Actress Peta Wilson was born in Sydney, Australia and raised
in Papua New Guinea. She developed a love of performing from
an early age and was a model before her acting career took
off. Her credits include Highlander: The Series, the
films Loser, The Sadness of Sex, A Woman Undone
and One of Our Own. But it was her
role in the TV series La Femme Nikita that brought
her to the attention of the producers of The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen. Darren
Rea chatted with her as The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was
due to be released on DVD and video...
Rea: Apart from the money, what was it that attracted you
to your role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
Wilson: Let's just rewind right there, because this was my
first big Hollywood film, so the money is not as you imagine
attracted me to the part was the comic element. When they
first said they were looking for Mina I was in Australia and
I'd just had a child and I wasn't really thinking of getting
back to working straight away. They said: "Look, we're
making this movie and [Sean] Connery has seen you in La
Femme Nikita and he is really interested in you. Will
you read the script?" They sent the script and the comic,
and as soon as I opened the parcel I started to read the comic
before I read the script.
thought it was just fantastic. It was just English humour
at its best. Then I read the script and saw how much of an
adjustment it was to the comic. Nonetheless, I thought if
you're going to a big Hollywood film and be part of a franchise,
what an interesting one to be part of. At least there's some
history of the characters, they're so iconic. I just thought
how great it was doing this sort of genre of film - action/adventure
film at the end of the 19th century.
opportunity to work with Steve Norrington was very attractive
to me. I think he is a really talented, modern film director.
In the original graphic novel Mina's the leader of The League.
Did you feel cheated when you realised that your character
wasn't going to be in charge?
No. Do you know what I did? I made her the leader anyway -
inside herself. Do you know what I mean? Behind every strong
man is a strong woman. That was the idea I used.
would have been great if it was just like the comic book,
but it would have been an entirely different movie. It would
have been less of an action/adventure movie and more of a
character driven piece. If the English had produced the film,
that is probably what would have happened.
I didn't really think: "Ah. I'm not the leader".
I thought: "Well, Sean Connery is cast, so he's bound
to be the leader." But I just made it Mina's secret that
really she's in charge.
Your character is the only woman in The League, and she is
the wife of a famous character and not really a leading woman
in her own literary right. Do you think that's a sad reflection
of the sexist nature of the writing of that time period?
Yes, it is sad that there weren't a lot of iconic characters
in Victorian literature.
these novels were written it was really depressed in Europe
and it's really interesting that writers were creating these
that period of time, all the women had was their virtue. They
weren't allowed to vote, the men did everything.
was pretty famous. Fans of Dracula will know her as
the woman that Dracula crossed oceans of time to be with.
But it's a shame that there aren't any female characters from
this time period that the writers could draw on.
is dead, so obviously they couldn't use him and so Mina is
the closest thing. But she's not your typical vampire. She's
half and half. She's really conflicted about it. Alan Moore
thought that she was strong enough to include her in his comics
original writers of these characters would be turning in their
graves to know that they had been immortalised in this way.
Was it intimidating working with Sean Connery?
No, he was very disarming - he's really great.
boys were so nervous - they were shaking in their shoes. I
was like: "Why?" and they said it was because he
was Connery and they were all such young actors. If I'd been
working with Katherine Hepburn I'd probably have felt really
I first met him he was just really nice. I had a new-born
child and I was feeling pretty strong and he was just really
pleased to have me as part of the cast. He thanked me for
doing the movie and said he was really looking forward to
working with me. He made me feel quite equal.
also really likes Australian women - he was married to one
for a long time. He was great to work with, very professional,
loved to rehearse. He was really great.
You do an impression of him in the movie, how did he rate
It was really funny on set when I was doing it. Because of
course that was the one thing we weren't to do - impersonate
Connery. Stars have rules and the poor man has been impersonated
for so long that you just don't impersonate him - not in front
of him anyway.
it came to shooting that scene all the actors were like: "Ah!
You've got to do him Peta." And I'm thinking: "I'm
not doing him. No way! I'll mock the character, but I'm not
going to do his voice." But they said I had to.
I rang him up and said: "Mr Connery, I'm just wondering
about this scene..."
he said: "Well, what are you going to do? Are you going
to do me?"
said: "Well, I wanted to ask you about that. I don't
have to do you. I can mock you."
he said: "Ah, why not then. Do me. People have been doing
me for years. I think it will be good. I think it will be
I did do him and it was really funny on set because I did
one take that was a really strong Connery. We did another
couple of takes and we finally got the one that appeared in
the movie - it was done as a bit of an impersonation, but
much more to mock him.
he saw the dailies I was so nervous. He rang me and said:
"Well, one of those was perfect - a really great impersonation.
But the one we are going to use... do you know why I love
it? Because it's so bad." Which is how it should have
been. Mina shouldn't have done him perfectly. He had a great
sense of humour about it and it was fun.
