1 of 5 | Miriam Shor says she loves transforming physically for roles. Photo courtesy of Ali Smith
LOS ANGELES, May 4 (UPI) -- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, in theaters Friday, introduces new alien characters from the Marvel comic-book world. For example, Miriam Shor plays Recoder Vim, wearing a costume she compared to what she wore as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
"There's something that happens to you when you look at yourself in the mirror and it's someone completely different looking back at you," Shor told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"It's disarming, but in a great way, because it forces you to question your identity."
Vim is a henchwoman of The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuju) aiding his experiments to create an ideal society on Counter-Earth. The character Rocket the raccoon was one of those experiments who escaped, and ultimately joined the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Guardians cross paths with Rocket's creators when they seek a device to prevent Rocket's death. On Counter-Earth, they face High Evolutionary, Vim and other galactic scientists.
Her face shows through her alien head, but Shor, 51, said she trusted the makeup and costume team to create Vim.
"The input I have is that it's my face," Shor said. "I had genetic input."
She called herself "such a sci-fi nerd" when it came to sitting for a head cast and visiting the Legacy Effects shop as artists designed Vim and the other Guardians creatures.
"It was really a Willy Wonka moment when I got to go back into the workshop and see how it works," Shor said.
She said she applied her own makeup when she originated the role of Yitzhak, Hedwig's (John Cameron Mitchell) husband in the 1998 production of Hedwig.
Hedwig suffered a botched gender reassignment surgery to escape Berlin and Yitzhak was his husband.
"As soon as I walked in the world as a man, everyone accepted me as a man," Shor said, despite her simple, self-applied makeup. "It's the makeup plus you agreeing and the audience agreeing [to] the contract that we all sign to believe."
Playing Yitzhak made Shor question what gender means, she said, adding that experiencing another gender is a healthy experience even if the result is remaining in one's birth gender "because you learn something and it makes you curious."
Questions as profound as gender identity did not accompany Vim, but Shor and Iwudi elaborated on the villain/henchman relationship. Shor said writer/director James Gunn allowed them to improvise even if it would not make the final cut.
"James had us do scenes that he was like, 'This is never going to make the film, but I'm having so much fun. Go as far as you can,'" Shor said.
One scene that stayed in the movie has High Evolutionary scream at Vim for failing him. Shor said the unedited take was excessive even by alien supervillain standards.
"He got in my face more than you could possibly imagine for longer than you could possibly imagine," Shor said. "It was ridiculous, amazing, hilarious, brutal and incredible."
Shor said she gave Iwudi permission to get as close as he wanted and yell as loud as he wanted.
"I'm from the stage, so if you need to spit on my face to get it out, I'm here," Shor said. "Later, we were sipping hot tea because our voices were shot."
The role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 seemed serendipitous to Shor. Shor said her daughters, Ruby and Iris, rewatched all the Marvel movies in order during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shor said watching the prior films back to back illuminated how they fit together, and the challenges facing each individual filmmaker.
"You've got to figure out your part of the puzzle," Shor said.
Two weeks after finishing the movies, she said, she got the call for Guardians.
Since Guardians, Shor has completed several roles that have not been announced yet. Maestro, co-written, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper as conductor Leonard Bernstein has been announced for release this year.
Shor plays Cynthia O'Neal, a friend of Felicia Montealegre, Bernstein's wife. She said watching Cooper take on several roles reminded her of Mitchell creating, directing and starring in Hedwig.
"It's inspiring [and] reminds you that it's possible," Shor said of Cooper. "When I saw John directing, acting, writing Hedwig, I was like, 'Oh, it's possible, but it also seems kind of impossible at the same time. How are you doing it?'"