SO BAD HE’S GOOD

TONY KEBBELL – THE STAR YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

He has worked for Oliver Stone and Steven Spiel­berg, play­ing lead roles in some of the big­gest block­busters of re­cent years, but you might not recog­nise Toby Kebbell in the street.

Many of the Bri­tish ac­tor’s most high-pro­file char­ac­ters – a venge­ful ape, a Marvel su­pervil­lain or an eight-foot Orc chief­tain – are cam­ou­flaged by heavy makeup or com­puter wiz­ardry.

The 34-year-old has been Agenor in Wrath of the Ti­tans, Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Dr Doom in The Fan­tas­tic Four and Durotan in War­craft, amass­ing big pay days and ap­prov­ing re­views when the films of­ten haven’t.

With his lead role in the hotly-an­tic­i­pated re­make of the 1959 epic Ben-Hur, Kebbell’s ca­reer is tipped to go strato­spheric, but he’s keep­ing his feet on the ground.

“I’ll see you on the down side of things,” he says at the end of an in­ter­view at a Bev­erly Hills ho­tel to dis­cuss his lat­est role as Ro­man sol­dier Mes­sala.

He may have swapped his rented coun­cil flat in Lon­don for some­where rather more palatial in LA, but Kebbell doesn’t feel like a film star, and hopes he never will.

“I don’t do so­cial media for that ex­act rea­son, be­cause that’s a thing that re­ally pro­motes you as a star. I’ve no in­ter­est in be­ing im­por­tant to any­one,” he says.

He is not try­ing to be “overly hum­ble”, he says, but doesn’t want to build a pedestal from which he could one day fall.

“I know it’s go­ing to stop. It has to stop, it al­ways does – all those good things come to an end,” he in­sists.

Kebbell dropped out of school as a re­bel­lious 15-year- old and be­gan at­tend­ing weekly act­ing work­shops.

His big Hollywood break­through, play­ing Gar­siv in Mike Newell’s Prince of Per­sia: Sands of Time in 2010, was a for­ma­tive, “heart­break­ing” ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I was given a bad guy and he was nu­anced and he was in­ter­est­ing and I thought: ‘Wow – how fan­tas­tic that you get this!’” he re­calls.

“And that got di­luted and di­luted to noth­ing. So my am­bi­tion from then on was that if I get a bad guy again I want him to have what I know to be true, which is that peo­ple make ter­ri­ble mis­takes, but they’re still peo­ple.”

Kebbell ev­i­dently drew from this les­son for his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Mes­sala in Ben-Hur, por­tray­ing the Jewish prince’s adop­tive brother turned deadly neme­sis, a man who made some poor choices but isn’t evil per­son­i­fied.

Ben-Hur opens to­day

Toby Kebbell as Mes­sala Severus and Jack Hus­ton as Ju­dah Ben-Hur in a scene from film Ben-Hur.

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