Ec­cle­ston fi nds his in­spi­ra­tion

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - CHARLES MI­RANDA

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

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