INTERVIEW WITH MARG HELGENBERGER ABOUT MR. BROOKS
Posted By: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline sat down with Marg Helgenberger at the Los Angeles press day to talk about her new film “Mr. Brooks,” a gripping suspense thriller directed by Bruce Evans from a screenplay he co-wrote with long-time writing partner, Raynold Gideon. “Mr. Brooks” offers a fresh twist in the tale of how one man can lead a double life of both magnificent success and gruesome crime. The film also stars Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt, Dane Cook, and Danielle Panabaker.
Kevin Costner stars as Earl Brooks, a man who has managed to keep his two incompatible worlds from intersecting by controlling his cunning, wicked alter ego Marshall (William Hurt). But now, as Mr. Brooks succumbs to one last murderous urge, an amateur photographer (Dane Cook) witnesses the crime. Suddenly Brooks finds himself entangled in the dark agenda of an opportunistic bystander, as well as hunted by the unorthodox and tenacious detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore). Mr. Brooks must outsmart his adversaries and conceal his shocking double life from his wife (Marg Helgenberger) and daughter (Danielle Panabaker) or face the very real possibility that his crimes and his identity will be exposed once and for all.
Completing Mr. Brooks’ picture-perfect family is the light of Mr. Brooks’ life – his gorgeous, loving wife Emma, who seems completely under his spell. “If Mr. Brooks didn’t have his wife, Emma, he’d probably self-destruct,” says Raynold Gideon. “When he comes home to her, it’s all loving and beautiful and that’s what holds him together.”
Starring as Emma is an actress who has risen to international popularity on the hit television crime-solving phenomenon “CSI”: Marg Helgenberger. Like her cast-mates, Helgenberger found that the script kept her up late. “It’s one of the only scripts I’ve read in my life that I really didn’t think I could put down,” she says. “It has style, suspense, thrills and the characters really get under your skin because they are such complicated and tortured souls.”
Perhaps the least tortured soul in the entire story is Emma herself, who in her role as the sexy and devoted wife, manages not to see through her husband’s facade to the darkness and criminal mind within. “Emma is very strong, independent and knows who she is,” observes the actress. “She’s all about her family and she truly believes she has a very happy marriage. Sure, her husband might go off for hours at a time, but there’s a real trust there for her because she feels it’s such a healthy relationship.”
Helgenberger continues: “Yet, I think there’s something else there, whether she’s conscious of it or not, where she knows there’s something wrong, something that her husband is troubled by, but she accepts that as a part of him. He’s the kind of man where you keep peeling back layer after layer and never get to the core, and I think she finds that attractive. There might be questions she doesn’t ask, but I also think this is typical of any long-term relationship where some kind of dysfunction sets in – where you settle into a certain routine in your day-to-day relationship and don’t push the edges.”
Working with Kevin Costner made the experience even more exciting. “Kevin is someone who really enjoys the craft of filmmaking, of telling stories, of creating real characters — and it was great to work with somebody for whom you have so much admiration,” she says. “He also has a very interesting combination of laid-back boyishness mixed with searing intensity which I find very intriguing.” Costner was equally impressed. “While Marg might not be a surprise to audiences who know her, she was a real surprise to me because I really appreciated her acting and how beautifully she embodied the good wife,” he says.
Helgenberger notes that the character of Mr. Brooks out-does most of the criminals she chases after on “CSI.” “Mr. Brooks is always one step ahead of the cops,” she says. “In the six years I’ve been on ‘CSI,’ I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anybody as brilliant or who thought out his crimes so well. But Mr. Brooks is also more than just the ultimate bad guy. He’s more complex and interesting than that.”
The always sexy Marg Helgenberger arrived at our interview sporting hoop earrings and a black jacket over a very low V-neck black sleeveless blouse and off-white jeans. Here’s what she had to tell us about her latest film:
Q: Are you looking forward to the end of your day?
I am. I’ve been here since 7 o’clock this morning.
Q: Can’t be longer than CSI hours?
Some days can be rough because there are a lot of night hours. Some locations are really gross, but this wasn’t so bad. I’m glad to hear all the feedback. People seem to really dig the movie so that’s cool.
