Teen sci-fi action adventure I Am Number Four is released this week and Jez Sands had a word with one of the stars of the movie Teresa Palmer who plays Number Six, a leather-clad, no nonsense badass, with a big bike and and even bigger gun.
She talks about the perils of stunt work, speaking with her native Aussie accent, getting a tattoo, becoming obsessed with Ducati motorcycles and deflowering Harry Potter.
Hi Teresa, how’re you doing?
I’m quite jetlagged. I’ve just come from Los Angeles.
The UK screening was the other night, did you go to that?
I did not…
[Laughs] I attended the red carpet interviews and then we got introduced in front of the cinema but I’ve already seen the film, so I didn’t want to see it again. I’m going to wait to see it at the Los Angeles premier
Can you tell me about the film in your own words?
Yeah. The film follows the story of this disenfranchised guy, Number Four and he comes from the planet Lorien and there were nine escapees from the planet Lorien and I play Number Six and I come from that planet.
How much training did you do for the movie? Were you already in shape?
I would say out of ten, I was [giggles] about six out of ten and then after the film I was definitely getting up there. I had a six pack by the end of the movie. It was very intense; I had to make a total transformation to become who I was – Number Six. She’s such a warrior.
Is that not you then?
No. I had to change my posture, my flexibility, the way I walk, the way I talk. Everything about me had to be shifted and changed.
The way you strut about in leather…
The way I do my hair flicks, the way I kill people…
The way you walk away from slow-motion explosions….
Can I have your job? It sounds brilliant.
I was very challenging, but I felt very proud of the work we were doing as a stunt team. I made sure they didn’t treat me like a fragile actress, I wanted to be in there.
Did you do your own stunts?
Yeah! I did all of them. I wanted DJ to have the liberty to use my face. I thought that it’s so silly when an actor signs on to an action role like this and they don’t want to be a part of their own work. I didn’t want to do a disservice to my character of not knowing how to fight and how to do my own stunts because it she can it, then I can do. Apart from the invisibility, I really would like to work at that a lot harder. I had fun with it. It was gruelling but I’m glad that I did it.
Were there any action scenes where you thought, “Whoa, that’s a little bit too much for me”?
There was nothing that… I mean I was game to do everything but there were some scenes that I wasn’t allowed to do. There was one particular moment where my character gets pretty much blown up by a grenade and she gets thrown across the room and she lands on a table and she has to ask for a power up. I wasn’t allowed to be thrown across the room and I wasn’t allowed to smash down on the table.
Were you annoyed about not being allowed to do it?
Well I wanted to do it,. I was like, I can do it, I’ve been training and I want to do as much as I can but they just said – look, that’s something you can’t do because if you get injured then we can’t use you for the rest of the movie. So I really became a stuntwoman and it was good that I would hang out with the stunt boys at lunch time and talk about different stunt moves we’ve done.
Is this the first you’ve done any stunt work?
Yeah, the very first time. I love those guys and you have to put total trust in them because your safety is in their hands but it’s quite empowering to be able to accomplish something that intricate and delicate. You just have to remain so focused on what you’re doing because the moment you lose that focus is when you can get injured – and I did get injured several times when I wasn’t focused.
Was that after a long day, when you’re tired and it’s hard to concentrate?
Yeah, I broke my toe at one point. It’s not because I wasn’t focused. I jumped off something that was six feet in the air and I had to land on Alex’s stunt double. I pick him up and I throw him down on the ground and as we land, the mats that we land on get pulled really fast, so we slide. But we landed and missed the mat and [laughs] landed straight on my toe and he landed right on top of it – quite painful.
You don’t sound that bothered…
Oh, it was my pinkie toe! And the choreography in the cafeteria where we’re fighting alongside each other, I had been learning that choreography for months and I missed one of my beats, I fell off beat only by half and second and sure enough the stunt guy I was fighting opposite swung around like he’s supposed to and smacked me in the mouth. He felt awful but it was my fault and I was trying to spit out my teeth, I thought all my teeth had been knocked out but it turned out my mouth was just numb. But we kept going.
You seem pretty tough.
Yeah, I had my battle wounds out on display.
Did you miss a day’s filming after that?
No no, I just had a black toe. But whenever I wasn’t filming, I was in the stunt warehouse with the boys. I didn’t have any days off; I was always training with the boys. But when I broke my toe, I was doing a lot of Ducati training.
What was that like?
That was incredible. I dropped the bike once… I got a little bit too confident and dropped the bike.
Expensive…mhmm. Not as expensive as hurting myself and I didn’t hurt myself but the bike was very damaged.
Did you know how to ride a bike before you started filming?
I grew up riding quad bikes on my dad’s farm but then riding a Ducati’s a whole different ball game. There’s so much power underneath you and you can feel it and it’s quite a vulnerable thing to get on a bike and be open to having cars flying at you and you’re not protected in any way.
