journalist about the difference between movies and real life. "She's the Prime Minister! She has business to do. Then I asked him, the leader before Merkel, how was he? Did he show any emotion? He said 'No'. And what about the one before him, did he show any emotion? He said 'No'."

The actress then gave the journalist a list of nine examples of how positive attributes ascribed to men are routinely portrayed negatively for women which she'd come across online. (She later reads out the list to me. It begins with 'A man is forceful, a woman pushy' and ends with 'He's a perfectionist, she's a pain in the ass').

"That's what I experience," she says matter of factly. "I think now - something has to change. It's been like this forever, (where) it's OK for people to use their power to manipulate someone to give them something against their will. And it's not OK, and I think it's very important that people are coming out and speaking against it."

Ezra Miller interjects with "Sexual predatory behaviour your wrath upon this world is over!" (He's brilliant on screen and off. He absolutely steals Justice League and deserves a full interview by himself.) Gadot continues saying that when she wants to make a point "I try to be nice, so I'll be listened to. This is wrong. It's just wrong… I wish we could all join forces - the truth is there is nothing to fight. The truth is that people are the ones who create all the problems - there's no aliens, there's no monsters, it's just about us learning to live together." Then she adds, almost to herself, "I wish".

Justice League is in cinemas from this Friday

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