You probably recognize Noel Fisher’s face. The 25-year-old actor has appeared in numerous television shows including “Shameless,” “Law & Order SVU,” “Lie To Me” and “The Riches” (where he played Cal, the eldest son of Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver). But with his recent foray into blockbuster movie territory, it won’t be long before Fisher is a household name. In Battle: Los Angeles, in theaters today, he fights aliens with co-star Aaron Eckhart. And in the upcoming Twilight: Breaking Dawn, he’ll play Romanian vampire Vladimir. MovieMaker spoke with Fisher about his most recent roles and plans for the future.
Samantha Husik (MM): How did you get involved with Battle: Los Angeles?
Noel Fisher (NF): I got involved in the project through my representation. I was actually getting ready to leave to Canada for a project called A Dog Named Christmas when I got the audition for Battle: Los Angeles. I went and read for this great casting director, Debra Zane, over at the Sony lot and flew to Canada a few days later. About three weeks into that shoot I hadn’t heard anything so I figured the part had gone to someone else. The third to last day of filming A Dog Named Christmas, I got a call from my manager telling me I booked the part! I remember jumping up and down outside the set after I got that call. I literally flew back to Los Angeles, had four days to do my laundry and get my head around this new part before I flew off to Louisiana for boot camp. It was crazy!
MM: In both “The Pacific” and Battle: Los Angeles you play a soldier—but in different time periods fighting a totally different kind of enemy. Did preparation for “The Pacific” help in your approach to Battle: Los Angeles?
NF: I actually played Marines in both projects. Marines and Army soldiers are both very proud groups of people and I found out pretty quickly that I’d be doing push-ups if I didn’t refer to them properly! Oorah (Marine call) and Hoorah (Army call) don’t like to be mixed up apparently!
I think that “The Pacific” did help me prepare for Battle: Los Angeles in some ways. It helped that I had some experience with basic things like “muzzle awareness” (i.e. where I’m pointing my weapon) but the main thing that I feel I took from “The Pacific” into Battle: Los Angeles is the kind of military mindset in both characters. What I mean is that in both parts I was portraying someone who has put himself in harm’s way for the sake of his country and for something he believes is greater than himself. So no matter what hardships the character goes through he is there to do a job and will push through anything that gets in his way.
In terms of actual training, “The Pacific” and Battle: Los Angeles were very different experiences for me. Firstly, they take place in totally different time periods, which changes everything from equipment to tactics, and I was also in “The Pacific” for one episode (Okinawa) and missed the main boot camp. In Battle: Los Angeles we had a full three weeks to train with Sergent Major Dever and his Marines. We spent a week sleeping in a tent on a military base near Shreveport and lived that life as much as we could. We woke up at five in the morning, did about a million sit-ups and push-ups along with several miles of running and then spent the rest of the day training in everything from assault tactics and close quarter combat to weapons maintenance. It was great!
Another really wonderful thing that came from the Battle: Los Angeles boot camp was a very strong kinship between all the actors. For me, one of the most important things about playing a Marine is the idea that these people are your family. I think we were really lucky to be in that boot camp together because that love really comes across on screen. I hang out with Neil Brown Jr, Taylor Handley, James Liao and all the rest of them to this day.
MM: How is acting in a fact-based story different from a fantastical one?
NF: For me acting in a fact-based story isn’t really different from a fantastical one. My job is to bring the human experience to the parts I play so the situation has to be real for me either way. I believe that most people have similar experiences in life. Vastly different circumstances but similar feelings. We all laugh, cry and love. We have family, friends, hopes and dreams. These are things that translate into every language and every person and if my goal is to always create a fully developed person in the characters I play, it’s my job to make those realities regardless of being fictional or not. That’s really the fun of acting!
MM: You’re currently filming Breaking Dawn, the latest installment of the Twilight Saga, where you play a Romanian vampire. I’m assuming you wear vampire fangs and elaborate costumes. How much does wardrobe and make-up affect your ability to get into character?
NF: I am learning more and more how important make-up and wardrobe are to me. The process of becoming a character like Vladmir in Breaking Dawn is something that I simply could not do without the help of make-up, hair and wardrobe. It’s funny because even with all of those things in place I still don’t feel complete until I put my contacts in. For me that’s the last step. I finally feel all “vampy!”
It was a really similar experience with Battle: Los Angeles, actually. So much of that character came to me when I was all done putting my wardrobe on. A big part of boot camp was being taught how specific Marines are with their uniform. Everything is about precision. Those buttons need to be buttoned correctly, that vest has to done up right and those sleeves better be rolled tightly or you’re going to be doing sit-ups! Costumes also to get into character a lot because it’s really hard to get all that stuff on by yourself! We all helped each other get our vests on and camel packs filled every morning. It was a really great bonding experience that put us straight into that “team” mentality that a platoon has.
MM: In addition to working in film you’ve appeared on quite a few TV shows. Have you found acting in film to be a different process than acting in television? Do you prefer one medium over the other?
NF: I have found that pretty much every set has its own unique way of working. As a general rule, TV tends to move faster than film but then doing a movie like Battle: Los Angeles turns that right on its head! Jonathan Liebesman did a really great thing by having us move around a lot doing different shots very quickly because it helped keep the energy really high on set and you need that in a movie like Battle.
I don’t really have a preference in terms of TV or film. I think they both have different benefits to how they work. Sometimes it really helps to be able to explore a scene and delve as deep as you can into it and having more time can help with that. On the other hand working on very fast-paced shows can put you in touch with your instincts in a way you might not have gotten to if you were given lots of time. That’s the great thing about training and being in acting class. It prepares you to be able to do your best work no matter what situation you find yourself in! Keeps you nimble!
MM: Who’s the one director you’d most like to work with and why?
NF: Ooh, that’s a tough one. There are so many amazingly talented directors out there. Christopher Nolan, Gus Van Sant, JJ Abrams, Sam Mendes, David Fincher… the list is just endless! I think that if I had to choose right now, I’d probably go with Danny Boyle. I really admire that he manages to do so many different genres so well.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as an actor? What additional piece of advice would you give to others looking to pursue the craft?
NF: The single best piece of advice I was ever given is a beautiful book called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It is… I can’t really even describe what an invaluable tool that book has been to me. Not just in terms of acting, but also in the rest of my life. It is a very practical look at what it takes to become who and what you want to become. It doesn’t matter if your dream is becoming the best possible actor you can be, the best parent, cook or accountant. It is a very practical look at what it takes to be a “professional” at anything. It’s about overcoming the fears and judgments we all have and, in fact, using them to our advantage.
If I could give other actors advice? Not sure if anyone should actually take advice from me! Might be a big mistake!
I guess two things come to mind. Firstly: Study acting! There is a very strange idea among many actors that the ability to act is simply something you “have” or something you “don’t’ have.. I disagree with that. I think that almost every actor that is considered “great” such as Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep or Marlon Brando ALL studied acting. Go to class, read lots of plays and books, watch movies, TV and theater… immerse yourself in acting.
Secondly, I would ask anyone looking to pursue acting or really any artistic endeavor, to spend time being still. Sounds funny but I really think it’s important. Life moves at a really fast pace nowadays and I feel that it is very important to spend as much time as one can just sitting with oneself. Meditating or writing are things that work well for me but find something that slows you down and lets you just be with yourself once in a while.