You’re also not wearing a helmet most of the time…
No, I don’t wear a helmet…so I just had to be competent on it. I started small and worked my way up and I was on the Ducati and I became good on it. I was so confidence, I would cruise up to fith gear and then slam back down again but they didn’t use any of that stuff in the movie; they only used a few bits.
So have you developed a bit of bike thing now you’ve finished filming?
I have become a bit of a bike fanatic actually. I don’t think I’m going to get one myself. I toyed with the idea actually just last week, I’ve been seeing a lot of Ducati’s around and I feel that it’s a side of me and I should buy one. But then when I think about it a bit, I think maybe not.
I saw you in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice where you play the ingénue. Was it nice to get to kick some arse for once?
Yeah, Becky Barnes wasn’t the damsel in distress but she didn’t get to be involved in any of the action. And I remember on that film, I was watching the boys have all the fun with their magic powers and I always wanted to be part of that but I didn’t get the opportunity and then sure enough, this lands in my lap. And the whole film, my whole part of the film is action so it was quite a change.
So if they make the sequel to this…well you look quite stoked that you want to have more screen time.
I’m really excited about it. When I originally read the script, they let me know that my character only comes in three quarters of the way through the film and I was unsure about it to start with but then I realised that there’s so much to explore with the character and that audiences are going to be connected to the story and if they want to see a sequel, it will be amazing to play Number Six again. She’s such a flashy character that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play her even if she doesn’t have as much screen time as I normally would have.
It must have been nice to be able to speak with your native Australian accent for once.
I was refreshing, I loved it. I was really pleased that they agreed to let me use my Australian dialect because usually, I’m playing an American student or a British girl.
That’s quite strange because Alex (Pettyfer) is a Brit playing American and Callan’s (McAuliffe) is Australian playing American….
It was nice, I had to in and do additional dialogue recording afterwards though because Spielberg couldn’t quite understand what I was saying at times [laughs] so I had to go back in and Americanise some of words. So instead of saying “arse”, I had to say “ass” and instead of “Red Bull’s for pussies”, it was like [adopts sexy purr] “Red Bull is for…pussies” and it was so over the top American.
Wow, that sounds like an advert.
I know! Red Bull’s for pussies. So all my Australian friends are going to rib me for that, “You’ve gone all American now…”
Did you get to keep your tattoo on when you went home?
I did keep it on. I didn’t have to keep it on but I wanted to keep it on. People treat you so differently when you’ve got tattoos.
Do you have any real ones?
No, I don’t have any. I was thinking of getting one. If this film…we’ll see. I was thinking of getting a little ‘6’ somewhere.
Did you know that all the Lord Of The Rings Fellowship has the word ‘Nine’ in Elfish tattooed on them?
Oh no way! Oh that’s so cool!
Apart from Johnathan Rhys-Davies who got his stunt double to get his instead.
Oh, that’s hilarious!
You’re one of nine too, so you should get on to Alex and get him involved.
I was thinking of getting ‘6’ on my wrist but… I don’t know. I’d have it for the rest of my life then so I think I might get bored of it.
Can you talk a bit about your upcoming projects? Weren’t you supposed to be in Mad Max?
Well I was in negotiations for that movie but I know George Miller really well because I was supposed to do the Justice League Of America with him and then we were in negotiations, I read the script, I thought it was brilliant and there was scheduling conflicts with this and I had to pull out at the last minute and now the film’s on hiatus, so I don’t know what’s happening with that.
I want to work with George Miller on something in the future, so we’ll see if it’ll be Mad Max or something else. I think he’s just a brilliant man and also so warm.
It’s great when you get on with people you work with.
I think that’s really important. DJ’s like that too; he’s a really kind, down to earth man. He’s got five kids, he’s a family man, and I really appreciate that. And because he’s so lovely, it really lifted energy of everyone on set and I think that really translates on to the film.
What was it like to kiss Harry Potter (in December Boys)?
[Laughs]. Ahhh, the deflowering of Harry Potter. It was…good. A lot of pressure because I felt there were millions of girls ready to scratch my eyes out for what I was doing. But it was great…he’s a good kisser. Sorry, I got lost in the memory there, I was trying to think about what it was like. Yeah, those things are weird and it doesn’t feel romantic because there’s a whole crew around you and there are no actual feelings there, so it’s quite stagnant and robotic.
Can we expect to see you in more action-based roles in the future?
I would love to, yeah. After seeing the movie and seeing Six in the film, I realised that even though it was so challenging for me, it was the hardest role I’ve done to date both mentally and physically, I think that maybe that’s the path I would like to go down.
Did they put you on any kind of tight diet?
They didn’t put me on a diet. I chose to cut out bread and fried foods or anything processed and refined sugar.
All the interviews I’ve read with anyone that’s ever done any physical work has always said that the diets the worst thing about the process.
I loved it. I used to be an unhealthy eater and over the last few years, I’ve been slowly cleaning it all up and it wasn’t until this film that I pulled the last trigger and now I eat a crazy clean diet. I feel amazing for it and I have more clarity and my body has reacted so well to it, so I feel much better eating this way.
I Am Number Four is released Friday 25th February.