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Feature: The Da Vinci Code

Paul Bettany

Paul Bettany breaks the silence on The Da Vinci Code

If audiences who first encountered him in his breakthrough role in Gangster No 1 had warmed to Paul Bettany in recent, more sympathetic roles, his two latest films serve as a reminder of just how good a bad guy he can be. The verbose charm of Geoff Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, the staunch ship’s surgeon in Master & Commander and the fading tennis pro in Wimbledon have been eclipsed once more by a ruthless cyber criminal in Firewall and a psychotic albino monk in The Da Vinci Code.

“There’s Ron Howard, there’s a monk assassin, there’s 50 million copies sold,” he explains matter-of-factly. “If you say no you might as well get on the plane and go home.”

It helps of course that Bettany enjoyed a successful collaboration with Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman on A Beautiful Mind. But his interest was genuinely piqued by the phenomenal success of Dan Brown’s book. That sold a huge amount of copies, and yet it was only when the film version was announced that writs started flying and talk of the religiously sensitive material reached fever pitch.

“I’m sure I am going to meet really angry and indignant people,” Bettany smiles, “but I haven’t actually met one yet. I’ve only heard journalists telling me that there’s lots of them out there somewhere and they’re all after me. The whole hoop-la about the book feels to me 80 per cent fabricated. I remember Francis Ford Coppola made a movie where he suggested that the Vatican were in cahoots with the Mafia and nobody batted an eyelid. So I really don’t understand what the furore is here.

“I took the job, I went to the bookstore, assuming I’d find the book in the fiction department and indeed I did. I didn’t for once think to go and look in philosophy and personal growth. That never entered my mind. And I read it in a day and a half – it’s a page turning, holiday, beach novel. Anybody who’s read theological discourse knows that’s not a page turner, it’s quite dull and it takes a lot longer to get through. So it was always clear to me that it was sort of a big, adventure story and we made in that spirit.”

These are good times for Bettany, happy in his personal life with marriage to Jennifer Connelly and a proud father to Stellan and step-dad to Connelly’s other son Kai. And his career is blossoming as he stars in such high profile projects. Not that he can sit back and count all his professional blessings just yet.

“I think I’m too neurotic for that to be honest with you,” he smiles. “I’m still worrying about where the next one’s coming from. I think so, what’s going to be? Is it going to be good? Will I be able to do it? I know I should be able to hold my happiness and sit there and look at it. But I can’t.” Given faith, and a bit of time, he surely will.

by Anwar Brett

There's also an interview with Sir Ian McKellen on the movie, in
Film Review (Jun)

Photo © Sony Pictures Entertainment
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (Jun), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Jun)
#670, June 2006
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