Christopher Eccleston has some, erm, inventive theories about playing Thor’s new nemesis…
You play Malekith The Accursed in Thor: The Dark World. How would you sell us the film?
That’s pretty hard! Well, everyone worked hard on it for 12 months. I was in make-up for six hours every day – with travel and costume, I’d done a 10-hour day before I was even on camera. And then you’re on camera for 12 hours, and probably only shoot 30 seconds of film.
How difficult is it to interact with other characters that are similarly made-up?
Acting through prosthetics and the costume is something I’ve likened to washing your feet with your socks on. Your movements are altered by the size and awkwardness of the costume, and your features are altered by the make-up. There’s a myth that you’re always working with other actors. Your best friend is a piece of tape stuck to the camera or a tennis ball dangling on a piece of string – you get very intimate with things like that.
What made you want to do Thor 2, then?
As an actor of my age, you do these films to make money and to heighten your profile. Any actor who says any different, I would question. When I was young, I was not a bookish, comic book-type of child. I just played out on the street all the time. A huge attraction on this film was working with Alan Taylor, who is a brilliant director. And I had to learn an Elven language, which was difficult to pick up, but it’s an interesting challenge to convince people that you’re speaking a foreign language that doesn’t actually exist.
Taylor has been working on Game Of Thrones – are you a fan?
I’ve never seen it. I’m not someone who naturally leans towards fantasy and the sci-fi genre.
But now you’re part of the Marvel universe, you’re going to receive crazy fanmail and have to go to Comic Con, right?
Well, I question that: you don’t have to do anything. I understand that there’s a huge passionate fan base for sci-fi. I’m hugely passionate about soul and R&B.
You played John Lennon in the TV film Lennon Naked recently – are you actually a Beatles fan?
I particularly like the very early Beatles – Love Me Do, Twist And Shout – that great innocence that they came out with. I admire everything that they did, but I I’m more into soul, reggae and R&B. It was a great challenge to play Lennon – he was a psychologically fascinating person.
It’s also nearly 20 years since Shallow Grave, a film that launched many great careers. Do you keep in touch with Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor and the rest?
No, we’re all ships in the night, really. I’ve worked with Danny Boyle a couple of times since, but it’s purely a professional relationship. I remember Shallow Grave vividly. We all got paid nothing. We wrapped on 5 November, and the sound of fireworks in Glasgow was a problem for the sound recordist. We did it in a freezing cold warehouse where that beautiful flat was built. And it feels five like minutes ago.
How do you feel about the ‘serious actor’ tag the media has given you? Do you have a lighter side?
In this country, the phrase ‘serious actor’ has connotations of pretention: head up your arse. You get branded. I did Let Him Have It [in 1991], and I played a tragic, damaged figure, and that becomes you. It’s convenient to have a headline “I’d love to do comedy”, but I’m interested in anything that pays the mortgage and is creatively challenging.
Would you like to see more big films made in your home town of Salford?
Now we’re dealing with the other cliché – the northern cliché. London’s my home now, this is where I live and I came down when I was 19. But I’ve lived in many places – New York, Los Angeles, back in Manchester. You move where the work is. I think I’m very European. I enjoyed living in New York, perhaps more than I enjoyed Los Angeles, but the British film and television industry is a cottage industry in comparison to Los Angeles.
And you’re about to make The Leftovers for HBO with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof. What can you tell us?
We did a pilot for HBO and Warner Brothers in June and it’s been picked up. That will be filmed in February in Los Angeles and New York. It was very professional and relaxed. It was a very good script, so everybody knew what was required of them. It was a pleasant experience filming the pilot, so we’re all hopeful that we can make a great series.
Does TV bridge the gap between film and theatre for you?
Television is more reliant on performance than film – especially with a big, special effects-driven film where you are secondary to the big stunts and effects. Television – especially in the US in the past 10 years with shows such as The Sopranos and Breaking Bad – is reliant on the psychology of characters. But if I had my way, I’d be on stage all the time. Theatre is ultimately the actor’s medium, which sounds very grand.
Thor: The Dark World is at cinemas nationwide now