Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paul Bettany on Priest, in his own words

Courtesy Sony Pictures
This interview was part of a media roundtable, where about eight media folks (including myself) were seated and the talent was brought to each table in shifts of about eight to ten minutes each. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch the names of all the media present at our table, so the other questioners will be noted simply as "Q" (how mysterious!), with "UFN" being my question in particular. (The Legion poster referenced was mine, I brought two to get signed from Comic-Con, which he did gladly! //fangirl)

Q: So is the second time a charm? (Referring to Bettany's second major film with Scott Stewart as director)

Paul Bettany: Is the second time a charm? I think it's 'third time's the charm,' but in this case it was the second. It was a really great working experience, and I think you could ask anybody in the cast or crew, and I mean it, if they had a great time, and they'll all say yes. Even the days I got injured, we had great days.

Q: What sort of injuries did you sustain?

PB: I fell on a de-acceleration wire, and I landed on my foot, which is where you should land, but it failed to de-accelerate, and I landed about 20 feet... it was painful. But it was fine, thanks to the pleasures of Vicodin.

Q: Were you doing your own stunts?

PB: Oh, yeah! As many of them as insurance would allow me to do, I did. I really enjoy that stuff, and, I mean, if you're in an action movie, and you're not doing the action, what are you getting paid for? I wanted to do it, I wanted to have that experience. It's such an amazing experience, and I loved it.

Q: What you said at the footage screening last night, was 'I'm British, so I'm starting from a butch deficit.'

PB: Yeah, it's true, so I started training before the movie, and my trainer came out with me from New York. I've known him for years, we worked together on Legion. He did a really amazing job, I think. He kept me safe, put a bunch of weight on me, made sure I didn't eat badly, and woke me up at 4:00 in the morning to go training every day. We start work at 6:00, so Mike would wake me up to go training at 4:00 in the morning. I can be a rude bastard at 4:00 in the morning if you're waking me up.

Courtesy Sony Pictures
Q: The six-pack on the [Legion] poster she had, does that come naturally?

PB: No, it doesn't come "naturally." It comes from a huge amount of deprivation! Yeesh... my body very quickly retreats very quickly back to the body of a reader who eats too much cheese and drinks beer. I can't get fit unless somebody's... I have a very strong work ethic, but I can't stop eating cheese unless somebody's paying me an enormous sum of money not to eat it.

Q: You're walking kind of a fine line in this movie. You're a supernatural priest who's reciting "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death..." before he throws crosses at vampires. How do you, as an actor, keep the line between that and camp. How do you walk that line when you're reciting those scenes?

PB: I think you understand, as the actor, that this is a sort of really enjoyable moment for the audience. You understand that it looks like he's reading from a Bible, and the familiar says "Your words mean nothing here, Priest," and then the audience get revealed that what's inside the Bible ain't f***ing words. But you have to play it straight. You understand the entertainment value of that as a series of shots. I love that kind of stuff. I really do.

Q: Is that what drew you to the part?

PB: Well yeah. A bunch of things drew me to the part. Scott being a huge part of that. Scott with over three times of the budget that he had the time before -- a really broad canvas and enough money to buy really great paints finally for him. It's really paid off for him, and I'm really proud of the result. I was so shocked last night at the footage that we saw. So proud.

UFN: Is this your favorite genre to do?

PB: I love making movies. I love watching movies, I love making movies. From Legion I went on and played Charles Darwin and put on a bunch of weight for that, then I lost a bunch of weight to make this movie, then made a film in 17 days, unbelievably, with Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci. A small little independent film about the financial crisis, so I will continue to make as many different sorts of movies as I'm allowed to.

Q: How is it going from action to a more serious type of role?

PB: It's like two different jobs. They really are. They're totally separate.

Q: You have a pretty good sense of humor, so what kind of humorous subtitle would you give "Priest 2?" Sequels always seem to have an odd subtitle.

PB: I haven't the smallest idea...

Q: "Priest 2: The Priestening?"

PB: I remember at Comic-Con last time, Karl Urban signed a poster to me and said, "Thanks so much for being in my movie." He signed a poster to me, which I didn't ask for, and he'd hand written in his name, "Priest, starring Karl Urban."

Priest opens in theaters Friday, May 13.

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