Lately, Mark Strong has been everywhere: Robin Hood (villain), Kick-Ass (villain), Sherlock Holmes (villain). As Hollywood's new favorite enemy, Strong is a curio. He's slight, just shy of 50, with an understated, workmanlike approach to acting—no scenery-chewing allowed—and distinguishes himself in every role, and more amazingly, distinguishes every nemesis from each other. In Green Lantern, he plays Sinestro, an alien who puts poor Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) through his paces after the human inherits a ring from Sinestro's mighty former mentor. Abrasive and authoritative, Strong gives the character depth and color that's even richer than his pink skin. Boxoffice sat down with Strong earlier this week for a lengthy chat about his character, what might happen in a sequel, and the big question: does he want to do romantic comedies?
The thing that makes Sinestro so interesting is the seemingly unassailable authority with which he makes his decisions and commands the Corps. What sort of work do you have to do to establish that kind of authority?
There were definitely a number of boxes I had to tick. I had to be a natural superior to Hal. Hal had to feel about this guy, "My God—who is this guy? He's leagues far ahead of me in terms of being an intergalactic cop." I also had to imbue him with characteristics that would allow you to believe the journey that he goes on in the subsequent source material-that he goes over to the yellow side. So I had to find a way of behaving that would justify those two things, and eventually what I struck on was a kind of military commander, somebody who is perhaps slightly too aggressive, too autocratic and dictatorial, but nevertheless his love of the Corps and his desire to keep it together has resulted in this very strict, hard taskmaster for Hal. And essentially that's an earthbound notion, and I had to just accept that the look of him would take the audience on the alien journey, but they would understand that his characteristics were those of a very powerful individual.
You said you didn't know the Green Lantern mythology and neither did I, and I have a theory about this, before I forget it, which is they made TV and film of both Superman and Batman, two other DC characters. They made films of them, but it's because of what they do, because essentially they're earthbound crime fighters-even though Superman goes to Krypton, essentially everything they do is on earth, so you can film that. The problem with Green Lantern is how do you do the space bit; up until now, when the technology has caught up with the vision, it's no surprise to me that now is the time to try and introduce this guy. But until now, I think the reason there's been no TV and no film and no awareness in the way there is for Superman and Batman is that it's too difficult to genuinely create that world as believable, the world of Oa and aliens. So I think that's probably why it's come along now, and I think that's why people don't know about it - not that it's a lesser story, or he is a lesser superhero, it's just the practicalities of filming it.
How much of your appearance was make-up and how much was enhanced with CGI?
The neck above, really, is make-up, and that was a process that took ten hours the first time we ever sat down to work it out, because there was a real intention on my part to get it right and do it exactly like it is in the comics because the look of Sinestro was the first thing that attracted me, more than anything else—more than the script, anything, it was the look of him—and I thought, if I could make that transformation, that would be fascinating. So ten hours to get it right, and then every day about four hours. But from the neck down it was a skin-tight motion-capture suit, this grey thing with dots all over it. And although it's my movement in the film, the actual uniform has been drawn in. and somebody said to me, why have they done that? They're just going CGI mad. And the truth it that it comes from a good place; there's an organic reason for it, which is that once you realize that there are 3600 Green Lanterns and they're all aliens and they're completely different, suddenly the idea of rushing into a phone box and getting changed into spandex doesn't work for all of them. There's one little character called Bzzt that's just a fly, and there's another one that's just an eyeball; the invention of the guys who drew this stuff is amazing, and there was always this notion that if they could communicate through their rings, if they can create constructs through their rings, then surely their uniforms could be created by the rings to suit their individual characteristics. So it's an organic skin—that's the idea—and that's another thing I hope people realize, that the CGI uniform is born out of a genuine reason to give logic to the suit rather than, "Hey! Let's just draw a load of muscles on the guy."
How much did the demands of both the make-up and post-production affect your performance?
