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Jaimie Alexander On The Last Stand, Arnie And Thor: Interview

Jaimie Alexander co-stars with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand , the action caper in which the former Governator makes good on his promise to be back.

Currently best known for her role as Asgardian sidekick Sif in Thor , Alexander further proves her tough-girl credentials as the deputy to Arnie’s sheriff, as their sleepy border-town in beset by the underlings of a notorious criminal who’s looking to flee to Mexico.

We caught up with Alexander ahead of The Last Stand ’s release, to find out what it’s like to fire a gun, get stuck into the action and stand your ground on a testosterone-heavy set. Plus, we ask her about Sif’s future in the Marvel universe.

What was the biggest draw for you on The Last Stand ?

“At first it was the script. I always look at the script and say, ‘How can I put my own spin on it? Will I have fun doing this? Is this a challenge?’ And all those things applied. And then, of course, comes, ‘Oh, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s involved and Kim Jee-Woon is involved,’ and I had done my research on Kim Jee-Woon and he’s a pretty incredible director. And then of course I grew up watching Arnold’s films, so I’m kind of like ‘Yeahhh!’ And I have four brothers so I knew they’d think I was cool.”

Was Arnold attached before you came on board?

“He was, and then I didn’t really know who else was in the movie besides him and Luis Guzmán when I got cast, and then they said, ‘Oh, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Eduardo Noriega, who’s a fantastic actor…’ and all these other people, and I was like, ‘Yes!’ It was such an international cast, it’s so great. Thor is the same way, we’ve got people from all over the world so it was really cool to be a part of that again and learn about everybody’s different cultures and what foods they like and how they do things, and I liked doing that.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s such an iconic action star, was it intimidating when you had your first day on set with him?

“You know, the thought was intimidating, because I didn’t know what to expect, and then I met him, and I was like, ‘Oh, he so chilled.’ He’s really laidback and very friendly, very outgoing and just easy to be around. He doesn’t walk around like he’s better than anyone or anything like that. He’s very much a relaxed human being and throughout shooting, on the days that I was there on set and we were working, we would all sit down and eat lunch together.

"It’s pretty funny to be sitting at a table across from Arnold, and then you have Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzmán and everybody’s sense of humour is very different and it was just this hodge-podge of people that just embraced each other for our differences and really made it work, and it was a lot of fun.”

What can you say about the dynamic between your character and Arnold’s?

“I think it’s very much father-daughter. He’s very protective of her and she’s very protective of him. She just has a real strong sense of pride of knowing this man and being a part of what he stands for, which is you protect people. You took an oath to protect people so that’s what you do at all costs, and it inspires her to say, ‘Yeah, OK, I’m with you.’

"So the dynamic is a very positive one and this group of people sort of create a family within themselves, because in the film you don’t see the rest of their families, so all they have is each other. That’s kind of how we were at work, on set.”

Was the fact that it was such a varied bunch of actors and characters a big draw?

“Yeah, it’s so funny because everybody is so different, and a lot of these guys usually headline their own films and so to be together in a film, you never know what to expect. You think, ‘Is this just going to be an ego-fest? Am I going to have to deal with this shit?’ And then you get there and, no, everybody was so excited to be there and to be a part of it, and I think because we’re all so diverse it just made it work. It was going to be like a magnet - it was either going to stick or it was going to repel itself, and I was like, ‘Please don’t repel!’ and it didn’t. It worked really well.”

Is it a throwback to the big, high-concept action movies of the ‘80s?

“Oh yeah. After screening it a week ago I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is like the original action movies I used to love!’ There’s so much heart - you care about the characters, and yet there’s these awesome car chase scenes, but they make sense. There aren’t just car chase scenes for the sake of car chase scenes, it’s literally a part of the story. And I think that’s what it is - you root for the characters and enjoy the action.”

This is Kim Jee-Woon’s first English-language film. What do you think he brought to the project? He’s quite an unusual choice for this sort of film.

