INTERVIEW EXTRA: MARK STRONG TALKS UP “GREEN LANTERN”
It’s not horror, but we’re sure many genre fans are curious to see how the Green Lantern movie turned out. Plus the DLB got a chance to sit in on a roundtable discussion with one of the film’s co-stars this week, and why let a good posting go to waste?
Mark Strong is best known to movie geeks as crime Frank D’Amico from Kick-Ass and Lord Blackwood in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. He co-stars in Green Lantern as Sinestro, Hal Jordan’s (Ryan Reynolds) mentor, and will be seen next spring in the big-screen version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” John Carter.
On his ability to play different ethnicities:
Well, it’s very unusual in film that you’re asked to play what you’re not. Because aging up and aging down and different ethnicities is very difficult to achieve without it being obvious so I don’t know why I’ve been able to do that. I come from the theatre where that is not only allowed but encouraged. And when I was in drama school I was playing 75-year-old characters, and then when I went to do my first job in rep I was playing everything that I wasn’t; nine plays in nine months and every character is completely different. So you would get used to the idea that… What I got to love more than anything else was the change, the variation that was possible. To have that on film I don’t know how that’s come about, but it’s very welcome.”
When you’re under the radar and not particularly well known, you can get away with roles like that. It might get a bit tricky now because now they’ll see the transformation. But I had friends who went to see Green Lantern, knew that I was in it, and they were half-way through the movie, thinking ‘when’s he going to be on?’
On explaining fame to his kids:
I had to actually think about sitting him down the other day and explaining some stuff to him, because I heard him in a swimming pool with a bunch of kids, and those kids were like ‘does your dad know so-and so? Does your dad know David Beckham?’ His eyes were… He was thinking well, what does this mean? Why my dad? And I’ve got to explain. I was at a literary festival in Wales, and somebody rushed up for an autograph and wanted an autograph, and I have to explain to them it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a feature of my job. So I take a very responsible attitude towards how he’s going to perceive all of this.
But having said that, yeah, having played so many villains, the villain is the good guy in our house. So when they’re playing with the figures they’re not playing with Hal, they’re playing with Sinestro.
On playing a villain who is not yet a villain (Sinestro becomes a villain in the comics):
Well, it’s great to have the chance to play a character before he goes to the dark side, or the yellow side. Normally you don’t get that opportunity. The narrative of the movie demands that you are that guy from the start because you can’t have a hero if you don’t have a villain. It’s that yin and yang thing. So in this he’s a hero, he’s a Green Lantern. I had to give him characteristics that were slightly autocratic and were perhaps dictatorial, so you could believe he could go over to the other side. But for now in this movie I didn’t really need to think about that.
On the expectations of the studio:
You can’t think like that. You have to go into it like every other job. It happens to be an enormous investment, and the size of the set just happens to be completely different proportion to anything different to a small independent movie that you’re doing, but you can’t let that worm eat at your brain. You just to have to go and do your job because essentially the discipline is the same, however much money is being spent on the movie.
On not avoiding Ryan Reynolds on set:
I’m not a method actor. I don’t need to do that. It’s ironic. There’s a film I’m about to go into with James McAvoy [Welcome to the Punch] in which we’re antagonists, and the director [Eran Creevy] said, ‘I want to keep both of you apart’ because we’re going to have rehearsal. So I went, ‘Great!’ ‘But I’m going to keep you and James apart until the day that you shoot, and I said, ‘You don’t need to do that. We can act that. And anyway I want to talk to him about it.’ But it’s a very young director. Yeah, I don’t need to keep away. I know when to switch it on, switch it off. Like the theatre, you stand this side of the flat, you’re off; you stand this side, the audience knows you’re on. It’s literally like a switch.
On John Carter:
The interesting thing about that one is it’s from a Victorian point of view, that’s what’s going to differentiate that. This is more to do with the fact that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the original novels at the turn of the last century. And he was a typewriter, so this was before “Tarzan.” He was a typewriter salesman, and he used to go home in the evening and write these flights of fantasy about intergalactic romance, and he wrote “The Princess of Mars.” Ten stories, I think. But it’s from a Victorian’s point of view.”
On what sets Green Lantern apart from other super-heroes:
I could never work out why it was considered a second-tier hero compared to say Superman or Batman, and I think the reason is the intergalactic element. Superman, apart from going to Krypton, and Batman are essentially earthbound crime fighters. They wear the costumes, but they’re solving problems on Earth, whereas Hal has the whole intergalactic experience; Oa, the aliens. And until now it’s probably not been very easy to film that successfully, unlike Superman and Batman which you could get away with on TV and in the movies.
On the mythology of the Green Lantern:
Like all good things, there as so many layers to this story. The idea that a guy not only finds a dying alien, so becomes aware that there are aliens, but then gets a ring, and this ring you charge on a battery. You can use your imagination and construct anything, and then he gets to go to Oa and realizes there are lots of aliens. Not only that but they’re part of a cosmic police force, the levels that keep happening within the story make it the most interesting for me.
On doing an origin story:
[Director] Martin Campbell called it pipe-laying. He said that the thing about this first one is you have to lay the plumbing so that if there are more, it can move forward from here. That was quite a task, I think, because Green Lantern has so many levels to go beyond to get the total mythology. Essentially Superman fights crime. Batman is just Batman; he’s fighting crime. But the introduction of all of these levels that have to be ticked off in order to understand the Green Lantern mythology, it’s fascinating, and like all good addictive things, they require a lot of work. The more you have to learn about it, the more rich it is, the more it resonates.