There were lots of media reports at the time that Connery
and director Stephen Norrington had a bit of a falling out.
Did you witness any of that or was it something that the media
blew out of all proportion?
To be honest, I think it was all media stuff. I think that
this is something that there is always a bit of on every film.
the upper echelons are dealing with so much money, time constraints,
special effects and, in our case, floods, there was so much
happening on this film that there were times when it became
tense just because people were tired.
media really blew it up into something it really wasn't. Which
is a shame, because it's not exactly the best press to have
for a film coming out.
There was a difference between Steve Norrington and Sean Connery
and that was that one's a vegan and one's a meat eater. And
which one's the meat eater? Connery. They were such opposites.
You'd never usually see them in the same room together. They
are both extremely good at what they do and I think the marrying
of both of them gave the film this missing element you couldn't
sure Connery told England that he's not crazy about Steve
Norrington and I don't think that Steve Norrington would have
made any comment, because he's not that sort of guy. There
were some pretty funny things that happened on set - not dramatic,
The DVD is released later this month. Is this a medium that
you embrace, or is it hard to do your job while people are
shooting 'behind the scenes' features or asking you to comment
on your role?
You know what? You don't actually notice it. You're so busy
focussing on what you've got to do that they're just another
part of the movie.
not one of those actors that gets all prissy about things
like that. It's just part of my job and sometimes when you've
been on set for 16 hours it's actually quite nice to see new
also part of what is happening today. A film can make a lot
of money at the box-office but it can make millions more on
a really big thing. This is the first time I've done a press
tour for a DVD release.
While you were filming, you were caught up in the horrendous
flooding in Prague. How did that affect you personally? Were
you concerned for your new-born son?
I was concerned because we lived on the river. I was more
concerned, not for the floods themselves, but the aftermath
and all the diseases. There was typhoid and other disease
around after the floods and I was concerned for my son because
of that. I
was breast feeding my child, so I just kept him very close
to me at all times.
floods themselves were so shocking. It was so sad, but with
a natural disaster you can never tell. Here's this beautiful
country and at any given point this beautiful city, that was
built centuries ago, could have crumbled. The foundations
are built on sand and there was a huge concern that they might
did the European premiere in Prague to raise money for the
flood victims, because it was just so sad that insurance companies
wouldn't pay out and there were all these people who were
losing everything they owned.
was a little strange doing an £80 million film in this
country that could have benefited from the money that had
been spent on a movie.
The movie got quite a lot of bad reviews in America when it
was released. Why do you think that was?
Of course it got bad press in America - because they don't
understand irony. The truth is that visually it is wonderful
- I think that the star of this show was the production designer.
film, as it was shot, was really great, but once the Americans
got hold of it they took a lot of the irony out. The stuff
that us Australians, English and Europeans get is that humour
of taking the piss out of each other and Americans don't really
understand that. So they took a lot of that out and put a
few more bullets in.
It was a shame that it got bad press, because I though it
was good. I got good press in America, so I'm happy [laughs].
The large sets look fantastic, was it difficult adjusting
from going from these lavish sets, to then spending time in
a studio doing blue screen work?
I was in a theatre company for nearly seven years before I
started working in film and television. So, that's were you
learn to do all that. It was like: "Ah! This is kind
of interesting. It's great!"
What were your views of the Hollywood movie industry? Would
you do it again if there was a sequel?
Absolutely. I mean, first of all because I really loved the
comic, and also because I really loved working with the actors.
I think it would be a great franchise to keep doing. I just
loved doing that movie. I hope we get to do it again. I can't
wait to play with Tony Curran again - he was just great.
Talking of Tony, we interviewed him a while ago and he said
that you would have made a fantastic Catwoman. Would you have
been up for that role?
That's a great idea. It's just a shame that they are making
it right now with Halle Berry - I would have been a much better
Catwoman. But that's okay I'm a good Mina. Something else
will come up - maybe I can be Panther Girl.
What are you up to at the moment?
actually producing a film called Noble Souls with Peter
Medak, the director of The Ruling Class and Romeo
Is Bleeding. It's a small independent movie about a husband,
wife and a lover. It's a bit reminiscent of the love triangle
film style of movies from France in the sixties.
are also a couple of other projects that are looming, but
I haven't made a decision yet about those. The next few weeks
will be quite telling - another series maybe. But my focus
at the moment is this independent movie.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to David Cox and Liz Silverstone at DSA
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is released on DVD and
video from 20th Century Fox on the 16 February 2004
the single disc DVD for £10.99 (RRP: £15.99) by
Order the double disc DVD for £15.99 (RRP: £22.99)
by clicking here
Order the video for £10.39 (RRP: £12.99)
by clicking here