Mark Strong On Set Interview GREEN LANTERN

     May 17, 2011


While I’ve conducted a lot of on set interviews, it’s quite rare to talk to someone in full makeup.  After all, wearing prosthetics and a lot of makeup can be uncomfortable, which leads some actors to wanting to be left alone rather than talking to the visiting press.  So when Mark Strong walked into the room in his full Sinestro outfit (which was very cool), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Thankfully, Strong could not have been nicer and more open, and he talked to us about everything from his makeup to what might happen to his character in future installments.  Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview.

Before going any further, at this year’s WonderCon, Warner Bros. premiered ten minutes of footage from Green Lantern.  Shortly after their presentation, they released four minutes of it online.  If you haven’t seen the footage, I really recommend checking it out.

As usual I’m offering two ways to get the interview:  you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below.  Green Lantern gets released June 17.

Finally, for those that like highlights, here’s 5 things we learned on set:

— His hair in the movie was a two-piece prosthetic that covered the top part of his forehead. It took four and a half hours to apply the makeup.
— He’s committed to do Green Lantern sequels.
— He didn’t know Green Lantern well before starting the movie, but Geoff Johns put him in the right direction with material to read and he became slightly addicted to it.
— He uses his theater background when doing work in front of a blue screen. On stage, you know everything is fake so you are creating an illusion, so he tried to bring the same mindset to working with CGI.
— His favorite construct that he used in the movie were the blades used in the fight with Hal. The fight was rehearsed with physical swords and they had to mimic the contructs.

Here’s the full interview:

Green_Lantern_movie_poster_Mark_Strong_SinestroHow much do the boots weigh?

Mark Strong:  The boots?  My disco boots?  They are actually quite light.

Are those a part of the costume too?

Mark Strong:  Yeah, these are to make him…they are all specific heights and he needs to be six foot seven.  The reason they are kind of wide and staggered is because when we did the fight scene they needed to be, you know, so I didn’t fall or anything and do my ankle.  So these glorious discos boots and this suit is what I wear.

Where does your real head start and end?

Mark Strong:  It’s two pieces of prosthetic.  One sits on top like a hat and the other is kind of at the front to make the brow and it comes around over the side here.  So my real head is in there somewhere a little bit lower than this.

How long does it take to put on the make up?

Mark Strong:  Four and a half hours.  We are probably down to four now.  So about four.

Are you excited that this is your last day?

Mark Strong:  Yeah.  No, I must admit that I have had a relatively easy ride of it.  This is day 102 and I have only been here for 4 weeks.  So I have had a pretty simple run.  You know, I am sort of sad to be going, but it would be difficult to sustain day after day of getting in and out of this.

Have you tried to escape set and go to a Starbucks looking like that?

Mark Strong:  I’ve actually had to have an umbrella the whole time to kind of hide so that we don’t get photographed because I think a couple of shots got out of Ryan [Reynolds] and his suit and Peter [Sarsgaard] and his big head.  So we have been trying to keep Sinestro as secret as possible so that the effect is maximum hopefully.  But I would love to get out there to see what would happen.

mark_strong_image_01How much did you know about this mythology and what did you know about the character before you came on to this?  What have you learned since you came on to the picture?

Mark Strong:  I didn’t really know The Green Lantern.  Growing up in England, Marvel and DC weren’t really our kind of comic.  We had a very different kind of comic.  But I started to read it and I emailed Geoff Johns and asked him about it.  He put me in the right direction with Rebirth and Secret Origins.  I started there and I basically got slighted addicted to it.  I mean, I know my sector is “sector 1417”, which I wowed Geoff with the other day.  He couldn’t quite believe it.  But I didn’t know very much, but it’s such rich source material.  Once you start, it’s hard to pull out.

Most fans know that Sinestro goes down a different path in the comic eventually.   Are you putting any of that into your performance?  Is there any foreshadowing that he could sort of go to a yellower side or something?

Mark Strong:  He is an alien, you know?  In the movie, you have to decide as an actor how you are going to give a character like that presence.  You can’t really move, walk, and talk like yourself.  This creates something so you have to find something “other”.  So any back-story and all of that is always useful.  The knowledge   that Sinestro goes to where he goes to is useful, but I am trying not to foreshadow it.  But having said all of that, he has a kind of presence, which is undeniably strong.  So what I am trying to create is that he goes to the dark side not because he is inherently evil, but because he is a kind of control freak.  He is a dictatorial militaristic guy who wants to keep order.  So for him, all that happens is that just tips over into him keeping the people in his sector under his thumb.  He decides that even the Lantern Corps are no longer worthy.  So he goes off and forms his own corps in order to kind of perversely attack the Lanterns to try and make them better than they are.  But he loves the corps and he is the greatest Green Lantern.  I am trying to just give him a presence and weight that is worthy of that.  I think that probably prefigures and you will see in there that he is a guy that you don’t mess with, and who can easily go the other way.

