PARIS — Playing a cop in a movie where the criminals are the main characters — and have all the fun — can get to a guy, but British actor Paul Bettany didn’t let that stop him from chasing Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp around Paris and Venice as an obsessed Scotland Yard detective in The Tourist. Metro caught up with Bettany in Paris to talk about representing Scotland Yard, having a short attention span and living in a two-actor household.
It’s nice to see Scotland Yard get a mention in a movie again.
Right. It’s still there. I guess because I grew up in England, and Scotland Yard was a news item, it wasn’t Sherlock Holmes for me, do you know what I mean? For me it doesn’t hold the same romance as it probably will for my children, who are growing up in New York City.
Do you have a preference in playing good guys or bad guys?
No, I don’t. I love doing as many different things as I can. And maybe that is a drawback in today’s age of acting. It’s a peculiar thing. The only plan I’ve ever had — which is probably stupid of me — is to do as many different things, to play as many different types of people and types of characters as I can.
That sounds smart, actually.
Perhaps it’s not. I mean, it’s worked really well for Johnny Depp, but he’s an anomaly, in that he’s so — he’s like a character actor who happens to be in a leading man position. You know, I mean, he plays characters, and it’s what thrills him, clearly, about acting.
What thinking process goes into what type of role you do next?
It’s usually what turns up. I mean, I’m incredibly shallow, so if I’m making a film about killing vampires, I’m thinking, “Maybe I should be making a sort of heartfelt movie about Charles Darwin.” And if I’m playing Charles Darwin, I’m thinking, “Maybe I should have an AK-47 because my ideas would be more popularly accepted if I had a heavy machine gun with me.” Sometimes it’s financial decisions that need to be made, and sometimes there’s, you know, I want to do something where I’m really challenged again as an actor.
Do you have any plans to work with your wife, Jennifer Connelly, again?
I do. Whether anybody else does is... I’d love to. She’s a frustratingly good actress. It’s hard because of children. It’s hard when we work together. It was, you know, not much sleep happening.
Is it odd being married to someone with the same profession?
I don’t know. I think most people meet their spouses at work, you know? It feels like the most normal thing in the world. And you know, when you meet people very quickly they become real to you — unless you’re an insane person. So you know, all of the confusion of them not being like they were in that movie that you remember seeing — “Why isn’t she like that girl in Labyrinth? I mean, really?” — of course disappears immediately, unless you’re like a stalker. And there’s no leveller like having children together. That really separates your work from your life in a way that I find really healthy.