SUB­TLE BEATS PSY­CHO

Mark Strong found he was sec­ond-guess­ing him­self when play­ing a nu­anced character for a change in his lat­est film, Be­fore I Go To Sleep

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - EMMA KEMP

Mark Strong is used to play­ing psy­chos. In the 2005 thriller Syr­i­ana he was the Ira­nian agent who yanked out George Clooney’s fin­ger­nails.

Later, as the de­vi­ous Lord Black­wood in Sher­lock Holmes, the English ac­tor dropped a con­struc­tion beam on Robert Downey Jr. Then came the trea­sonous Sir Godfrey in Robin Hood, not to men­tion his con­tri­bu­tions in Sun­shine, Re­volver and Kick-Ass. With a reper­toire like this, Strong has cin­ema’s dark types down pat.

Which ren­ders the 51-yearold’s lat­est role an un­usual de­par­ture.

“It’s a less flashy per­for­mance than I’m used to,” he says. Strong stars op­po­site Ni­cole Kid­man in Be­fore I Go to Sleep, the big-screen adap­ta­tion of S.J. Wat­son’s best-sell­ing thriller.

Ev­ery morn­ing Chris­tine (Kid­man) wakes up with no mem­ory of who she is, forced to rely on her hus­band Ben (the in­ge­niously cast Colin Firth) to fill in the blanks.

En­ter Strong as Dr Nash, the neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist who claims he wants to help Chris­tine piece her life back to­gether.

Strong says the key in this role is sub­tlety. And it’s a re­lief. “I love the fact that I was fi­nally be­ing asked to play some­one rel­a­tively nor­mal and straight­for­ward, be­cause I’ve al­ways played parts that are as far re­moved from me as pos­si­ble,” Strong says. “Vil­lains ob­vi­ously are noth­ing like me.”

But there was an in­evitable sec­ond guess­ing that came with con­vey­ing such a nu­anced character.

Es­pe­cially given pro­duc­tion was sand­wiched be­tween Strong’s lat­est string of spy roles in The Imi­ta­tion Game, Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice, again op­po­site Firth, and Grimsby with Sacha Baron Co­hen.

“I’m used to play­ing char­ac­ters that have some­thing about them, so I of­ten wor­ried that my per­for­mance wasn’t ex­cit­ing enough. Was I do­ing enough? I was con­stantly ask­ing Rowan (di­rec­tor Rowan Joffe) that ques­tion.” He needn’t have wor­ried. Sub­tlety is a cru­cial theme in this vis­ceral roller-coaster, which drip-feeds its au­di­ence just enough to en­sure they’re on the same ride as the pro­tag­o­nist.

Kid­man is vul­ner­a­ble, almost ethe­real in her wispi­ness, yet she also por­trays a tan­gi­ble strength.

“I think a lesser ac­tress might be able to play one or the other, but per­haps not both,” Strong said of his costar.

“She had a real take on Chris­tine, and she fought to get the role be­cause I think she saw some­thing in it that she knew she could de­liver.

“When I saw the fi­nal movie I could see what she was after be­cause it’s a side of her that I haven’t seen be­fore.”

Strong had not met Kid­man, but was pleas­antly sur­prised by how “sane” the world-fa­mous ac­tor has re­mained.

“We had some won­der­ful chats when the cam­era wasn’t rolling, we had a gig­gle to­gether,” he said.

“But when the cam­era is rolling, you have to bring your A-game, be­cause she knows ex­actly what she’s do­ing.”

Mark Strong and Ni­cole Kid­man bring their A games in the film

Be­fore I Go To Sleep

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