What about the film’s depiction of orgies. How do you find working within that kind of context?
When it comes to orgies, I think people are entitled to their passions! (Smiles) I haven’t personally participated in any, but I like the way Ballard attempts to break down the veneer of civilized behaviour and throw his characters into very extreme physical and psychological situations. The film follows that vision in showing how human beings are only one neighbourly argument away from killing each other and entering into brutal and barbaric behaviour.
Do you enjoy going from playing extreme characters like Dr. Laing in High-Rise or Loki in The Avengers’ films to playing a real-life character like country singer Hank Williams in your other upcoming film, I Saw the Light?
That’s the beauty of being an actor. I believe that we start out in life being born clean slates and then in the course of things we all have the innate capacity to turn into many different types of individuals. We can be good or bad, nasty or noble. Acting involves throwing yourself into many different types of people, and there’s a cathartic effect in that. What is remarkable about this kind of profession is that an actor over the course of a career can play both Romeo and Iago. You can go from playing Shakespeare’s greatest lover to playing his greatest sociopath.
Villains are often the most interesting to explore because often you find they have the most complex and twisted personalities. Being an actor involves approaching your character from the perspective of both an anthropologist and psychologist. You’re constantly digging around to discover what motivates them.
Most actors confess to being obsessive observers of the human condition. Would you fall into that camp?
I have a great fascination for human psychology and the contradiction between the self we project to the world and our underlying inner identity. I like exploring human vulnerability and what makes people tick behind the facade!