Noel Fisher (Shameless, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) battles aliens in the Columbia Pictures action thriller Battle: Los Angeles set to invade theaters on March 11, 2011. Fisher plays PFC Shaun Lenihan, a member of a platoon of Marines on the front line in a war against an invading force of creatures from outer space.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and shot in the wickedly hot summer heat of Louisiana, Battle: Los Angeles also stars Aaron Eckhart as a Marine Staff Sergeant forced to defend one of the last cities still standing after the aliens attack.
As for the possibility of our planet actually being visited by aliens, in our exclusive interview Fisher admitted he wants to believe aliens do in fact exist. "I hope that they're somewhere out there. The universe is a pretty big place. I just hope that they're friendlier than our aliens," said Fisher, laughing. "I think we can do without [LA being invaded]."
Exclusive Interview with Noel Fisher
Can you talk about the extensive boot camp you went through to prepare?
Noel Fisher: "Yeah, we did a three week boot camp with [Master Sergeant Tom] Minder and his team, a couple of other guys who were real Force Recon Marines, and some of them had seen quite a bit of combat. And yeah, they were really, really knowledgable guys."
Did they put you through hell?
Noel Fisher: "Yeah, well, it depends on how you define it. I always love that kind of stuff. We did have some physically very intensive stuff. It sure puts in perspective the physical demands that are on the Marines and the Armed Services now. I have a very, very different kind of respect for just the amount of stuff that they carry alone. And we had fake things. Our backpacks were full of bubble wrap - theirs aren't."
What did you take away from the boot camp experience that really helped you play PFC Shaun Lenihan?
Noel Fisher: "There's a couple of things, basically, in terms of knowing how to handle weapons. They taught us a lot of assault tactics, room clearing, close quarter combat - stuff that is just really helpful when we're setting up a scene really quickly. Because Jonathan [Liebesman] shot this in very kind of documentary style, it took a lot of everyone knowing what they're supposed to do. And basically it just helped a lot because if we were getting attacked from the left, we knew exactly what we were supposed to do. Do we assault through? All these different kind of tactics that they taught us."
Also, the other main thing that was really helpful was that we got to spend three weeks becoming kind of a family, and that was really unique to this movie for me. The level of friendship that came out of this boot camp and this very physically demanding shoot was just really, really special. I think that that's a really big bonus and it comes through [on screen], I think, because that's what platoons are. These are your brothers and your sisters, and I think that was really helpful creating that."
Did you keep in contact afterwards, since you grew so close on the set?
Noel Fisher: "Yes. I hang out routinely with Will Rothhaar, Taylor Handley, Ade [M'Cormack]...a lot of people. That was honestly one of the really cool things about this shoot was that everyone on the screen just loves each other, very truly. And we all hung out, you know? Lucas Till, Neil Brown Jr, we all get together. They had their X-Boxes and we'd go and play X-Box. It was just a lot of fun. We still hang out to this day."
If Jonathan was shooting fast and documentary style, does that mean you didn't get to do too many takes of any particular scene?
Noel Fisher: "Well, I mean, Jonathan and Lukas Ettlin - they both made sure that they got what they needed. You know what I mean? The producers - Jeffrey [Chernov] and Neal Moritz - everyone was on board to make sure we got what we needed. I got as many takes as I needed for things; I think most people did. As you can tell by the trailers, they want this to look like something that you haven't seen before. And they really wanted to make sure that they got it right, and I think that they did."
What did it look for you on the set? Was there a lot of green screen work?
Noel Fisher: "There was a lot of different things. There was a significant amount of green screen. There was also, I can't remember exactly what they are but kind of light-reflecting... I think for CGI purposes they have to have these very specific light detectors so that they can go in and see where the light would hit the alien once the CGI is all done. So they would use some of those things too. I remember in one scene this very large kind of almost glass-like looking instrument kept having to get spun out in front of me, but I found it kind of funny. But, it's good. It looks like it turned out."
Were you supposed to be acting like you were really scared of it?
