In the lap of the gods
RUFUS Sewell was in Sydney a fortnight ago, filming his last “chunk” of Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt. Due in early 2016, the fantasy film is led by Gerard Butler and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster- Waldau along with locals Geoffrey Rush and Brenton Thwaites.
While Sewell’s credits ( Cold Comfort Farm, Parade’s End, Middlemarch) are as English as Colin Firth, he was counted among the locals — Sewell’s late father was Australian and he uses his Aussie passport to enter the country. Not that he’s done that a lot lately.
“It’s been too long,” admits Sewell, who was last here at the end of the 1990s shooting Bill Bennett’s In a Savage Land in South Australia, not long after he’d made Proyas’ Dark City, in Sydney.
“It was wonderful to go back to Sydney. I guess I was just waiting for another job to take me back ... I’m such a cheapskate.”
Gods of Egypt offered more than a belated homecoming; Sewell is also enjoying the blockbuster secrecy.
“I’ve always wanted to be told I wasn’t allowed to talk about a film,” he grins.
All he will say: “I was playing a character called Urshu, a chief architect, and it was great fun.”
Gods of Egypt followed an equally godly shoot in Hungary last year for Hercules. “I only do gods now,” Sewell deadpans. Given English actors are usually lumped with a villain/ king/ adviser role in such films, it’s refreshing to see Sewell in the thick of the Hercules action, alongside Herc himself, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“I’m well in there. It’s really nice for me,” Sewell agrees. “I have to say, I’ll always be grateful to [ director] Brett Ratner for having no idea who I was, so he didn’t have any preconceived ideas about me. For the first time in years, not being on a horse commanding my serfs to kill each other but actually down there in the action myself ... it was great fun.”
Along with his old mate Ian McShane, Sewell bulked up to become one of Hercules’ band of mercenaries.
“We were all eating our own versions of the Dwayne Johnson diet. But I was so sick of salmon by the end of that job,” Sewell groans.
“But now I’ve become institutionalised, I can’t get off it! I’ve got a protein habit that I just cannot keep under control. But no matter how much you work out, it’s quite easy to develop dysmorphia because if you stand next to Dwayne Johnson, you’re always going to look like there’s not enough going on! I was standing next to Dwayne every day thinking, ‘ My arms are so spindly’. It was only when I got home I realised none of my old suits fit me.”
Sewell trained in acting at a prestigious London school and has done a lot of classic theatre pieces, including a stint on the West End last year with Kristin Scott Thomas in the Harold Pinter play Old Times.
Yet he approached working with wrestlerturned- actor Johnson with little scepticism.
“I’ve always liked Dwayne, I always thought he had a really great presence, a lot of humour and a great humility. I just thought, when I read the script, that it was a very good vehicle for him.
“When the cast assembled for a read- through, it was so much less cheesy and obviously blockbuster- ish; it was a very interesting, eclectic cast with a lot of really wide- ranging experience.”
Among that eclectic cast was one of Sewell’s heroes, John Hurt.
Though Sewell had met the English veteran in his agent’s office in the very early days of his career, he’d never had the chance to work with him until now.
“He always has been [ a hero],” says Sewell, “but now he’s just John. It’s funny, when you meet someone very, very famous, unless you’re slightly pathological, you can’t maintain the idea of them as a famous person if you actually engage with them. It’s only when you walk away that you think, ‘ Jesus Christ, that was so and so!’
“It was only really when I saw the trailer for Hercules that I thought, ‘ Christ, I’m in a film with John Hurt!’.”
HERCULES Now showing at Village Cinemas