Q. Is that always you behind the mask in V For Vendetta?
A. Pretty much. There’s a sequence at the end, a balletic blood letting scene, when there’s a guy called David Leitch, who was one of the American stuntmen who worked on The Matrix – that’s all him.
Q. How uncomfortable was it acting in that costume and mask?
A. It was very hot, but that was the wig really. The mask was fine, but as I say I was incredibly hot, so there was a ‘waterfall’ behind the mask at all times.
Q. Was it easy to do your dialogue kitted up in that way?
A. It was muffled. In fact, we recreated a muffle effect in post-production. There were mikes in the mask and the quality was okay but it wasn’t great, so I had to re-voice the whole thing. When we re-recorded it we had one mike with a mask over it and another mike that was open. The lines were done a couple of times and then mixed to get the balance of muffled and non-muffled right.
Q. Aside from the evident physical discomforts V seems like a fun character to play, was he?
A. He’s a very dashing, charismatic, romantic figure but he’s also a twisted, damaged, human being. He’s ultimately just an idea, not really a human being.
Q. Was it hard to step into the psyche of this character?
A. Well the psychology of the character’s there, what’s happened to him is not fully explained. You understand that he’s been tortured and physically abused and that’s what has created him. But at the same time the reason he was imprisoned in the first place was, I would suggest, because he was some kind of political activist. And I think he was probably an actor so he has very strong opinions.
Q. How big an attraction was the political nature of this film which, ostensibly, is a big action blockbuster?
A. That was the thing that interested me about it; it’s that marriage between form and content. These ideas are couched in a very stylised way, you wouldn’t normally have those two elements in the one film, and I think that makes it quite unique. So the political content and the ideas within the film were obviously appealing to me, and were the main reasons I wanted to do it.
Q. The film is obviously bankrolled by Warner Bros., but it is set in a fictionalised, futuristic London. Do you think it would have been made by a Hollywood studio had the setting been American?
A. Probably not. That’s the fascinating thing about it because it really speaks about America and American foreign policy in a big way and yet it’s set in England, so it’s quite convenient that the source material is an English piece and also one of the sources from that is a great historical event in English history. And yet when you watch it there are overtones, you start thinking about Fascist Germany as well.
Q. How do you think American audiences will react to it?
A. I don’t know, I guess the same as any other audiences will. I’d be interested to see how audiences in the UK react to it because there are some quite alarming visual things that take place. I think the interesting thing about the film when you’re watching it is that you kind of skate across the surface, or you’re forced to because it moves at a real clip, and it’s visually quite exhilarating. There are lot of ideas contained in it, but you don’t disappear into them, you’re forced to keep up with it. You go on a journey and I think a lot of audiences will say ‘hey, that was a ride’ and maybe not think about it as much as they might. But I would suspect most audiences would take something away. The resonances are very clear, so hopefully it’s a discussion point.
Q. Would you say that despite your track record in these blockbusters that you prefer smaller films?
A. Yeah, I think so. I loved working on this though. We were in Berlin, which was one of those places I’d always wanted to visit. It’s a fantastic city and being with all those guys, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Sinead Cusack, John Hurt, these are actors I’ve been in awe of for a long time, so that was a real treat. But generally, the films I love to work on are small and Australian. Big blockbuster films tend to creak under their own weight and the momentum of them, for an actor, sometimes just gets in the way. I like to keep things flowing otherwise too many thoughts and too many things impinge upon the flow of the piece.
Q. Are you comfortable with the trappings that go with big budget movies?
A. Nope. I don’t care about my trailer; I really enjoy hanging around with the crew and actors on set. But you find with the big budget film you’ve got the trailer and people sit around and you get bored and think you might as well go to the trailer and have a sleep, so you then start using it. It’s weird. But I’d much rather hang out on set with everyone.
Q. So it’s just bad luck that so many of your films have made a fortune then, is it?
A. Most of them don’t. The majority are really fairly low budget, certainly by American standards. A few have done very well but most of my films have hit the water and sunk.