It's become a comic book movie maxim that the supervillain is often as intriguing–or even more–than the hero himself, but Green Lantern's Mark Strong tweaks that tradition: his Sinestro, the intense Green Lantern Corps veteran, is captivating not because he's a formidable foe, but because he may one day become one.
The Brit actor's been excelling at playing those sorts of on-the-edge characters of late: amusingly arrogant bad guys you find yourself subtly rooting for (Sherlock Holmes' Lord Blackwood, Robin Hood's Sir Godfrey, Kick-Ass's Frank D'Amico), and he's got more on the way. Strong gets into the (rather large and mauve) head of Sinestro for SuperHeroHype, and teases the rakish roles to come.
SuperHeroHype: It must've been fun to get your head around Sinestro's non-villainous side, not even quite the origin story. When you were exposed to the source material, what got you excited about the character?
Mark Strong: The look of him, first of all. When I was asked to look at the comics, [I liked] the idea of transformation. As an actor, the idea that I could bring that guy to life was what fascinated me the most. That's the thing that I was really interested in. The next bit was how to give him a sense of–I don't know-strength and power because he's drawn in the comics, he's always very strong and muscularly drawn. I just wanted to achieve that really.
SHH: How did you get your head around his attitude, his loyalty to the Corps but being on the tough and scary side – something of a martinet?
Strong: To be honest, it was a combination of getting the look right and getting the strength of him right. So it becomes very obvious the way he should move around. It becomes obvious the way that he should talk, the way that his face is set up. I think more than anything military commander was the idea that I was trying to imbue him with, to give him that sort of strength because at the time we meet him in the film he's the greatest of all these three thousand six hundred lanterns. So he's got to have something about him.
SHH: Did you have any sense of the very expansive mythology that Green Lantern has in the comic books before you got involved with this project?
Strong: None whatsoever.
SHH: What was that discovery process like for you?
Strong: It was a slow burn, and the more, even now the richness of the source material is so vast that I haven't even begun to deal with the recent stuff, the really modern Black Lanterns and stuff like that. I read 'Secret Origins.' I read 'Rebirth.' I went into the mythology and found out about the different Green Lanterns. I found out about Sinestro's sector, which is 1417, he's from the planet Korugar, his first name is Thaal, all of that. It just felt that there was a constant source of potential information to find out about him and I'm still on that journey, I have to say.
SHH: We walk out of this movie on a portentous note. The fans know where Sinestro should be going if there are more movies. What's been talked about as far as possible sequels? Will it really be Sinestro front and center?
Strong: I honestly don't know. I mean, nobody sat down and said, 'This is what we're doing.' But that moment in the credits which I hope that people stay for is certainly a nod towards a possibility.
SHH: Have they asked you to keep a window of time open to reprise the role possibly?
Strong: Not yet. It doesn't work like that. What happens is when you sign the original contact to take part in the movie you are obliged to commit for future movies. Because obviously it wouldn't make any sense, if the thing is a huge success they want to make another one, if you're off doing something else it doesn't work. I have to say that more and more these days, pretty much any job [is like that]. I went out for 'Salt' for example, the Angelina Jolie movie, which I just found today that they're doing a second one. There was absolutely no intention of that in the script that I read. So obviously, because it's been successful they want to make another. Virtually any movie you do these days there is a window left open for the potential for more.
SHH: Do you already have your head around the corrupted Sinestro, how you'd want to play him?
Strong: No. I'm very excited if it does go that way to find out what they're going to write and figure out how to do that, because all I wanted to leave was the sense of the possibility of a guy who is menacing, who could be a very dangerous adversary. I think that exists in this film, but how you ramp it up to the next level I don't know yet.
SHH: You're a busy guy with a lot of pending projects right now. What's the next one we're going to see?
Strong: I think it might be 'The Guard' which is a crazy little Irish movie by John McDonagh, Martin McDonagh's brother who did 'In Bruges.' It's with Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and is absolutely hysterical and completely non-PC. It's a wicked, funny, rude little film. It did well at Sundance and I think that's coming out. I did a movie with Jean-Jacque Annaud, a beautiful David Lean-style 'Lawrence of Arabia' type movie about oil coming to the Arabian Peninsula in the '30s. Yeah, it's beautiful, and Jean-Jacque Annaud is just the guy to make that kind of film.
SHH: A very epic-feeling film?
Strong: Absolutely, and Tahara Rahim is in it, who was in 'The Prophet.' He plays my son and at the beginning of the movie there's a battle and I have to hand my children over to the victor of the battle, who's Antonio Banderas. So we play two fathers and Tahara is our son and really it's a coming of age story. And then also 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.'
SHH: How faithful to the original is that going to be to the original source material?
Strong: I think as faithful as possible, but the problem, the difficulty is the book is so arcane. The success of the novel is how hidden everything is. You go on a journey in the novel, and the idea is that within the Secret Service there's a mole, somebody has been sacrificed, there's a problem and George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, is brought out of retirement to find this mole. But the success of the book is that it's so elliptical. You have no idea what's going on at any given moment and your brain is challenged to keep up with George Smiley as he struggles to discover who this mole is. Now, film demands a fairly linear narrative and how you translate that kind of a book into a film is going to be the challenge, especially as you only have ninety minutes to do it. There was a series with Alec Guinness that was very successful, but that was a TV series. They had a lot more time to tell the story, and so I'm fascinated to see it myself, but it's got an absolutely incredible cast and Tomas Alfredson, the director; he made going to work an absolute pleasure because he looked at things everyday in a completely fresh way. You might've heard people say that before, but the best way to describe it is that you read something on the page, you go into work and think that's what you're going to shoot and then he turns up and goes, 'Actually, don't worry about that. I've had an idea. What we should do is this.' Pretty much every time we did that you found yourself going, 'My, God, that's brilliant.' So I'm really hoping that he can make that film work.
SHH: And 'John Carter' is going to be another big, splashy movie. Can you talk about your experience of working on that?
Strong: Well, that, yeah, I'm very proud to be in it because Andrew Stanton is just such a great storyteller as has been proved by all the work he's done at Pixar. His enthusiasm and the desire to make a live action film was one that was completely infectious. And the stories are great, the source material for that. Edgar Rice Burroughs before he'd written 'Tarzan.' I think he was a typewriter salesman and at night he used to go and write these flights of fantasy and write his novel. I think he invented the concept of interplanetary romance. What's really fascinating about that film is the fact that it's going to be from a Victorian perspective. All the Martians don't look like modern type CGI sort of Martians. They have breastplates and they look like Romans because of course a Victorian trying to imagine what Martians would be like had a very simplistic view. So, it'll be that angle, and I think Andrew will do something very special with it. I play Matai Shang, who's the leader of the Therns and is a part of this ethereal race. You're not really sure whether they exist or not. He's a follower of the goddess Issus and it's a very monastic, Zen-like character who's just in control of everything, but he's not actually the antagonist of the movie.
SHH: Have the "Green Lantern" producers given you your own yellow ring as a souvenir yet?
Strong: No. I've got a couple of little Sinestro busts that my boys at home absolutely love, because obviously the bad guy is the good guy at our house.
Green Lantern opens in 3D and 2D theaters on June 17.
(Photo Credit: WENN.com)