Paul Bettany, now in his 40s, remains a vision to behold.
AsiaPOP Comicon-goers were captivated by more than his portrayal of a second Marvel character, Vision, an omnipotent synthetic humanoid, for which the entertainment and publishing conglomerate bent one of its rules—that an actor can only ever play one Marvel superhero—to accommodate the British actor who had already voiced J.A.R.V.I.S. (Tony Stark/Iron Man’s computerized AI servant).
Bettany exuded a cool, engaging persona at the comic convention. He wore relaxed denim trousers, basic shirt, loose cotton blazer, accessorized by a summer scarf and tinted spectacles. Very English, just like his charming wit and eloquent way with words.
Yes, words; the actor expressed his distaste for emojis and exclamation marks.
“I think they’re a sign of weakness,” he said. “I would never use an emoji, and when my friends send texts with emoji, I dress them down for such nonsense. An exclamation point… means you were worried your sentence wasn’t clear enough that you were trying to be funny. So make your sentence funny, don’t add a smiley face. Just stop it, stop it, stop it.”
On family. “The Marvel stuff is the only thing [in my career] my kids have ever been interested in, so that’s slightly humiliating. My 4-year-old daughter is in love with Robert Downey Jr. I was trying to get her to send a video message that said ‘I love the Vision more than you.’ Instead I had to send him one where she says, ‘I love you! I love you! I love you more than my daddy.’ It was a very bad and dark moment for me.”
“I had a meeting with Robert de Niro, and it got delayed. Now, I’ve got to look after my boy while Jennifer (Connelly, his wife) was away working. I had this two-hour window. By the time I walked into the meeting, I had one of those baby carriers and had conducted this audition with De Niro, wearing a baby.”
On being told his career’s over. “I was sitting on the sidewalk of Sunset Boulevard, having just come out of a meeting in the building behind me and having been told that my career was over—by a producer. My phone rang. It’s Joss Whedon. He said, ‘Do you wanna be a superhero in the next Avengers movie?’ And I’m like, ‘Yyyesss.’”
“It’s the first time in my life I’ve had the security of knowing that I’ve got a couple of movies to make in a number of years.”
On career choices. “I don’t have a dream role. I love great writing. When I read great writing I fall in love with it, so I’ve never have a plan in that way. I’m also a natural blond and an actor, so I tend to be bad at making plans.”
“I love bits of all of them (his movie roles). I’m really proud of ‘Master and Commander’ (where he played naturalist and warship doctor Stephen Maturin). And then these darker characters, like in ‘Gangster No. 1’ (as a scheming, ambitious young gangster, a role that kicked off his career).”
On his personality. “I’m not sure how many evil traits I have. I’m English, so I tend to sound evil. It’s just one of the hangovers from a colonial past.”
On bulking up for film roles. “Frankly I feel terrible because I’ve decimated the chicken population of America (where he is based with his family). It’s just eating protein all the time and really focusing on not eating the things I really like to eat, like cheese, potatoes and bread, though half my reason to live are those things.”
On his concept of traveling. “For me it’s about eating, knowing where to eat in local places. I slip past my security and go off on my own. I tend to sort of meet people through food.”
On career beginnings. “I recently made my first film as a director, called “Shelter,” starring my wife and Anthony Mackie, about homelessness on the streets of New York City… [In real life] an apartment got sold for US$100 million while 60,000 of its citizens were seeking shelter every night, with 20,000 of those children. This is [happening] in a city with more billionaires than any other city on earth.
“I do find myself thinking about how fortunate I am all the time. I was a street performer; if didn’t make money I would go to bed hungry. Looking at the world right now, we will be judged on how we treat the needy.”
Thoughts on the Marvel universe. “It’s an extraordinary creation. America’s a very young country and it’s created its own mythology. It’s fun and yet great things can be spoken about using it as a template. They [the superhero films] are beginning to talk about the fact that the more defended we are, the more conflict there is.”