Robin Hood baddie swoops on Cannes

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, Cannes

  • Published
Mark Strong as Sir Godfrey
Image caption,
Strong's character is based on Guy Of Gisborne

"As an actor it's one of the greatest moments going up the red carpet at Cannes, it's one of the things you like to say you've done," says Mark Strong.

The 46-year-old actor stars alongside Russell Crowe in one of this summer's blockbuster movies Robin Hood.

The film, which has been directed by Sir Ridley Scott and sees the film-maker team up once again with his Oscar-winning Gladiator star Crowe, will open this year's Film Festival.

"It's wonderful the film has been chosen. It is an honour and means that it is taken seriously as a movie, so more people will be aware of it," he says.

"That's wonderful for the film-makers that they've got that exposure and endorsement from such a famous film festival."

Strong plays Sir Godfrey, a character based on the original baddie Guy of Gisborne.

He is no stranger to playing a villain, as he was also cast as the bad guy in the recent superhero film Kick-Ass and in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, but Strong insists he "enjoys" the dark roles.

"They're good fun, they get great lines and they usually get to wear great clothes," he laughs.

'Incredible appetite'

It is not the first time Strong has worked with Sir Ridley.

In 2008, on the set of Body of Lies, Strong said he was approached by the director himself about Robin Hood.

"He basically said to me that he was making this film and hadn't decided on the script and asked me how I felt about it. I said: 'I don't need a script I'm in'.

"The fact was I just wanted to work with Ridley again because he's one of the greatest film-makers. That in itself was reason enough."

Since the announcement was made that Sir Ridley was planning a Robin Hood remake, it seemed the film was plagued with problems.

The title changed, casting amended and scripts completely reworked, but Strong says that is all part of making a film.

"Normally, we wouldn't know about changes like that because they would all take place before the script was released and before the filming had started.

"But because there was such a long gestation period a lot of things that would normally not be known about became public knowledge," he explains.

When asked what makes Sir Ridley such a great director, Strong says it is his "experience and incredible appetite".

'Terrible story'

Strong says he was also more than happy to team up with Crowe again, who he calls "polite, very generous and extremely good company".

Crowe has gained a reputation over the years for being difficult both on and off set.

"People seem to think Russell has a temper, I don't know if that's true because I've never been on the end of it. You have to take as you find.

"I really like the guy, he was very generous during filming. He even helped somebody out when their car crashed or broke down and gave them some money to help them get a new one."

When asked why he thinks Crowe gets all the headlines, Strong says: "It makes good copy if you can find a terrible story about him."

Image caption,
Strong says he enjoyed working with horses

The pair spent a lot of time together on set crafting their final fight scenes, which Strong likens to a "dance sequence".

The climax of the film ends on the coast with a huge battle scene and the pair fighting in water.

"There were 1,500 people being catered for lunch on that set, including crew, stunt men, horse riders, extras and you really got the sense that you were in a massive movie," Strong says.

The physical aspects of shooting the movie were tough, as the actors costumes consisted of seven layers, including authentic chain mail armour.

But Strong revelled in the brutal training and says he loved improving his horse-riding skills.

"You needed to control the horse and be quite skillful, as well as ride one-handed, whilst slashing people left, right and centre, I really enjoyed that," he says.

With hundreds of film journalists descending upon Cannes, many will be anticipating Sir Ridley's next big blockbuster with Crowe.

The reviews will be out days after it is screened, but Strong reveals he is never fazed by what is written.

"If they pass under my nose I'll read them but I don't actively seek them out and use them as a yard stick, because it's only one person's opinion," he says.

"Everyone has to have their own relationship with a film. Some people love Russell and some people don't love Russell. Some people might love Kick-Ass, a film I've just done, but might not like Robin Hood, but I don't get hung up about stuff like that."

Robin Hood is scheduled to be released in UK cinemas on 12 May

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