The World’s Finest presents the latest in a series of studio-conducted interviews, provided by Warner Home Video, for the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature. Continue reading below for the latest installment featuring actor James Woods.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS
Nobody captures villainy quite like James Woods. The two-time Emmy Award winning actor steals his every scene as the voice of Owlman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, an all-new DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movie now available from Warner Premiere, Warner Home Video, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.
In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, a good Lex Luthor arrives from an alternate universe to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and, through a diabolical plan launched by Owlman, puts the balance of all existence in peril.
Woods was the lone member of the cast not to record his lines in the presence of voice director Andea Romano and producer Bruce Timm, instead setting up shop in Providence, Rhode Island to record via ISDN line. Youll never notice. In Owlman, Woods has crafted an affecting, subtly evil performance that brings forth a truly memorable villain in a film packed with the worlds most famous super heroes.
With two Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, Woods has drafted an impressive resume, capturing audiences imaginations with one memorable performances after another. In addition to Academy Award nods for his roles in Salvador and Ghosts of Mississippi, Woods list of films includes The Onion Field, Once Upon a Time in America, Against All Odds, The Hard Way, Diggstown, Casino and Contact, to name a few. Woods is featured in the upcoming remake, Straw Dogs. Woods television work has included his recent primetime series, Shark, as well as Emmy nods for Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story, Indictment: The McMartin Trial, Citizen Cohn and a guest role on ER. He received Emmys for his performances in My Name is Bill W. and the Hallmark telefilm, Promise.
Woods has spent more than his share of time bringing characters to animated life, parlaying his devilishly hilarious role as Hades in Disneys 1997 film Hercules into its 65-episode television series follow-up. Since then, Woods has also voiced roles in animated film from Surfs Up and Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within to Recess: Schools Out and Stuart Little 2. He has also had a recurring role on Family Guy and Disneys House of Mouse.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an original story from award-winning animation/comics writer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League). Bruce Timm (Superman Doomsday) is executive producer, and Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight) and Sam Liu (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) are co-directors. The full-length animated film is now available from Warner Home Video as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-Ray Hi-Def, as well as single disc DVD, and On Demand and Download.
Woods chatted after his recording session and at the New York premiere of the film last week about the collaborative aspects of animation, his aspirations to play villainous sidekicks, the importance of super heroes for todays society, and his inclination never to develop a super power. Stick around, it gets better
JAMES WOODS: Owlman is a very, very modern character. He’s really the doppelganger of Batman who, himself, of course, is a very Dark Knight, torn in his motivations, wanting to avenge the death of his parents. Ultraman is the leader of the Crime Syndicate, but hes just a tough guy who solves things more with the blunt end of a bat. Hes all brute force. Owlman is the brains of the organization, and he is a thinker, which is ironic in that his greatest strength is really his ultimate undoing.
Owlman is a very calculating, dangerous individual because of his extraordinary brain power. And at the same time, it causes him to have incredibly dark, existential reservations about his acts. Hes very self-destructive and self-loathing. The whole future of the multiverse may be in his hands in our story.
QUESTION: Knowing all of that, how did you choose to implement those characteristics into the vocal performance?
JAMES WOODS: You know, this process of creating a comic brought to life is very interesting, especially a sophisticated comic like this story. I had a thought of his being a very sardonic, almost charmingly sarcastic character. But I started to think that that was a little bit like Heath Ledger’s wonderful performance in The Dark Knight as the Joker. And I must say that Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm) were very helpful in helping to interpret the character. We settled on a very existential, depressed man, almost like a Jacobian character, who sort of feels that nothing matters. And there’s nothing more dangerous than a man who has his finger on the trigger and believes that nothing matters.
It’s a wonderful character to work on because you have to do certain things with your voice. I’m a very passionate, animated actor. There are people like William Hurt, a wonderful Academy Award-winning actor, who are great at being very spare in the use of their voice. I am a guy who’s a little more dynamic, so for me to repress myself, it leads to a kind of different character than I usually get to do. It’s a lot of fun for me to play something that’s not innately or instinctively what I would do. And then the great collaboration comes from these wonderful artists, including the director, the producer, the writer. Everybody has an artistic vision of how things should be and, when you work together, you come up with some confluence of ideas that creates a unique character. I really think we came up with something nice.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on the romantic side of Owlman?
JAMES WOODS: In our story, Owlman and Superwoman have this strange, power-hungry kind of, I won’t call it love affair, but certainly a strange attraction. And it is the dark side of love, so it involves all kinds of power and domination. Owlman really makes her need him without giving her any kindness. That’s the nature of a dark, dark character like this. So they have this really brutal, bitter kind of love. And to get that kind of tone into it was kind of strange, because it’s not what love would be about. So you have to do things that are kind of counterintuitive, but it’s fun to try it.
QUESTION: What’s the joy for you in playing a villain, particularly this type of cerebral one?
JAMES WOODS: Villains are the best characters to play because the possibilities are really quite endless. A hero has certain things that we expect of him or her, while a villain can be pretty far out there. Owlman wants to destroy everything, and yet is fascinated by how the world became so awful, in his mind. And he blames it on man and on choice.
