Maggie Grace had a confession to make at the LA press day for Open Road Films' sci-fi action thriller, Lockout: she's a book nerd who loves Jane Austen. In Lockout, Grace plays the daughter of the U.S. President who goes on a humanitarian mission to an outer space (yes, outer space) maximum security prison only to be taken hostage by the prisoners. A falsely convicted ex-government agent (played by Guy Pearce) is sent in to rescue her. Grace was attracted to the project because it was an action film with a sense of humor. But, truthfully, starring in action films isn't a natural fit.
"My family’s really enjoyed that irony because I’m such a book nerd and more or less running for a living," said Grace, laughing.
On preparing for the role:
Maggie Grace: "Well, Guy and I both arrived in Serbia a little bit early to get some wire work in and a little bit of combat training. It’s always nice to prepare for extra, just in case something comes up. But the wire work was my favorite. I sent a video home to my parents the first day. Patrick Cauderlier is our incredible stuntman. He choreographed everything and taught us all the wire, and he was kind enough to edit a little video together of me beating up the big Serbian stuntmen. So it was fun. It was a very physical experience."
On working with Guy Pearce:
Maggie Grace: "Oh, it was great. He’s wildly intelligent and has that Aussie sense of humor. I adored him. I wish we were doing the roundtable [interviews] together, but we’d probably get into big trouble. [...]In real life he can actually say four-letter-words. We are limited with those in the movie. But we still made use of the ones we had quite well."
On the appeal of playing Emilie:
Maggie Grace: "Immediately it was the humor. That’s how I like my action movies served up. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you are looking for a message oriented film, this wouldn’t be it. It’s unabashed and unapologetically a fun ride. It’s a sci-fi adventure, but it’s littered with these sharp one liners and this kind of throwback archetype of a male lead who’s sarcastic and has some edge. You don’t know whether to smack him or kiss him or what to do."
On starring in two Luc Besson-produced movies: this and Taken:
Maggie Grace: “I think Luc has a way with the action genre. He has a sixth sense for it. Luckily, I’m quite happy this character is a bit more empowered than Kim [in Taken]. She’s a little bit older. But, you know, still isn’t prepared for the situation at all. She’s a very capable young woman."
"[Luc] had four films shooting at once during the time we were in Serbia, so he’d fly in. He’s really, really involved in writing and getting everyone else set. He’s very respectful of creative latitude for his directors. If you trust someone, you trust them. He was definitely a presence but he was also finishing The Lady at the same time – flying back and forth between Thailand and Serbia is a tall order. I don’t know how he does it. It’s amazing."
On working with the directing team of James Mather and Stephen St. Leger and the atmosphere on the set:
Maggie Grace: "It was a tight schedule; we didn’t have a lot of takes on anything. There were certain shots we only had one take on. I remember the trapdoor sequence – we had one shot at it. So that nervousness on Guy's and my face is very real. We were nervous that it might not work and nervous that we hadn’t rehearsed it."
On the most difficult stunt sequence:
Maggie Grace: "It was definitely those really heavy spacesuits. We were so excited, because during all the fittings they were really kick-ass spacesuits. They weren’t like astronaut spacesuits but more like action figure. They were heavy, yellow, and had these built-out chests. It’s incredible. When we were doing the fittings, we were goofing around. (Mimicking Robocop) ‘You have five seconds to comply!’ Messing around, and then realized there were stunts expected while wearing these suits and they hadn’t tested the mobility. So it was like, ‘Okay, you and Guy are going to run from here to here. And we’re going to cut to the CG stuff.’ So Guy and I start running and we’re like two tin cans, lurching back and forth in a really un-athletic way. I’m not the most gazelle-like of runners to begin with."
"I’m told there’s a YouTube clip called 'Maggie Grace Running.' I didn’t look it up, for the record, an ex-boyfriend was kind enough to point it out. So I’m working on my running, and that suit didn’t exactly help. Guy was no better off. The suits were so heavy and unwieldy, they had to CG in our legs."
On working with the overwhelmingly male cast and crew:
Maggie Grace: "It was funny. No other Americans and thank God we had a really amazing producer, Leila Smith, that would bring the feminine energy to set every day. Obviously there are other women on the crew, but yeah, it was pretty much a male dominated atmosphere."
On what she'd like to do next:
Maggie Grace: "There’s certainly directors I’m dying to work with. After all this action, I’d love to do a romantic comedy one of these days. [...]We have a meet-cute and there’s a misunderstanding. He says, ‘It’s a misunderstanding!' 'You lied to me!’ That scene."
"I think something like two genuinely flawed people that are perfectly flawed for one another. Like a When Harry Met Sally. That’s my favorite."
On what she's taking away from the experience of filming Lockout:
Maggie Grace: "It is kind of a funny experience. I’m used to being away from home for a few months at a time. It’s different when you’re with an international crew – English isn’t anyone’s first language, except Guy. It does get kind of lonely. You lose the humor in daily interactions sometimes. It’s such a great group of people and people I’ve worked with before. It’s this little theater troupe. It’s great working with Europa. It’s a small community. I would say it’s interesting to learn the difference between loneliness and solitude. After a few months on Serbia, in the dark, six to eight weeks, you start to find that difference."
On her next projects:
Maggie Grace: "I have Twilight and Taken 2, which we just finished a few weeks ago. I’m excited about those. And a little indie called Decoding Annie Parker. I’m excited to be shooting in LA soon. It will be a nice change."
Did she think there would be a sequel to Taken:
Maggie Grace: "I didn’t think of it as something that would have a sequel just based on the plot of the first one. It didn’t seem structured that way. But I feel like they chose to drive the second one with a personal vendetta."
On how her character changes in Taken 2:
Maggie Grace: "She doesn’t suddenly become La Femme Nikita - that would be unreasonable. She’s still a young woman. She’s drawn into taking a more active role because her parents are abducted and has to help free them."
On being a part of the Twilight phenomenon:
Maggie Grace: "Well, I think I’m still curious about the experience. I’m more in the second one. I wasn’t really in the first Breaking Dawn. It was just very, very briefly. So my role figures more in the upcoming final installment, Breaking Dawn II, in November."
"It’s a very stylized movie but it was really fun and I met some of my best girlfriends on that film, so I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience. Some of the people I started hanging out with, we would go cross-country skiing before work. We were up in Squamish in British Columbia. It was a really, really fun shooting experience."
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Lockout hits theaters on April 13, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references.