From a fleeting screen debut in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, English actor Alfred Molina has built an impressively diverse list of credits. The 51-year-old Londoner has enjoyed success on stage, television, and, most enduringly, on film. Major roles have come in Letter To Brezhnev, Prick Up Your Ears, Species, Boogie Nights, Chocolat, and Frida. He most recently enjoyed an acclaimed run in the Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof, and gets his most high profile gig as Doc Ock in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2.
Were you a comicbook fan before embarking on Spider-Man 2?
I was. My Dad was in the Merchant Navy when I was very, very young and he must have brought some back with him. That sparked off my interest. And then of course they started selling them here, but they were quite expensive so I don't think I was able to get them regularly. I guess I must have been about 12 or 13, when I started getting pocket money on a regular basis, that I started lashing out on Marvel and DC Comics.
Which did you prefer?
The Marvel comics were always harder to find, but so much more glamorous somehow. Not that I was aware of that at the time, but I do remember being more attracted to them. I could never understand why no one ever recognised Superman. He looked the same! Clark Kent looked like Superman except he had glasses on. I could never understand why people didn't cotton on. And Batman was always so dull. But there was something about the Marvel characters, it must have had something to do with the artwork or something.
Was there a particular character you longed to be?
There was a wonderful hero called Silver Surfer. I always fancied being like him, because I thought he was really cool. And I liked Thor a lot, too.
But here you're playing Doc Ock, so we have another Englishman cast as the villain in a Hollywood blockbuster. Does that irk you at all?
That's one particular stereotype I'm very happy to endorse - I find it very remunerative! It's a long tradition. There was a certain style of playing those bad guys in the past, they were always rather suave and urbane, and there was something rather attractive about them. They were often played as ladies' men, or slightly sardonic and rather witty. And cruel, in a very casual way. But even though British actors have still played those parts in recent years, they've started widening in terms of ethnicity. Alan Rickman was a German in Die Hard, while Gary Oldman has played lots of villains - and he's been every nationality under the sun. And Doc Ock is, to all intents and purposes, an American.
Has being involved in the film introduced you to the obsessive level of fandom they inspire?
Well I knew there was going to be a lot of interest, a big circus was about to hit town. But I wasn't aware of it on any personal level until a friend of mine called and told me to check out the fan websites. This was just when it had been announced that I was playing Doc Ock, which was actually after we'd started.
I logged on to one of these websites, and the first message was someone saying: "How good it was that Sam Raimi has stuck to his game plan of hiring an experienced stage actor to play the villain. It worked the first time, so it all bodes well, it's obviously a good idea." It was a very, very positive message. I thought this was good so I carried on scrolling down, and the second message said something like: "Who the hell's Alfred Molina, I've never heard of him?!?" And then the third one was, "He was that fat bloke in Frida." Then they got progressively worse, and less friendly. I quickly logged off, and I stayed away from the fansites after that. But ultimately it's what you end up with on the screen, and I think it's pretty decent. And the fans are obviously enjoying it too, which is great.