WonderCon Interview: Paul Bettany on PRIEST and His Recent Slew of Religious Themed Movies
Published: April 2, 2011 - 9:50pm
Priest has been pushed back quite a few times since last year but The Da Vinci Code actor says it was all worth it and necessary to bring the vampire actioner to its full potential.
Set 100 years from now after the war between Christians and Satanists, the film is about a Christian warrior priest (Paul Bettany) who disobeys church law by teaming with a young sheriff (Cam Gigandet) and a priestess (Maggie Q) to track down a cult of vampire outlaws that is led by a former Christian and now a Satanic priest, Black Hat, who kidnapped his niece before they brainwash her. Dubbed a superhero/horror/western, the film is loosely based on the comic book series of the same name. The film is being distributed by Screen Gems (Resident Evil franchise) and is scheduled for 3D release May 13th, 2011.
Which do you prefer: a kick-ass Angel or a kick-ass Priest?
"You know, if I’m totally honest, the kick-ass Priest. It’s a thrilling story to be involved in and a great part for me. I haven’t ever played anything like that before and it was a real joy to do."
How bad was your make up everyday for the Cross?
"Oh my God! It was fifty times a day with that f*cking Cross! I was close to getting it tattooed on my forehead."
You seem to do a lot of roles that involve religious themes, or recently you have. How do you connect to that material?
"I really don’t know how that’s happened. I genuinely have no idea how that’s happened and I swear to God this will be the last one because the question comes up and I never have a satisfactory answer to it. I think that religious themed [pause] There’s so many…Our culture is so, sort of, embroiled in religion at the moment. Movies are a reflection of the culture that you’re living in and a lot of talk about religion and so, you know, there are a lot of, sort of, religious themed movies. I mean this movie takes place in an alternate reality in which there is no separation of Church and State. So, really, in our movie the Church is the Government and the head of the clergy is the President and I’m a soldier in his army is really the way I kind of saw it. He’s a man who has faith beyond the Church."
Your popularity quickly grew with dramas and romantic comedies in your early career but much of the general movie audience now took notice of you in The Da Vinci Code. Have you only recently realized your penchant for action oriented movies?
"I have quite a binary reaction to people telling me what I can and can’t do. A really close friend told me ‘You know Paul, you’re really never gonna do an action movie.’ And I went [deep voice] F*ck! Started throwing sh!t around and went to the gym and lifted up weights in a sort of a punk response...a childish punk’s response to being told he couldn’t do something. F*ck off, I’m gonna f*cking do it and you’ll see. That’s really how it happened."
What training did you go through for the action sequences? Any particular styles of mixed martial arts?
"Loads. A lot of mixed martial arts. A lot of knife work, I did a huge amount of knife work to really be, to just feel natural with that weapon, that’s his weapon of choice and a huge amount of wire work and eight months of getting myself physically in shape prior to shooting. I was really out of shape. I just made a movie called Creation in which I was playing Charles Darwin. I was a porker. I was 225 pounds or something at that point when I finished making that movie and I got the phone call We’d really love for you to play the action hero in…So there was a lot of me going down to the gym."
He also went on to say there was no sparring on set with Cam Gigandet (his interview is ) as part of the training. “There’s enough danger going on on the set... Besides which, I would have kicked his ass anyway.” After talking about his future involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (can be read ), Bettany went on to explain how he got the job of J.A.R.V.I.S. in the first place.
"I was on a job and I got a phone call from Jon Favreau and he said ’Hey Paul, I’m making this movie called Iron Man. There’s a part in it where he’s the voice of this computer… I was thinking about trying to find an actor that has absolutely no personality whatsoever and I thought of you.’ And I went F*ck You! I said I’m in. [Laughs] He’s such a bastard. That’s how that happened. I never have any memory of doing it because I just go in and he makes me laugh so hard. I just have a sort of ball and somehow I’ve said the lines in the right order and they put it all together."
In closing Mr. Bettany talked about his relationship with director Scott Stewart and what he took away from Friday night’s full 3D footage that was shown.
"He’s my mate, he’s a dear friend of mine...I’m so proud of the work that he has done. Last night, I was so shocked at how great it looked. I had seen it in 2D. I had seen it many different states. I’ve seen the final cut, as it were. I was beyond happy with the result. To see it rendered into 3D, it gave it such a huge extra punch. For me, it’s the best of both worlds you know, now the tools are becoming more sophisticated in post. It took eight months, an eight month delay to the release of the movie. They really took their time with it. I love cinema. If you ask me, what my opinion is, the best lenses in the world were 1970’s anamorphic lenses and that’s what we shot our film on. Antiques, it looks beautiful and then you get this great post-conversion. For me, it’s the best of both worlds as somebody who loves film."