Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Interview with Paul Bettany - December 5th, 2008

Promoting: Inkheart
Venue: Claridges Hotel
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): Had you read the book (Inkheart) before you accepted the part?

Paul Bettany (PB): No, I hadn't. I had not read the book beforehand, but my son had. Well, he was reading it at the same time when the script turned up. And I read the script – because I'm lazy – and he was reading the book. And while I was reading the script, I thought, 'God, that's a really well-rendered children's story, it seems to have all the things that I would want in a kids' story. Much more complicated characters than I thought there were going to be and usually are, in stuff nowadays. And I asked him, I said, “What do you think?” and he was really loving it and I thought,”Well, that's my target audience”. But he really loves the book and he was excited by the idea that they were going to make a film of it. So I did it. I suppose he deserves ten per cent...

VL: Was Dustfinger his favourite character? Were you always going to play Dustfinger?

PB: Yes, well, it's the part I got offered. He's a cool character. And you know why? It's because he's not impossibly good and he's not impossibly bad but he's somewhere in the middle, but he's trying to make it work in a world he doesn't quite understand. And I think kids can really handle complicated characters and I don't think there are many of them in kids' stories anymore and I liked that about Dustfinger.

VL: Are you on board for the sequels if they get made? Is Dustfinger even in the sequels?

PB: Yes, he is. Although I don't know what the state of that is, because New Line sort of got swallowed up by Warner Brothers, so I don't know what that means contractually. But it was definitely agreed on that I would – I think I'm still contractually obliged to do it if they make them.

VL: How long did it take you to learn the juggling?

PB: Actually, a long while. I'm quite diligent about that sort of thing. I get quite obsessed. Physical activities in films, it's quite easy to get obsessed with learning how to do them. I played the cello in this thing and, like Jennifer [Connelly, Bettany's wife] just learned to play the piano brilliantly - she's playing Emma Darwin in Creation [opposite Bettany as Charles Darwin] and Emma Darwin was a very good pianist. And it's quite easy to get obsessed with it, because it's something you can control, you can absolutely control by effort. Whereas the other stuff is a little more tenuous and you might put a lot of effort in and just never get to the performance that you're hoping for and never understand that character, whereas learning to juggle, I can control just by sheer bloody-minded effort and getting up early and doing it.

VL: Was there a lot of trial and error involved?

PB: Yeah, we did it mostly with this thing called Poi and Poi have a tendency – what makes them beautiful is that they whizz around each other in these concentric circles and what often tends to happen is that they get crossed and then they swing around and smack you in the testicles, which is a less exciting and entertaining part of Poi.

VL: Was there anything that was cut out of the film that you particularly liked?

PB: No, I love cuts. I've never gone up to a director and said, “I think you should put that back in”. I always assume that it was because I was bad in it and then I'm like, “Thank God that's never going to see the light of day”. Except now they do, with DVD, which is a fucking nightmare for somebody like me. They drive me crazy, DVD extras, oh my God.

VL: You must have been delighted when Jennifer agreed to play your wife for the split-second she was on screen?

PB: Yes, it was actually quite sweet. She was in Italy, with the kids, while I was making the movie and she'd come to see me. And, you know, I spend some time away from my family on movie sets, in strange locations, wanting to go home. And Dustfinger's in a really strange location, wanting to go home to his wife and kids. So it was very nice to have it be her. So it was like half a day's filming and she sort of came in and did it as a joke for us all and it was nice. And I thought it would be a really sweet thing, actually, for our kids to see this movie in which their Dad spends the whole time trying to get home to his family.

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