It's hugely helpful. I mean, the make-up was amazing. Obviously the process of putting it on in the morning, obviously four hours is a time that you can get into the character. Then you go back to your trailer, see yourself in the mirror, and realize that you look very different—and I like that. I like being far removed from myself. The hindrances were that had to wear boots with thick soles because I had to be taller. I had to be 6'8" rather than 6'1", and Kilowog is so high and Tomar Re is so high, so for eyelines and stuff we had to be the correct height. So I had these strange boots on and I had to fight against them slightly. The skintight grey outfit didn't really lend itself to feeling like a butch superhero, it looked really odd. But I got used to it very quickly, and the whole thing relies on your imagination anyway, so once you imagine yourself into that world, and you've seen the artwork that tells you what that uniform is going to look like and that environment is going to look like, you do what your job is as an actor and that is you imagine it, and you take the audience along with your imagination.
Does the make-up do a lot of work for you in terms of emoting, or do you have to make a lot of adjustments to be more or less expressive?
Well, it does and it doesn't. The very make-up itself takes the audience's eye to another place, their imagination to another place, and if they have suspended their disbelief in the right way, you are for all intents and purposes an alien. But, on the other hand, you can't rely on the same facial expressions that you would in real life. You can't furrow your brow in the same way or smirk; it doesn't work underneath the prosthetic, or behind that heavy a make-up job, so you have to find other ways to suggest things, and that comes from technical things like the tilt of your head catching the light in a particular way, how the light comes in under your brow and catches an eye or another eye to communicate, and that I found totally fascinating. I talked to Peter [Sarsgaard, who plays the nemesis Hector Hammond] about it, and Peter had to do even more work on that than I did because he was almost completely obscured. But he said he found it quite liberating because it made him move in a particular way that he had to, not just in order to cope with the weight, but to communicate how he was feeling. So I had a similar experience.
Did Martin let you look at the monitor to finesse those little flourishes?
I never discussed it with him, but whenever I was going to have a look at the monitor, that was what I was doing. I was looking to see how the light caught the make-up and whether I was transmitting what I was thinking or not. And sometimes I just had to replace just believing or thinking it with actually physically doing something to show it. But yeah, Martin, I wouldn't want to burden him with that—he's got so much else to think about. That's my job.
How much were you able to participate in the designs of the fights or the constructs your character creates with his ring?
Well, we found our little sword moment, the idea that Hal would have one sword, Sinestro would have two swords and just wither him by saying, "Oh how human." You know, you can construct anything you can think of and what do you come up with? A sword. I mean, it's so typically human. I think we found that moment, because initially the fight was just going to be just constructs, so we would have just been standing there and the whole thing would have been happening in our imagination, which isn't quite as interesting as the fact that we got a little bit down and dirty with each other and there was some punches and some elbows and a dagger-to-the-throat moment. We got in each other's space.
There was a moment with the swords when, actually I made a mistake. I had to come ‘round and get him with these swords tight to his neck and I just had not gone far enough. So I did this little movement, which we found worked really well because there's something quite threatening about that, and really, really gives you the sense of Sinestro's control. Yeah, there was always collaboration on every level.
Were you and Ryan standing there going, "I don't think this is working?"
Well, we're standing around usually with the stunt crew, the stunt trainer and a couple of guys and we'll just say, "Hey look! What if I did this?" And they'll go, "Well, that's not good because of this..." Or you'll say, "Well, how about this?" And they'll say, "Yeah, that's a great idea. Let's try that. That works much better." It literally is just a collaboration as you're standing around in your shorts and t-shirt training. It'll come to you. There are certain things that are needed because they work very well in the fight. You know, I slap him far away and then my arm stretches out and I bring him back. It just gives you a sense of what they can do with their imagination, these Green Lanterns. So those were kept in and were necessary. But, yeah, it's just like any collaboration, it's just a bunch of guys standing around coming up with what they think would work best.
But then you also have to make sure it suits the mythology or the characters.
Well yeah, you always want to come up with those ideas, show them to Martin. Martin would have his input. I mean, Martin was in control of everything on set. Geoff [Johns, CCO of DC Comics] was there as a fantastic sort of library to go and consult whenever you needed to know something. But, you'd run it by Martin and he would have the final say.
How tough is it with so much machinery of the production around you to still be able to immerse yourself in the character?
