IN­SIDE: Gary Old­man’s dark side

Af­ter play­ing a pimp, a ter­ror­ist and an as­sas­sin, Hol­ly­wood’s go- to bad guy is por­tray­ing a par­tic­u­larly poi­sonous peacock, writes Neala John­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - KUNG FU PANDA 2

WHAT is it with Gary Old­man and vil­lains?

‘‘ I don’t know,’’ says the man in ques­tion, shak­ing his head.

‘‘ I can’t even get away from them when they’re an­i­mated.’’ Kung Fu Panda 2’ s an­i­mated Lord Shen, a nasty peacock with a thing against pan­das, is the lat­est in a string of bril­liant bad­dies Old­man ( pic­tured) has brought to life across a 30-year movie ca­reer.

He played Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK, a cor­rupt cop in Leon, a ter­ror­ist in Air Force One, a vi­o­lent pimp in True Ro­mance . . . and on the list goes.

How did this English­man be­come Hol­ly­wood’s go-to bad guy?

‘‘ Well, peo­ple re­mem­ber the vil­lains,’’ Old­man says. ‘‘ If you think of . . . Sid and Nancy – not a vil­lain. Joe Or­ton ( in Prick Up Your Ears ) – not a vil­lain. Rosencrantz &

Guildenstern are Dead – not a vil­lain. Beethoven – not a vil­lain. Chat­ta­hoochee – not a vil­lain. Harry Pot­ter – not a vil­lain.

Bat­man – not a vil­lain. Drac­ula – not re­ally a vil­lain. I mean, it’s a lot of movies where I’m not a vil­lain.’’

The mak­ers of Kung Fu Panda 2 say Old­man was their first and only choice to give voice to Shen.

Old­man liked the fact he could record just 10 min­utes from his LA home – ‘‘ I would just get in the car and go down the hill. It was fan­tas­tic’’ – as well as the chance to make a movie his two younger sons could watch.

‘‘ There’s cer­tain things I don’t want them to see,’’ Old­man says of show­ing his back­cat­a­logue to his boys. ‘‘ Some of their friends have seen The

Book of Eli. I don’t want them to see me scream­ing, beat­ing up women, shoot­ing up a fam­ily, tak­ing drugs . . . they’ve got plenty of time to see it if they wanna see it.’’

Plus, there’s no deny­ing Shen is a very cool char­ac­ter.

‘‘ One of the best cos­tumes I’ve ever had,’’ Old­man says, dead­pan.

But the 53-year-old was un­der no il­lu­sions Kung Fu Panda 2 would be a walk in the park. ‘‘ I’d done the voice for [ video game] Call Of Duty, so I knew how tough it could be.

Call Of Duty, it’s in­sane, you have a thou­sand lines of shout­ing and you do eight-hour days. You can only work in seven-minute chunks be­cause you’re shout­ing, you get a headache.

‘‘ But I had no idea that Kung Fu Panda 2 would take two years. I did the first voice for Shen and I did two movies and al­most a year went by be­fore I went back. I’d for­got­ten I was in it!’’

It’s been more than 20 years since Old­man adopted his first Amer­i­can ac­cent for a film. He ad­mits to an in-be­tween-two­cul­tures feel­ing, but doesn’t seem tor­tured by it. ‘‘ I don’t know what I feel any more. I love Euro­pean cin­ema and when I see it I feel a con­nec­tion to it, a sen­sa­tion, I can’t ex­plain it, it’s just a feel­ing I have,’’ he says.

‘‘ But now, I sup­pose I feel a bit like an Amer­i­can with an English ac­cent.’’

The mak­ers of Harry Pot­ter sure enough re­mem­bered where Old­man comes from, re­cruit­ing the ac­tor as one of a bevy of Bri­tish vet­er­ans lit­ter­ing the adult cast. While play­ing Sirius Black, a bro­mance blos­somed be­tween Old­man and the se­ries’ young star, Daniel Rad­cliffe. Rarely an in­ter­view goes by where Rad­cliffe doesn’t pro­fess his ac­tor-love for Old­man, sin­gling out the el­der thes­pian’s ca­reer as the path he’d most like to em­u­late.

‘‘ Oh I know, he’s adorable, isn’t he?’’ says Old­man of Rad­cliffe.

‘‘ I met him when he was, what would he have been, 12 when I first worked with him? 12 go­ing on 35,’’ he laughs.

‘‘ When you’re around young tal­ent like that, where you can be an inspiration is that you come in and you’ve done your home­work, you get there on time, you have a good work ethic.

‘‘ I mean, my ca­reer’s gonna be very dif­fer­ent from Dan’s, we’re not gonna play the same parts. God bless him, he could watch movies I’m in ’ til the cows come home but it’s such a unique thing to each per­son.’’ Be­fore clock­ing on for work on the next

Bat­man, The Dark Knight Rises, Old­man de­toured to the state of Ge­or­gia to make a four-day cameo in Aus­tralian di­rec­tor John Hill­coat’s The Wettest County In The

World. The de­pres­sion-era crime drama stars Shia LaBeouf and was scripted by rocker Nick Cave.

Old­man’s ap­proach to mak­ing such a cameo could not have been more suc­cinct.

‘‘ I’ll get there, I’ll meet Shia and the other ac­tors and we’ll walk through the scene and we’ll shoot,’’ he says.

‘‘ Most of the time you don’t get re­hearsal, so you’ve just got to be able to burn from the first bar. It’s rock and roll.’’

Now show­ing Vil­lage Cin­e­mas

I don’t want them [ sons] to see me scream­ing, beat­ing up women, shoot­ing up a fam­ily, tak­ing drugs DARK SIDE: Gary Old­man’s roles ( clock­wise from left) Harry Pot­ter and the Pris­oner of Azk­a­ban, Lost in Space, Sid and Nancy, The Book of Eli and Drac­ula.

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