Q: How did you come to this role?
Just the typical fashion in that my agent had given me the script and was a fan of it. He said it’s a really cool script, Kevin’s attached to the title character. It was one of the few scripts that I read that was a page-turner, continued to surprise me and was unpredictable. The characters were compelling which was darkly comic in some places which is my favorite type of humor. The fact that Kevin was attached to the part was especially intriguing to me because he’s mostly known as a heroic, kind of iconic good guy or if a bad guy, they have a good side to them.
This character does have some good sides to him, but ultimately, he’s the ultimate bad guy because he’s so disturbed and diabolical. The experience itself was fantastic. Kevin was just the coolest guy, so interested and supportive and inclusive of my ideas, thoughts and opinions. The process of improvising the scenes was great and just made you feel like `oh yeah, remember when we did this in acting class or in college?’ – it was cool and I felt like I was in such wonderful company with all the actors – I was, I am.
Q: Did you have a particularly favorite scene to shoot?
I did. It was the scene in the car after the event in which Kevin’s character is honored and we’re chatting and then all of a sudden, here comes Bill Hurt, William Hurt rather. It was interesting how are we going to stage this, all of a sudden, what’s this, what the heck’s going on here, what’s the audience going to see, why is she not aware of this guy? So the staging of it, but also the playing of it. Here I am with these two actors, these intense guys and here I am just talking about the speech and they’re doing the plotting. I like car scenes, especially if you like the people that are in the scene with you because they are intimate, physically you are on top of each other almost, you’re stuck inside a car that is attached to a tow truck and there’s nowhere to go. It was a Friday night in Shreveport and we’re shooting and there was a lot of revelry going on around the town. Everyone was in a good mood and it was fun. Both these guys are great, intense and sexy, what’s not to like about all that?
Q: So how did you stay oblivious of William Hurt?
That was tough because he’s so damn good and he’s so intense and so sensitive. I was intimidated by him because he’s such a presence and so smart. But he was really sweet and very much part of the process and really likes his fellow actors. And if there’s a sequel, I certainly will be oblivious to him too unless they come up with a clever way of a fantasy sequence where I can actually play off him.
Q: As the mother in this film, if you could put yourself in your character’s position, where would your feelings lie in terms of how to protect your daughter?
If there is a sequel, that’s where they will focus their attention on the family’s dynamics. Clearly in the scenes I do have in the film, I do talk about our daughter and why she’s not at this event and how disappointed I am and he’s the one who always defends her. That’s clearly the relationship that we’ve had all along. Whatever she does is right. A mother/child bond is greater than a husband/wife bond, far more intuitive and I think someone can be completely smitten by a love for someone of the opposite sex, or same sex depending upon your partner, so I think that’s where the suspicions are going to come from, the daughter’s aberrant behavior.
I’m interested to see how it will play out and I know Kevin is interested in seeing that as well and hopefully that will happen. Because what do you do when your child is a murderer. That’s almost worse than having your child murdered. It’s horrible, I can’t imagine what that must be like. I’m not trying to belittle having your child murdered because that must be horrible, but wow!
Q: Do you know what may be in a sequel or series of this movie?
Not really. Way back when we met at lunch, he eluded to something where the two of us would go off in the car falling off into the lake because I know what’s up and instead of giving himself up and me giving him up – because I don’t know necessarily if I would give him up – out of love, I guess I would not give him up. But he makes the choice, but I don’t want to speak too much because that is something he eluded to but I don’t know if that’s their plan.
Q: Do you think your character knew what was going on?
No, no. I do believe that Emma was aware of a darkness that he retreats to from time to time. I don’t think the thought ever crosses her mind that he’s capable of murder and a serial type of murderer. I think in every marriage or long relationship, part of what makes it a success is that you allow the person their own differences or their own hobbies and you kind of let them be and give them their space and I think that’s what Emma does. She thinks that it’s business trips or whatever and she just allows that because for the most part, he’s the perfect man.
Q: Was this shot during last season’s hiatus?
Yes, well partially. I actually shot some of it while shooting CSI and then came back to finish this…they gave me a week and a half off.
