This week, Lucy Liu hits Tribeca with two films: a vampire flick called Rise and the oddball romance Watching the Detectives. In Detectives, directed by Broken Lizard comic Paul Soter, Liu plays a nutjob sweetheart who both seduces and tortures a lonely video-store clerk (Cillian Murphy) by playing out outrageous pranks that begin to turn his boring life into something more comically cinematic. Liu talked to Logan Hill about why her comedy’s a little like S&M — and why she won’t be surprised if she sees her vampire movie screening at Show World.
I have trouble describing Watching the Detectives in a way that doesn't make it sound kinky: a film about a seduction between a man and a woman who dress up in costumes, play various roles …
Yeah, it sounds S&M, but they're not wearing leather and high heels, so I think it's a more bohemian version of role play. I don't know how to explain it, really. That's why I just say, "She plays practical jokes that are more extreme." I see it as an alternative Say Anything. It's more of a cult romantic comedy than what you'd see at the multiplex.
Your character is a nut. How do you pull that off?
The trick was making sure she didn't just become an annoyance. You know [in movies] there's that person who's so annoying you don't want her to be with the guy in the end? That could have been a problem. So you have to make her likable without letting her become really cute. I played her like there's just something about her that's, um, off.
Your character falls for Cillian, who plays an obsessive video-store clerk. Have you met many of those guys?
Well, Quentin Tarantino is the king of that! He started out working in a video store, and he has such a library of information that he's able to remember all these moments and use them in his films. To Cillian's character, everything is a quote. And my character is always saying, "I have no idea what you're talking about" — though you begin to wonder if maybe she does.
So if he's such a couch-potato nerd, what does she see in him?
Well, I think the fact that he's obsessed with fantasy, with the idea of a life outside of where he is. They have that in common, but that also makes him her perfect victim. He would be the easiest guy to get to participate in her fantasies, because he sees everything so innocently.
It's odd to see Cillian Murphy in a comedy. He's usually so creepy — I mean, intense.
This part is not like his movie at Cannes [the Irish Republican drama The Wind That Shakes The Barley]. I know he wanted to broaden his horizons, and he has a natural ability for comedy. He really put it out there — there's a lot of nudity, you know. [Unfortunately, most if not all of the naked scenes were cut from the final print.] It's nice to have that energy even though you're doing something extreme.
Speaking of nudity, the fanboy blogs are pretty excited about your horror movie Rise, which is earning a rep as "the lesbian vampire movie." Is that a fair description?
Since we shot, it's been recut. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Have you seen that trailer for The Shining that's recut as a comedy? Rise could be recut into a comedy for all I know. So I don't know if it's still a lesbian vampire movie. There's none of that garlic-and-crosses stuff — we were going for more of a psychological aspect, something more like The Hunger. But I don't know. If it turned into woman-on-woman action, maybe I'll see it in New York when I'm driving past a XXX theater. I'll say, "Oh, so that's how it turned out!" — Logan Hill