Martin was very good at helping us with that. The process of coming to work every day is, if you have a four-hour make-up job, I was up at 3 in the morning. I'd be picked up, I'd be bleary-eyed, I couldn't think straight, I'd be in the car, it was dark. I'd get into this bright trailer and then suddenly people would suddenly start putting glue in my eyes and ears and blowing me with paint and gluing stuff on my head. It took four hours, and it was, "Good morning, how are you, do you want a cup of coffee, and what did you do last night?" You're not in the world of the film at all, you're just coping with being alive at that point, because you're so exhausted and there's all of this strange stuff happening. And then you go and finally that's finished and everybody comes in at a normal time, "Hello, how are you, cup of tea, cup of coffee, what do you want, how are you feeling, blah blah blah." Then you're on set and suddenly wearing this strange skintight suit with the boots and "Hey, camera crew, hi, blah blah." Everything is designed to not allow you to occupy the world of the film on that kind of movie.
And what he's great at is there comes a time when the cameras are going to roll and he gets everybody out of the room, he sends everybody out, and then it will be just me, Ryan and him, and he would go, "Okay, let's remind ourselves what the hell we're doing here and what this scene is about." And that's invaluable, because obviously when you're making a film that is so CGI-heavy, it's like doing a jigsaw with half of the pieces missing, and you need somebody to have the whole jigsaw in their mind, and that was Martin's job. So he would have the whole process somewhere in his mind, and he would just remind you every day where you were at in that process, and what you needed to remember. And that was extraordinarily helpful, because yeah, there's nothing there. You're in a big blue box. When I make that speech to the Lanterns, I'm standing on a blue box and I'm doing it to the camera crew, you know? There was artwork on set and 3D models to go refer to, to remind yourself of the world that you were in. But it's challenging in a different way.
How do you maintain the stamina to block all of that out?
Well, first of all, that's my job, so that's what I do [laughs]. Secondly you have to have a backup of your own to know where you're at in the process. You can't rely on anybody else because ultimately it's you up there on the screen. So all I do is I just try and focus—like in the theater when you're standing in the wings, you could be chatting to, silently whispering to the stage management team, and then suddenly hear your cue to walk on stage, walk on, and in two paces you're there. That is a technique that I found very useful in film that you can be chatting or joking but the moment the camera rolls, you're on, and that's when you have to focus.
The only part of Green Lantern I wasn't crazy about was the coda, because it telegraphs what happens in the next movie—and you'll still have to deal with it again when and if there's a sequel.
Yeah, but how and why? I think that's what the second movie will deal with, which is interesting. I mean, I know that they shot a scene which was, once the yellow ring has been forged in the movie, Hal was going to wind Sinestro up so badly that Sinestro couldn't resist putting it on, and then they have a fight-yellow versus green-within this first movie. And I realized that subsequently they decided this was too early to introduce this notion, so in a way, putting the so-called easter egg in the credits is a halfway house, because it allows the fans who are dying to see that have a look at it, but it also telegraphs to the people who know nothing, "Oh, right!" Maybe it's because you and I, we have a semi-understanding, "Well, that's so obvious!" But actually, it's really for either end of the spectrum: it's for those who know so they can enjoy that, and for those who don't know anything at all, who think, "Oh, okay, there is more to come." If the second one is an explanation of why and how, then it becomes more interesting than if he just puts the ring on and starts battering everybody from the word go. But obviously it depends on the appetite for this one.
I like the fact that there was friction between Hal and Sinestro.
Well, it will be fascinating if you think about where we go to, because now they know each other. Martin Campbell called it pipe-laying. He said, "The first one is always pipe-laying. You've got to set up the plumbing so that you can actually flush the thing with water on the second one." And there are certain things he had to achieve: he had to explain what the ring was, that there are aliens, that there was Oa, introduce a couple of the Lanterns, and get everything going, not the least of which is the relationship between Sinestro and Hal. But the idea now that they all know each other and we've done all of that, it could actually make for a very interesting sequel, now that it's all been set up. That's always the problem, isn't it, with the kickoff of a franchise, is that you have to set the whole thing up. But that's why Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is successful, because everybody knows what they're in for, and they know what it is. There's a sort of comfortable feeling about knowing what you're going in to see, which is hard to achieve with the first one—impossible to achieve with the first one-but could make subsequent ones very interesting.
