Paul Bettany couldn’t be any happier these days. He’s hyper-jumped from the Marvel Universe - where he was both Iron Man's artificially-intelligent valet JARVIS and The Avengers' Vision - straight into the Star Wars Universe.
Fortune smiled in a game of Hollywood "musical chairs." Bettany was cast by his good friend, director Ron Howard, in Solo: A Star Wars Story as Dryden Vos, the new bad guy in town. (The production - with Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian - had begun shooting in January, 2017 with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who left six months later over "creative differences." That's when Howard stepped in).
Original Cin’s Bonnie Laufer spoke with Paul Bettany about being in two of the biggest film franchises in history and how much fun he had playing the villain.
Original-Cin: Avengers: Infinity War is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time and now we’re going to see you in Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’d say 2018 is turning out to be a pretty good year for you.
Paul Bettany: “It certainly is! I just wish I could have a spread it out slightly by about six months or something but yes it’s going to be a great couple of months.”
OC: Did you ever think looking back, say, 10 years, that you’d be able to say you'd be in two of the biggest film franchises ever?
PB: “Are you kidding? No way! I didn't think I could get another job 10 years ago!”
OC: Oh come on.
PB: “No, truly. I was having a terrible patch. And actually what happened was, I had a producer tell me that I would never work again and that my career was over. So I stood up to him. I was very butch and I said, 'Look there are second and third acts in Los Angeles,' and I said that he should mind his manners. I was pretty upset and then I walked out of the office and my legs went all wobbly.
"So I sat on the sidewalk and literally just then my phone rang as I was thinking maybe my career really was over. I pulled out my phone and it was (The Avengers director) Joss Whedon. And I went, ‘Hey how are you?’ and he said 'I’m great, how would you like to be Vision in The Avengers?’ Of course my only response was, 'Yeah, I really, really would like that.!”
OC: ...And the rest is history. I’m shocked at that story but needless to say we are all thrilled that you went on to be in The Avengers.
PB: “Yeah, it’s a true story!”
OC: People are so excited for Solo: A Star Wars Story, mainly because they are curious to find out about these iconic characters' back stories. From all accounts, you play a villain in the film, which I think had to be so much fun.
PB: “That’s an understatement. I had an absolute blast.”
OC: What is it about playing the bad guy that is just so juicy?
PB: “Well they’ve got dirt. There’s lots of dirt to hang on to. And let’s face it, sociopaths are fun because they have less trouble with the things that you and I might have trouble with.” (laughs)
OC: So, what can you tell us about Dryden Vos?
PB: “I can tell you that he’s really good at hurting people and he likes to practice hurting people. He’s an intergalactic gangster which is awesome obviously. If you have a little crime outfit and you want to do some business in his Galaxy, you have to come pay tribute to to him. He has to be able to wet his whistle. He just really enjoys being a bad dude.”
OC: This is directed by Ron Howard whom you’ve worked with before (notably in A Beautiful Mind). I understand he called you and asked you to be in the film. That’s got to be flattering.
PB: “That's very sweet of him to be saying that, but it’s not how it happened. (Laughs) What really went down was that I heard that he had taken over as director for Solo: A Star Wars Story. And I immediately texted him. The conversation went a bit like this. ‘Hey Ron. How are you doing? Hey listen, have you ever spent long winter evenings like I have, wondering why you're not affiliated with a Star Wars franchise?' Then he texted me back, L.O.L. and then figured it out.”
OC: I know you’re nothing but a professional, but was there ever a time when you were on this set totally geeking out saying, 'Oh my! I am working on a Star Wars movie!'
PB: “Uh yes, almost every day! I kept elbowing everyone I could! Everybody else on the movie had already been working on it for seven months before us, so Ron and I were like children. ‘We’re making Star Wars! Can you even believe this?’ It was really magical. “
OC: I can’t even imagine what was going through your head.
PB: “I remember the very first time I was ever on a film set, I thought, 'You’ve got to remember this day because you will forget it and you will never feel the same again.' Then I got another taste of that exact feeling on the Star Wars set. It was truly amazing because I grew up with it. A lot of people could have not allowed this to happen for me, but Kevin Feige and Kathy Kennedy made it possible for me to cross pollinate from the Marvel Universe to the Star War Universe and I’m truly grateful for that.”
OC: What do your kids think of this?
PB: “They are really excited, I mean, come on. Dad is in Avengers and Star Wars? Even I think I’m cool! (Laughs) My son was on set the whole time I shot it!
OC: Can you recall your earliest memory of Star Wars?
PB: “When it first came out my whole world changed. I had never seen anything like it before. I remember going to see it at a theatre around 1977. I was six-years-old, and it took me out of a really grey, drab 1970s London and took me to another universe. In that universe, I met a lot of people, and one of those people was Han Solo. I went to see it twice in the first week. I was just blown away it was an experience I will never forget.”
OC: Well, congratulations on everything and all of your success and maybe we will get to hear Jarvis again in Avengers 4?
PB: "Uh.. you know what happens if I say anything. Snitches end up in ditches!"