Way For The Warrior Queen
An Interview with Virginia Madsen, Hippolyta
in Wonder Woman
WonderCon, things usually work out that we get the best
for last. This year, though, DC Universe chose to debut
its latest offering, Wonder Woman, on Friday night, which
meant that the talent came in a little earlier.
A Princess of Dune,
a Queen of the Amazons and a stunningly beautiful
and talented actress.
by Joe McCabe, FEARnet.com
only was Wonder Woman a refreshing work, this also meant
that the highest point of the Convention came on the first
day -- the chance to sit down with Oscar-nominated actress
one's for Steve Nakano, who made my friends and I watch
Electric Dreams about half a dozen times in the summer of
1984. She looks like she hasn't aged a day, and she is as
gracious as one could hope -- and that's after having moved
around to several tables and rounds of question.
out, not illogically, Ms. Madsen really is a fan -- and
a thoughtful one at that. With Joe McCabe of FEARnet.com,
we had a great and insightful conversation. (And a tip of
the hat to Joe for transcribing this and sharing.)
What was the highlight of this project for you?
Madsen: Well, it wasn’t necessarily a highlight,
but I’ve been doing voiceovers and commercials and
animation for about fifteen years. So I kind of feel like
I know what I’m doing. But when I first came in for
the first couple of scenes, they asked me to tone it down
[affecting aristocratic accent] extremely regal,
and all of lines were coming out extremely exaggerated because
she was the queen of the Amazons. And they kind
of very gently said, “Virginia? I feel like you’re
a bit too regal perhaps.” That was a very nice way
of saying I was overacting. Thankfully they gave me another
How much of Virginia Madsen gets brought into Queen Hippoloyta?
Madsen: Well, what was funny is that it’s
kind of what I’m going through in my real life. I
have a fourteen-year-old son, and I always am amazed that…
I don’t know if this is something that I draw into
my life, but whenever I do a job there’s always some
aspect of the job that mirrors my life. Like, every single
job I’ve done. And I don’t even have to sort
of reach for it – it’s there in every job.
I’m having sort of the same dilemma that Hippolyta
was. Which is a very human-level queen I know – I
believe I’m the queen of my household. But just sort
of giving my son freedom and letting him go out into the
world, and trusting that he’ll have good judgment.
It’s been a real struggle for me, and my son’s
been very patient. But he’s always trying to say,
I told him about this story he was like, “See?”
[Laughs.] It’s what every parent has to battle against
– the balance between protecting and teaching them,
but also letting them go.
How familiar were you with the Wonder
Hippolyta and her
Madsen: I grew up with Wonder Woman. She was really
the only superhero. I mean, there was Wonder Woman and there
was Barbie, and I certainly wasn’t going to play with
Barbie. I was so uninterested in her, and my mother was
a feminist, so she thought Barbie was a negative influence.
now what’s wonderful [is that] I have a six-year-old
stepdaughter and she has many superheroes to choose from,
and the female characters in videogames. When my boy was
growing up, he had the Power Puff Girls as much as he had
Dexter’s Lab. He had Spider-Man and he had Lara Croft.
He’s growing up in a time when there’s more
equality. The way his generation is seeing it is that we
are different, but we are equal. And I thought that was
pretty cool, much different from how I grew up.
Wonder Woman because she was powerful, and she had her own
plane! I thought that was really, really cool. And it had
nothing to do with… I [never] saw her battling against
men, although I did love the myth of the Amazons. I loved
that story and I thought it was fascinating. Because there
was more going on in Greek mythology with gods and goddesses,
not just gods. I liked that there was a mystical part of
the Wonder Woman story.
to be a grown-up and to actually be a part of it and get
to portray Hippolyta, it’s come full circle in a way.
In a broader sense, were you a fan of
fantasy and science fiction?
Madsen: Yes, I was a huge fan of science fiction
and fantasy, the whole genre. I mean, I was an actress from
Day 1. So if I was reading The Wizard of Oz, I
lived in that world while I was reading it. And if I saw
an old Boris Karloff horror film, I lived in that movie,
while I was watching it.
I first went to Hollywood, and have one of my first films
be Dune, where I actually got to go into that genre
and be a part of it, that was a dream come true.
way, it’s more fun when you’re doing fantasy,
horror, sci-fi. Because it’s truly playing make believe.
