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A Sure Bet | Paul Bettany

an emily blunt interview

Paul Bettany has been on my smitten-with list since I can remember. I suffered through that horrible A Knight's Tale humble and thankful for any frame he graced. I was tickled pink when he appeared as Russell Crowe's "best friend" in A Beautiful Mind. And in yet another completely different style role within notoriously gritty Gangster # 1 Paul's anything but lovable, character-wise. He's a wonderful and versatile talent.

I was not alone in my attentions. Casting agents were taking notice at his immense abilties too. Sometimes talent is noticed and this is one talented actor that is really getting some great roles. The latest, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, is not my favorite film...but Bettany, once again, is superb as the ship's doctor [and, again, Crowe's best friend...].
Frankly, he's the most interesting part of the film - splendid vessel details aside.

And he's married to that gorgeous Jennifer Connelly; they've had a child and everything. But a gal can still notice that on top of being immensely talented Paul is positively gorgeous. He even comes with a frightfully charming near-Cockney accent. His animated eyes dance wildly about like an animal that's been caught and is biding its time before escape; amusing itself with the silly human before him. Paul's a tiptop delectable bit of naughty manyum - though an unobtainable happily married slice of mansteak to be sure.

Below is an interview he and I had for Gangster #1...he had just started Master & Commander down in Mexico at the time. Now he's much bigger and it's such a pleasant interview...I thought I'd reissue it. Enjoy.

EMILY: Gangster's a bastard. Who's tougher your Gangster fellow or Tony Soprano?

PAUL: [laughter] Honestly, I haven't seen "The Sopranos". I saw one episode and it was brilliant. Now I have to start watching it. When it came to England, I was away here making the movie. And I don't watch television. Maybe the news or documentaries. Not out of any grandeur I just don't have time.. But usually, I just don't ever turn it on.

EMILY: Me neither. No time. What do you do instead?

PAUL: Masturbate wildly! [laughs] No- no, I play guitar and I read books. And newspapers.

EMILY: [silly boy….don't make me jump on you like a rabid Rhesus monkey, you're married….] What are you reading?

PAUL: At the moment I am reading what is it bloody called again? Uh, "The God of Small Things." And I'm rereading "Darkness of Noon" because it's my favorite novel ever written. Then I'm reading things I won't bore you with about Naval Surgery.

EMILY: [I said being all girly girl] Navel surgery? Are you planning on having this done? [kidding with him]

PAUL: [he fell for it...he's really quite gullible] Not that navel! "In the Navy"... Surgery in the Navy, I should clear that up. Which is at best, really dull. But I'm reading lots about it.

EMILY: That's for the Russell Crowe film right?

PAUL: Yeah. I'm making this movie in Mexico with Russell Crowe and Peter Weir. [Master and Commander]

EMILY: In Gangster #1 you are playing the same character as Malcolm McDowell at a younger age. Did you have to study him to incorporate that into your performance?

PAUL: Kind of. I mean, yes, I had seen his films. I'd seen If and Clockwork Orange. If was one of my favorite films, so I knew his work. He shot his stuff first, so I watched him and we talked a bit about things we were gonna do for each other - mannerisms and such, all of which ended up getting cut out of the movie. Basically, you just try to get a sense of someone. To be frank, the way that you are going to go just sort of opens it self up and you go that way. I shouldn't be telling you that. Everybody tells me it's the secret of acting and "don't tell them it's easy." Don't let anyone know. But really it mostly is.

EMILY: But it's easy for you because your bio says you come from generations of actors.

PAUL: No. I don't know where that story came from. My Dad was an actor. But when I was a kid he was a teacher. He has become an actor since.

EMILY: Your grandmother was a singer right?

PAUL: She was a singer - and a very good one, by all accounts.

EMILY: So you don't feel like an actors son. A Barrymore-style bred actor?

PAUL: I feel like the son of a teacher really.

EMILY: You have been in two movies where you play basically likeable characters. [should I tell him he owes me 8.50 for Knight's Tale -though he was the only saving grace in the pitiful flick] Are you excited now to be the bad guy?