All the things that we as civilized human beings celebrate the freedom of being able to choose and to have free will Owlman sees as the source of chaos throughout the universe and the alternate universes. He sees everything wrong in all of these universes as being a permutation of choice. I think most people would agree that choice has allowed people to create, to put man on the moon and write Hamlet. And people can aspire to do good. Owlman see the opposite — he sees the celebration of evil as a way of asserting one’s meaning in life, and the way to have meaning is to have things be meaningless. It’s a strange, strange thought, but there are pretty sophisticated 20th century existential philosophers who’ve said the same thing. Its pretty impressive to realize that comic books get that fundamental in terms of a philosophical understanding of the human condition. It’s much more sophisticated than you expect when you get involved with doing an animated super hero movie.
QUESTION: Is that a direct reflection of why comics are so popular?
JAMES WOODS: Comics have never really talked down to their audience. The comics have always respected what the audience wants. I have always said that one of the greatest faux pas made by the denizens in the film business is that they tend to want to put their own personal points of view whether they be political, spiritual, religious, whatever on their stories and promote their own agenda rather than respect what the audience is looking to hear and see. We should get into their wheelhouse and not be ashamed to sell a hero to people who love the idea of good versus evil. You know good versus evil worked great for Sophocles? It worked great for Shakespeare and it certainly works great for Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and Owlman.
QUESTION: Was there a stash of DC Comics on your nightstand as a kid?
JAMES WOODS: I don’t know anybody in America who didn’t read Superman and Batman. I was young enough that I actually watched George Reeves on television, and when he took off, I would believe it like any other kid. It was amazing that he was flying around in that black and white television. He used to hop and probably crash on a set of cardboard boxes right off the camera. But to me, there he was Superman flying around, saving the day.
I actually liked the idea of Superman because it was so pure. I liked the guy who was kind of away from his own home and, in a kind of way, a little lonely, but trying to do good in a place where he was always kind of an outsider. Batman always disturbed me because he was so dark and so full of sadness and rage. It’s interesting because playing Owlman is full of an emotion that is actually probably less angry and vengeful, and almost demonic in its passion than Batman. Owlmans darkness is such an empty void of soullessness.
And yes, Ive always been a fan of the comics, especially in their reflection of the times. Our country has gone through enormous cultural changes in the past 50 years, and DC Comics was always very hip to those changes. They weren’t afraid of them. They just wanted to ride with them. They know their audience.
JAMES WOODS: I like the idea of being Owlman. Hes got it made. Think about it. The dark side of all these superpowers is that, as a super hero, youre always inclined to use them for everybody else. What makes that so great? You’re sitting around, the clicker in hand. You’re in your nice old pajamas, youve got your Uggs on, you just settled in to watch Gladiator for the 58th time. You got some popcorn, the pizza just arrived it’s gonna be terrific. And suddenly its Oh crap, they just blew up the U.S. Mint! And Ive got to put on that rubber suit and dont forget the talcum powder and rush into action. Who wants to wear latex all the time? Harvey Fierstein? Not me. I don’t want any superpowers. If they offer, Ill politely decline.
QUESTION: Youve played a lot of characters in both live-action and animation. What role are you still waiting for?
JAMES WOODS: I would like to do a doofy henchman. I’m always the guy in control. I’m always going to destroy the universe and then I’m gonna go get a sandwich. (he laughs) Id like to be the guy who says Hey, I can go and get the sandwich for you while you destroy the universe, and then we can go get some key lime pie. I’m so tired of being the A personality in the villainy department. Give me the goofy henchman. I think that would be fun.
QUESTION: When you portray real life figures like cops and lawyers, you can research, you can talk to cops, you can talk to lawyers. In playing a superhero, what kind of research did you do before you stepped into the booth?
JAMES WOODS: That is an interesting thing that people don’t understand about animated work. The voice actor does a lot to create the character. It’s amazing. I mean, obviously the writers and the directors and the producers have set up months or years of work to prepare it. But I’ve been in situations where, unfortunately, maybe an actor was replaced, not because he was doing a bad job, but because it just wasn’t working somehow. It’s a very unique thing. For all these big animated movies, no matter who you are, you audition. Mel Gibson at the height of his career, had to audition. Everybody does because they want to hear the voice, and sometimes you come in with a slant that will bring the character to life. I did a television series called Shark. I played a very sophisticated lawyer, a very dark guy. We had a former Dream Team district attorney as one our technical advisers. Five of the writers were lawyers. So we had all the resources to make the characters real. But theres no place you can go to ask how a super hero behaves. You don’t get to ask those questions. You kind of have to figure it out. So you go in with an open mind and things kind of just come to you.
Sometimes you really fall flat on your face, and I’m sure we all have. But by and large, usually everybody figures it out together. And it’s fun. Really fun. I love doing these animated films because I think the actor has a great deal more input into the creation of the character than he or she does when you’re doing a real-life film, even though there’s a lot more acting involved when you’re being photographed. In animation, you have the possibility of improvising. We work alone and use a great deal of imagination, and rely just on our instincts to create the character.
QUESTION: Was there any particular scene in the script that stood out for you?
