Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
February 12, 2011

Over the past several years, Australian native Teresa Palmer has put together a steady resume of diverse roles in film: a suicidal teen in her acclaimed debut 2:37; a mean girl in her first American film, The Grudge 2; a young love opposite Daniel Radcliffe in December Boys; a seductive fugitive in Restraint; a spoiled socialite in the Disney family comedy Bedtime Stories; and a wide-eyed college sweetheart in the Jerry Bruckheimer action adventure The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Now, her visibility continues to soar with a pair of high-profile roles in back-to-back theatrical releases--first in the science fiction thriller I Am Number Four, then in the retro '80s comedy Take Me Home Tonight.

In I Am Number Four, Teresa takes center stage as a kickass action hero goddess. As the enigmatic Number Six, she is one of nine alien survivors from a planet called Lorien who has taken refuge on earth. Doing their best to be inconspicuous, they are ruthlessly hunted by the genocidal Mogadorians, who must kill them in sequential order of their numerical designations. When the first three of their ranks are slain, Number Six abandons her lone wolf game plan to team up with Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) in an effort to take a stand against their enemies. Versed in combat, she shows her fellow Lorien youth that their inherent, still-maturing abilities--known as Legacies, which include telekinesis, invisibility, and the power to control various energies--are enhanced when used in tandem.

I Am Number Four is directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) and also stars Glee's Dianna Agron as Number Four's love interest Sarah, and Justified's Timothy Olyphant as his guardian Henri. The story boasts intriguing sci-fi mythology and a solid cast, but it's really Teresa who steals the show in the film's climactic battle sequence. It's not a stretch to call Number Six a formidable blend of Sarah Connor and Iron Man--like the former, she exudes a fearless competence and inspires confidence in the trenches; and like the latter, her arrival is a harbinger of doom for the bad guys the moment she gears up. Put bluntly, you know some sh** is about to go down when Number Six arrives.

With I Am Number Four and Take Me Home Tonight opening within mere weeks of each other, we had the good fortune of speaking to Teresa twice in an eight-day span. In this installment of our exclusive interview series with her, she offers her thoughts on Number Six, recounts the extensive training period involved for the role, and talks about branching out into writing, producing, and directing. And on a lighthearted note, we also find out more about her dog Luna, who has been Teresa's faithful companion since she first made the move to Los Angeles. I was pleasantly surprised that you and Dianna Agron both got to stay blonde in this movie, given that Hollywood often makes actresses dye their hair so audiences have absolutely zero trouble in telling their characters apart. Does that mean that the filmmakers were open to you bringing your own look to Number Six?

TERESA: Yeah. I had that conversation with D.J. and said, "Look, I'm quite happy to dye my hair black. I'd love to really switch it up and have long black hair." But he said he really liked the contrast of the edginess and the darkness with the crazy blonde hair. And he said there's something really interesting about that. And I thought about it, and I think he's right. Automatically, when you see a blonde person, you think light and bubbly, and it's just this sort of way about a lot of blondes. And Number Six, she's so polar opposite to me. She's not bouncy or light or warm. She's very calculated and dark and edgy. But then she has this crazy mane of blonde hair. And it was cool. I thought that it represented her vulnerability.

When Number Six has a day off from killing Mogadorian enemies, do you think she's living up to her image by working on her motorcycle and buying leather jackets, or is she doing something unexpected, like rescuing kittens and baking treats?

[laughs] No, I think she's such a gypsy. She lives this nomad lifestyle, which is quite similar to myself, actually. [laughs] But I always thought of her as like a Mad Max character. She's kind of living on the lam, she's in Australia, she writes a lot. I think she camps, she hunts and gets her own food. And she really is such a warrior. And I don't think she lives in a house. I think she has like a cool little Combi van that she cruises around in. And she hasn't made any friends in her life, and she likes it that way. She listens to a lot of music.

Even though she likes the isolation, do you think there's still part of her longing for an emotional attachment to friends?

