It’s so nice to have enough time to speak with an accomplished actor so you can talk about lots of things they have going on. Mark Strong did interviews for the John le Carré’s spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He spoke about that film, which opens Friday, and his upcoming roles in John Carter and, as far as we hear, Green Lantern 2.
CraveOnline: How many times did you have to read the script to really understand this?
Mark Strong: No more than usually really. I know it’s a complicated film and it’s brilliant in that it mirrors the book in that way because the book is really kind of arcane and difficult. You never quite know what’s going on and are you with Smiley, is he ahead of you, do you know more than him, does he know more than you? And the film is the same. But in the script, essentially your job is to present those moments as written. Often what I’ll do is take out of the script all the stuff that I’m not in, because that’s irrelevant. You don’t know about that stuff, unless it says specifically in the scene that you’re aware of something’s happened. You’re just dealing with your own thing. My journey for Jim was to do the scene in Hungary which goes wrong, then arrive at the school, the relationship with the boy, the realization that his world is coming crashing back in and ultimately his despair in the fact that he realizes he’s been used and has to take revenge or mercy on his closest friend who he loves.
Would you like the Woody Allen approach to movies where you only get your pages?
I mean, it takes away the responsibility in a sense because then all you can do is do what’s on the page. You can’t second guess what’s going on in the rest of the movie which can sometimes be a bit of a burden. Because obviously you don’t know because you won’t be in the edit, it’s not your film.
You’ve always been prolific and able to disappear into characters. Has it gotten harder to do that since you’ve been in some big films and people are starting to recognize your face?
Yeah, I think inevitably I can’t hide in the way that I’ve always enjoyed in the past, because part of the joy of this has been cropping up in things that people have no idea it’s me. I really enjoy that. I love that. I love it if somebody makes the connection during the film or after the film, “My God, that’s that guy.” I take a kind of perverse pleasure in that. As far as franchises are concerned, I was killed off in both Kick-Ass and Sherlock Holmes so it’s not like I was franchise-hungry. And the truth is, when Green Lantern and John Carter came up, I was very nervous about signing up for both of them because of the fact that they have the possibility of doing more. In my experience in the 20 years or something I’ve been doing it, you used to avoid franchises like the plague. If something came up and it had sequels you wouldn’t do it, you didn’t want to sign yourself away. Now everything has a sequel. You have no choice.
We only see two glimpses of you in the ‘John Carter’ trailer. Obviously they have to introduce John Carter first, but do you have some really nice juicy material?
I do. I’m not in it as much as the trailer might perhaps suggest because there’s a lot of us in it and there’s a big storyline between two warring tribes. There’s a big love story going on as well. My bit is one aspect of the film.
Then it might be accurate. We only see you twice.
But enough to be there as a presence. It’s my favorite kind of part. You just pop in and make stuff happen with the few scenes that you have. I play a character called Matai Shang who’s kind of the leader of a race who you’re never quite sure if they really exist or not.
They already announced a ‘Green Lantern’ sequel. Are they inviting you back and giving you more to do?
Have they announced it?
Over the summer they said, “We’re doing Green Lantern 2!”
I think they’d like to. It didn’t make the money that they wanted it to make.
That’s why it was a bizarre announcement.
But I think what they’ve done, they feel they have a property that is interesting enough if they get it right. And now the advertising, the groundwork has been laid with the first one and I think they genuinely feel, because the second one I think exists in written form, they feel they have something that could work. Having said all that I’ve heard absolutely nothing and I have no idea whether they will go again, but I know there are two schools of thought. One, that it didn’t work, it didn’t make the money so we don’t make another one, and the other school of thought is: “Imagine we made a really, really good second movie. It could fly.”
Would you want to follow the path teased at the end with the yellow ring and getting corrupted?
Sure, yeah, because I got into the mythology of Green Lantern. I read all the comic books, or as many as I could, and I slightly got hooked. I got into that character. And if the second movie is exploring his fall, then I’d be very interested, yeah.