Christopher Eccleston is an actor who always savours a challenge. His healthy career highlights the variety of roles he has undertaken, from The Second Coming to Doctor Who and Heroes, and his latest project, as the Rider in The Dark is Rising trilogy, promises to be just as different.
So, what can you tell us about your character of the Rider?
The character of the rider is the antagonist, the nemesis, the villain of the piece, he differs somewhat from the book. Thereís been some poetic licence taken, and thereís an ability that the rider has that he doesnít have in the book, which would be slightly spoilerish, but heís got a few surprises up his sleeve in how he manifests himself. I want that kind of thing; itís an element of surprise for the audience.
You play most of your scenes with young actor Alexander Ludwig, can you tell us about that?
Apart from a brief scene with the old ones at the beginning and at the end, Iím exclusively with Alex, yeah. Heís an amazing young man, to carry a film like this. The thing about him, apart from his abilities as an actor, which was apparent, was just a very decent young man, and Iím not just saying this to you, a few of us have said to his parents who have been around, theyíve brought up an excellent young lad and youíd like to see him succeed because he doesnít seem tainted by all the Hollywood bullshit that we all know so much about.
Had you read the books beforehand?
No, Iíd never heard of the books but as a child I was hugely passionate about Lord of the Rings. I understood the kind of passion that people feel for these books, I think they should be left for childhood. People who say the Lord of the Rings are the greatest books ever written, youíre like ĎNo, theyíre not, theyíre childhoodí. I read the book for this and enjoyed it very much, and obviously itís close to me because itís couched in Celtic mysticism, and a very, very intensely British book.
Are there any similarities between your character and the Dark Riders in Lord of the Rings?
I think there must be, yeah. When you read the book, I canít believe that [Susan Cooper] wasnít influenced in some ways by Tolkien, because in that time in the mid-í70s, Tolkienís books had made such a huge impact. Iím sure if we dug into mythology, a man on horseback spreading terror was probably lifted by Tolkien himself, probably from Greek stuff. But yeah, I think there are similarities.
You tend to play morally ambiguous characters, yet here you are as the archetypal bad guy. Do you play that for what it is or add a few extra colours?
Iíve tried, but failed! You try to add extra colours to it, but whether that, Iíve had that debate all the way through the shoot; should you just go for unalloyed, one-dimensional, savagery, bad-guy, or you should try Ė think thereís virtues in both, I think Iíve tried to give it a twist, whether itís the right thing to do, I donít know. There are two sides to the Rider and thereís an area where I can suggest things about his character while not actually appearing as him Ė that just sounds so cryptic!