Can you talk about the voice that you are doing for the character?

Mark Strong:  I am trying to keep it rooted and deep.  I am doing an English accent because we can all communicate through the rings.  So, theoretically, it doesn’t matter how you speak.  But that is another thing in my very long answer that I was trying to get across, which is that I am trying to create a guy that is worthy of this look.  You know, you can’t walk around in a normal way or talk in a normal way.  It’s not quite effective as giving it some weight.  So I am trying to just use my own kind of base tones and give him a strong voice.

Well, it is kind of jarring to look at you right now.

Mark Strong:  Yeah.

As to what you are trying to create, can you talk about how as a professional actor you push past the look of this and get to the point where you are trying to go with it.  How do you go about doing that?

Mark Strong:  Well, first of all, you create the character yourself like you do normally.  So, as an actor, I am aware of his character traits, the physicality of the prosthetic, and the lines he is speaking.  You know, he is talking about a corps that has protected millions of worlds for countless of millennia.  These are massive concepts.  I’m trying as an actor to incorporate all of that and use the physicality of the prosthetics and everything to kind of….I don’t know.  It’s almost Shakespearean.  That is the best way I can describe it.  It’s like when you are in a theater, and you are playing on a stage, and you need to fill a room.  The best way I can describe it is that we were always taught that you don’t gesture like you do in normal life.  When you gesture, you did this and that, you know?  To actually lift your arms and gesture properly when you are saying something is much more powerful and stronger.  There is a scene in which I have a speech to all of the Lanterns, and I just try to use a bit of that.  It’s not naturalistic, but I think the whole thing will work together to give a strong character.  That is my hope anyway.

Are you committed to a second or third Green Lantern?

Mark Strong:  Yeah, very much so.  I think that was always the deal.  That if it was successful, there is such a vast amount of source material that there are plenty of storylines they could investigate.

Is this the most blue screen you have ever done?

Mark Strong:  Yeah.

green-lantern-movie-poster-03How is that for you as an actor when you have to work with a lot of blue screen and you really have to imagine so much stuff?  Actually, do you have any scenes that are practical?

Mark Strong:  They are all in space.  They are all on OA.  They are all, for better or worse, in a big blue room.  But what is really interesting about that is that you would think that it might be unusual, but actually it’s not.  For me, I don’t know how other actors feel about it, but coming from the theater you know it’s not real.  You can see the front couple of rows of the audience and you can see the lights, you know?  You walk off stage and there is a props table and one of the stage managers standing there with a clipboard.  You know it’s not real.  So what you are doing is creating an illusion.  You are walking out on stage and encouraging people to believe that by nature of the story and your characterization that something is taking place that they can lose themselves in.  It works in theater and, for me, it’s the same here.  I don’t need the stuff there to imagine it.  What is really useful, though, is that there are drawings and models around that you can always go and refer to.  That gives you a sense of the space.  For example, if you are giving a speech to the Lanterns it helps you with the space you are in.  But it’s all imagination.  So, ironically, it’s not that different.

You also have a battle scene with Ryan where you guys are using constructs against each other.  Obviously, that is a different kind of fight when you are fighting with rings and constructs.  Can you talk about filming that?

Mark Strong:  Well, it’s fascinating because you can’t just rely on the traditional methods of weapon fighting like you do in most movies.  You now got imagination coming into play. The fight with Hal is really interesting because of the constructs.  I think originally Sinestro, because he is so evolved, basically only used constructs for the whole fight, but there was a decision taken where we wanted to get physical.  You know, just get in there and get physical.  Ironically, Hal’s constructs are very earthbound.  They are very naïve and “new Lantern”, you know?  Bearing in mind that he could create anything he tends to just come up with swords and guns.  So it’s fascinating.  They have this fight, which is a mixture of physical sword fighting and it also involves constructs.  We rehearsed that as you do a normal fight and you just imagine those constructs when you are throwing them at each other.

What is your favorite construct that you use in the film?

