Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 star Elizabeth Debicki on achieving Ayesha's perfection

She may be one of the film's stars but Elizabeth Debicki has not yet seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Like the rest of us she is excited about seeing it.

"That's my No. 1 pit stop when I get to LA," the Australian actor enthuses. "It's been a little tricky. I've been all over the place and haven't been able to make it to a screening. Not for want of trying."

The film, which comes out next Tuesday on Anzac Day, is massively anticipated. Not just by comic fanboys but by general moviegoers.

The first Guardians movie was a surprise blockbuster hit for Marvel, who had bet the farm on a movie that had a cartoon raccoon and a walking, talking tree as main characters. The bet paid off handsomely as audiences fatigued by dour and dark superhero movies responded positively to the film's brightly coloured aesthetic, tongue-in-cheek attitude and hugely funny spirit.

Debicki sums up the appeal of the Guardians movies with one simple sentence.
"It's a space opera on steroids," she laughs.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

In the movie she plays Ayesha, a gold-skinned high priestess of a race of aliens who, after being crossed by the ragtag Guardians team, comes after them with the full force at her disposal.

"She's the ruler of the Sovereign people and lords it with an iron fist," Debicki says. They are a really interesting race who have quite extreme views. They're genetically modified to be perfect. I can't really tell you too much, but they're bred to be the perfect version of their race.

"So Ayesha, as the Sovereign priestess is the most perfect of all," she chuckles softly at the thought of this. "Well, at least she believes she is.

"One of the things that really appealed to me is that within the context of the film she is quite a villainess. There's a lot of fun to be had playing a villain. She believes so truly in what she's doing for her people and follows through so thoroughly that there was a lot of humour to be had. There's an interesting rage in her that's seething all the time. That's quite fun to play as well.

"When you put a really straight character in front of the Guardians it's not gonna fly in the sense that she's so merciless and they're so irreverent. I always think it's really fun to play someone really straight in a very funny film."

Merciless, straight-laced, seething ... how much of herself did she bring to the role?

"I hope I'm not terribly like Ayesha. She's not a lot of fun," Debicki says. "There's not a huge amount of me in that part but perhaps there is ... "

She trails off then says, "When I miss my train or something, I can be quite furious."

Elizabeth Debicki in the television series The Kettering Incident
Elizabeth Debicki in the television series The Kettering Incident

Although Debicki has worked on some big films, including Everest, The Man from U.N.C.L.E remake and Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, this was her first time working on an epic-sized, special-effects-driven extravaganza. How did she find the experience.

"The first time I was really aware of the detail and the depth with which Marvel create their characters was through the process of fitting the costumes, the makeup and hair trials and the camera testing and that kind of stuff," she explains. "The look of Ayesha was so extraordinary that I was completely in awe of what they were attempting to do with her and the process of creating a look for the character.

"That's always an indication of the size of the film, when there's so many amazing people creating the look of a character. That process was extraordinary to be on, as an actor. To be a part of something huge and feel like a moving piece of the jigsaw puzzle of the film.

"But as an actor you never really think about size or scope of the film. That's not really helpful. You're doing the same things as an actor. The world around you is just bigger and more frenetic."

To achieve Ayesha's dazzling and brilliant perfection required a team of people. The final result is flawless but getting there was decidedly unglamorous.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..L to R: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) ..Ph: Film Frame..&
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..L to R: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) ..Ph: Film Frame..&

"It was like a car wash," she laughs. "They built a sort of car wash where I sat ... there was a lot of paint and a lot of sitting around and drying. It's quite an intimate process.

"I had two people on the makeup and another person on the hair but the most elaborate thing about Ayesha is the costumes that I wear. That took multiple people to put on and get all the pieces together. That dress I'm wearing when I sit on the throne is a really elaborate piece of costuming and that took multiple people to move around.

"All in all, it's a good few hours and a fair few humans involved."

Well, no one ever said achieving perfection was easy.

LOWDOWN
Who: Elizabeth Debicki
What: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When: In cinemas on Anzac Day

- NZ Herald

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