And it challenges you more than anything as an actor, to
react to things that aren’t there. And it’s
really like playing make believe. It’s really like
playing dress-up when you go to work.
When you don’t dress up, when you
just play the voice, how does that differ? Because you’ve
played in the DC [Animated] Universe before -- such as Roulette
(in Justice League Unlimited). How does that differ from
putting on a costume for you?
Ares tries to put
the moves on Hippolyta.
Madsen: Well, when you’re only working vocally,
then it has to be the ultimate make believe. Because then
you don’t even get to use your body, you don’t
even get to use your physical being. You can’t use
your eyes to communicate the role. You can only use your
have to really remember your childhood. You have to really
go back to make believe and let go of all of your rules.
So it’s very freeing creatively to work on that level.
many actresses it’s stifling. It’s like, “What
do you mean I can’t use my hands? As you see I can’t
talk without using my hands.” But when I go into the
recording booth, I hardly need them at all. I just feel
completely into the sound, and completely into my head,
much in the way as I would when reading a book. It’s
an odd comparison, but that’s what it feels like when
I do it.
Your next film is The Haunting in Connecticut.
What attracted you to the project, and what do you think
makes it unique for a horror film?
Madsen: I’d been looking for a good horror
script since Candyman – actively looking
for a good horror script.
Was The Number 23 part of that search?
Madsen: Well, Number 23 to me was a thriller.
It wasn’t horror. It was classic thriller. It was
a little scary, but this is a full-on horror film. And those
are sometimes the hardest scripts to find. Because they
tend to take shortcuts, and they think that if there’s
just gonna be somebody bloodletting then it’s gonna
scare people. And it doesn’t, especially nowadays
think that when a movie has a really solid script, when
you care about the people that are in the horrific situation,
then the stakes are higher, and the audience is invested.
And so the whole movie experience becomes more intense and
scarier. So this movie was [like that], and then I just
had to make sure it was the right director and the right
cast, even down to the music – I wanted to know everything
before I signed onto it. I wanted to know everything they
were gonna do, because it was that important to me.
Candyman, and I love the genre. I love the genre,
and I feel like it’s kind of gotten lost in gore.
And that’s okay – a lot of kids have fun with
that stuff. But to me those aren’t good movies, and
they’re not good stories. And even if they start with
a good story – and I’m not gonna name the particular
films – they may start with a good story idea, but
it falls apart in context. And then you’re just waiting
for the next slice and dice. That’s not a good horror
film to me.
horror film has to have a good story. And whatever I did,
would be compared to Candyman. Even though it was
such a long time ago, Candyman, it was such a good
horror movie that I wanted it to be scary on that level,
on a very deep level, where you can’t stop thinking
about it – like, really dark; and it needed to appeal
to some really base fears in our humanity.
What films do you admire within the horror
Madsen: I would probably have a pretty long list
of that, but I can go all the way back to the original Mummy.
I think that’s a great one. And the original Frankenstein
and Dracula and all those, which I showed to my
son. He loves it.
I’ve made a monster of my own. But he’s very
snobby about horror films, because I gave him a real appreciation
of what the real ones are, and he didn’t like the
gross-out movies, because he thinks they’re stupid.
oh my God, when the first Halloween came out, for
that age I was at then, sneaking into the movie theater,
that was a great horror film. It had a great story, it had
a great villain.
trying to think more recently…it’s not coming
to mind. I’m gonna regret it later. I’m blanking
on it. But I actually have quite a long list, and there
are some good ones recently.
So as far as other opportunities, you’ve
set the bar pretty high with this move. Are there any other
comic-book characters you’d be interested in playing,
that come to mind?
Who wouldn't want
the chance to play act this?
Madsen: I think this should be a live-action movie.
I really do. And I want to play Hippolyta in the live-action
movie, so I’m gonna start campaigning for that part
now. Could you imagine what my competition would be? Because
everyone, so many actors, want to play that kind of thing,
because it really would be so much fun to go to work everyday,
and, just as a female, to be able to play that kind of role,
where you can kick butt and have awesome power. It’s
not that often that we find those kinds of roles. So I’d
have pretty strong competition for this role if it becomes
You’d be strong competition, though.
Think of it that way. [Laughs.]
Madsen: Thank you!
So we thank Virginia Madsen. A truly
talented actress that could, indeed, kick our butts.