Particularly because your character has so much mythology, how much do you think about the audience's expectations—the idea they need to cheer against your character?
I don't have any say in how he develops into the next one, so I will be very interested to see what they do. All I can do at this point is provide a credible, flesh-and-blood Sinestro, and I work very hard to achieve it, and I think I buy him the way he is. I think sticking to the way he looked in the comic book, bearing in mind they were thinking of a sort of Maori-warrior look for him, with a goatee, beard and a ponytail, with a very different idea, I feel like I've served the comic books' interesting by keeping him looking the way he does, and then the next step is to credibly go on the journey that he goes in the comics. But for me it will always be the comics that are the source material; I will see, if they do write a second one, see if it fits with what I now know about the mythology, and argue my standpoint if I think it's wrong.
Do you think about the expectations of the audience, though, when you take on any sort of role, especially some of the villains you've played recently?
I do, I do. I come from the stage where you come out on stage and the audience is sitting there, and if you're not good, they won't clap for you at the end of the evening. So ultimately, they're paying, so yes. I'm not self-indulgent in that way. We are putting on a show, we are telling a story, and we must never forget that. It is for the audience, and so no, I never forget about the audience's expectations.
Is it a relief to have a more firmly established sense of reality in the films that you're doing now, after this and John Carter?
I love mixing it up and doing things that are as different as possible from each other, because you usually find that a change is as good as a rest. And I used to find that in the theater. You'd go and do, say a play at the National Theater, you do eight shows a week for, I don't know, nine months. And then you were desperate to go do a small play, say at the Royal Court Theater for a couple of months. And the juxtaposition of those was what kept it interesting. So by the same token, doing a big movie like this, I loved doing it, I'm very proud to be involved with it, it's an amazing thing. And I loved the film when I saw it. My kids are going to be blown away. And people will be blown away by it—that I'm very proud of. But you're a very small cog in a very big machine. But that's okay, I know what the gig is. So, it keeps things fresh and interesting if you then go and do a very small-budget movie where you're just squeaking—have you got enough money to really make this thing? And the next thing I'm going to go do is an action thriller with James MacAvoy, funnily enough, set in London. And we've got just enough money to make it. And the guy directing it is this young guy who's very exciting, very enthusiastic. And you know, it's a completely different ballgame. We're flying by the seat of our pants slightly, but that will be exciting in itself and make a great contrast to this. Now, I'm sure after I've done that, I'll be dying to get back to somewhere where you're taken care of again.
One of the projects you have coming up is a Jean-Jacques Annaud [Enemy at the Gates] film, correct? How was he to work with?
He's is like a sort of philosopher academic, you know. He's got this big shock of white hair, he's sort of wandering around, he's sort of safari gear with binoculars and light meters around his neck. And you know, any subject you care to think about, he knew the answer to everything. He was very French in that way, you could have amazing conversations with him. And then we were out in the desert, a cast of hundreds of horses, hundreds of camels, you know, hundreds of extras all sweeping vistas in the Sahara of like armies meeting in the desert. And it was all there, none of it was CGI, I mean, it was completely opposite to this, in a way. You didn't have to use your imagination in a way because you were actually there in the middle of it all. But he is a very intelligent, very artistic filmmaker. And you know, like every job I do, I'm always fascinated to see how it turns out, because whatever it is you are doing on set has no correlation to what the final movie is. And that's why you need to work with the best directors you can because they're the guys who make the movies. And they're the ones who take the raw material into the editing room and make the movie. So he was wonderful. The Guard, I've got coming, it's coming out quite soon with John Martin McDonner, John Michael McDonough. It's a kind of In Bruges-style black comedy caper, which was absolutely wicked to do. Really great fun.
What sort of characters do you play in these two movies?
