Crafty chameleon

Rhys Ifans sheds roles like a lizard sheds its skin, writes Neala John­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - THE AMAZ­ING SPI­DER- MAN Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

Q: You’ve played ev­ery­thing from Hugh Grant’s loopy house­mate Spike in Not­ting Hill, to Luna Love­g­ood’s fa­ther in Harry Pot­ter, to the Earl sus­pected of writ­ing Shake­speare’s plays in Anony­mous. Given that range, do di­rec­tors cite very dif­fer­ent rea­sons for want­ing you?

A: Yeah. Let’s take Spike as a bench­mark: the di­rec­tors I ad­mire are the ones who say, ‘ Let’s oblit­er­ate that’. Be­cause they know I’m ver­sa­tile now, they’ll go, ‘ OK, let’s get him do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent’. If a di­rec­tor asks me to do that, that in it­self is a rea­son to work with them be­cause they’ve taken that leap. Q: Do you want to oblit­er­ate Spike? A: I wouldn’t oblit­er­ate him, but I’d like to maybe

maim him.

Q: You play the neme­sis of An­drew Garfield’s Peter Parker in The Amaz­ing Spi­der- Man. How do you de­scribe Dr Con­nors?

A: He’s a pas­sion­ate, rene­gade sci­en­tist. He is at the foothills of a sci­ence that is very tan­gi­ble in this day and age. It’s just we haven’t ar­rived at a point where we can ex­plore crossspecies ge­net­ics like we should. I guess, given his pas­sion and his drive, he doesn’t take the con­ven­tional route to sup­port his sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies with any val­i­da­tion he just wants the end re­sult, which is his achilles heel.

Q: Roland Em­merich said you would arrive on the Anony­mous set as your­self, dis­ap­pear into your trailer then emerge as a dandy earl. Did you emerge in full mad sci­en­tist mode on the Spi­der- Man set?

A: It’s not that you take the role home, but I found with Con­nors he’s a very iso­lated man, very lonely, and I did have resid­ual feel­ings of that at the

end of the day. He’s also a man with one arm and his mis­sion in life is to re­grow that arm. If you look at rep­tiles, and lizards es­pe­cially, as a species, that’s what they’re able to do: re­grow their limbs. So you can un­der­stand his ob­ses­sion.

Q: How did it feel to be trans­formed into a gi­ant lizard?

A: Fan­tas­tic, re­ally sexy. My clos­est friends would prob­a­bly recog­nise me more as the lizard than they would as Dr Con­nors to be hon­est [ laughs].

Q: Are the roles you’re of­fered get­ting more in­ter­est­ing?

A: Well they’ve al­ways been in­ter­est­ing, they’re just get­ting slightly big­ger. Es­pe­cially the last four or five years . . . Some­times a good wine takes time to ma­ture. I’m very happy I have to say, par­tic­u­larly with the di­rec­tors I’ve cho­sen to work with Marc Webb, Noah Baum­bach and Su­sanne Bier to name but three. Re­ally in­ter­est­ing di­rec­tors . . . and in­ter­est­ing di­rec­tors seem to like me.

What do you think that says about you?

I don’t know, it’s a bit of a worry [ laughs]. I just think my ap­proach to the work is very pro­le­tar­ian, if you like. I just do the job. It’s very cut and clear.

The past five years, did some­thing in par­tic­u­lar change?

I guess I have. My fo­cus has changed, I’ve got older . . . it hap­pens to peo­ple [ laughs]. I’ve ma­tured as a per­son and con­se­quently as an ac­tor. There were pe­ri­ods where I wasn’t en­joy­ing my work so much it flat­lined. I guess Mr Nice gave me an op­por­tu­nity to play a larger role, and then Anony­mous . . . I just re­minded my­self, ‘ Hang on, I am ca­pa­ble of more than what I’ve been do­ing’. And if you feel that, peo­ple sense it.

Q: So you were the vet­eran on The Amaz­ing Spi­der- Man set. A: I know. I was the daddy! Which is a nice feel­ing. An­drew didn’t need any ad­vice at all. It’s hard to ad­vise a man in a Ly­cra suit as to what to wear! Q: Did you bond with An­drew? A: We’re both British, you know [ laughs]. I mean, please, we would have mo­ments where we would be stand­ing on this huge set and I would be in a white coat with round glasses, like the most in­tel­li­gent sci­en­tist in the whole world, and An­drew would be there with his big Spi­der- Man cos­tume. And I would just be like [ mimes el­bow­ing his co- star], ‘ Can you f--- ing be­lieve this? I mean, my God!’ And he’s go­ing ‘ I know, I know’. Come on, you have to em­brace the sur­re­al­ism of it all.

Q: Were you into Spi­der- Man as a kid?

‘‘ I had no mem­ory of be­ing a Spi­der­Man fan as a kid un­til I was of­fered the job and then sud­denly all these mem­o­ries came flood­ing back’’

A:

I had no mem­ory of be­ing a Spi­der­Man fan as a kid un­til I was of­fered the job and then sud­denly all these mem­o­ries came flood­ing back. I re­mem­ber get­ting a comic. I must have been six or seven, and you had to cut out the Spi­der- Man mask on the back of it, along the dot­ted line, and put two lit­tle pins where the eyes were and colour it red. I re­mem­ber mak­ing that and wear­ing it and pre­tend­ing to climb the walls in the house. Al­though it was my mother ac­tu­ally climb­ing the walls in our house [ laughs].

Q:

You were able to do some­thing so dif­fer­ent in Anony­mous. Are you sad it flopped?

Yeah, I was dis­ap­pointed. I do think it’s a beau­ti­ful, grace­ful piece of work. I was pre­pared for it to cause a stir in Eng­land. But I had no idea the British press and academia and the­atri­cal cir­cles would re­spond so jin­go­is­ti­cally

A: to­wards it. I mean, they were vi­cious. It was like I’d done the Queen over the gates of Buckingham Palace. It was that bad! Which of course puts a huge smile on my face. Re­ally, wip­ing your a-- e with the Union Jack, that was. But sadly it did af­fect the film. I’m still ap­proached by lots of peo­ple go­ing: ‘ I don’t know what the f--- ing fuss was about’. The press re­ally went to town. Even to the ex­tent that they went to town on Roland be­cause he’s a Ger­man. I mean, let that war go, guys! It all be­came about pro­tect­ing this neb­u­lous bas­tion called Wil­liam Shake­speare. It was very re­veal­ing.

Q: Will they still let you into the coun­try?

A: Well, I’ve had no calls from the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany.

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