“It’s very unusual - again, I think everything about the movie’s unusual, so it works [ laughs ] - and he’s so artistic and he’s such a visionary and after seeing his other work, I thought, ‘Holy shit man! This guy’s doing things that nobody does any more.’ Like everybody seems to want to take the cheap way out, like, ‘Let’s just cut. Let’s cut to these people’s faces, we don’t need a wide shot, just close-ups.’

"This guy puts a camera on you and if you’re not on the ball you’re going to ruin the take, and he’ll keep it going and going and going. And you’ll think, ‘Is he going to cut any time soon?’ And then he’ll cut, and you realise there are moments he gets after the scene as written, that end up in the movie. They’re real.

"The way he lines up the camera shots, and the things he does with zoom, it reminds me of what they used to do in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid . And he’s just got a really cool artistic feel to his films that he really brought to ours. It was a great mix between a commercial cast and an artistic director. And sometimes opposites attract. So we got lucky.”

Was it a very macho set?

“For me, it’s easy: I grew up with four brothers. So I feel more at home like that. But obviously I was kinda teased a lot and all the jokes were about me. They would joke like, ‘Do you want me to get you a pair of high heels?’ And I’d be like, ‘Do you want me to punch you in the throat?’ And they would just tease me like my brothers would and that was just really lovely to be around, to be honest. It was fun.

"And there’s a scene where I have to actually physically drag another human being, and I could do it. And they were impressed. They were like ‘How did you do that?’ And I said, ‘I worked my butt off, I really dragged it.’ So that’s fun, to surprise the dudes. But they were all very sweet, and sometimes I find men can be a little more girly than women [ laughs ].”

Did you have to do any specific weapons training for the film?

“I did. I only had nine days to prepare, so every day that I got to set I would meet with Wade [ Allen ], one of the stunt coordinators, who also happened to be an ex-LAPD officer. So when he would train me, he would say, ‘Look, this is how you go for a gun.’ You never just go like this [ reaches for holster ], you protect [ your body ], then you bring the gun in to your stomach, then you move the gun outward.

"There are all these things that you do as an officer that we did because I wanted to make sure that it looks like this girl really went through training and this is what she really is. Because a lot of times, people don’t care to do that, and it’s so obvious. You think, ‘That’s so-and-so playing an officer.’ I want you to look at it and think, ‘That girl’s name is Sarah Torrance.’ It’s not Jaimie Alexander or whatever. So Wade helped make that possible.”

Did everyone get that involved?

“Yeah, I think so. Zach Gilford [ co-star ] and I both did that with the guns. And sometimes they would get stuck and you’re like, ‘OK, let me just unbuckle that.’ At first I wasn’t fast enough to unbuckle the holster and pull the gun out. I would literally do it and I would get stuck, and I’d be like, ‘Oh c’mon!’ But eventually I got better. Then, of course, Arnold’s no stranger to firearms, so he was good to go.”

When you were younger, did you always see yourself leaning towards these action-orientated roles, or was it chance?

“I think it’s a little bit of both. I didn’t really realise I was ever going to be an actor. I got kicked out of my high school drama class because I couldn’t sing and all they did was musicals… So I went into sports, and then I realised that the sports I did were predominantly male sports like wrestling, track and cross-country running, and so, yeah, I think growing up I always had daydreams about being an action hero or superhero.

"I was really big into comic books when I was a little kid and most of what I got was from my brothers - their clothes, their comic books, everything. So I think I grew up wanting to be like, ‘Yeah! I can do it!’ And then eventually I became an actress and I didn’t really know if I was the girl next door, or a romantic comedy girl, am I just drama or comedy? And then I found out: you’re an action girl! I found this little niche that a lot of actresses don’t do believably and got really lucky [ laughs ]. So I’m very, very honoured to be in these movies and they’re a lot of fun. A lot of fun!”

Did you ever find that your looks were a hindrance to getting these action roles?

“For Thor I think it helped. My looks helped because I looked like the comic-book drawing of Sif - well, back when I had my long hair, I wear a wig in this one! - but I think that did help a lot. And then also, my height and my whole, I guess, demeanour, the way I carry myself, is sort of what they’re looking for in action. Sometimes you’ll see these action films and these women are so thin, they’re waifs, and you’re like, ‘How could you possibly do [ that action stuff ]?’