Well, in The Guard, I play a weary gangster who's had enough of being the villain. Which is quite pertinent, I thought [laughs]. And I'm the only English guy in a cast of Irishmen. So I was the honorary English guy. And you know, I play one of three gangsters who talk about philosophy just before they shoot somebody. But John, it's his first film, so again that was, you know, the energy of that and his encyclopedic knowledge of film was really fascinating. And in the Jean-Jacques Annaud film, I play a very traditional Arabic figure who has a son, Tahar Rahim, that he has to give away as a young boy to Antonio Banderas who brings him up. And it's about a boy really coming of age and discovering the difference between his two fathers. One is very traditional, and the other's very western-leaning.
And then Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the other one, in the autumn, which has got a phenomenal cast, amazing director in Tomas Alfredson, and then an extraordinary novel which I don't ever has been done as a movie-it's been done as a series. And how you get that, I don't know, because the book is very elliptical. As a reader you go on this very confusing journey with George Smiley, the main character. And it's a kind of ‘whodunit.' How you do that in film, which requires a linear narrative, I'm not sure, because the narrative is quite fractured in the book. But if anyone can do it, Tomas can and you know, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, you know, Toby Jones and Ciaran Hinds, amazing, amazing people.
So I feel I'm in a very good place that I've got some good work and very different work coming out. That's the main thing for me, it's... I just love to try and keep people guessing. The better I become known, the more difficult that becomes with this thing because you know, I can't sneak in under the wires like the Head of the Jordanian Secret Service and have people go, "Oh, that guy's British? Who is he?" Things have changed slightly, but it will never stop me from trying to find something that will be completely different to the thing that I have just done before. So after Welcome To The Punch, I'm going off to do a film in Romania with a Romanian director that I'm sure isn't known at all outside Romania. It's a film about a specific incident in 1956 that happened in communist Romania and it's you know, very detailed, very unusual, and very low budget.
How odd is it to immerse yourself in watching a film like Green Lantern when you're finally seeing all of the effects and CGI?
I'm going to watch Green Lantern a few times and yeah, the first time, oddness is unavoidable. There's a scene which you can't help yourself thinking, "Oh, that was the day when that happened." I haven't seen it in 3D, which I'm intrigued by. I want to see whether Oa works in 3D, and I've heard that it's okay.
It looks good.
Oh great. Well that's good. And then I'll probably watch it again just to, you know, now that I know that I can get all of those thoughts out of my head and just watch it as a fan, you know, as a moviegoer.
When do you get a sense of cohesion with a character? You can do any amount of work when you're on set, but the way it's edited can be contrary to even maybe what you're thinking.
Well, you have to have a general throughline of who the character is. But the truth is, in life, we do very different things. You know, when you are sitting here with me, talking to me, you might behaving very differently to the way that you would chat to your oldest and best friend, which is a very different way you would chat to a girl you had fancied, which is different to how you chat to your grandma, which is different from how you would react to somebody who'd cut you off in their car. You know? Yet all of those different reactions are you. So you have to trust the script, in a way, that each scene demands a particular attitude. And you have to be brave enough to realize that each of those attitudes will be the character because you are the character. You look like the character and they're calling you that character's name. So you have to have the confidence. You can't just play the same thing in each scene because we don't do that in real life. Once you've established what kind of a guy you think the person is, then you can let it go from there.
Is there a place where you have to sort of cut off your expectations to make sure that the experience is satisfying or creatively challenging for you regardless of maybe what the end result is?
You can't think about the end result. That's out of your hand. Your job is to turn up on set and deliver the character—that's what you've been hired for. I mean, The Way Back is an interesting case in point. I accepted a relatively small part in that film because I just wanted to work with Peter Weir. I think Peter's films are some of the best films ever, he's six times Oscar-nominated, so you know you're in touch with film history when you work with Peter Weir, so it was a no-brainer. Even though the part was small, and people said to me, "You weren't in it for very long," I don't really care—I just want to work with him.
