Paul Bettany has got that English-accented charmy charm thing going on. He’ll say words like “caper” and “escapade” when he could easily say “dope” or “exciting.” And underneath all that, there’s always a tinge of this smoldering English sarcasm that plays footsies with an incoming joke. This is Paul, and honestly it’s hard to deny just how likeable Paul really is.
Even now, it’s a stretch for me to believe that a man who once played Heath Ledger’s lovable hype man in A Knight’s Tale, and that sweet-as-a-kitten Vision dude in The Avengers, is now the new villain in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, Dryden Vos.
Now whether or not you know about the story of Han Solo and his wacky adventures with Chewbacca, Paul’s placement purely comes from his acting range; a fact that made him a busy man up until this point (Infinity War, Manhunter). Paul’s willingness to roll with a less-than ideal interview situation (he hasn’t even seen the final cut) speaks to his ability to act a part. So if there’s anything I can honestly look forward to with this Solo film, it’s that Paul will do his damn job as this Dryden Vos. Hell, he went through the trouble of guilt-tripping director and friend Ron Howard into giving him the part, so you know he’s good for it.
VICE: So you get to put Star Wars on that resume of yours. How’s that feel?
Paul Bettany: Oh, the whole has been amazing, an amazing trip! We’re talking about 1977 and I’m six years old and Star Wars comes out and changes the world for me. I knew like every kid knew that I wanted to be a part of that world and do whatever that Star Wars thing was. At the ripe old age of 46 years old, getting be a part of this was just amazing.
We know very little about this Dryden Vos character of yours. How would you best describe him, assuming he’s another morally ambiguous Star Wars villain.
Well he’s basically a gangster. It’s very much an offshoot film, so it has the ability to be quite free with its tone. As far as gangsters go, I’m intergalactic, and if you’re going to do any kind of job within my galaxy, you’re going to have to pay me tribute. I run the show down there.
And how did you make sure you brought your own energy to this character. Because obviously, this is a franchise with its fair share of villains.
I think he’s really different in how he is written on the page compared to the main sort of villains you’ve typically received from Star Wars movies. He pretty much felt different from the beginning. Jonathan Kasdan (writer) did a very good job sketching and drawing him out. I just had fun coming in and really messing around with what he gave me to work with. It was an absolute joy. And I gotta admit, it easily would have been bad. It was all under very trying circumstances. I won’t hash it all out again but Ron Howard had a really hard job in front of him and that could have been a very tricky situation and it really wasn’t for two reasons. One, he’s so good at what he does, and two, he’s just the most likeable, hard-to-resent human being in the whole wide world (laughs). It’s hard to resent him.
How was the process of you being brought into this film anyway. It’s not like it was the smoothest transition with the firing of the previous directors.
For me, it was really simple. Ron would probably tell a different story where he’s really nice to me and give you some rehearsed answer about what he thinks about me, but the truth is this. I texted him saying, ‘Hey Ron, have you ever spent long winter evenings like I have wondering why you’re not in a Star Wars franchise?’ (laughs). It so happened of course that when he went to do reshoots, the actor who was originally playing the role of Dryden Vos who was originally a CG character...I gotta stress that...was no longer available because Michael K. Williams is a brilliant actor and was being gainfully employed, so he got unlucky in a sense. And I got really lucky, which is not the first time in this business that that has happened, and it definitely won’t be the last. But I must say, it happens the other way a lot as well! (laughs)
Considering that you’re following a lot of classic villains here, did you feel any sort of pressure? This is a Star Wars fanbase you’re talking about.
Not really, no. I didn’t feel any pressure in that way. You’re always left with your interpretation of a character anyway. I can only hope that people like it and enjoy it and that the fun we had making it shines through.
Right. Well give me an idea about what best part about the process was for you when it came to this new entry.
That’s really tricky. One of them was just seeing Ron Howard in action. I remember him taking us all into a meeting to discuss a scene and just how genuinely interested he was everyone’s opinions. That’s a real leader. He has a very clear vision and he was just really engaged with everyone’s ideas, thoughts, worries and hopes. That’s the impression I got. It was great to see him in action like that.
How do you think this is going to separate itself from past Star Wars films?
My understanding is that it has a lot more of an escapade and caper quality to it. It’s a story about rogues and almost exclusively is about rogues as they relate to the galaxy. It allowed for a more playful tone. But I haven’t seen it so I’ll be interested in witnessing how it all turns out.
OK Paul. Since you’re going to potentially be a villain, how would you rank your top five?
You’re not going to do that to me! (laughs).
Fine, just give me your favourite.
I’ll go with the safe answer and definitely say Darth Vader, because I remember the feeling in my stomach when I first saw him on screen, and I was just haunted by him.
Have you gotten over a certain death in a certain film?
Ummm, I think I’m OK. Yeah...I’m over it. (laughs)
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