The Brit thesp on mak­ing TV’S Taboo with mum­bler Tom Hardy, Game Of Thrones’ High Spar­row and Terry Gil­liam clas­sic Brazil

Empire (Australasia) - - Review - WORDS JAMES JEN­NINGS

How did you get at­tached to Taboo?

They sent me the script be­fore my final sea­son of Game of Thrones was shown. I thought the na­ture of the script was in­cred­i­bly well writ­ten and it left the au­di­ence to do a lot of work, which I like. It didn’t ex­plain every­thing and you dis­cover things through the char­ac­ters. When I first read the Game Of Thrones scripts, it was the char­ac­ter [Pryce played The High Spar­row] that [drew me in]. I re­mem­ber when I started out my agent and I would look at scripts and say “If this isn’t the lead­ing role, does the char­ac­ter come into the sit­u­a­tion and change it? Can this story ex­ist with­out this char­ac­ter?” And if it can’t, that’s the one to do.

Your char­ac­ter in Taboo, Sir Stu­art Strange, is quite a nasty piece of work, isn’t he?

He was out­wardly bad, which was very at­trac­tive. I found re­deem­ing mo­ments in the char­ac­ter of High Spar­row, be­cause he came into that world with some kind of moral im­per­a­tive that he was go­ing to be some kind of rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ure. But of course some of his meth­ods and some of the things he wanted to get rid of I wasn’t that sym­pa­thetic too. Stu­art Strange, I didn’t see any re­deem­ing fea­tures in his char­ac­ter! And that was great to play — you could just go in and be a bad, mis­er­able bas­tard all the time!

You get to swear en­thu­si­as­ti­cally too.

Quite a few of the pro­fan­i­ties were ad-libs that weren’t in the script. It was fun to do.

Taboo has a strong cre­ative team as well, with Peaky Blin­ders writer Steven Knight and Tom Hardy as co-cre­ator ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer…

I knew Steven Knight’s pre­vi­ous work — one of the most cred­i­ble and best writ­ers on screen. You’ve got the at­trac­tion of work­ing with Tom Hardy, who I find fas­ci­nat­ing. To call some­one a “unique tal­ent” is of­ten overused, but there’s re­ally no-one like him. He’s very driven — this was his baby, as it were. He was in­volved in the production side, the writ­ing. I en­joyed my time with him, when I could hear him! He’s a low-talker?

He talks very qui­etly, but once you’ve ad­justed your­self to that it’s okay. What I like about him is his se­ri­ous­ness about his work. What­ever he was do­ing on set or off was to make this a re­ally good se­ries, and he achieved it. I thought the show would have a niche ap­peal be­cause the story wasn’t very obvious and some­times it was dif­fi­cult to fol­low some of the char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tions, but it was im­me­di­ately pop­u­lar in the UK and I was pleas­antly sur­prised it was re­ceived so well by the au­di­ence and the crit­ics.

Stu­art Strange gets to sit around a lot in op­u­lent board rooms, which must’ve been a bit of a treat.

It is a treat. At my age it’s al­ways a treat to be sit­ting down when work­ing. I did have a scene on a golf course though, and I man­aged to hit the ball in a straight line, so I was very proud of that.

Were you aware what would hap­pen to Strange in the final episode of Sea­son 1?

They is­sued the first four scripts when we started and they were still writ­ing the rest. [SPOILER ALERT!] It was a bit of a shock when I dis­cov­ered I was to be blown up, Game Of Thrones style. I couldn’t tell them when I started Taboo that I’d just died in Game Of Thrones be­cause it was a big se­cret, but to read that I was to go out the same way [in Taboo], I still couldn’t tell them, “Do you re­alise they’ve just done this to me in Game Of Thrones?” [Laughs].

You made Brazil with Terry Gil­liam 32 years ago. How was it to re­cently re­unite with him to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote? The movie has been de­layed for what feels like for­ever!

Terry’s been ready to go on it for 17 years — he was just wait­ing on the money peo­ple! But dur­ing that time he’s been re­fin­ing the script, and it’s a bet­ter script than the one he started with 17 years ago. I’m glad it got de­layed that amount of time be­cause I be­came old enough to play Don Quixote! Un­like Game Of Thrones it wasn’t a lot of sit­ting around in el­e­gant sur­round­ings — we were out in the coun­try­side, in Spain mostly, horserid­ing and tilt­ing at wind­mills and joust­ing with the Knight of the Mir­rors and all that. I had an ab­so­lutely won­der­ful time, and en­joyed work­ing with Adam Driver, who’s play­ing the San­cho Panza fig­ure, was great and we made a good team. The great thing is Terry is still in the mid­dle of edit­ing, and I know Terry very well, and to hear him say “It’s good” is great, be­cause he worries and has a lot of self-doubt about some things. And he’s re­ally happy.

Is it grat­i­fy­ing to know that Brazil is now con­sid­ered a clas­sic?

It’s in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing to keep meet­ing peo­ple [who love the film]. I’ve just been in France and vis­ited a doc­tor briefly who was ab­so­lutely in awe that he had Sam Lowry in his surgery! He said it was a film that changed his life, and when I told him I’d just worked with Terry again, he said his day was now com­plete and was one of the best days of his life! It’s a de­light to still meet peo­ple from all seg­ments of so­ci­ety who say Brazil is their favourite film. The fact that young peo­ple still con­tinue to dis­cover it is a great tes­ta­ment to the film, that it still stands up. I was in New York last year and a cinema heard I was in town so they quickly ar­ranged a screen­ing of Brazil. The screen­ing sold out, I did a Q&A af­ter and I watched the film — I hadn’t seen it in years on the big screen, and it holds up in­cred­i­bly well. Sadly be­cause some of the themes that were pre­scient then have got­ten worse — ter­ror­ism and big govern­ment and crazy pres­i­dents are still the case, if not more so. And be­cause the de­sign is retro-fu­ture, you can’t place it — you can’t say if it’s the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s... it still could be the fu­ture, and it could be now. It’s great, it’s great.

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