Meet Eddie Marsan. He could be Britain’s greatest character actor...
Eddie Marsan, character-actor extraordinaire, whose distinctive mug has graced everything from Vera Drake and Miami Vice to Gangs Of New York and Sherlock Holmes. “Character actors play people as they are, not as they want to be, so people don’t want to fuck us and they don’t want to be us. That’s why my career’s been slow-burn, and I accept that.”
Slow-burn, yes, but heating up. In three-handed thriller The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, Marsan’s lady-snatcher’s early, rough-handed treatment of Gemma Arterton later gives way to soft-hearted shadings. In fact, Marsan’s as adept at warmth as he is at fury. “If you want me to play tough, I can play tough, but I’m really a coward,” says Marsan, whose screen characters nearly always smack into walls of frustration. “When I’m a villain, I never get away with it; I never get the girl. I’m the only guy who’s ever done a movie with a Bond girl and only got to ask her if she wants a poo...”
He’s been in everything. Here are five Marsan roles to remember...
EDDIE MILLER in GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000)
“That movie came at the height of the fashion for gangster movies. A lot of East End actors thought they were going to be movie stars and then the genre went out of fashion. But I went back to study voice, phonetics and movement – I refused to be defined as an East End actor.”
REVEREND JOHN in 21 GRAMS (2003)
“I thought when that came out, ‘Now it’s all going to kick off’. But nothing happened. People didn’t join the dots with me being in Vera Drake. I learnt a lot from Benicio [Del Toro]. He’s an incredibly free actor and I remember thinking, ‘That’s a quality I really have to take on myself’.”
SCOTT in HAPPY GO LUCKY (2008)
“I created that character in ignorance. Well, actually I created that character with egotistical dreams of being the next Robert De Niro. I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be Taxi Driver, they’re gonna have posters of me!’ Then I picked up Sally Hawkins for the first time and thought, ‘Oh no, here we go, it’s an Ealing comedy…’”
KENNETH ‘RED’ PARKER JR. in HANCOCK (2008)
“My first big Hollywood baddie... You don’t see it in the movie but whenever he’s in prison, he’s surrounded by massive, muscle-bound black guys. He was gay, basically, and he loved to control these people and yet also was being fucked by them. They took all that out because they were going for a younger audience.”
INSPECTOR LESTRADE in SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)
“I thought you got your money’s worth with the film. I think they’re going to do the sequel later this year. I haven’t been approached but if they bring Lestrade back, I’d love to do it! Lestrade’s a great character – he makes Sherlock Holmes look good; he makes him look clever.”