Yeah, she really wants to have some sort of emotional attachment, but she doesn't really admit that to herself. And she knows that she can't have that in this life, because she has to go unnoticed. And she's the sort of girl that has a task at hand, and she would do anything she can to reach that goal. And what's the point of making friends if they're going to stand in the way of her reaching that ultimate goal? But then when she sees Number Four for the first time, it's this amazing feeling of connection which she hasn't had with someone for a long time. And I think that kind of opens her heart up a little bit.

You had an extensive training period for the stunt work in this film. Did you already know how to do some of it from your time on The Sorcerer's Apprentice, or did you have to learn a whole new set of action skills?

The only thing that I knew because of Sorcerer's Apprentice was how to put on a harness. [laughs] And apart from that, I had to learn everything for the first time. And it was all about learning how to work on wires and be suspended six feet high in the air, flipping around, doing back flips, forward flips. We would sit around as a stunt team and do conditioning, which someone would lead, and we would do sit-ups and push-ups and star jumps and workouts for an hour each day. And then we would move on to the swords and do kicks and martials arts. It really was this whole program of training for a long time. [laughs] And I had battle scars all the way up my legs. And it was quite grueling, but rewarding.

I'm assuming you wore those scars with pride...

I did! I was so excited to show off my battle scars. I never wore jeans, because I wanted people to see the work that I was doing.

Right on. You totally have to show that off...

Yeah! I felt very tough. I definitely stayed within that zone for the whole three months that we were shooting the movie. And I haven't done that on a film before. I usually just kind of break character and go home, and that's it. But I enjoyed being in her world for that whole period.

Was there anything that you were a little nervous about doing, but had to soldier through anyway?

Yeah. Sometimes I was scared about doing the motorbike stuff, the Ducati. Just because I'm the person who's always very safe. On bikes, at least. You know, I ride around a lot on jet skis, but I'm so safe. And on the bike, I had to go the top speed without wearing a helmet. And I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that my life was in my hands. "Right now, if I mess up and fall off, I will probably die!" And that was daunting! [laughs] But there's also something empowering about that at the same time. And it was a very exhilarating feeling.

We talked a little about your upcoming projects as a director, but I hadn't realized you're also assuming the roles of writer and producer. How has that experience of taking on all those responsibilities been for you so far?

I have been finding writing and producing a great challenge. But I love to push myself. And I want to be constantly stimulated mentally, because I have so much downtime as an actor, and I need to fill that with something. And I am thoroughly enjoying the process. It's slow because I'm finding my feet. [laughs] But I try and work on my project Track Town at least for half an hour each day.

When you were a kid, did you have an interest in all aspects of show business, or were you concerned first and foremost with acting?

My interest in all facets of filmmaking has really only sprung up, I guess, in the last two years--especially the producing and the directing. The directing only in the last year. Producing has been two to three years, I've always thought about that. And when I was a little kid, it was all about wanting to be an actress.

Well, best of luck on all the new endeavors, and on your plans for an animal shelter! By the way, I finally saw your dog Luna Palmer last weekend...

Did she wave at you?

I didn't approach her. She was being watched by a large gentleman with a suit and sunglasses. Very secret agent...

Oh my God, that was so funny! It was like her bodyguard! [laughs]

But she's very cute.

Yeah, she's super cute. She waves. She stands up, she's like [demonstrates the motion]. She'll wave at you.

Did you get Luna when you first moved out here to California?

Yeah...She's a Los Angeles puppy!

Was she from a shelter, or from someone you knew?

Somebody I knew...This woman was trying to get rid of these puppies, and Luna had been with her for a long time. And no one wanted Miss Palmer because she has a very significant underbite, and one of her eyes is a bit wonky. It sort of looks off at like 90 degrees to the side. [laughs] It's really bizarre. But because of that, she couldn't find a home.

Awww...But she's adorable.

I love that about her. Her little quirks make her so much more interesting. [laughs]

I love the fact that one of your first orders of business once you moved to the States was "get dog"...

I am such a huge animal lover. And it was just very fitting to get a little pet here, and she lights up my life. She's so beautiful. And she comes with me to work, and everyone loves her.

Well, thank you once more for your time. It was nice to speak with you again.

Bye, Michael...Thank you so much!

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