Having said that, the part was bigger, but they had to cut a couple of my scenes and Peter was very apologetic about it when I saw him because they had to get on with the escape, they had to go and do those scenes. And essentially that was the meat—the meat of the story for him was the walk that the guys were on. So there was a whole scene that you learn the Khabarov, my character, is a grave digger. He gets out of the camp at night, he goes and digs up dead bodies with his bare hands once they've been killed by the gangsters, and he steals their underwear and stuff and he sells those for cigarettes. So there was that whole element that was missing.
There's a bit where I find a crumb on my finger and in slow motion and a close up you just see, you know, me lick this crumb off my finger because I've got no food. Peter loved that scene. But he just said, unfortunately, you know, we had to crack on with the movie, otherwise it'd have been too long. There's nothing I can do about that. And yeah, you just have to let it go.
That seems to happen often with actors in Terrence Malick movies.
That happens to the people on Mike Leigh movies as well, because obviously you're encouraged to commit over the whole course of a number of months to create your character, but then you may not even be in the final film. You know, you can work for months and months and months and months and find that you perhaps have got one scene or something, but that's the gig.
Have you worked with Mike Leigh before?
I haven't. I auditioned for him once and I'd love to work with him. He's a very interesting guy.
He's very smart. Whenever I've talked to him, it feels like a reminder of how stupid I am.
He's a very intelligent man. I've met him a couple of times and always said "Hello," to him. But the audition I had with him was a very interesting case in point because his process is—I don't know if he still does it, but then he invited me in, we talked about four or five people that I knew. He asked me to describe their characteristics. At the end of that process, he said, "Okay, choose that one." He chose one of those people and he said, "Now, I'm going to leave the room and I'm going to come in in a few minutes, but I just basically want you to be in character as that person. And I'll just observe you for a while. But just be and act the person, ignore the fact that I'm in the room." I actually found that really, really difficult. Because I didn't really know what was required. The actor, the performer in me said, "But does that mean that I need to do something to persuade him to show him I'm that character?"
On the other hand, I'd heard that Mike famously he tries to strip people back. So I thought does that mean I do nothing then, do I genuinely just behave like that? So, I was sitting in this room thinking I don't really know what to do. I was trying to imagine this person that I knew and what they would do and I looked around the room and the only thing I could see was a newspaper. So I picked it up and started reading it. Mike came in and I just read the paper. I thought, I should rush over to the window pretending there's been a car crash outside, phone the police or something. Perform! But I just read the paper. And that was my attempt to show what can be bad about acting is that you feel you have to do something when you don't. But I didn't get the job, so I don't know if I did it right or not.
How easy is it to know how much theatricality, how much performance that you have to bring?
Well, you don't. And you know, in CGI movies, they're a case in point because you're reacting to something that you can't see. There's a moment when Sinestro sees Parallax sucking the souls out of a couple of his Green Lanterns. A big close up like that and Martin is like, "Go. This is what you're looking at, go!" And you think, well, what do you do? I mean, is that like you're in space, it's Parallax... you go "Aaah!" or do you just go "Oh." You've got to find the place to pitch it, and that's where you rely on your director and your own intuition really. Because bad acting tends to be overdone. But there's this notion that doing nothing is interesting, that isn't true either. Many young actors fall into that trap, where they think, "If I do nothing, it'll be interesting," but actually often, doing nothing just looks like doing nothing. You have to find a way to make it interesting without overdoing it.
How tough is it just to be a character, to inhabit him, as opposed to "playing" him?
I will only play a character that I know that I get, that I understand that I can do something with. I've turned down characters where I genuinely thought I don't think I can shoehorn myself into that kind of person. I don't get that. And the best way I can describe it, and it's a sort of spurious comparison, but there's some truth to it, that it's like telling a joke. You know that feeling when you're telling a joke and it's a joke you know well, and you know from the atmosphere of the way people are listening thing that when you get to the punch line, they're going to laugh. But sometimes you tell that joke and it doesn't work. Or you try and tell somebody else's joke that you've heard that you thought was outrageous and funny and you tell it and it doesn't work. That's kind of the stuff of characterization that I think if you feel you get it, understand it instinctively, your work will be much easier than if you're trying to shoehorn yourself into something that you don't get, you know, inside. You don't get the truth of that character. Yeah, so that's the best way I can sort of describe that.
