In Warcraft, director Duncan Jones’ film version of the Blizzard Entertainment gaming phenomenon, Paula Patton plays Garona Halforcen, a half-human, half-orc (in the original canon, she’s half Draenei, part of a race that shared the planet Draenor with the orcs) who finds her loyalties torn and tested between the orc Horde and the planet Azeroth’ human Alliance. Garona’s actions play an important role in the events of the film as she gradually comes to learn just where her true allegiances lie.
For Patton, this is a role unlike any other she has played before: while she honed her action chops alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Denzel Washington in Déjà Vu and 2 Guns, she sees even more fighting here, all with green skin and a couple of nasty-looking tusks protruding from her lower lip. She spoke about wearing those tusks, delving into the world of Warcraft (see what I did there?) and more during a recent sitdown on the Universal Studios lot.
Den of Geek: So did you come to this as a gamer? How were you introduced to this whole world?
Paula Patton: Honestly, I didn’t know. I read the script. The script was sent to me. I read it. I loved the character Garona. They said, “Duncan wants to meet with you.” So I met with Duncan. And we had this incredible meeting, this creative, artistic meeting. And in the room we were both like, “I want to do this,” and he’s like, “Me, too.” Before it got all legal we agreed to make it.
Garona just sounded so exciting and compelling. I got in my car and went, “Oh, shit! What have I just agreed to?” It scared me to death, the idea of playing half orc, half human. I didn’t know where I was going to begin to find the research, the knowledge and do it justice. But I think the things that you are most afraid of doing are the things that you’ve got to give a go.
Did you play the game?
I got a lot of information about it. I mean you do your research. The books, even. I never played the game…I’m not good at that. I just have bad hand/eye coordination. It’s just never been my fate. But I wanted to get the feel, the essence of it. Our director is a huge fan, played it for a really long time.
You sort of have to inhabit a character. You have to find it for yourself as well. So it’s my interpretation of Garona. I think it’s one of those things that people say, you know, “How do you feel? Are you nervous about how it will be perceived?” And I just thought, “On the day when you are working, you can’t think about it. All you can do is do your best and be in the service and honor of it.” But then you’ve got to kinda just let it go and do what feels natural.
There’d be some nights we’d go home and…With film, you put it away and it’s done. They film it and unless there’s something wrong with the take, you don’t get another chance. So (I had) a couple of sleepless nights about it. I just have let it go now because I can’t control it. So hopefully people like it.
Did Duncan tell you at that first meeting you were going to be green?
If he did, I’m sure this would be one of those things I kind of forgot. And then we went to Vancouver. And it was months before we even started to film. We starting doing the hair and makeup tests. I gotta tell ya, it was intense. I mean I went from all different shades of green, different kinds of wigs, it’s small, it’s big…there was a moment. It was six hours after I started this hair and makeup. I didn’t have a mirror in front of me and I went into the bathroom that was off to the side. I almost had a panic attack. I was just like, “Oh my god! What have I gotten myself into? Now I’ve got to be in makeup six hours before you actually begin.” And I looked crazy!
I was beginning to look like the character. But Duncan has incredible taste and we refined it and we came up with the Garona you see. By that point it was like, “You are going to be painted green.” I was like, “OK.” And then they said to me that the technology was such that it actually would be better not to paint me green, because with (CG) we’ll be able to see my pores. And if I’m running and my face is supposed to show feeling, you’ll see it, or sweat. And so, it was better for the overall film not to have to paint. I was not green on the day.
So they did the green in post-production?
Yep. I thought it really worked. It made it much more natural and realistic. And her color kinda changes whatever light she’s in, like if you are running, not running, cold, not cold, emotional…
They didn’t do the tusks in post.
No they didn’t. Fangs are a bit easier, but tusks are tough because they jut out here and they’ve got to go over your mouth as well. That was challenging. And I was nervous about it. But once I got them on my mouth, I would just keep working with them. I’d go around the house and play with my kid with them on. He thought it was so cool. And then I grew to love it. I just did not feel like Garona until I had my tusks in.
And also, the contact lenses. They really obscured my vision. But that was a great thing. I didn’t want to take them out because that’s when you got this feeling of not being human, which helped me become Garona.
Garona is different from how she’s portrayed in the mythology.
It should be said for people that are diehard fans that Garona really, in that world, is half orc, half Draenei. For the film it made sense — and Blizzard was onboard — it made sense for her to be half orc, half human. If we were to look up Garona, a lot of renderings of her are similar.
She and Durotan have the most pronounced internal conflicts in the story.
I think that’s what was so appealing about the role, is that it scared me because I knew it was challenging. It wasn’t just going to be the physical challenge, which it was, having the stunt training and the physical training for hours on end, because I wanted to be able to feel like I could be a warrior like that. But I like what she goes through. I mean the idea that she starts as a slave to Gul’dan, and then she finds herself in this human worth. She’s neither orc nor human. She kind of is on an island. She belongs nowhere. She’s this person who has come from suffering and is a survivor.
And it was great as an actor to be able to explore the idea of how one would evolve in this brand new world, knowing that she’s half human, but never having lived with them and how that changes her, and that she finds love or what it potentially could be. It was a fun thing to play with and explore. I was grateful for it. I mean it was on the page; that’s what drew me to her.
What did they do to make the world real for you? This wasn’t just all empty green stages.
No, and that’s what was so amazing. When I got myself into it, I didn’t know how little or much we’d get. Then when I realized…I mean, honestly, it was incredible. You’d have these enormous sound stages in Vancouver. They just look great on the outside. Then you’d open it up and you’d be in this forest big enough and lush enough that there’s trees and many horses are galloping through. When you see that in the film, that’s happening. And then it’s about the distance and where it goes on beyond that. We were climbing up mountaintops, being in deserts.
For me, as an actor, that’s so important. It helps you feel like you are there in this world. I don’t think I could have ever known the scope of what I was in if it hadn’t been for now seeing the movie. Now I really see the vision of the director. It’s kind of miraculous and surreal because I’m watching it more like an audience member than somebody in it, in many ways.
Did you get to bring home any cool gear from your costume?
They were so tight. I play by the rules. They were cataloguing everything. So the only thing I got was they would change my ear out maybe like every couple days. So I took a couple rubber ears home so my kid could play with them. He thought it was so cool that mom was an orc. So he would try to like tape them down to his ears. He thought that was so cool.
Warcraft is in theaters this Friday (June 10).