Noel Fisher: "Yeah, basically. You have to use a lot of your imagination. That's the biggest thing about it - you really need to make sure you find whatever is going to freak you out the most and get you to that kind of place, and use that. They also showed us, at the very beginning when we first got to Shreveport they showed us all of the drawings and concept art that they had for the aliens and for us. That actually helped a lot, too, because we had a basic idea of what this was going to be, how tall they were going to be. It was a very helpful thing."
You filmed in the middle of the hot summer in Louisiana. Was it brutal?
Noel Fisher: "That was. That was amazing. I mean, I had been to New Orleans - I shot the pilot of The Riches in New Orleans - but it wasn't the summer. It wasn't the same thing. I remember we got to the boot camp and it was just crazy because we're not only in the middle of Louisiana summer, which is like that wet heat - that really wet, wet heat - but we also had full Marine gear on all the entire time. It was pretty funny, I remember talking to a lot of the guys, going - because we were continually told, 'Drink water!' The Marines were all very helpful in making sure that we did that, and we had people looking out for us in terms of that. We had these Camelbaks on the back of our gear; Marines actually have them too with the straw. You know, you drink a lot of water and no one ever had to go to the bathroom because we were sweating that much. It was really funny. We would go the entire day and no one would need a bathroom break at all because it was all coming out our skin. It was funny."
Okay, that's really gross.
Noel Fisher: "It was horrible, but it was really good. You know what I mean? Because it prepared us for a really intense physical shoot. A lot of the fight sequences happen during the summer and you've got to be prepared for that. You can't get away from that. There's no way you can get away."
Did you ever regret signing on when you're enduring the heat and all the physical demands of the role?
Noel Fisher: "No, no. That was the thing; I think in terms of parts like this I think that it really helps to have physical circumstances that are kind of uncomfortable in terms of what I might be used to, because it helps bring the reality to the situation. I can't imagine that being in a firefight with really anyone is very casual. I enjoy that kind of stuff. I think that it helps bring the realism to it, and I think that that was the general vibe on the set. Everyone really wanted to make this a very realistic movie. The Marines at a certain point, like about a week in, would come up to us and started saying, 'You guys look like crap! You look like real Marines.' We're dirty and sweaty, and that's the point of it. That was a complete compliment. We looked like we were bringing realism to it. We looked like dirty, sweaty guys running around doing what we had to do."
The trailers and clips stress the action scenes, but do we get the opportunity to know any of these characters or is it pure action?
Noel Fisher: "Actually the cool thing that they did with the script, Chris [Bertolini] and everybody, basically there's an introductory period off the top because one of the important things, I think, that they were trying to do with this movie is make sure that... Like I was saying, a platoon is - I imagine it to be - very much like a brotherhood or like a family with brothers and sisters. And the big thing about it is you need to have some kind of association with these characters. You need to know them and like them, their circumstances and their life, because it makes you care. You want to care about these people, and they did a really good job hiring actors that bring that out and you're going to care about. And they do spend some time, very nicely done at the beginning of the script, just getting little snippets of where these people come from, what their family situation is. And I think that that really helps because when we go into battle, you know things about these people and you want them to be okay. And it raises the tension and it raises your emotions about it."
You're also in Shameless on Showtime (one of my new favorite shows). Are we going to see more of you in that?
Noel Fisher: "I'm kind of going to be having a nice little recurring arc on that this season, and hopefully we'll get a second season and they'll bring me back. It's an amazing show to work on. It's really fun. The cast...you know, a really funny story is I literally moved down to Los Angeles from Vancouver with Justin Chatwin. He was my roommate for like three years and now he's one of the leads on Shameless, so it's really fun. I get to go to work and hang out with a really good friend of mine and work with this amazingly written material, this very obviously extremely shameless kind of script."
Have you heard any rumors about another season of Shameless?
Noel Fisher: "I hear the numbers are very good so hopefully that's a good sign. Hopefully we get to hear about that soon."
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Battle: Los Angeles hits theaters on March 11, 2011.