Was there anything in this movie that caught you off guard when you finally saw it?
In this film? Well, that moment where I see the souls being sucked out of the Lantern. You know, the way it was lit and the expression that I did and then what you're actually looking at, when that all came together, I thought that's a wonderful moment. That just looks so sort of epic and amazing. And also the fact that there was a scene where we're trying to contain Parallax at one point, when we all fly off together and there's a chain that's thrown over Parallax and the Lanterns are all flying in formation and we're trying to hold him down and he breaks loose and all of that. I realized watching the film that I'm the only human being in that scene. I'm the only human being. And then it's only my head, because from the neck down. The uniform is CGI. And yet, you're in an epic intergalactic battle. That just had me thinking, wow! What a trip.
Have you seen a lot of footage from John Carter?
Andrew showed a small trailer kind of thing that he put together, which just looked amazing, I've got to say. It made the hairs go up on the back of my neck.
That was an instance where you did not do any motion capture or anything like that, correct?
No. But it's a very traditional looking alien. What is fascinating about John Carter, is it's from the Victorian's point of view. That's the point, you know, that this man, this Edgar Rice Burroughs, he was a typewriter salesman, I believe, went home in the evenings and wrote these flights of fantasy in his imagination, you know, intergalactic romance. And what you'll see is that the Martians don't have laser guns and they don't have sci-fi space suits. They're in breastplates and they've got swords, much like, I imagine, a Victorian would imagine Mars to be. Sort of Roman, if you will. And that's what's going to be fascinating about that. And that's why Matai Shang is essentially a traditional-looking alien. He's sort of pale and wears a robe, but I love him, he's like old school.
Do you find that kind of anachronistic universe to be one easier to get into than something like Green Lantern where it's more futuristic?
Well, it was slightly because there was some physical set around. We're on a ship, a spaceship at one point. And half of it had been built. So you were able at least to root yourself in some kind of physicality. On Green Lantern it was literally a room with blue walls, a blue floor, cameras, cables, that was it.
That's where we illuminate. Yeah. I hope it does all right this film. What do you think? Do you think it's going to be all right? I thought it was fun. It was a fun blockbuster. It played younger than I thought I was going to play to. And subsequently, I actually thought that's rather a clever idea because Christopher Nolan is taking care of you know, the gothic, dark element to superheroes. Matthew [Vaughn] is taking care now of the slightly post-modern look at superheroes. We can all wear polo necks and be in the '60s, and do that. But what there isn't is an absolute straightforward family epic blockbuster, which is what this is. That you can take a kid from the age of eight, upwards to...the guys that might be disappointed, I suppose, are the early 20s guys who are wanting something a little bit darker.
Yeah, my worry is that it falls between two stalls. And that people aren't, "Fucking hell, it's amazing." Or, "Oh my god, that's a fail." The worst thing is a, "Well it was all right." I mean, especially after all that effort. I hope that's the one reaction it doesn't elicit. But then you know what's it's like these days. The reviewers and the critics and their opinion and the box office figures don't necessarily always meet.
Is it hard for you to find different kinds of roles after having successfully played so many villains? Do you desperately yearn to be in a romantic comedy?
No. I enjoy playing the villains. To tell you the truth, it goes in cycles. You know, I've been doing this for over 25 years, and I have to say, I've been in comedies, I've played romantic leads, the only thing I probably haven't... well no, I've done musicals. I've done pretty much everything. It tends to go in cycles. And at the moment, I'm going through this dark villain cycle. But you know, the characters coming up in the Jean-Jacques Annaud movie and in Tinker, Tailor, they're not like that. And the two that I'm about to shoot, one is kind of an anti-hero. But you know, you just have to go with it and I'm really enjoying playing those parts, I have to say. But slowly I'll you know, in the way that I try to juxtapose a very small movie with a very big movie, I'll try and find a part that is completely different to what I just done before, you know. So if I get, I don't know, a drag queen or something, I'd go for it like a shot. Just you know, my instincts would be very excited about that, something that's different as that.