"Usually I have a little bit more weight on me, and I look like I could really hurt somebody, I look like I’m strong enough to lift these guns, and do what I do. But again, I think that’s all down to me trying to play the reality of the character and make it believable and I think when people meet me I’m taller than most actresses, and so they think, ‘Oh yeah, she is the action girl’, or ‘I believe that she could do that’. I kinda like that so sometimes I’ll wear high shoes and I’ll meet somebody and they’ll be like, ‘Woah!’ So I like that intimidation factor but I’m really a teddy bear.”

How was it working on a production as big as Thor for your major breakout role?

“I had this hunch that something was coming along. My show, Kyle XY , got cancelled, and I thought, ‘What’s next?’ There was a writers’ strike, so I was like, ‘What am I gonna do?!’ And then later in the year, this movie came up and I said, ‘Wow, if I was still on Kyle XY I couldn’t have taken the Thor job,’ so everything happened as it should, as it always does in life, I think.

"But, yeah, it was a big turning point because I thought, ‘Wow, now I’m working with these actors that I really respect, like Anthony Hopkins, and this is a whole different ball game, y’know, and this will also be great exposure for me.’ And I was so happy to get to play a superhero. I’ve always played characters that have some sort of special power in a sense, or something about them that’s quite unique and so I was really lucky to get that role.

"And it’s a franchise, which is so great because I have young girls come up to me and say, ‘I was Sif for Halloween’, and you just think, ‘That was a positive effect.' It was a big turning point.”

With Thor: The Dark World set to explore the Nine Realms, will we get to see more of Sif?

“You do! You do get to see more Sif. A little bit more of everyone, I think, as it stands right now. Of course, you never know what can happen in the editing room, but we do explore Asgard quite a lot, and also some of the other realms that maybe you didn’t know of… [ giggles ]”

Is it daunting to get involved with Marvel, knowing that you could potentially be appearing in a lot of films?

“It’s intimidating in a good way, because there’s a little bit of job reassurance in it. But also, I love playing Sif, she’s one of my favourite characters I’ve ever played and so to be able to do that more than once is really nice, because in films usually it’s once, and then that’s it. It’s so nice to be able to go - ‘Oh, I’ll see you guys in two years,’ because I really love my cast mates on Thor , they’re so amazing, so it’s been great to come back and meet their children now. I mean, Chris [ Hemsworth ] has a baby, Natalie [ Portman ] has a baby. It’s so great.”

Do Marvel give you an idea of the future films you will be appearing in, or are they pretty secretive with that stuff?

“I think they keep it secret mostly because they know that we might slip and accidentally say something. I think it’s no secret that Marvel tries to make as many films as they can, so that possibility of there being a third installment of Thor is a strong possibility - I mean, we’ve seen it over and over again - but, we still don’t know. And like with this one, I was told for certain that it was happening about a month before I flew here.

"I mean, it’s like you know it’s happening, but they won’t really confirm it until the last possible minute. So, I know when to start lifting weights. I do it two or three months ahead of time now so I don’t have to overdo it. But I’m like, ‘I know it’s coming around at about this time, so let me start lifting weights again!’”

And finally, is there any particular type of role that you’d like to do that you haven’t done before?

“I love to try things that make me feel uncomfortable or that challenge me. I’ve done a period drama with Chiwetel Ejiofor that hasn’t come out yet, called Savannah . And I’ve done a suspense thriller, as a character I really didn’t like playing. It’s called Intersection and I didn’t have much fun playing her. She was very catty, she was written very snobby, she was a New York model, married to a hedge fund guy - it’s just not me! But, she was a femme fatale, and that’s the one aspect that I said, ‘OK, that’s a little bit of what I can do.’

"But I wouldn’t mind trying a romantic comedy. I don’t want to be pigeonholed into that, but it would be something different. But again, it might have to have some weird aspect, like she’s a secret superhero, to make it work, because I don’t normally play the girl next door. Even though my personality is very much, like, ‘I like everybody!’ I’m friendly with everyone.”

The Last Stand opens in the UK on 25 January 2013.

Matt Maytum
Matt Maytum

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.