PAUL: I'm more likeable now. I made this movie four years ago, so I'm just more likeable now. I was a bastard back then. [laughter]

EMILY: I love the weird choices you've been making. All over the genres!

PAUL: Acting is really dull if you just do the same thing all the time. Frankly a monkey can behave naturally in front of a camera! So it's nice to do different stuff. The shear facts that it gets really boring if ya don't. So in actual fact I've sought out to try and do different stuff…not to try and "stretch me" or anything like that. Just because it's boring doing the same stuff

EMILY: Gangster #1 was made four years ago….what was the hold-up?

PAUL: The hold-up was the word [ he looks as if he is ashamed to say it to me ] "c*nt". [defending his remark] It's non gender-specific in England and I believe in Canada. It's only in America where it is gender specific. Objects are "c*nts" in England. I guarantee you it's just a punctuation mark. It's how people speak. And it's how I speak if I'm in a pub and drunk. It how people speak and I question the morality of the fact that it wouldn't get released in this country because there is a scene where I stab somebody in the neck with a corkscrew and I call him a "c*nt'. And they didn't mind me stabbing him in the neck. But calling him a "c*nt" while I did it was apparently crossing the line. That was the hold up.

EMILY: I know about the word not being "the same" here believe me. What finally changed that?

PAUL: I think a sort of more broadminded distribution company picked it up.

EMILY: Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble in a pub calling somebody a "c*nt"?

PAUL: In this country, no. But "c*nt" also means "lovely". Like, "Come here, you old c*nt..." you're drunk. I know to look at me I look like a pituitary gland retard, but I decided not to use the word here. But I got into loads of trouble using it in my own country when I was young and ill advised. [laughter]

EMILY: [laughter - he's really genuinely funny] How so?

PAUL: You know. Pub fights. Bar fights. But I don't do that sort of thing anymore.

EMILY: You and Russell Crowe must have had quite a bit to talk about then. [laughs]

PAUL: No. I never discussed fighting with Russell. We might sit back and discuss Proust and such Remembrance of Things Past and not drink. [laughter]

EMILY: What about poor Russell Crowe? He gets a load of bad press. Fair? [ I said purring softly as Mr. Bettany blushed at the controversal subject]

PAUL: I think he gets a load of... the thing about Russell is that Russell speaks his mind. And that's really difficult to find in this industry. I think it comes as a shock. But I love it. I think it is a virtue, speaking your mind. I've never felt worried or intimidated by him or seen anybody else feel worried or intimidated by him and I've spent a lot of time with him. But if you took his honesty away from him, he wouldn't be Russell.

EMILY: Yeah he's blunt that's for sure. Is it weird to have now become a guy that the gossip columns write about?

PAUL: Yeah. It's absurd. Some of them are funny and laughable. And some are really annoying.

EMILY: Such as?

PAUL: Such as years ago in England, they put this picture of me and my girlfriend in it naked. And it was from a film, but it looked like they had taken a snapshot. And then it was just really complicated and it ended up really destroying our relationship. So that's kind of distressing because being in a nice relationship is nice isn't it? You know what I mean?

EMILY: What about with you and Jennifer [Connelly]? Has the press made it more difficult for you guys to enjoy yourselves?

PAUL: [ shy - grinning] It makes you feel murderous when you get followed around by people with cameras and cars. Sort of horrible. And I rang somebody up about it, and they said, "Well Paul, if you don't want to get your photograph taken, don't go out." I went, "Well what sort of life is that?" Know what I mean?

EMILY: I can't even imagine. Why don't you show them a tape of Gangster#1

PAUL: [thinking- laughing] Yeah! Great! Show 'em a tape of Gangster [laughter]

EMILY: Yeah but, it most be kind of flattering though, that so many people want to know about you?

PAUL: It sounds really naive of me, but it's nice in terms of the work's great and it's nice to be congratulated on the work. I'm not gonna lie too much. It's nice when people say, "That work is good". But having people take pictures of you when you are at the beach is just fucking annoying. That's annoying. You know what I mean?

