What is Cleanskin all about?
It’s essentially about terrorism and anti-terrorism. I play a character called Ewan Keane who has a lot of experience in that kind of work through MI5 and MI6. He’s a soldier – he’s been over to Iraq and to the Middle East and seen some pretty shocking things in his time. In a sense, his is a personal vendetta despite his professional approach. He’s seen many people die at the hand of terrorism and his main aim in life is to correct that and rectify the situation. He’s very driven in that sense but he’s a very lonely man. He doesn’t have any attachments, he lives alone and he’s not got a social life as such. He’s anonymous.
Ewan has seen a lot of trauma then, how did you prepare for the role?
Mostly by gleaning what I could from reading the script very closely and talking to Hadi about his research. That and my research, reading up on the current state of things… You only need to read the papers to realize the social and political situation and the questions and arguments surrounding these issues. Whether it’s right or wrong it’s always with us and it’s definitely something which affects us all.
Terrorism has become a highly topical issue and there is a real emphasis upon it in today’s culture, how do you think this might affect Cleanskin’s reception?
Hopefully in a positive way because Cleanskin is an interesting and intelligent film. It’s action-packed without being heavy-handed and it’s entertaining but thoughtful. I think people will be able to identify with all of the characters including my character and Abhin’s character Ash who are practically polar opposites. Whatever way you look at it you’ll have an opinion one way or another and it’s a very mixed up situation which has been going on for years and years… It’s a battle which travels right back to Richard the Lion Heart and the Crusades and that ideological and religious conflict hasn’t ever really gone away. It’s nothing new in that sense.
So you’ve played a lot of villains in the past and you were once the defected double agent Alec Trevelyan but in Cleanskin you’re the hero, what’s it like playing the good guy?
It’s good (laughs) it’s refreshing! I like playing the bad guy, the bad guy got me a lot of work and a lot of exposure.
It must be good fun being bad?
It is! You can push the boat out and really go to town. They’re very meaty, juicy parts sometimes but I like to try and mix it up and I’ve played some pretty decent people recently which I’m quite pleased about. Ewan is an anti-hero in some sense as he can be very brutal in his methods in order to get what he wants.
Are there any impressive stunts we can look forward to in Cleanskin?
The film is quite physical. We set the stuntman Peter on fire not too long ago and he was running around like a fire ball! Some of the action is quite disturbing and brutal in order to show the methods needed to counteract the terrorist action. Fighting fire with fire really but the plot kind of leaves things open. I like this script because it’s very open-ended. It’s up to you to make your mind up and for the audience to see how they feel.
Do you get to perform any of your own stunts?
Most of the time. If it’s really dodgy stuff like jumping off the top of huge buildings or being set on fire I’m happy to get somebody else who knows what they’re doing to do it! I’ve done a lot of sword-fighting and horse-riding and I enjoy that very much.
Which of your recent projects are you most looking forward to seeing come out?
Well, Cleanskin obviously!
Do you enjoy being involved in British cinema?
It’s always nice to be at home and I enjoy working with a British crew, I feel more comfortable around them, also there’s nobody shouting! Sometime you get crews in America who tend to like shouting a lot in order to get things moving whereas these guys (gestures towards the set) just get on with the job. It’s small and more intimate on set and I think you do some of your better work on these of films. Just haven’t got enough money! (laughs)
You’ve come from theatre and film but are you making more of a move into TV?
I’ll just see what comes up really. I don’t have a set game plan and I like the surprise of what comes up. I’d never say no to an invitation to come back on stage for a good play and a good director with a good script because that’s a truly exhilarating experience. It’s rather different from the situation we’re in now where it’s snowing and we’re not doing anything at all! (laughs) We’re just hanging around.
I’d have to say Macbeth which I played on stage in the West End. It was always a role I’d have liked to play in a film. I think there was an attempt at one point but unfortunately it all fell through.
Are you looking forward to Christmas and the New Year?
I finish tomorrow and I’m just going to have a bit of a break to be honest. I’ve been running around so many places, the Ukraine, Norway, South Africa, Ireland, and all over the place! I’ve hardly been at home this year so I’m looking forward to spending a little time with the kids.