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
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