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Friday, May 27, 2022

Jason Isaacs: ‘Daniel Craig is more comfortable naked than with clothes on’ | Film

You went to school with Mark Kermode. Did he have the same haircut back then? DiMatt1987

He did. And the same suits. He remembers being a bit of an outsider. I remember him as the absolute epicentre of cool. He was in bands and wore drainpipe pants, suits and a quiff. He chose his musical lane and has stuck to it for half a century.

You studied law at the University of Bristol. If you had become a lawyer, how would you defend the characters you’ve played? Backsideflip

It was so long ago: most of the laws I studied were about putting people in the stocks. I try to choose parts where I understand why my characters think they are doing the right thing. Nobody thinks they are doing the wrong thing. Even the worst characters in humanity – the man sitting in the Kremlin or the man recently in the White House – look in the mirror in the morning and think that the rest of the world is out of whack. They don’t think they are breaking the law. They are just breaking social taboos and moral codes, and that’s what makes for interesting drama.

Jason Isaacs as Marshal Zhukhov in The Death of Stalin.
Jason Isaacs as Marshal Zhukhov in The Death of Stalin. Photograph: Nicola Dove/EOne

I regularly remind people that Bruce Willis didn’t save the planet in 1998’s Armageddon – you did. How do you think your character feels 20 years later? Ecosse264

It wasn’t the first or last time that asteroids have come close to Earth. Every time I read about it, I slightly panic that the plot of two identical blockbusters that came out at the same time – Armageddon and 1998’s Deep Impact – might come true. At least it would be instant. I was offered a bigger part as an astronaut, but I was just about to start shooting Divorcing Jack, and my American agents couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t drop out to star opposite Bruce Willis. So I ended up playing a consolation prize, and had to stand on set near Bruce Willis for six months as the astronauts strutted past, thinking: that could have been me in one of those jumpsuits.

I remember seeing Divorcing Jack and being very impressed with your Northern Irish accent, which is notoriously tricky to master. Do you consider yourself gifted at accents? LarboIreland

I consider myself a twat in almost every area. I’ve code-switched my entire life. Blending in has become a skill. I’m from Liverpool, but wanted to sound like I was from London. I went to Bristol university and I wanted to sound posh. I find myself drifting towards Irish, Australian, American … I’m a pretty good mimic. When we rehearsed in Belfast, I didn’t have to try to sound like the people around me. It’s a manifestation of my psychological weakness and, amazingly, I’ve managed to get paid for it.

How come you never got to play James Bond? You would have been perfect … ironjade

That’s very kind, but whoever sent that in needs to visit their optometrist. Daniel [Craig] was cast just after we’d done a play together [Angels in America]. He’s one of the only people on the planet who is more comfortable naked than with clothes on, which is why he has been – and will be – the perfect Bond for a long time to come.

What would you have loved to do in your role as Lucius Malfoy, but weren’t allowed to? KiraKK

Win the day? Get the respect of Voldemort? Not be such a dick?

Isaacs as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, 2003.
Isaacs as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, 2003. Photograph: Universal/Allstar

In our house, the 2003 Peter Pan where you play both Hook and Mr Darling is considered the best screen version. What other classic role from literature would you like to bring to the screen? Roheon

It’s actually the only version of Peter Pan that has ever been filmed, which sounds perverse until you look at [Peter Pan author] JM Barrie’s book, which is about a young girl hitting puberty, being told that her childhood is over, it’s time to be a woman, have a family – and how that terrifies her. She imagines a world in which there’s a boy who will never grow up. I have two daughters and it’s a story I see played out in real life. [Peter Pan director] PJ Hogan captured it beautifully.

I wouldn’t like to put classic literature characters on screen because great books rarely make great films. The Jane Austens do well, although they have been played out. My friend, [Bridget Jones’s Diary director] Sharon Maguire is about to direct Longbourn, a rather brilliant twist on Pride and Prejudice. Mostly I try and avoid anything where there are the expectations of generations because you can only disappoint them. I’d rather take on parts where there are low expectations and exceed them.

Isaacs and Mel Gibson in The Patriot, 2000.
Isaacs and Mel Gibson in The Patriot, 2000. Photograph: Columbia Pictures/Allstar

What was it like working with Mel Gibson in The Patriot? theDorkKnight

He’s obviously a very controversial figure who has said and done some things that are impossible to agree with. But he was incredibly personable, humble, funny, immensely talented and having won an Oscar for Braveheart, never overstepped his role as an actor. We were doing a scene and it was clear I towered above him, wearing a hat, accentuating the height difference. The director told me to bend my knees, and I tried to actually scrape out a little ditch in the mud, but Mel stopped me and said: “You’re the bad guy, I want you to be bigger.” He also had a guy who came to massage him in his trailer because he had a bad back, and offered him to the entire cast and crew for anyone who needed a massage, in his trailer. He was delightful, so it’s hard to reconcile the private Mel that I knew with the public Mel that has done all those other things we’ve read about.

