Paul Bettany Wimbledon

Paul Bettany Wimbledon


EXCLUSIVE Paul Bettany/Wimbledon Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.

Paul Bettany may have been nursing a bad flu, but that didnt stop the Britfrom adopting the old stiff upper lip attitude, as we chatted in his LosAngeles hotel room, a few hours before his departure for Australia. InWimbledon, Bettany plays a former tennis pro on the verge of retirement,when his game suddenly improves as he begins to fall in love with anAmerican star-on-the-rise [Kirsten Dunst].

Not necessarily known for his turn at romantic comedies, and knowing how tough they are to make work, Bettany says that he has a philosophical attitude when it comes to choosing the right project, and this one was no exception. "I read the script and at the end of reading it theres either a lot of empty cups of coffee or not, and I flew through this script and at the end I went 'Shakoom' and thatsbasically it", Bettany says smilingly. "The movement of the script seemedto really work, it was good writing and the comedy didnt seem to compriseof cheap gags, but rather borne out of the situation. I also really enjoyedthe director when I went to meet him."

A romantic comedy that is partHollywood but mainly quintessentially British in tone, Bettany says that heis not quite sure why the Brits excel in making a certain type of romanticcomedy work. "I think theres a sort of mocking self-deprecating wit inEngland. If somebodys in trouble, you mock them, and then give them a huglater. Watching that seems to be really enjoyed by Americans, which isquite odd to me, because its not their sense of humour at all."

One of the more unique elements of this film is its tennis setting, andthere are many moments of fiery tennis matches being played out on screen.But Bettany doesnt agree that you need to be a fan of the game toappreciate the film. "The thing about it was the director hired threeactors: Austin Nichols, Kirsten Dunst and I who knew nothing about tennis.Id never played tennis before and knew absolutely nothing about it, so thetheory was that if we endeavoured to make it understandable, it would beunderstandable by anybody who likes tennis or doesnt."

Bettany laughingly says that there was one thing that surprised him abouttennis when preparing for this film, "which is that Id done four months oflifting weights and playing tennis every day, trying to get myself in shape,was feeling quite good about myself, and then I went to see Andy Roddickplay and suddenly realised that what Id done was enormously arrogant, tothink that you could pull it off. They were so beautiful, these men andwomen, whove been doing it since they were four. You finally realise whatyouve actually done is tantamount to saying, that Id love to play RudolfNurayev, so how long do I have to learn ballet? Theyre very good at whatthey do, hit the ball so hard, and move so elegantly on court."

As Wimbledon also explores the nature of celebrity, with scenes of Bettanysfamous champ on the run from the press, Bettany says that in his own life,being married to actress Jennifer Connelly, he, too, is fast discovering allabout celebrity. "How celebrity works out, it usually coincides with eithermyself or my wife doing publicity for a movie, but can then get a bit trickywith paparazzi and stuff like that, but most of the time we lead kind ofquiet lives." Both actors live on either side of the Atlantic, he says. "Isuppose the theory is we split our home between London and New York." Now afather, Bettany says that its important for the couple to keep their childout of the glare of publicity. "I think its my job to keep children normalwhen you do this sort of thing but then they see free gifts being sent tome, so it is really a tough thing to explain to children that its allprivilege and a job of work. The only thing I think I can be accused ofabout paparazzi is being really naïve. I didnt think about it coming alongwith the job and I never, during my three years at drama school, fantasizedabout one bit of it. However youve chosen this life and my kids havent, soI find myself very irritated when I find paparazzi taking pictures of mykids."

In his relatively short career in front of the cameras, Bettany has chosen adiverse career from the mainstream to smaller fare. He says that all he hasever wanted to do in his career is diversity. "I want to do lots of things,even when the actor is under pressure to go Hollywood.' The actual problemis that, before the baby was born, I was making 2-3 films a year and I wontdo that any more because I need to bring up a child so its the slowerjourney."

The 33-year old Bettany was born into a theatre family. His father, Thane,is still an actor while his mother has retired from acting. Immediatelyafter finishing at Drama Centre he went into the West End to join the castof 'An Inspector Calls', though when asked to go on tour with this play hechose to stay in England. 20 films later, Bettany has never looked back.While it was natural for him to become an actor given his parentage, he sayshis being drawn to the profession "was borne out of a couple of things, outof the sort of playfulness, not wanting to play and also sort of terriblerevenge fantasies against anybody who ever bullied you at school, and thenhopefully you harness that to do something more useful for yourself." Ofcourse, as he grew older, acting was far more than an extension of merechildhood fantasy. "Whats important to me now, is that I can learn thingsabout making a movie about people, if the writings good, I can, if I read agreat book, learn something about people, and if the script is good, I canlearn something about people, but also Im an entertainer. Everybody wantsyou to be dark, edgy and cool at the moment, which is really sort offashionable, and I have to say, as unfashionable as it is, I dont know howto tap dance but if there were a pair of tap shoes here, I might have theimpulse to try and do it for you."

Bettany is next set to play a baddie in The Wrong Element, opposite HarrisonFord, another example of the diversity of the actor. "I just want to do lotsof different stuff and as many different things as I can."



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