Q: Did you do anything over hiatus?
I just did a movie with Val Kilmer called Columbus Day and that was a little indie directed by a very talented young guy and a small, but really nice part for me. It was completely the antithesis of what I do on CSI — more of a non-glamorous part, a good person but she has kind of a meager existence as the ex-wife. It’s an odd little story in that he’s a criminal who’s pulled off a heist and wanting to sell what’s inside the briefcase and making deals, he’s waiting in Echo Park and meets up with a young boy and they strike up a conversation that leads up to this relationship which ends up being very cathartic to him and he realizes the importance of people in his life that meant something to him, one of them being his ex-wife.
So most of it was over the phone, these conversations in which he’s wooing me back and traveling down memory lane. I eventually do succumb and I come and pick him up at the end of the film. He was great – he was charming and funny and all that stuff.
Q: When do you go back to CSI?
About mid-July. It will be here before I know it.
Q: Are there any storylines that they are going to continue?
The only ones that will continue because this whole season we did this little miniature serial killer and her signature was to leave behind a miniature of the crime scene which was actually kind of clever and interesting and drew you in. It was a good season actually, it was one of our strongest yet. Anyway, they need to wrap that up because one of the central characters was essentially kidnapped and whether she’s coming back or not, nobody knows. Nobody knows.
Q: Can you compare the serial killers on CSI and Mr. Brooks as a serial killer?
Most of the ‘serial killers’ on our show have not been carried out for a whole season like this one which was unique. You never knew who this person was – you just assumed this was a guy and it wasn’t, it was a young woman. Unusual, but nonetheless, it was fun to do. Mr. Brooks, elegant, classy, smart – very, very smart — and someone you wouldn’t suspect because he’s Portland’s Man of the Year. Man of the Year cannot be a serial killer. My husband can’t be a serial killer.
Q: Danielle’s real life sister plays your CSI daughter…
It was just a coincidence. I had gone on to do Mr. Brooks at the end of last season and they were talking about replacing my daughter on the show because she was too young and they wanted to give me a teenager to play off of because a teenager give you a lot more than a young kid does, right? So I’m down there in Shreveport and I meet Danielle and her mother, Donna and Donna says, ‘Do you know that my other daughter has been cast as your daughter on CSI.’ I had no idea. I found out from the real mother. When I returned, I met Kay, her other daughter who is just as beautiful, sweet and smart and confident. So it’s great. I did a good job raising those girls (laughter).
Q: Are you going to have a lead role in the upcoming CSI as you did last season because of William Peterson’s departure during the series?
I’m not exactly sure. Everyone’s contract is up this year and it will be interesting what happens after this one. They’ve eluded to the fact that if Billy decides to leave that instead of bringing on another guy to replace him, they’ll bring on someone to do 4 episode arcs like they did with Liev Schreiber this year, which was awesome. I loved working with him; he was funny, smart, great actor and everybody was inspired by that. Also, when you have new energy, it steps up everybody’s game. That I look forward to so anything is possible.
Q: Are you trying to break away from your character on CSI – what exactly are you looking for?
That’s what was so nice about this part I did in the Val Kilmer movie because she was so non-glamorous, trying the online dating thing, and I don’t want to say meek because we had great dialogue together – but someone daffy. Sometimes on CSI, I’m pretty confident, sassy, self-assured, and cerebral…that’s what I’m asked to do. So yeah, something unexpected and someone who wouldn’t be glamorous…like a regular person.
Q: Would you like to do a comedy?
Oh yeah, I’d love to do a comedy. Absolutely. Comedy is challenging. People have a real knack for it and I’d look forward to it.
Q: Do you share your scripts and have your husband look them over before you accept a role?
I didn’t with Mr. Brooks. I have with my husband before, certain other scripts, whether I should do them or not. My husband is an actor and I trust his opinion implicitly. He’s got great taste and he’s directed before too. He knows me, he gets me and he knows what I’m capable of, so many times I do show it to my husband, but not this one. This one, I didn’t. This one came to me from my agent who was a fan of the script and Kevin was already attached. The combination of the two really sold it for me.
“Mr. Brooks” opens in theaters on June 1st.