Mass is such an incredible movie. What was your first reaction on reading the script? lostflowergirl

I wondered if I was good enough to do it justice. This was a film [about the aftermath of a school shooting] that begged us to see each other across divides and to connect. I had been involved with restorative justice and forgiveness projects, so I could sense the power of forgiveness on the page. Some people have avoided Mass, thinking it’s depressing, but it’s the opposite. It just reminds us all, particularly in these dark times, that there is a possibility of human connection, healing and forgiveness. I do a bunch of stuff as an actor: some silly, some fun, some because it’s well paid and, once in a blue moon, because stories can have immense value. This was a once-in-a-career opportunity to be in something greater than my own narcissism.

Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in Mass, 2021.
Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in Mass, 2021. Photograph: Bleecker Street Media/Allstar

Please could you gear up as General Zhukov, head over to the Kremlin again and give you-know-who a good sock in the face? randomlexis

The Death of Stalin is so prescient; some scenes could be directly ripped from the news. Putin’s press conference where he lined up all of his cabinet members could have been a monstrously less funny outtake. I find it terrifying that one of the best hopes is that somebody in Putin’s circle will reach across that 300-foot table and put an end to this. It would take someone of Zhukov’s stature, with balls the size of Kremlin domes.

All actors have an infinite, bottomless pit of need for flattery. But anybody with half a brain can see that I clearly had the best lines. Who wouldn’t love being given a five-course banquet every time you open your mouth? But it was weird to be surrounded by my comedy heroes. Every time they said “cut”, I doffed my cap, sat at their feet and listened to stories of making Monty Python [Michael Palin], The Fast Show [Paul Whitehouse], Reservoir Dogs [Steve Buscemi] and Arrested Development [Jeffrey Tambor]. Then when [writer and director] Armando Iannucci shouted, “Action”, I suddenly had to take charge and slap them around.

Do you think that we’ll ever see more of The OA? Season 2 ended on one hell of a twist! Briggybum Will there ever be any more Case Histories? Jackson Brodie is one of my favourite characters. Alastair62

Well, we left The OA in the most extraordinary fashion. The door is clearly wide open for us any time, anywhere, any way. It was utterly original, has a huge cult following and is one my favourite things I’ve ever done. So I hope we do, for sure.

Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill and Jason Isaacs as Admiral Godfrey in Operation Mincemeat, 2022.
Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill and Jason Isaacs as Admiral Godfrey in Operation Mincemeat, 2022. Photograph: Courtesy of See-Saw Films

Case Histories [writer] Kate Atkinson has written another book, Blue Sky, which I narrated as an audiobook. The written Jackson Brodie gets married, gets divorced, wins the lottery, has kids, moves to Paris and does a bunch of stuff. But my Jackson Brodie does none of those things and lives in Edinburgh. Talk about parallel universes. I’m ready to get beaten up and fail in love week after week. I’d have to get down the gym because Jackson has a rack that long ago faded in the rear view mirror.

What’s in it for Liverpool this season, you reckon? slyasleep

Fuck knows. As with my acting, I try to enjoy the moment and let go of any expectations. I do the job for the people and the experience. In the same way, I take each game as it comes. It’s a game of a thousand kicks and I’m not looking beyond next week.

Can a bear drive a hovercraft? PlanetSad

I was a huge hovercraft fan, even though they are also horribly fuel inefficient. I’m not even sure there are any commercial hovercrafts left in existence. So it would have to be a bear with deep pockets to get one out retirement.

If you could magically change one thing about humanity, what would it be? Dani_allen87

Our instincts are changing. We had the tribal instinct, where we thought the world was moving forward and progressing towards a social democratic, peaceful, more egalitarian society. Instead we’ve seen the rise of the autocrats. So I would make a small genetic tweak so instead of clubbing people into submission, we lick them into submission. Just a little bit of Crispr gene editing to turn us all into massive lickers. Or if that’s too much, just move testicles under the arms or somewhere slightly more convenient.

Do people confused you with the singer-songwriter Jason Isaacs who won the 2010 ITV People’s Crooner of the Year competition on the Alan Titchmarsh Show? TurangaLeela2

It has happened. We were both invited on Alan Titchmarsh at the same time, unbeknown to me, which I thought was a bit of dirty dealing, so I dropped out. He’s got www.jasonisaacs.co.uk, which bothers me. But he’s a wonderful singer, so good luck to him. I wouldn’t mind appearing on a double bill. I’d give anything to be able to sing like him.

I also met Chris Isaak backstage on Lorraine. He was tuning his guitar and I said: “Hey dude, I’m Jason Isaacs – I’m on the show as well. People often ask if we’re related.” He looked up and went: “I’m tuning my guitar.” Less than impressed, I think it’s fair to say.

Streamline is released on 11 April on digital platforms, Operation Mincemeat is in cinemas on 15 April.

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