EMILY: So what is the title of this Russell Crowe/ Paul Bettany film anyway?

PAUL: [laughter] Presently…Far Side of the World. I think ….[laughter]


EMILY: What's with the film Dead Babies?

PAUL: [laughter] LONG may that never get anywhere….that's really independent… of ME liking it [laughter]. It's an amazing novel by a man called Martin Amos. It's a less amazing film.

EMILY: Well put. What about your other film due, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?

PAUL: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is film by just the most defying human being in the world, Stellan Skarsgård, who's also in Dogville. If ever he asked me to do anything again, even porn, I'll be in if he's in it!

EMILY: You said the PR bios are incorrect. You don't come from from actors. Okay, so how did you get started then? Was it one movie that inspired you?

PAUL: Yes,. Actually there's lot's of movies that I saw, like Casablanca and my favorite film, great old films…. like my favorite favorite film, which I am blushingly groping for… Brief Encounter.Films like that. Basically I really wanted to be a pop star and the thing of it is that I love writing songs and I was a Busca which is someone who plays guitar on the street for money and I realized really quickly when I stood in front of an audience to play my songs I just shook and I just hated it. I guess one of the prerequisites of being a pop star is that you don't mind singing your own songs in front of other people. Basically, I bless John Lennon every day for having written "Mother You Had me, But I Never Had You". It's an extraordinary thing to say. Very beautiful, simple; a great piece of poetry. But I wouldn't want anybody to know that much about me. Do you know what I mean? People that I absolutely have nothing... I don't mind singing to people that I know, but I have no interest in having an audience. So the good thing about acting is that you can watch Gangster #1and you can think "He's an aggressive little bastard" but you don't know…. or you can watch Beautiful Mind and go "I bet he's that cocky and full of himself?" but not actually know because I'm not being myself now. You know what I mean?

EMILY: How did you perfect that gangster strut? [ thought not spoken: that sexy demeanor and pouty smirk?]

PAUL: I wore women's underwear. [laughs]. I didn't know I had one [laughter] It's probably an amalgamation of every film I've ever seen and I probably just ripped off Malcolm. Listen, someone puts you in an Oswald Botang suit - he makes beautiful suits, all those suits are like 4000 pounds, which is like $6,000 a piece - and you can't walk badly. It would be an insult-it's a helluva suit [laughter]

EMILY: Did you get to keep them? [thought not spoken- "I'd love to have ya model them ….slowly…focus HE'S MARRIED]

PAUL: [winking] They weren't gonna let me, but I stole them. [laughter] I stole all three suits. I was playing a gangster. I thought it's expected ya know [ laughter].

EMILY: Your character doesn't speak much in Gangster#1. Do you feel it's was easier or harder to convey character with less words?

PAUL: It's brilliant! Actors usually say its so difficult when you have no words and you have to communicate things through your eyes…it's absolutely untrue. I long for the days of silent movies. It's just much easier. Leave all the talking up to somebody else. It's one less thing to fuck up. It s the medium of pictures isn't it?

EMILY: Yeah. I know what you mean. Gangster's a pretty violent film. Was it true to the original script?

PAUL: Yes it was. And I am very proud of it. I think we all live in a really violent world and films should reflect the world in which we live. And if anybody doesn't think it's a violent world, I suggest that they probably don't go out much and see that somebody shot somebody at the counter at LAX or picked up a kid and bashed them on the bonnet of the car... So it's a violent world and I really don't understand the morality in films of trying to make that palatable. It's just unacceptable! We tried to make a completely palatable film and I think we succeeded! People should leave the cinema being upset by it!

END

Bravo! An artist. A cute tall dreamy artist. Jenny's a lucky girl. Keep your eyes peeled for Paul Bettany, his star has only begun to rise. Paul's charming and talented a sexy combo of man spectacular!

Master And Commander
Gangster #1
A Knight's Tale




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