'Sleeping Dogs': Karen Gillan has a 'bucket list' experience with Russell Crowe in new movie

"He's like one of the OG movie stars," Gillan said about her costar

Russell Crowe leads the new film Sleeping Dogs (now in theatres), starring alongside Karen Gillan, to tackle questions about the reliability of our memories.

"It's really compelling to dive into the whole theme of, how reliable is your memory?" Gillan told Yahoo. "Just generally, the way we view the world, is so shaped by our memories."

"You might be having an interaction with someone and they do something that absolutely triggers you, but the reason it's triggering you is because of something from your past, the memory that you have. ... And yet, they're not the most reliable and people have different versions of the same event. All that stuff is so fascinating."

Based on the novel The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici, Crowe plays ex-homicide detective Roy Freeman, who has dementia, but he's going through an experimental procedure to reverse the effects of his condition.

Roy is forced to try to remember a previous murder case he worked on, the death of a university professor that occurred a decade earlier, which leads Roy to a memoir written by the professor's former assistant Richard Finn (Harry Greenwood), and Gillan's character Laura Baines, a previous student of the professor and Richard's ex-girlfriend.

Sleeping Dogs goes back and forth from the past to present day, as Roy tries to put the puzzle pieces together of this investigation.

"I was really taken with this idea that she wears many masks and is a little bit performative," Gillan said about what appealed to her about her character. "In my mind, the idea that she watches people that she admires, ... and she sort of takes on their characteristics and sort of builds this sort of performance, I really liked that aspect of it."

"When you first meet her, she's introduced through the lens of a different character in the film, who's actually her ex-boyfriend, so you're getting a sort of heightened version, his version of her, and how he perceives her. So that was really interesting for me to play. I quite enjoyed this aspect of not actually knowing who she is really, underneath it all."

Karen Gillan as “Laura Baines” in the Action/Crime/Thriller film SLEEPING DOGS, a The Avenue release (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)
Karen Gillan as “Laura Baines” in the Action/Crime/Thriller film SLEEPING DOGS, a The Avenue release (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)

'Performing in certain ways ... to get what she wants'

In our first introduction to Laura, through Richard's manuscript, she's described as someone who knew "exactly who she was," as we see her work a room full of people, knowing exactly what to say to draw everyone in.

"It's interesting, she's so convincing that another character would even describe her as knowing exactly who she is," Gillan said. "In my mind, she's ... brilliant and so clever, and has sort of adopted these survival techniques of performing in certain ways for certain people to get what she wants, because she's ultimately had to use that as a means of survival."

But while Laura first comes across as this very capable, confident woman, as Sleeping Dogs progresses, we get to see the ways in which people have taken advantage of her capabilities, and where her vulnerabilities really sit.

"It was really important to me to kind of show what's going on underneath," Gillan said. "All of us have to put on some sort of performance in our lives to appear like we're not terrified where we are."

"I think that she's no different and I think she's totally valid in feeling like she hasn't been given the credit that's owed to her in her life."

Russell Crowe as “Roy Freeman” in the Action/Crime/Thriller film, SLEEPING DOGS, a The Avenue release (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)
Russell Crowe as “Roy Freeman” in the Action/Crime/Thriller film, SLEEPING DOGS, a The Avenue release (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)

'He's like one of the OG movie stars'

Gillan described working with Crowe for Sleeping Dogs as a "bucket list" opportunity.

"He's like one of the OG movie stars," Gillan said. "We're living in a different time where everything is so fragmented and there's so much content online that everybody has their own area, and there's hardly anyone who sort of is known by everyone, all of these different sections, and he feels like that."

"He was really interesting to watch, in terms of his process. He's just such a skilled actor and incredibly technically savvy with the camera. ... So it was cool to soak all of that up."

In terms of the collaboration with director Adam Cooper, Gillan highlighted that he was very open to ideas from the cast.

"He's really good at making everybody feel heard and listening to ideas," Gillan said.

"I think that a lot of ideas come out from us, as actors, not fully formed. We're just feeling something and then there's an instinct. And then to actually have the writer of the script there as the filmmaker meant that he could take our non-fully formed idea and turn it into the thing that I wanted to be. So that was great."