Mark Strong:  Ironically, it’s probably the simplest, which are the blades that I choose to fight him with.  There is a line that we put in where he throws out this sword since it is the first thing he can think of to fend himself with and I say, “Swords?  How human.” and I get two of them.  Suddenly, he has two, and you can see Hal thinking, “I didn’t think to get two!”

green-lantern-poster-hector-hammond-peter-sarsgaardBut is yours shaped as some sort of alien sword?

Mark Strong:  No.  I fight him on his terms, and then I show him a thing or two.

One of the things we have discovered today is how much of this production is not shying away from some of the more bizarre science fiction aspects of The Green Lantern franchise.  I’m wondering if there was something that you discovered while looking at art direction or reading the script that made you say, “Wow.  That is really freaking weird.  I wonder how that is going to look like on the screen.”

Mark Strong:  All of it.  You see all of that production art and all of it is mind blowing. The citadel where the guardians live in is just an incredible idea.  They are all around you like some sort of upside down spider or something, and they are all at the top.  Where the central battery is located in that big cave where the Lanterns are all called for the meeting just looks amazing.  I’ve seen little bits of footage of the constructs being thrown.  You know, early ideas for jet engines and things.  For example, the way that Tomar-re lands.  He lands in an individual way due to the way he looks.  The way I or Hal flies is slightly different.  The whole world of space and getting your head around on how you are going to use it has been really fascinating.

Ryan was talking before about the chemistry you guys had working together.  Can you talk about working with him and how you developed the relationship between Sinestro and Hal?

Mark Strong:  Everyday I go to work with Ryan I am kind of blown away by how perfect he is to play this part.  The more that I find out about The Green Lantern; the more that I realize that he has a fantastic combination of strength, good looks, and a hero kind of power about him.  But he has this flipside as well, which he can turn on and make you laugh.  He has a vulnerability about him as well, which I think suits Hal Jordan perfectly.  The other day, we had a scene, which gets very heavy.  There is a way that some of the stories are written in the comics where there are very heavy notions of things being said, and there is also intergalactic stuff going on.  To have somebody who can just pull the rug from under that, undermine it, and make you laugh is such a clever and good idea.  He is rather brilliant at that.  For example, there is a moment where I am probably at my most serious and the stakes are at their highest he just comes up with a line that brilliantly turns everything on its head.  In Shakespeare, for example, immediately before the Duke of Clarence is drowned in the Malmsey butt in Richard III by these two murderers in this horrific scene – the scene immediately before is a comedy scene.  It’s these two murderers stumbling around in the dark going, “Oh, I think I got an attack of conscious.  I don’t know.  Can you do it?”  They are kind of riffing off each other and it’s funny.  Then, the scene immediately after with his death is therefore twice as disturbing.  I think what Ryan brings is the fact that you can see his vulnerability, and the fact that he has that twist of humor, which makes all of the kind of superhero stuff even more impressive.

Mark_StrongTo American audiences you have played three villains in a row.  Did you have any hesitancy about taking this role knowing that down the road he might turn to the bad side?

Mark Strong:  No.  I have to say that all of these villains are great parts.  I just want to play them, you know?  I can’t imagine myself sitting at home going, “No! That is too many villains now.  I’m going to sit at home and wait for a musical or something.”  They are just too interesting to play.  Anyway, I love Sinestro in this first one because what you get is a sense of a man who is in control of this incredible corps and who has an immense amount of strength, confidence, and arrogance.  But, nevertheless, he has a grudging respect by the end of the movie for this new Lantern.

In the same vain of balancing comedy and seriousness, can you talk about imbuing your character with a sense of humanity and humor when your character is not human?

Mark Strong:  It’s difficult to imagine Sinestro cracking gags, or having any kind of vulnerability, or any of the things that would play against his strength at the moment because he is kind of introduced in this film, and especially because we know where he goes to.  I’m not sure that would be a right note and I think our faithfulness to the comics reflects in the fact that Sinestro…I’m not sure.  There were a couple of lines that were quite funny, but he doesn’t come across to me as particularly funny in the comics.  I think his job is to be powerful.  So we are concentrating on that at the moment, but who knows?  In the future he might crack a few gags.

Here’s more of our Green Lantern set visit:

GREEN LANTERN Set Visit Video Blog

Ryan Reynolds On Set Interview GREEN LANTERN

Director Martin Campbell On Set Interview GREEN LANTERN

Donald De Line (Producer) Grant Major (Production Designer) Ngila Dickson (Costume Designer) and Geoff Johns (Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics) On Set Interview GREEN LANTERN

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