The actor tells us why he thinks he so often ends up playing controlled characters, such as Westworld‘s Dr Robert Ford.
What can you tell us about your character, Dr Ford?
I get to play these very strange characters who are always in control. Which is completely against my nature. I just go with the flow of it all now. With Dr Ford it is on a massive scale – he controls everything and he wants to perfect everything. Which means he’s mad.
Why do you think you are cast in these controlling roles?
I have no idea. Maybe it’s coldness. I think maybe it’s the blank stare. But I don’t relish that – I’ve never been interested in control. I think most of our pain comes from trying to control everything, or dominate – dominate other people and dominate ourselves, terrorising ourselves. I started giving that up some time ago. The best piece of wisdom I can come up with is: I know nothing. I can have opinions, but I really don’t know.
What aspects of Ford’s character did you enjoy the most?
I had a good time with it. I was very relaxed during it. I had to learn a lot of dialogue, a lot of text, but I enjoy that. It keeps my brain cells active. I don’t want to overdo it, but I love learning long text – I just love it.
You only received scripts as you were due to film them, rather than being given the entire series upfront. How did you find that?
I asked Jonathan [Nolan] who produced it, and the directors, what happens in this thing? And he said he wasn’t going to tell me. I had no idea what was happening – he didn’t tell me about the arc at all. I didn’t know much about the other characters, either, and what was happening to them, until it was revealed, and there were some big surprises. And then I thought, well, this is really interesting – I enjoyed not knowing.
Are you a fan of sci-fi and dystopian stories in general?
I find any idea of a utopia or dystopia pretty alarming. I mean, in the 20th century, many great ideas of utopias all caused so much bloodshed and horror.
I’m fascinated by the history of the 20th century, the Bolshevik revolution, Nazism and fascism rising in Italy. And the post-war years too: the Kennedys in power in [the United States], Cuba. I remember clearly at the end of the last war, when Russians were our allies, and then there was a reveal of what a monster of tyranny that was, and then changing loyalties, changing ideologies.
My father was an extremely left-wing Marxist, and so was his father, and I was raised in that atmosphere. Gradually, the years have passed, and now I just think, oh well.
I hear so many opinions from people, but I know the only certainty is death. Some people believe that being a celebrity or being famous or being very successful is going to ward off mortality – but it doesn’t do a thing at all.
We can try to control everything, but there’s no control. That’s the good news: there is no control.
So we might as well stop worrying about it?
Exactly, it’s a wonderful feeling … we can learn to embrace uncertainty.
How do you feel about the rapid advancement of technology? Are “thinking robots” like the ones in Westworld an inevitable part of our future?
This is Jonathan Nolan’s baby – he’s fascinated by the advent and development of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. I was talking to a guy the other day from Boston … and he’s from MIT. He was saying, there’s no such thing – you can never really create artificial intelligence. You cannot create life, you cannot create a thinking being – but then he said: ‘But I could be wrong.’
Source: art & life