Exclusive Interview: Green Lantern star Mark Strong!
Mark Strong is a force to be reckoned with. This London born actor has the ability to portray a very lethal villain, yet he is far from merely being a one note kind of performer. His work in films like ROCKNROLLA, KICK –ASS and ROBIN HOOD is outstanding yet those films are but only a fraction of this talent’s resume. His latest feature casts Strong as a hero of sorts, although one that is most assuredly badass. While GREEN LANTERN as a whole didn’t work as well as I hoped it would, Mr. Strong himself is once again very impressive as Sinestro.
When JoBlo.com had the chance to speak to Mark, he discussed taking on the role of Sinestro, and the strange and bizarre nature of working in front of a blue screen. He also spoke about the roles he takes on and why he likes to visit his dark side. He also gave a little insight into portraying the second alien of his career thanks to JOHN CARTER. Mr. Strong is an incredibly kind and talented man and it is always nice to see actors of his stature be a part of the super hero genre.
GREEN LANTERN opens this Friday at a theatre near you.
It was great. I mean, essentially he is someone you wouldn’t mess with. He is what some people may describe as a complete badass, but he is a hero and he is doing it for good. He lives and breathes the Lantern Corps. His whole essence is to keep that Corps together so they can fight evil in the universe. It was a real pleasure to play somebody who wasn’t evil…
How familiar were you with the comic?
I wasn’t at all because growing up in England - I think you could find DC and Marvel comics and there were probably special outlets where you could get them – but none of my mates read superhero comics, and I wasn’t really aware of them. We had different kinds of comics; we had sort of kiddy comics about cartoon characters. And Superman and Batman I became aware of as I was growing up, but not Green Lantern. Because what I’ve now realized is the reason we know – because everybody said the Green Lantern is the third in the tier of “The DC Heroes”, I’m not sure that is true. I mean there is in terms of films and cartoons and television programs, but that is because Batman and Superman essentially have earthbound problems. So you can film it on earth. You give Batman his gear and you give Superman his cape and it all takes place on earth. The reason that they’ve never been able to do Green Lantern before was because you’ve got the whole space element and the alien element. The technology hasn’t really been good enough to deliver that in a credible way. I think out of all of them, Green Lantern is the most interesting ironically. So I was aware of Superman and Batman but not Green Lantern.
What was it like stepping into the world, especially with how much “green screen” was involved?
Well it was blue screen because we were wearing green…
That was really strange in itself. I’m used to green screen, suddenly its blue and I was like why? Ah, you’re wearing green. [Laughing] I went, okay, I understand. It was weird, it was weird. I came in, I spent four hours in make-up putting on this prosthetic and then the color and then putting on a skin tight grey suit with dots all over it. I had boots that had platform soles because I was meant to be five inches taller than I actually am. And then I had lights, little fairy lights strapped to my body to recreate the energy source that they have at the center of their uniforms… did you notice we had the bright little lights?
Yes I did.
I resembled a bizarre get-up, a costume that I had to wear in reality and then walk out into a big room of nothing but cameras and cables with blue walls. And the first scene I did was the end scene… it was the most bizarre thing. There was nothing there.
So you didn’t deal with anything physical, just blue walls?
Yeah, all blue walls. Even talking to the Guardians there was nobody there. So it was really all about the imagination.
You tend to take on characters that are just a bit off-kilter, including Sinestro. What brings you to this type of role?
I find them fascinating. I think the good guy is just meant to be the good guy. He’s gotta have a nice smile, kiss the girl and be good. The bad guys, there is just much more going on. Think about [James] Bond for example, the villain has been elevated to a status all of his own. And maybe because in Britain, in England, we’re not quite as focused on the hero in the way perhaps American culture is. In Britain, think about it, we have Shakespearean characters who are the main, leading characters like “Macbeth” and “Richard III, they’re villains. So we kind of worship or exult as leading characters our villains. And I don’t think that is true of American mythology. Here it’s all about the hero isn’t it?
Oh yeah, American heroes tend to be more like John Wayne or something like that rather than “Richard III”.
I like those parts because I want to delve in and find out what makes them the way they are, because that is the culture I’ve been brought up on. Villains are way more interesting than being just a broad stroke of badness in a narrative.
What was it like working with Martin [Campbell] and how did he take on this world?
He was very specific about how it should be. He had it all in his head. Somebody on that set of nothingness had to have it all in his head, and that was Martin. So everyday you’d come into work and you know, I’d get up at three in the morning and I’d be in the chair talking nonsense with the make-up guys. I’d drink too much coffee. Then I’d sit in the trailer waiting for everybody to get ready for forty-five minutes. I’d eventually get up and say, “Hi. Good morning. How are you?” and in that environment you can easily forget what the hell you’re there for. And you can forget what the purpose of the scene is. And what Martin does which was brilliant, he’d say, ‘Okay… stop, everybody clear the set…’ and he’d get me and Ryan [Reynolds] together and run through the scene and we’d remind ourselves exactly what it was we were doing there and then. That is so important.
That seems like a great way to work, it would be easy to get wrapped up in conversation and such.
Yeah, you can forget the reason you’re there. You are busy kind of going through your life and saying hello to everybody.
There is certainly a franchise possibility here. Is this a character you’d like to return to?
Yeah, for all the reasons that I chose to do him initially, which is, I thought he was cool. I thought the look of him, the idea of him, and the journey he goes in through the comics is really cool.
How much of the comics influenced your performance?
When I got the part, I was put in the direction of them, Donald De Line [the producer] said have a read of Geoff Johns “The Secret Origin” story, and that is where I started. And then I read “Rebirth” and then I kind of went through Geoff and Ivan’s [Reis] run. I haven’t done much of the modern stuff, all the Black Lantern’s and stuff, but I went back a little bit, as far as I could and just read as much as I could really. The more I saw the imagery, and the more I realized the storylines, the idea of the character just kind of formed out of that.
It was great fun. As an actor, you want to play stuff as far from you as you can and it doesn’t get much better than Sinestro.
I’d love to see you in a role that is just you… [Laughing]
I have no idea how to do that. [Laughing]
So what is next for you after this?
The next sort of big movie is JOHN CARTER. Andrew Stanton [the director of John Carter], his enthusiasm and talent with Pixar is something you just have got to get excited about. He is going to create something quite special.
What can you tell me about your character?
Well funny enough, having never played an alien in my life, I’m playing another alien. [The character] is much more of a cerebral figure. He’s a mysterious leader of a race called “the Ferns” and you’re never quite sure… people on Mars really don’t know if they really exist or not. They are kind of a Zen monastic type of being who follow the Goddesses. He is as cerebral as Sinestro is physical.