JAMES WOODS: There’s a wonderful sequence in this story where Owlman and his opposite spiritual twin, Batman, have a confrontation about the future of the multiverse, all the universes, all the earths that were created. And it was a very sophisticated conversation about the existential meaning of life. I’m reading this thing and thinking, This is a comic book character talking? I mean, it was very sophisticated, and I found myself wondering how you would do that.
I thought, this is like The Remains Of The Day with Anthony Hopkins — it’s that kind of character. He’s a character speaking with such a loss of any ability to dream for anything good. It was all about a dark, empty void of the meaningless existence. When you read something that deep, you find yourself instinctively going to a better level of performance. So it wasn’t a challenge so much as an invitation to be unique and maybe better.
QUESTION: Have you had any reaction from your fans or the legions of fanboys to your playing the role of Owlman?
JAMES WOODS: They talk about fanboys and the Comic-Con audience and so on, calling them geeks and such. But I have to tell you those guys know what they like, and they embrace the hard work that goes into these stories. And it’s really fun to give them what they want, because I’m a fanboy at heart. I’m much older than the usual base, but I have to say I love these characters. And I love being one of them. I would be Owlman forever. I love the concept.
QUESTION: Why do you think super heroes important today to people?
JAMES WOODS: I think there aren’t a lot of heroes in the world today because there aren’t a lot of clear cut battles. It’s really hard to know who the enemy is today. I don’t know who the enemy is. I know we are at war, but I don’t know who the enemy is. And I don’t think anybody else does. It’s like the enemy is famine and despair and the banality of evil. In comparison, World War II was easy. Hitler was a good enemy a dark character who did heinous things to millions and millions of people, and enlisted the help of others who may or may not have been inclined to do so until he inspired them to be at their worst.
But in this day and age, there are people who hate people that other people completely admire. And the people who admire that person are decent people. I think our politics are so divisive in this country and so bitter because I don’t think anybody on either side of the political divide has a bad intention. I think they want things to be good, they just see a very, very different way of going about it. And yet they’re so hard on each other. I’m always disappointed by how negative and petty people are on either side of the equation in politics. And that’s a symbol of how disruptive our spirituality is right now in the world. I think that’s why super heroes are important because, in the long run, at the end of Act III, their triumph is something that fills us with joy because their triumph is a clear cut victory in a world where almost nothing is clear cut.
Suggested captions for attached images:
Two-time Emmy Award-winning actor James Woods, pictured at the World Premiere in New York City on February 16, is the voice of Owlman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and for Download from Warner Home Video.
Owlman fires a shot at Wonder Woman during an action-packed scene in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. James Woods provides the voice of Owlman. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and for Download from Warner Home Video.
Owlman flies into battle in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. James Woods provides the voice of Owlman. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and for Download from Warner Home Video.
Owlman (voiced by James Woods) gets the upper hand on Batman (voiced by William Baldwin) in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and for Download from Warner Home Video.
For more information, images and updates, please visit the films official website at www.JUSTICELEAGUECRISIS.com.
Also made available by Warner Home Video, new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths media has been released by the studio. To view the new clip from the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature in the Quicktime format, please click on the thumbnail image below.
Continue to the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths subsite here at The World’s Finest to view additional media along with further coverage and details on the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature. Additionally, The Worlds Finest has published a review of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature, available here to view. A review of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray release is also available here to view.
A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Click on the links below to discuss both the new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature, the respective DVD and Blu-ray home video releases and the included The Spectre DC Showcase animated short.
–Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Feature Talkback (Spoilers)
–Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD/Blu-ray Talkback (Spoilers)
–Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack Talkback (Spoilers)
–The Spectre Animated Short Talkback (Spoilers)
Stay tuned for further updates here soon at The World’s Finest.
The World’s Finest and WaterTower Music have teamed up to give fans the opportunity to recieve a free copy of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Music. For this week only, The World’s Finest will be giving away ten copies in total of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie Soundtrack CD release to ten lucky recipients, courtesy of WaterTower Music.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie is now available on Amazon, iTunes and other digital music retailers. The soundtrack is available as both a digital download (Click here for iTunes!) and an Amazon-exclusive compact disc release (Click here to purchase!).
To enter, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name, full mailing address and phone number by the end of the day today, Friday, February 26th, 2010. Please label the email “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths CD Contest.” Only one entry per person will be accepted. From there, ten entries will be randomly selected to receive a free copy of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Music. Please note this special giveaway is only available to residents of the United States.
Only those randomly chosen to receive a copy of the CD release will be notified via email shortly after the closure of the contest. Please note the terms and conditions of this special giveaway are subject to change without notice.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie is now available on iTunes, Amazon and other digital music retailers. Official details for the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Music are available here.
Additionally, the highly anticipated Wonder Woman Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie score release is also now available to own as a digital download through Amazon, iTunes and other digital music retailers from WaterTower Music (Click here to purchase!), with a special limited-edition CD release from La-La Land Records to follow on March 23rd, 2010. La-La Land Records was originally set to release the special limited edition CD on March 9th, 2010, but is currently experiencing production delays on the title. Further details, including track details and cover artwork for this release, are available here.