Eccleston fi nds his inspiration
CHRISTOPHER Eccleston was working at the National Theatre in London as an usher. He was 19, born into a workingclass family from Lancashire and trying to earn a bob tearing tickets and selling ice- creams as he trained to be an actor.
On stage was Anthony Hopkins, then one of the country’s most revered stage actors who was beginning an international movie career that would soon make him hot property in Hollywood and bring him Oscar glory with Silence Of the Lambs.
Night after night, the great Welsh- born actor trod the boards, in roles such as King Lear and Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.
The awe- struck Eccleston would sit right at the top of the theatre and watch, mesmerised.
Fast- forward 30 years and today Eccleston stars alongside Sir Anthony in Thor: The Dark World, Hopkins as Odin, king of the Norse gods, and Eccleston his worthy adversary the villainous Malekith, leader of the dark elves.
Working with Hopkins was one reason why Eccleston put himself through a gruelling six hours a day of make- up to play a very frighteningly real evil elf in the Marvel movie.
“I thought I’d like to be an actor like that, I’d like to be that good, I’d like to be that skilled,’’ he said, casting his mind back to the usher days.
“Because I worked in the building I’d see him in the canteen eating his meal. I’d see the brilliance of his work, then eating a meal – he was basically just a working actor.
“He was a human being and that was a big lesson for me. Thirty years later I end up acting with him. It’s extraordinary.’’
Eccleston’s career has mirrored that of Hopkins, even if it may not have quite reached the same giddy heights.
He, too, made his way up through the stage ranks, performing classics from Chekhov and Shakespeare, before he broke into TV in shows such as Inspector Morse and Cracker, and then fi lm, in Danny Boyle’s 1994 debut Shallow Grave and Michael Winterbottom’s acclaimed Jude.
He has since appeared in hits such as 28 Days Later ( again with Boyle) and the bigbudget GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but without a doubt his biggest claim to fame was being chosen in the title role in the 2005 reboot of long- running sci- fi show Doctor Who.
Eccleston said it was a challenge playing in a movie with so much computer generated imagery and it slowed things down.
He spent six hours in make- up and 12 hours of shooting, and all for 15 seconds of fi lm.
But he just treated it like play acting, imagining cowboys and Indians and imaginary bows and arrows.
The challenge was, however, to inject some humour into the Thor world without coming across as a “cackling fi end’’.
“I wanted Malekith to have a sense of humour, because I think a sense of humour indicates intelligence and if you’ve got an intelligent villain that means your heroes have to be really accomplished to beat them,’’ he said.
“But you have to accept when you do a fi lm like this, you are a small piece in the fi lm.
“There are going to be competing things like special effects, but there is creativity to be found if you have a good relationship with the director, which I did, so you can still have an imagination.’’
His character spoke an alien language, inspired by the Finnish language, which he had to learn phonetically.
“At the beginning of this fi lm you’re presenting an alternative race and if the alternative race sounds like two English guys who just happen to be in prosthetics, it makes it hard to suspend your disbelief,’’ he said.
“The elvish language is defi nitely based on European languages.
“I think there’s probably some Finnish in there.
“It does have its logic and its rhythms.
“It also has many syllables and it’s very diffi cult to do while remaining naturalistic.
“It’s been a particular challenge for us but hopefully it gives the fi lm some complexity and variety.’’
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Now showing Village Cinemas